Tuesday, June 26, 2007
One of the things that I was attracted to at the counter of the candy store were these pretty and classic chocolate bars. They came in four varieties: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate with Almonds and Sugar Free Milk Chocolate (on a different display).
They’re all 1.8 ounces and the ingredients are promisingly short: sugar, milk, cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, soy lecithin and vanillin. They were all priced $1.25 each.
The other bar (not pictured) was the Milk Chocolate with Almonds bar (it looked just like the Milk Chocolate bar). It’s similarly sweet and has a wonderful scent of almonds. The almonds are whole, if a little small. Crunchy and a good counterpoint to the very sugary chocolate. The pieces are nice though, easy to break off a third and chomp it whole or maybe three bites.
The Mickey Dark Chocolate Bar was stunning when I took it out of the package. The glossy squares and nicely detailed relief of Mickey’s head definitely has appeal. It smells nice, a little more on the cedar side of woodsy than coffee. The ingredients on this one lists butterfat. It’s pretty smooth but very sweet for a dark chocolate. It’s kind of “watery” on the tongue, reminding me of the Royal Dark Cadbury Mini Eggs that came out this year ... kind of like a pleasant cup of hot chocolate.
The sweetness leads me to believe that some kids may enjoy this, and if they don’t their moms or dads won’t complain about having to eat the leftovers themselves.
I give the whole set of bars a passably good 7 out of 10, good portion control at 1.8 ounces, easy to share, decent price for a branded item and Kosher for those who are looking for that. I appreciate that the candy has the Mickey brand on the inside and the outside.
Much of the candy is rather mainstream fare, and though I couldn’t find any chocolate mint patties or minted chocolate, I did find the Mickey Mouse Creamy Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Patties. They were a little more than the other pre-packaged candies at $1.50, but they were also 2.7 ounces. The packaging is kind of retro, kind of islandy. The Mickey on the package is the old-fashioned Mickey who is all pupil and has no whites in his eyes.
Inside is a little plastic tray with two chocolate dipped coconut patties in the shape of Mickey’s head.
These are hefty huge patties! Each weighs approximately 1.35 ounces, a good sized portion of candy on its own. The chocolate doesn’t coat the top, but you can’t tell from the photo that it does cover the bottom.
The star here is the soft coconut pattie itself. It’s creamy and soft and of course coconutty. It smells like summer. The coconut is chewy and only slightly fibery, a bit smoother than a Mounds bar, but also a bit sweeter.
The chocolate takes a back seat, which is fine. It’s not great chocolate like that on the Chocolate Dipped Pretzels, but it makes the candy attractive and it’s real, which is always a selling point.
The package does say that they were made in a “nut free environment” (except for those coconuts, which I guess are technically a fruit). Not Kosher. I give them a 7 out of 10.
These little M&M-like candies are called Chocolate Spots and came in a peanut variety as well. I went for the traditional “candy-coated Milk Chocolate”. As I was looking for a package that wasn’t crinkled and sticky, I noticed that all the bags felt like the contents were “grainy” instead of smooth.
I did my best to pick one from the bottom that looked crisp and had the best feeling contents, but when I got home and dumped them out, it was quite apparent that my attempt was not successful.
I know that many small children aren’t particularly choosy about their chocolate, and bless them for that. If I were a child and told I could only pick out one item from this store and this is what I got, I’d be in tears. The chocolate tastes like the wrapper smells, like plastic. The candy shell is crispy, yes, but only masks the burnt flavors of the chocolate. Think of those awful burnt unpopped kernels of popcorn and maybe the filling of a futon that’s been stored in a damp basement for the past few decades. I should have known that they were going to be bad when I read the list of ingredients ... which included PGPR (granted, I still love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, which now include PGPR, but it’s certainly in spite of it that they’re good, not because of it).
Honestly, I think I’m going to package these up and send them back to Disney. I might accept such quality from the 99 Cent Only Store at a fifth of the price, but not from a big company that prides itself on the experience of the brand. 1.8 ounces. I’m giving them a 2 out of 10. Not Kosher.
How difficult would it be to simply have a Disney branded M&M? The candies would have little characters on them instead of Ms (like the Pirate Pearls had little skulls and swords). Or ... don’t bother with M&Ms and get some GOOD candy maker to do two different sizes and kids could make their own Mickey heads with large and small candy lentils.
I’d kind of hoped, as with the Disney Spots, that this Pecan-Caramel Cluster would have a cutesy name, like Lion King Paws or Chewy Manes ... But clarity is always a good thing. In fact, besides the image on the package of Simba and Nala, it doesn’t say a single thing about The Lion King. I guess in a few years these could be branded for a more popular Princess or perhaps some tie in with Ratatouille.
The package says they’re “Crisp Pecans drenched in Creamy Caramel, smothered in delicious Milk Chocolate.”
And so they are.
These were far better than the Nestle Pecan Turtles I had earlier this year. Fresh nuts, the right texture for the caramel. The chocolate wasn’t the best in the world, but at least it didn’t detract. A winner.
2 pecan clusters, 1.5 ounces total. Not Kosher. $1.25 9 out of 10
Overall, the packaged stuff was pleasant and by theme-park standards, a good value. Just stay away from the Chocolate Spots.
Monday, June 25, 2007
The first thing I was looking for at the Candy Palace at Disneyland was something unique. Why should I eat something that I can get anywhere? So I scoured the store to find something that was made only for sale at the Disneyland candy stores. Sadly, there really wasn’t anything there like that, so I settled for something that I thought I’d like that had a novel take ... the Dark Chocolate Pretzels in the shape of Mickey Mouse.
They were sold in a couple of different formats, a simple plastic baggie tied with a bow with a stack of four (mostly shopworn though), they had singles in the candy case for $1.25 each and then a nice box with 8 ounces of dark chocolate pretzels for $9.95. The box had all the classic Disney characters on it. Nothing from this century (the most recent characters on there are Beauty & the Beast and The Little Mermaid). The box looked like it protected the contents well (shaking it actually didn’t yield much in the way of sound, which is a good thing).
The pretzels are gorgeous! The dark chocolate is glossy, thick and with cute little scribbles to make it extra dense in spots. They’re in a deep tray, leaning against each other in little slots, eight pretzels total. (So that makes them 1 ounce each.)
Only one was broken.
The pretzels themselves are bigger than I’m used to, at first I thought they were stale but then I realized they were just really crunchy and a bit dense ... which kind of keeps them from being crispy in the way I’m accustomed to. The chocolate is good quality, not too sweet and with a good balance of smoky notes and a dry finish. The pretzel is only lightly salted, so this remains a sweet treat. Unfortunately this “dark” chocolate has milkfat in it, so it’s not for vegans. It is Kosher though (I don’t think anything in the candy case is). 8 out of 10
For the record I also tried a Milk Chocolate Pretzel out of the candy case, which I ate as I left the park. It tasted like, well, candy case. The pretzel was a little stale and the chocolate bland.
The candy case has a huge variety of chocolate treats in it. Nut clusters, caramel patties, peppermint patties, chocolate dipped crisped rice treats, chocolate marshmallow bars on sticks, little cups with white chocolate mixed with cookie bits, milk chocolate with M&Ms, chocolate haystacks, toffee, and of course the chocolate covered pretzels mentioned above.
I was drawn to the Milk Chocolate Caramel Marshmallow Bar. It’s about the size of a Snickers bar, though not quite as dense in hand. I was hoping for something to approach the See’s Scotchmallow.
Inside the bar the caramel and marshmallow are in equal proportions. The caramel is thin, though chewy and smooth (but lacking some deep burnt caramel flavors). The marshmallow is moist and springy and not too sweet. The milk chocolate is okay, sweet and milky and pretty smooth. It’s a sweet bar, but the marshmallow makes it feel both satisfying and light at the same time. $1.95 ... I give it a 7 out of 10.
I had very low expectations for the Small Mickey Turtles. The large ones in the case, though attractive in shape and size were a bit bloomed. The little ones weren’t quite as pretty, but the price was certainly better for someone who was looking for variety.
My expectation for something called a “Turtle” is this: caramel and pecans covered in chocolate. I like my caramel to be soft and chewy, but also flavorful to provide more than a textural counterpoint to the nuts. Pecans are a strongly flavored nut, so a good caramelized caramel is important.
The Mickey Turtle is a huge disappointment. The nuts didn’t taste fresh. The chocolate had more of the flavor of the refrigerator case than of chocolate and the caramel was less like caramel and more like a fudge or pecan praline (a chocolate covered pecan praline would be delightful, too).
Oddly enough the “turtle” pictured here with the white stripes wasn’t a turtle at all. I think it was supposed to be a truffle, but it tasted a bit more like a piece of fudge covered in chocolate. Again, it tasted like refrigerator more than chocolate.
The large (bloomed) Turtles were $3.00 each. The mini versions were 94 cents. Not bad as price goes, but it’s certainly not worth it. I give these (even the accidental “truffle”) a 5 out of 10.
If you’re coming to California and want a special candy treat to take home, go to See’s. The prices are better, the candy fresher and of course it just tastes better. (And I’ll wager you won’t stand in line as long ... most California airports even have a See’s kiosk.)
Next, I’ll try some of the prepackaged candy bars!
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Sometimes I wonder if these energy bars are really better than plain old candy bars. Back in the depression candy bars were meal replacements. Many were packed with nuts and over two ounces, which made them a pretty cheap source of satisfying calories at a nickle.
Of course the object these days is not the maximum number of calories per ounce, but how good the nutrition profile is.
When I want a little lasting energy & snack, I usually reach for some sort of nutty bar, as they tend to have a good amount of protein. Payday bars are always dependable. But I’m also a fan of Lara Bars, which are basically mashed up almonds and dates with a few spices thrown in. At about twice the price though, I often grab the Payday ... and I don’t feel that bad about it.
This sounded familiar. In fact, it looked familiar ... very familiar. The Take 5 features pretzels, caramel, peanuts, peanut butter and milk chocolate. Wow, not much difference there ... even in the ordering of the elements.
Well, Twisted was $1.29 and a Take 5 is $.89 at the 7-11.
I’ve reviewed the Take 5 before and I stand by it. It’s a good bar with a lot of variety of texture in it, not too sweet and because it’s in two pieces, it’s easy to have a little now, have a little later.
The Twisted bar is merely a Tiger’s Milk bar covered in weak chocolate with a pretzel thrown in. It smells like baby formula. It seriously tasted like I was chomping on vitamin leather or something. I often enjoy things that are rather unpalatable, just because I’m fascinated by all the different flavors there are and maybe catty things I can say about it. I didn’t enjoy this, even for the prospect of reviewing it. Luckily the two piece format of the Take 5 meant that I had a palate cleansing second piece at hand.
So you might feel like you’re doing the right thing when you eat this lower calorie version of a Take 5, but you’re certainly not going to enjoy it.
I have to admit that it’s probably unfair to match a candy bar with an energy bar ... but hey, that’s the breaks. They started it by packaging it to look an awful lot like the Take 5.
For some other balanced reviews of snack bars, check out I Ate a Pie’s special roundup from earlier this year.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
They’re simply a little nibble of licorice covered in a thin sugar shell. Rather like a Jordan Almond, the shell is added in a process called panning, where a sugar syrup is added to the little licorice bites and tumbled and dried and then colored. Good & Plenty come in only two colors, pink and white. (Most other licorice pastilles come in pastels or bright colors, like the version made by Jelly Belly Confections.)
Most licorice pastilles are expensive, but Good & Plenty are surprisingly affordable, probably because they don’t have as much of a candy shell as some others.
The flavor of Good & Plenty is more complex, I think, than some of the European pastilles. First, the sugar coating doesn’t completely contain the licorice flavor so when you stick your nose into a movie-sized box of Good & Plenty and you get a woodsy whiff of anise. The sugar shell isn’t very crunchy, in fact, it’s a little grainy, but it works pretty well for Good & Plenty, letting the flavor permeate. The licorice itself has a high sweet overtone and then the molasses hits, dark and slightly burnt and with a light salty bite. After it’s gone there’s a lingering sweetness and clean licorice/anise flavor ... until you pop the next few in your mouth.
For this review I tried both the new Fresh from the Factory Good & Plenty and a rather fresh box from the convenience store near the office. There were a couple of differences. The molasses flavor seemed a little more pronounced in the FFTF&P and the sugar shell seemed a little softer. The still-fresh-in-the-box Good & Plenty had a mellower, more licorice-intense flavor and a slightly stronger shell. (It might have been my imagination, but the FFTF ones also looked a bit plump.)
While some of the other Fresh from the Factory offerings seem a bit steep in price, the Good & Plenty version, in a 4 pound tub is a bit better deal for $25 ($6.24 per pound). The window to order has closed at the moment (though I believe they’ll cycle through again). Good & Plenty in bulk on the internet is $3.90 a pound for 5 pounds ... or $3.24 a pound for 10 pounds, so it’s not like there aren’t deals out there.
I’ve found the sealed plastic peg bags sold at the grocery or drug stores are the freshest, the boxed Good & Plenty can be tough. But then again, I like mine tough, the candy shell is more crackly and of course it takes longer to eat. While I love Good & Plenty and it’s one of the few candies that I still purchase on a regular basis even with all the other stuff I have to get through, sometimes I prefer the crisper shell of the European varieties (but not the steep price).
Good & Plenty is one of America’s oldest continuously produced candy brands, here are a few moments in their corporate history:
1983 - Leaf and its brands is sold to Finnish company Huhtamaki Oy
Though the company has changed hands a few times and even moved factories (at least three different locations that I know of), the packaging has stayed pretty much the same. A little box with Good & Plenty candies pictured on the the outside and the name inside a circle ... when I was a kid it had a black background, now it’s a purple one. The black, pink & white color combination is often known as “good & plenty” in crafting and decorating circles. Somewhere along the way it dropped the more formal “and” in favor of an ampersand, probably when they became part of Hershey’s.
For many years Good & Plenty was also known for their cartoon mascot, Choo Choo Charlie. I found this video on YouTube of an old commercial:
These sorts of ads are probably not going to be around any longer, advertising candy to children is going away. Though candy offers empty calories, it does have some highlights. Candies like Good & Plenty make it easy for kids to share, learn portioning and resealable boxes reward self-restraint. Many boxes were also pretty versatile ... you could shake your box as a percussion instrument when it has candy in it and when empty, you can blow into it like a reed instrument. The current boxes don’t have the tucked tab design that do that ... the day they got rid of those was the day the music died.
Good & Plenty is made with wheat flour so is unsuitable for those with wheat allergies or gluten-intolerance. It’s also colored with Carmine derived from insects and therefore not suitable for vegans. Good & Plenty are certified Kosher.
Candy Addict’s Twizzler’s FFTF review (I totally agree with everything he said)
Good & Plenty is listed as one of the top arousing scents for women (yeah, if you’re looking for some lovin’ splurge for the super-scented Fresh from the Factory).
Monday, June 11, 2007
Music may be called ear candy at times, but it really doesn’t intersect with candy much. I’m not sure why, they’re easy to enjoy together, though candy always won out for my spending money as a kid. (I owned very little music as a teen, the only singles I remember buying were Blondie’s Call Me & John Lennon’s Starting Over, instead I just listened to whatever albums were in the house, hence my love of the Beatles and The Who.)
Besides the Charleston Chew, which is named after a dance and song, I don’t think there are many music-themed candy bars out there. Even though there’s not much proof of concept, Hershey’s has high hopes for their limited edition Elvis Reese’s Peanut Butter and Banana Cream Cups. The early announcement of them last year sent quite a wave of enthusiasm through the internet, especially blogs where people were searching desperately. They are slated to go on sale in advance of the 30th anniversary of his death on July 7th.
The cups showed up earlier this year on eBay, as merchants where were given preview cups to try before they buy sold them off for a quick buck or two. (Some were going as high as $5.00 a piece.) I’ll admit that I bid on a few. As luck would have it, the same contact at Hershey’s who sent me the Fresh From The Factory Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups came through last week with these beauties. A whole tin filled with the Big Cup (King Size!) Elvis-themed cups.
The packaging for this variety features Hawaiian Elvis, sporting sideburns and a purple lei. The back of the package features trivia about Elvis: “Priscilla Ann Beaulieu was 14 years old when she met Elvis Presley.” Ah, give the young girls something to aspire to. (Other packages mention his record sales and movie career.) None mentioned the King’s love of fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, the progenitor for this candy.
The cups smell like roasted peanuts with a slight sweet tinge of chocolate. Before biting into them, there’s really no indication that they’re different. The Big Cups are pretty hefty, and after eating the smaller-than-normal Fresh From the Factory Cups, I feel rather huge.
Once I bit into them though, the banana-ness was apparent. It’s a soft and floral banana taste in a “banana cream” that’s rather firm, kind of like a banana white chocolate, but not as smooth. The label lists banana flakes as an ingredient. (As well as artificial flavor and artificial color.)
I tried these several ways. I ate them fresh out of the package, I tried them frozen and I tried them a gooey melted mess after letting them sit under the hot studio light. Frozen the banana lacks zing, but of course the texture is great. At room temperature, the banana has a nice mellow flavor. At body temperature the banana cream gets really thick and creamy and tastes a lot more like banana.
I was kind of hoping that they’d use the model of the Caramel Cup and just make the caramel banana flavored. The cream is interesting and carries the flavor well over the very strong peanut butter. All I can say is that it works for me. I don’t know if I’d buy these instead of the regular Reese’s, but I’m curious what the miniatures are going to be like and I’ll probably give those a try.
For another preview of the Elvis Cups, check out Patti at Candy Yum Yum.
Now comes the time where I share the wealth. Yes, you too can be the first on your block to try the new Elvis King Size Reese’s Peanut Butter and Banana Creme Cups. I’ll do a drawing on Saturday, June 16th at Noon Pacific ... the grand prize will be FIVE fresh packages. Just leave a comment here with your favorite Elvis tune or Elvis Cup sighting ... I’ve heard that they’re already showing up in stores like Dollar General. Use a real email address if you’d like me to contact you if you win, and I’d advise not checking the box for notification of comments, cuz there may be a few. I also reserve the right to throw more candy into the winner package, depending on my whim and inventory at the moment. North American addresses only.
(Ooh, thanks to the comments, I found this on the Hershey’s Gift Site, you can order them right now, a tin of 16 packages of the King Sized cups is $25.)
UPDATE: We have a winner (Lisa!) ... but you’re free to comment. If you’re looking for tips on where to find Elvis Cups, check out this post called Elvis Spotting.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
I tried the Nestle Dark Stixx last year and thought they were pretty good. They’re a little crispy cookie wafer in the form of a tube filled with some cream and covered in chcoolate.
The Butterfinger Stixx were introduced at the same time, but it took a little while for me to find them super-cheap. They were stupidly expensive at $2.29 for a box of 6 when they came out. But at the 99 Cent Only Store this little package of two was a respectable 33 cents and still fresh (expiration July 2007).
What’s great about these is the one thing that you can’t get in a Butterfinger ... real chocolate. Not that the chocolate is great, but you know, if it’s not tasty at least it’s not fake.
The package describes this rather oddly with a little four point diagram:
What I suspect after reading that is that this is more like a Butterfinger Crisp bar (which may be running one of the lamest commercials of the year, sorry, as far as I’m concerned that girl has to be high if she’s enjoying a Butterfinger Crisp and thinks that’s really laugh-out-loud funny).
The little stick has that familiar peanut butter and buttered popcorn scent. The sweet chocolate and bland crunch of the wafer are a nice combo, not too sweet. The creamy center is nothing like a Butterfinger, it’s soft and reminds me of that peanut butter filling that comes inside those cheesy orange peanut butter crackers. The peanut butter flavor is pretty mellow and rather lost. It’s sweet and a little salty, not very creamy and not really notable beyond that.
The little sticks are tasty but not very satisfying. I completely missed the “sprinkle of candy bits”. On the plus side, this didn’t stick to my teeth like the industrial-strength-cement-like Butterfinger filling can. I think if I’m looking for a stick shaped peanut butter candy I’ll stick to Atkinson’s Peanut Butter Bars. (No chocolate, but still tasty.)
Thursday, May 24, 2007
It’s not at all big news when Jelly Belly brings out a new flavor. They’re in the business of flavor and it would only be news if they weren’t.
So why should I report on a single new flavor coming out? Especially when I blogged about it back in ‘05? Mostly because of some trends: Pomegranates are big. Functional (fortified) foods are big. Antioxidants are big.
The Pomegranate Jelly Belly contain additional vitamin C (an antioxidant) and they’re made with real pomegranate extract. Besides, they’re pretty, too.
I first tried the new pomegranate flavor when I visited the Jelly Belly factory in December 2005. This was just after the release of Jelly Belly Sport Beans, they were still tinkering with the flavor then, and as far as I know, there wasn’t any fortification in them.
After trying the Sport Beans I was pretty sure Jelly Belly could make a go of antioxidant beans - a sassy combo of citrus flavors, I think, would work well to give folks a little boost of vitamin C and some beta carotene. Pink Grapefruit, Lemon, Tangerine, Orange, Lime and maybe some more exotic citrus like Key Lime, Yuzu, Pomelo, Dalandan or Ponkan.
The shell has a nice deep tartness to it, with some strong berry flavors like raspberry. The jelly center has good floral tones with a mellow and dark note. Kind of like black cherry, kind of like cranberry and perhaps like pomegranate. There’s no zappy dryness to it, like pomegranate often has.
It’s pleasant. It’s certainly easy to eat them one after the other. They combine well with both citrus and other berry flavors.
They’re the same price as the regular beans and are also sold in 9 ounce bags and 5 lb bulk boxes on their website. I don’t expect them to show up everywhere you see Jelly Belly, but keep an eye out. They might be a good little boost for yourself during cold & flu season (anything to help you rationalize eating jelly beans).
Jelly Belly are Kosher, vegetarian and use beet sugar instead of cane, however some vegans may not wish to eat them because they use beeswax as part of the sealant/shiny coating.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Jelly Belly is introducing a new product to their Confections line. Not quite a jelly bean and not quite a gummi bear, these are Licorice Bears. I previewed these little guys at the Fancy Food Show in January but it was nice to have more than three to give them a real taste drive.
These sassy, spicy and soft bears aren’t quite like black vine licorice either. The texture is rather like a smooth gumdrop. They’re made with corn syrup and a potato starch base, which makes them softer on the tongue and easier to dissolve than a wheat & molasses based vine. (All that ingredient talk really takes the magic out of it, doesn’t it?) The natural and artificially flavored bears are super sweet but have a nice woodsy and clear licorice/anise flavor to them.
The size and shape is rather close to the Haribo bears I’m so fond of.
I would find these irresistible in a bowl or jar in front of me. The bag I got as a preview sample from Jelly Belly is just about gone (and I just got it on Friday, which is saying a lot about my lack of control). I much prefer these to the black jelly beans, something about the consistent texture that I really like. Unlike Black Crows, they don’t stick to my teeth in the same way, either.
I’m not sure how easy these are going to be to find, I even had trouble finding them on the Jelly Belly site at first . But the price is decent enough, only a little more than Jelly Belly beans at $4.99 for the half pound bag. I’m rather fond of Licorice Pastels and I’m wondering if these could be panned with a crunchy candy shell ... that might be heavenly.
There’s no gelatin in this product, so it’s suitable for vegetarians (and I’m pretty sure they use American-grown beet sugar as well in all their products, so these would be okay even for vegans). There’s also no wheat in there.
(As a silly side note, I took that photo of the bag of Licorice Bears seen at the top. Later I went to the Jelly Belly site and found that while my photo looks lovely and professional, it also looks exactly like theirs which led me to wonder why I bothered taking mine. Oh well.)
UPDATE: It looks like Jelly Belly sent these samples out to a few places. Candy Addict’s Caitlin just posted her thoughts as well.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.