Monday, October 22, 2007
Here’s one of those candies that I only saw in my Trick-or-Treat haul: Sixlets. Oh sure, they were probably in stores that I frequented. They come in a variety of packets, including the “changemaker” size that holds eight little candy spheres and used to sell for a two cents.
The big reason I shunned Sixlets was I was never quite sure what they were. Are they like M&Ms? Are they candy coated peanuts? Are they a jawbreaker?
Eating them never really answered those questions. They definitely don’t have nuts in them, but taste a little nutty. They’re not like M&Ms, though there is a chocolate-like center. They’re not jawbreakers, in fact the shell is pretty thin.
Sixlets are currently made by Oak Leaf, who makes bubble gum and other confections in Canada that are usually sold in bulk and dispensed in gumball machines that are sold by the handful. Before that they were made by Hershey’s, which purchased the Ovation brand that made Sixlets under management of Leaf (they also made Whoppers, which Hershey’s kept).
Sixlets are certainly cute. They come in vivid colors: Yellow, Green, Red, Orange and Brown. They’re spherical and consistent looking, with a shiny candy shell. The center is a malty-flavored mockolate. Made from partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, sugar and milk protein, they’re not really that appealing as a confectionery item to eat on their own. Cocoa powder is way down at the fifth position on the list of ingredients. The candy shells are pretty ordinary, except for the orange one, which has a light orange flavor to it (just as Smarties from the UK do). The mockolate barely has a chocolate taste, and the whole thing is a little grainy and a bit greasy.
What they lack in taste they more than make up for with economy and portion control. What other candy comes in little tubes of 8 pieces? Not to mention the fact that each little tube has only 35 calories!
Why Oak Leaf came out with the Limited Edition Dark Chocolate Flavored Sixlets is beyond me. The regular ones barely taste like chocolate and any health benefits of “dark chocolate” will be ruined by the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.
The package is attractive, the Sixlets mascot is some sort of an insect ... well, maybe he’s an insect, he only has four legs. And he wears glasses ... and wants us to eat one of his segments.
These little packets were unmarked. Just generic clear cellophane tubes with little unbranded spheres inside.
The taste of the “dark chocolate” isn’t really noticeably different from the regular Sixlets. They’re just as disappointing as the regular Sixlets ... except that I paid for this whole bag (I picked the other little guys up at the All Candy Expo).
There are differing stories about why they’re called Sixlets. The current packaging has them in tubes with 8 pieces or 20. Some folks say that they used to come in tubes that had six for a penny. Others say that they came in boxes that had six individual boxes in each package and that’s how they were written up in the wholesale catalogs. It could be that someone just thought it sounded like a good name ... maybe they were into numerology. The number six represents “Reaction/flux. Responsibility” according to Wikipedia. If anyone else has any theories, I’m happy to entertain them.
Like them if you will ... just don’t call them chocolate. They might be good for decorating ... the rest of these are going in the Trick-or-Treat bowl (don’t worry, I’ll give the kids something good and just slip these in while they’re not looking).
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Dove has been adding to their line of Promises, the little chocolate nuggets they sell. It’s nice they have such a diversified line and I do enjoy a little foil wrapped treat. Lately they’ve been stuffing caramel see review) inside those little nuggets of milk or dark chocolate. Now they’ve added a few more versions of those to the line by flavoring the caramel:
Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Flavored Caramel - this was less caramel and more like a hazelnut creme. It had a nice nutty flavor to it, though I didn’t quite identify it as hazelnut. A little salty hit cut through the sticky sweetness of the milk chocolate.
Most of my little pieces were dented. I don’t know if that was a function of the travel or if they’re particularly delicate. (5 out of 10)
The Mint Caramel Dark Chocolate terrible, terrible pieces of confectionery nonsense. Gobbledygook, I tell ya! Gibberish! There’s nothing wrong with caramel, nothing wrong with dark chocolate, nothing wrong with mint. But put them all together and you get this humongo double take of “what the heck were they thinking?”
The caramel is just weird - it’s like it’s over emulsified, if there is such a thing. It’s gooey, but has no buttery element, no burnt sugary elements ... it’s become its own strange, pudding-like product. That’s it! It’s like peppermint-butterscotch pudding ... with dark chocolate. It’s just all kinds of wrong when I think too hard. (4 out of 10)
The strangeness continued with the Dark Chocolate Raspberry Caramel.
Luckily I didn’t have a whole bag of each of those, just a little handful ... and now they’re on their way to Kimberly, who won the drawing! (I should have had her sign some sort of a waiver.) Again, it’s like raspberry flavored butterscotch pudding. I just didn’t like all the flavors together and the salty hit of the caramel with the raspberry was just over the top. (4 out of 10)
The happy news is that the rest of this is all good. The more traditional new offerings to the Dove Promises line are just the regular milk and dark chocolate with some crushed almonds added in.
Almonds are a personal favorite of mine, I practically live on them (really, I eat them just about every day as a snack). What’s always bothered me about Dove chocolate is its foolish consistency ... it feels too perfect, too manufactured and lacking any personality. The crushed almonds in the Dove Dark Chocolate with Almonds fix that.
They add some texture, they add some extra flavor, a little crunch ... they just complete the Dove Dark Chocolate. Any trepidation I had about their chocolate has disappeared with the added element. (8 out of 10)
The Dove Milk Chocolate with Almonds benefits similiarly from the crushed almonds. It makes the milk chocolate, which was always a little sticky sweet to me, more malty and rich. The milky flavors now take on a toasted, darker tone.
They please me. (7 out of 10)
A single Milk Chocolate with Almonds has about 45 calories in it.
I don’t have the nutritional info on the Caramel line or the Dark Chocolate with Almonds, just the Milk Chocolate with Almonds, as that’s the only one I have the complete packaging for. I’m not sure when these are showing up in stores, they’re not on the Dove website yet. Anyone see them in stores yet?
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
The cookie and caramel covered in chocolate combination is pretty flexible and creating new versions of this doesn’t mess with the essential Twix-ness (just like there are many different cream and chocolate variations for the KitKat).
I’ve been searching for a good coffee flavored candy bar for years, for a country so obsessed with coffee it’s rather surprising that we don’t have one. (Yes, I’m aware of the Coffee Crisp and it just doesn’t do it for me.)
The bar is the standard construction: a chocolate cookie with a stripe of coffee-flavored caramel covered in milk chocolate.
It smells sweet and a bit like caramel and graham crackers but not much like coffee at first.
Once broken in half and the caramel revealed it has a pleasant roasted-coffee aroma. The caramel is a bit salty with an actual authentic-tasting coffee flavor to it (in addition to the natural and artificial flavors they list espresso ground coffee as an ingredient). The chocolate cookie is crumbly and crunchy with it’s own salty contribution. The milk chocolate on the outside is super sweet but pulls it together.
I didn’t like the bar much when I first tried it out on the floor (I split a package with Ginny). But I have to admit that it was day two and I’d really only been eating candy for 36 hours (except for an awesome pile of shrimp at a party the night before).
But with the clarity of a lone bar on my desk without the clutter of a gagillion other flavors in my mouth and a billion other conversations flitting by on the show floor ... I really like this bar. I think it’s the best Twix bar I’ve ever had. Yes, it’s still a little sweet for me, but in combination with some nearly black coffee, it’s growing on me.
You can expect these to start showing up later this year (reported release date is December 2007). In other news, if you were a fan of the Triple Chocolate Twix, it’s actually back in the miniature form. Mars released a few “autumn mixes” this year (that included the Vanilla, Strawberry & Mocha 3 Musketeers). The Twix one has regular Twix, Twix Dark Chocolate and Twix Triple Chocolate. I found them at RiteAid in the Halloween candy aisle.
I hope the Twix Java at least finds its way into a seasonal bag ... and in dark chocolate please!
UPDATE 9/29/2009: Mars has announced that TWIX Java will become part of their permanent line of candies. You can expect them in stores starting in April 2010.
Friday, September 14, 2007
I’m a little late to this Limited Edition Milk Chocolate Razzberry M&Ms story, but mostly because I couldn’t find them anywhere in Los Angeles. I tried all my usual haunts (RiteAid, Walgreen’s, Von’s, CVS, Target & 7-11) and finally found them Wednesday night at the Dollar Tree in Harbor City on my way to San Pedro.
The bag felt a little light, and it is. It’s only 1.5 ounces instead of the usual 1.74 ounces for the Peanut variety or 1.69 ounces for the Milk Chocolate. (Of course the Pirate Pearls ones were similiarly scant.)
The bag is a pleasant hot pink and urges me to “Get Razzed” ... which as far as my understanding of the lingo that the kids use these days, that means, “Get Harassed.” Okely Dokely!
At first when I dumped these out to take their photo I thought I got a bad bag. The color looks completely off. Now if you just handed me a bowl of them, I might say, “Oh, what a lovely muted pink color!” But because of the brightness of the package, this feels like it clashes, which makes me feel like it’s unintended. But looking around at other photos on Flickr of the candies, it seems like they’re supposed to be this way.
The size and shape is also irregular. Some are the same size as typical Milk Chocolate M&Ms and others are as big as the now-discontinued Mega M&Ms. I rather like the regularity of M&Ms when spread out on my desk when eating them, but these just didn’t please me as much with their appearance.
The candies smell, like, well, someone spilled a bottle of raspberry after-bath spritz. I’ve spent a lot of time with fresh raspberries. When I was a kid, for several years when we lived in Ohio we had a raspberry patch in the back yard which was absurdly productive. While they weren’t wild berries, they certainly weren’t like the commercial ones sold in stores today. They were on the small side but bursting with flavor, a combination of sweet, tart and floral. By the time I was a teenager and we moved away, I was so spoiled by the real thing that I couldn’t stand raspberry flavored things or bring myself to spend $5 for a teensy little portion of watery-tasting fresh berries at the grocery store.
The Milk Chocolate is okay, for some reason it tastes sweeter than the regular Milk Chocolate M&Ms (remember, I’ve eaten a lot of those lately), it could be the larger size of most of them that gave a bigger hit of the ordinary chocolate center. The chocolate simply wasn’t creamy and I have to wonder if these were stored properly. Southern California experienced a wicked heat spell around Labor Day weekend and there were sporadic power outages all over which means that these could have bloomed in some way.
M&Ms stressed in their press releases about these that they’re the first fruit flavored M&Ms ever given full distribution. (I guess they were ignoring those super exclusive fruity ones they did last year.) I’m sad that they didn’t do orange, as I think that’d be a good place to start. It’s easy to get an authentic orange flavor with chocolate. But then again these aren’t raspberry M&Ms ... no, they’re razzberry M&Ms, here to mock real raspberries (and us) with their fakeness.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
The mint market is well, full of mints. So what’s a company gonna do to distinguish themselves from the crowded field? Ver thinks it’s hit on the right balance of novelty, quality and qualifications. Their line of six different flavors are vegan, Kosher and gluten free, nut free and all-natural (and featuring many organic ingredients).
The blue tin was predictably Peppermint, their original flavor. Unlike a mint like Altoids, these aren’t blindingly strong. Just simply, well, mints. The texture is pleasant. Not chalky, but a little crumbly but sufficiently dense. The intensity of the mint grows (though sometimes one mint may be stronger than another) as it dissolves and leaves a breath-freshening coolness when it’s gone.
WinterMint is what I’m guessing is wintergreen since it features wintergreen oil in the ingredients. I think wintergreen flavor is undervalued in our culture and I blame Pepto Bismol for giving us the association of wintergreen with being sick. (Some additional blame goes to Ben Gay for making us think of locker-rooms and old people.) Upon reading a little more on the subject, wintergreen is not to be taken lightly as it can be toxic in very large doses, which you really can’t achieve with a tin.
This was like one of those big Canada pink mints (wintergreen is also called Canada mint), but not as chalky. Smooth and peppery, I enjoyed these quite a bit. There were also little bits of real peppermint leaves in the pastilles.
With my motion sickness difficulties I tend to eat a lot of Ginger candies. I like to strike a balance between their spiciness, the amount of actual ginger in the candy and of course the overall taste. Too much spice and I can’t maintain my intake (though fanning my mouth often takes my mind off of nausea ... so that’s effective).
These crazy mints have a lot of ginger flavor in them and burn on my tongue right away. It dissipates after a moment and I forget about the inital scalding by the time I eat another one.
They have two kinds of ginger in them: ground ginger root and ginger flavor. I think ginger goes particularly well with Maple Syrup.
It’s definitely cinnamon, completely spicy, kind of woodsy and a little sweet. There are peppermint leaves in this one too, but I think it would have been better to throw a few little bits of cinnamon in there while they were at it. But they didn’t ask me.
For a while I was pronouncing this as Very Mints ... not realizing, first that they were spelled Ver with no I in there after the Ver. It wasn’t until I got the VerMONT connection that I understood the name. I still think Very Mints is a good name, too. I might start calling the state it Very Mont.
The two flavors that set this set apart are the flavor combos. This one, Chai features Fair Trade teas from Honest Tea. Of course this means that this ingredients simply say that it contains “Organic Chai Tea” which is a pretty vague thing, kind of like “cake mix”. I can taste a bit of the black tea background, some cinnamon and strong clove, a little nutmeg. I’d have liked, of course, more cardamom and perhaps vanilla notes. And less clove. Just make a clove mint and leave clove out of the other candies.
It’s pretty good and a nice change of pace from the others. The spicy notes are refreshing and I think gives me pleasant breath.
The last flavor is Cafe Express which features Fair Trade coffee from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. The ingredients list both coffee and natural coffee flavor and they certainly smell like sweet, sweet coffee. The flavor is a little less intense, mellow and coffee-ish. On the good side of that, there’s no coffee breath afterwards. On the bad side, they feel more like candy than a breath mint. Not that there’s anything wrong with that since they’re pretty much gone now.
Overall I prefer the texture of these to Altoids, they’re a little smoother and the binder gums in there give them a very slight slippery feel on the tongue as they dissolve. The flavors are more pleasing than the similarly-textured Pastiglie Leone and completely different from the also-vegan friendly St. Claire’s Organic Mints.
Curiosities & other facts associated with these mints:
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
I was thinking back when I wrote the review of the new 3 Musketeers Mint about the original 3 Musketeers. I’ve been searching high and low for images of it, but alas there are none to be found via my diligent use of google. What struck me as so wonderful about the concept was that it was much like the long-gone 7up Bar and the still here Sky Bar - a combination of segmented flavors.
The old 3 Musketeers would have been the Neapolitan nougat of candy bars.
Imagine my surprise as I ducked in the Rite Aid on Friday to pick up some things for my vacation (yes, I’m on vacation right now as I type this) that not only did the store have much of their Halloween candy on display, they also had this Autumn Minis Mix. It doesn’t say limited edition or anything. Perhaps it’s seasonal, there are golden leaves on it, after all.
Here’s an old commercial I found from the days of black and white television animation:
All for fun, and fun for all! Alexander Dumas would be proud.
The little mini bars are tiny, about the size of a normal boxed chocolate. Take them out of the wrapper and put it on an elegant plate and it might even pass for one at a glance.
While I’ve never quite understood what French Vanilla is (and it’s often used as a description for candles and ice cream), I appreciate that this 3 Musketeers is a little lighter tasting. Where a regular one has a rather malty and dark salt flavor to it, this is light. It doesn’t quite have vanilla oozing from its pores as a flavor (more like the absence of any other flavors distinguishes this one), it’s still pleasant.
Against my better judgment, I love the Strawberry. It absolutely reminds me of Neapolitan ice cream! The strawberry is sweet and has a light caramelized sugar touch to it, a little floral-y and certainly on the fake side. But the soft, fluffy and rather foamy nougat pulls it off. The chocolate is passable enough as an enclosure and adds the cocoa flavor to bring it together (I can certainly see me hating it if it were covered in white chocolate).
The pink color of the insides is a little shocking and I’m guessing where the artificial colors listed in the ingredients are used. Kind of unnecessary in my book (especially since it seems that folks accepted the uncolored insides to the new Mint bar).
Mocha Capuccino are surprisingly nice. Not too sweet, a good texture and creamy counterpoint of the chocolate to the nougat. However, they don’t taste like coffee. Nope, they taste like pecans or maple, but not like coffee.
I don’t mind the flavor in the slightest, and considered it my second favorite of this bunch, but someone really needs to tweak their “coffee flavor” that they’re selling to these candy companies. (It could have been much worse, it could have been that dastardly Mocha that those limited edition KitKats had.)
Overall, these are a nice change up from the standard 3 Musketeers and the simplicity of the bar in the first place makes the flavor changes perfectly acceptable.
The price point on these, $3.79 for a 9 ounce bag was a bit hard to swallow. I prefer paying about $2.50 for these sorts of things, but I figured, I’m on vacation (or will be).
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Bit-O-Honey is one of those candies that I’m always surprised (and pleased) to see that they still make. And why wouldn’t they? There’s nothing else like it out there.
Bit-O-Honey was introduced in 1924 by a company called Schutter-Johnson Company in Chicago, Ill. Schutter and Johnson later split (Johnson went on to invent the PowerHouse bar which became a Peter Paul product, a nougat, peanuts and caramel product covered with chocolate, something I’ll have to write about further later).
Schutter’s made a nice variety of chewy goods including the Bit-O-Choc and the Bit-O-Coconut and a chocolate bar called Old Nick that featured milk chocolate over fudge and nuts.
In the 1960s Schutter’s sold out to the Chunky folks who discontinued the Old Nick citing that it competed with their much more popular Oh Henry! Then in 1984 Nestle bought Chunky and the now orphaned Bit-O-Honey. (There may have been some intermediate companies in there for a while too, candy history is mighty confusing!)
Nestle has kept the bar largely the same as when it was first introduced. They even still make the six segment bar with the wax wrapper dividers. This is an interesting way to sell the candy and solves one of the enduring problems for taffy bars ... how do you eat it? Many taffy bars are easy to smack on the corner of the table and break into pieces (but who knows how those pieces will be sized?). The assortment of bars from Annabelle’s and items like Laffy Taffy suffer from this (though Laffy Taffy also makes the ropes, which I think are probably the best format for a large quantity of taffy).
The Bit-O-Honey segments break apart pretty easily, though I always end up with a little smidge of paper on the back side of each piece where the candy has folded over the waxed paper. (It’s not the end of the world if it ends up in your mouth though ... not like the foil on a Hershey’s Kiss if you have fillings.)
As long as the candy is fresh and soft, it’s a pleasant and surprisingly long-lasting chew. There are notes of honey as you would expect, as well as a smooth and creamy flavor of almonds. The chew is consistent to the very end, instead of descending into some grainy mess as many caramels do. There’s a little egg white in there, which is part of what give it the smooth chew (a little different timing on the cooking and it could be nougat).
Bit-O-Honey are also sold individually wrapped, but I’ve never liked those as much (they’re a little boxier in shape). They tend to be firmer (or rock hard). There’s something about the bar that I’ve always loved.
I don’t buy them very often, for fear of pulling out fillings (though I’ve never actually lost a filling on candy ... I lost a filling once on scrambled eggs and cracked a tooth on a rock in a bean salad once). It was nice to see them on shelves again at the 99 Cent Only Store and even better to find the product virtually unchanged.
Monday, August 13, 2007
It may come as a surprise to some candy eaters, but there really aren’t that many different chocolate sources in the United States. Did you know that there are only 16 chocolate factories (actual factories that make chocolate from bean to bar) in this country? Everyone else who makes products that contain chocolate get it from someone else. Usually a big someone ... someone in “Big Chocolate.” But every once in a while a little guy comes along and says they’re going to start with some beans and some sugar and and make some chocolate bars. Of course it’s hard to do that because chocolate making, in some ways, is about large scale. Large batches of chocolate mean lots of blending of beans goes on and then the product is consistent from batch to batch. An artisan maker can either attempt to create a cookie cutter product every time or embrace the individuality of the variety of the bean and the growing region.
Amano Chocolate‘s Art Pollard said just that. His chocolate-making techniques are more like a classic vintner than a candy maker. As a small company he chooses his beans personally and supervises the roasting and blending of the single origin sources to create hand crafted, small batch bars. Each bar is marked with a lot number and a molding date.
The ingredients are simple: cocoa beans, cane sugar, cocoa butter and Tahitian vanilla beans. Note that there’s no added soya lecithin here. (The only other bars that I’ve tried that have no lecithin in them are Theo and Michel Cluizel.) The packaging is equally simple but also appropriate. The bar is inside a nice matte paperboard black tab-top box and the bar is wrapped in a medium weight gold foil. (I’ve had plenty of bars that come in a microthin foil that is impossible to reseal around the bar because it’s torn to shreds.)
Madagascar Premium Dark Chocolate - 70% Cacao Minimum
Madagascar - tart with strong licorice and citrus tones. The tanginess seems to give the chocolate a very crisp finish, it’s smooth, but not as full feeling on the tongue as the Ocumare. Eventually it settles into a flavor rather like golden raisins. (Lot no: 3/4/59 date: 1/14/2007)
Ocumare Grand Cru Dark Chocolate - 70% Cacao Minimum
Buttery and rich with a strong woodsy component. A little peppery bite as well as a little rosemary note. The flavors are thick and resonant, with a deepness and complexity that was good for savoring but also extremely pleasant to mindlessly eat. (Lot no: 3/4/61 date: 3/8/2007)
I have a feeling that I just plain old like Ocumare. It’s my favorite single-origin bar from Chocovic.
I had several of these Amano Ocumare bars and found that they were much better, richer and more buttery after sitting for at least a month. So while “fresh from the factory” is good for some products, so is aging in the case of chocolate.
Brian from Candy Addict reviewed these bars and found them Awesomely Addictive. He notes a strong mint flavor in the Ocumare which was in a single molding of bars. Art Pollard dispatched a newer set of bars that did not have that hint of mint in them, hence the differing descriptions between our reviews (and more Ocumare for me!).
Amano’s been getting a lot of press lately, especially since their good showing at the Fancy Food Show in New York earlier this summer. Here’s a roundup of other reviews: The Art of Tasting Chocolate, David Lebovitz and Chuck Eats.
The final thing to note is the price. The bars run about $7.00 each and weigh 2 ounces - that’s over $55 a pound and isn’t a purty truffle or anything. In my middle-class existence that price makes these bars a “rare indulgence” but certainly for any chocophile is something that should be experienced. You can buy directly from Amano or possibly at Amazon (out of stock right now).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.