Monday, May 18, 2009
With the wild popularity of the Twilight series of books by Stephanie Meyer, it was only a matter of time before the first book was made into a movie. And of course its success means a licensing agreement was reached for some candy.
Considering the fact that the story (I’m doing spoilers here) is about vampires and love, candy hearts are a natural choice.
Necco’s Sweetheart conversation hearts were released as a limited edition: Sweethearts Forbidden Fruits. Instead of just getting a box branded with a few characters on it and maybe some new sayings, these little hearts are also in different flavors themed for forbidden fruits plus have some sort of sparkling Dracula dust (pearlescent pigment) on them.
The candy seems to have been timed with the DVD release, not with the film in the theaters. Still, I never did find them in stores (perhaps I should have been looking in video stores, but I have a Netflix subscription ... which makes me think there should be a Netflix for candy).
The candy hearts don’t look terribly different from the regular Valentine’s version. Except the colors are different. The pearly coating (that looks like it’s glitter on the box) is pretty darn mild, I mistook it for chalky powder.
The flavors are:
The sayings on the hearts vary in their legibility. They seem to be lighter but clearer on the pearly ones but bold & smudgy on the uncoated.
Sayings that I was able to tease out were: Soul Mate, Bite Me, Secret, I (heart) EC, Live 4 Ever, Dazzle, With You, Lamb, Bad Guy, You R My Life, Always, I Trust You, I Love You, Forks.
Oddly enough, as noted above in the photo, some were blank. I didn’t know if this was intentional, like some sort of heart that only vampires could read. Or maybe there’s a version of the Twlight books that are choose your own adventure and I’m in charge of this heart’s message.
As far as a limited edition offering, they’re a rather bland revision of conversation hearts, but they’re rather ordinary to begin with. The execution of the lettering and the “dazzle dust” were weak. But I liked the box design (though I’ve only seen this one in person) and think that it’d be a fun item to have while watching the movie with friends. (As long as you had some snacks on hand that were actually good to eat.)
Like all Necco conversation hearts, these have gelatin in them, so are unsuitable for vegetarians/vegans/those who keep Kosher or otherwise eschew pork. (I have no idea how the Twilight vampires feel about pigs.)
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Hershey’s Whatchamacallit was introduced in 1978. I remember the launch, the commercials and buying the candy bar quite a bit in the first few years when it came out.
It was a peanut butter & crisped rice bar covered in milk chocolate. It was simple, crunchy, looked really big and was satisfying.
Hershey’s has never seemed particularly proud or supportive of the Whatchamacallit. Their advertising for it waned after the eighties; maybe they wanted to go out on a bang with this classic commercial:
The Hershey’s website lists only four notable moments in Whatchamacallit history: introduction (1978), reformulation (1987), package redesign & king size release (2002). You can see the earlier, less “blasty” package design on Brad Kent’s wrapper archive and Mike’s Candy Wrappers (2002 & 2003)
The page mentions nothing about the second reformulation where the bar lost its milk chocolate and gained its rich chocolatey coating (circa 2006).
This bar is made with chocolate, cocoa crisps and peanut butter. At first glance it sounds like it might be the original Whatchamacallit, the one without the caramel (well, that also had real chocolate).
Instead it’s a block of cocoa flavored crisped rice covered with a strip of peanut butter and then covered in Hershey’s inimitable imitation chocolate.
As with many limited edition products, this bar is slightly smaller than the original. It’s 1.5 ounces versus the 1.6 ounces of the Whatchamacallit.
Whatchamacallit on the left and Thingamajig on the right
It’s hard to review the Thingamajig in a vacuum, so naturally I’m comparing it to the Whatchamacallit. I’m also prone to wondering if, when Hershey’s was developing the Whatchamacallit, that they didn’t go through this bar as part of the evolution of the new product, obviously rejecting it.
The Thingamajig has a nice cocoa scent along with a whiff or roasted peanuts. It’s not quite a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup smell, but pretty close.
The bit into the bar is a quick snap, biting through the cocoa crispies is easy, they’re crunchy but have plenty of give since they don’t seem to be held together by marshmallow or peanut butter like the Whatchamacallit.
The mockolate coating is rather good ... I have to give Hershey’s credit, their fake chocolate can often be better than some other companies’ real chocolate. The cocoa flavors from the crispy center probably help.
The peanut butter is a bit salty, creamy and smooth (smoother than a peanut butter cup center).
Overall, it’s a nice experience ... probably not something I’d want again. I’m not sure why Hershey’s did it, but they’re not really taking any credit for it (they never emailed me about it, it doesn’t appear on their website) and it will probably disappear without any fanfare as well.
Rating: 6 out of 10
As a little side note, since I’ve never done an official review of the Whatchamacallit (which by now I’m rather dreading typing), I thought I’d add that here:
The bar smells like cocoa and toffee. The peanut butter crisped rice center is great. It’s buttery, salty, crunchy and has a good roasted nut flavor and a strong butter/dairy note to it. The caramel, though only a very thin layer, gives it a bit of a chew that holds it together in the mouth. The mockolate coating is creamy and melts well but offers no chocolate flavors here ... just a sealant for the crispy bar.
Rating: 6 out of 10
But most of all, I have to wonder why the Whatchamacallit isn’t a Reese’s branded product, getting the full benefit of the peanut butter branding.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
This tray of Limited Edition Easter Mallows is huge. Even though it only weighs 5.29 ounces, the large tray made it look like there was a lot of candy in here.
The clear tray holds the 10 chocolate covered marshmallow domes. They’re cradled well, and though a few of mine were cracked (could have been me treating the package roughly), none of them were leaking.
The candy construction is simple. A round cookie (biscuit) base with a dollop of Jaffa orange jam, then a heap of marshmallow, all covered in Cadbury milk chocolate.
They’re about 1.75 inches in diameter and about .75 inches high. The bite is soft and the chocolate shell is crisp and adheres pretty well to the marshmallow.
They smell like dairy milk chocolate before biting, but after biting through to the jam center, it’s definitely orange. The flavor of the jam is rather like marmalade, with a strong zest component along with some sweet syrup and tangy juice to it. The cookie base is soft and crumbly, like a graham cracker. The marshmallow, though soft and passable didn’t do much for me one way or the other. The milk chocolate coating is very sweet and has a dried milk flavor to it.
On the whole, these are very appealing. I really liked the flavorful punch of the center much better than the filled marshmallows I’ve had from Asia.
They were expensive though, at $2.99 for the tray (but I felt like I’ve been leaving my UK reader friends out lately). I’m not quite sure what makes them an Easter candy (maybe if they were egg shaped) or if there’s a non-Easter version that these are based on. The Cadbury site was no help. (But I did find out that these are sold at Aldi in the UK.)
Each Easter Mallow has 65 calories.
The gelatin is made from pork, so these are definitely not Halal, Kosher or vegetarian.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I faithfully photographed the first package, but then ate them.
The second one, well, that was a King Sized version that I didn’t photograph, but then ate and realized that the proportions were different.
Then yesterday I was browsing my local 99 Cent Stores (yes, two of them, as they are less than a block apart and carry different stuff), I saw boxes and boxes of these. Since the expiration says 9K (November 2009), I figured they were well worth the 39 cents just so I could get these off my chest.
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups made with crunchy peanut butter are not new. I remember them from the 90s and found this wrapper on Brad Kent’s site. Apparently they were also available in Canada, according to this wrapper on Mike’s Candy Bar Wrappers. This version is not to be confused with the Limited Edition Reese’s Big Cup with Nuts, which had whole nuts, not crushed ones.
They look, pretty much, like regular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Fresh and nutty smelling, the tops were pristine on my most recent purchase (no oily puddles).
The chocolate is sweet and cool on the tongue, the peanut butter is immediately salty. The texture is the same as the regular cups except there are some big chunks of peanuts mixed in.
Most peanut butters are offered as either smooth or chunky, so it’s a natural evolution that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups would come that way as well.
I liked these, I think they should be a regular item, but at the moment, if you have a 99 Cent Only Store the price is pretty darn good for fresh product. When those are gone, we can just wait for yet another limited edition or seasonal introduction. (I am kind of curious to try this crunchy style with the Easter favorite, the Egg.)
Side note: I saw a oodles of the now hard-to-find Reese’s Bars at the Fairfax & 6th 99 Cent Store.
Friday, February 13, 2009
I have more candy than I will ever be able to review at my pace of 5-7 products a week. Here are a few items I’ve tasted recently and some notes on them (most gratuitous photos). So here are some small bites of a whole week’s worth of candy. Get ready to scroll!
I visited with Anne Hickey and the Plush Puffs’ crew when I was at the Fancy Food Show. At closing time they gave me a box of their Vanilla Bean Marshmallows. It’s new packaging for them, which I really like. It’s still spare and highlights the product well.
But what I liked best is that they’ve made the marshmallows a bit smaller. Now they’re 1” cubes instead of the larger version I tried several years ago. This means that when toasted the center gets molten before the outside catches on fire. (There are important physical laws that even marshmallows must obey.)
The box has been sitting next to my stove top and some evenings I’ll toast up two or three for dessert on the gas burner. It makes the house smell wonderful.
I visited a few times with Seth Ellis Chocolatier while at the Fancy Food Show. They had a lovely array of samples, but for some reason I eschewed their truffles and became obsessed with their Candied Lemons.
Perhaps it’s because of this little nugget from their website, “We candy the freshest organic lemon slices slowly, over twenty-five days, using a traditional European method to preserve the intense lemon flavors.”
The box contains one full lemon slice plus and extra quarter. Special bonus, the packaging is made with wind power (well, that and some tree pulp).
The candying doesn’t make the peel as soft as some others, but then again, sometimes that makes them gummy and flavorless. This definitely has a bitter bite and because the pulp is also still there, it’s quite tangy. The dark chocolate is creamy and also has a woodsy bite to it.
I must have been obsessed with lemon and lemongrass at the Fancy Food Expo because the other item I knew I had to bring home was L’Estasi Dolce Sweet Ecstasy Lemongrass Ginger Truffles.
Lemongrass is a bit of a strange flavor. I love it in Thai cooking (hot & sour soup especially). It imparts the zesty notes of lemon peel, but it has a soft side to it as well, that I can only compare to bubble gum.
These nicely sized truffles are a real ganache made with lots of real cream.
The center is soft and silky with an immediate soft flavor of lemongrass. Then there’s the warming power of the ginger. The woodsy ginger flavors never come forward, it’s just that little burn in the background. This all combines well with the slight dairy flavor of the cream and the mellow dark chocolate.
One of the Fancy Food Show items I mentioned in my show notes was Rubicon Bakery.
They not only make all natural, wholesome products right here in the United States, their mission is to help people in need by giving job training, jobs placement assistance to work their way out of poverty.
The package pictured here is a mock up used for the distribution of the samples, the real thing is much nicer.
They’re little meringue kisses, a little larger than a Hershey’s Kiss. The center is a crunchy fluffed egg white made flavorful by the addition of gobs of real freeze dried strawberries. To seal in the crispness, they’re dipped in bittersweet Guittard chocolate.
The freaky part about the whole combination is that it’s so tasty & satisfying yet so low in calories. They say that a serving of five is only 90 calories (about 100 calories per ounce, amazing for a chocolate product). So even if you ate a whole box of 15 bites, you’re still under the 300 mark of most king sized candy bars.
SFGate wrote about them last week too, those lucky dogs, it’s a local company for them.
These candies have single-handedly caused me to swear off of all Andes products except for the original Creme de Menthe.
The Mocha Mint Indulgence is a freak product. I don’t even know what it is. The pieces are ugly (sorry, no photo of the interior, this is supposed to be a tantalizing post). Putty brown mockolate over a layer of mint green confection like the center of the regular Andes.
It smells like minted cardboard. The texture is like grainy wax. The flavor is like musty Christmas candles found in a drawer at an estate sale.
To close is something to restore our confidence in nuts: Ococoa Nut Butter Cups made right here in Los Angeles by Diana Malouf. I picked them up from her in person before Christmas but never go around to posting the review.
More than just gourmet peanut butter cups, these are tall cups filled with exotic nut butters & fruits. The flavor array is: Classic Peanut Butter, Pistachio Date, Sesame Fig, Hazelnut Chocolate, Almond Cherry, Cashew Apricot, Marzipan Truffle, Macadamia Guava, and Sunflower Honey.
The box is elegant and substantial.
The cups are about an inch high with a cute ruffle of chocolate around the collar and an inch in diameter at the top.
They were a bugger to photograph the interior, luckily their website has the fantastic and accurate cross sections that you can peruse. This one is Guava jam & macadamia nut butter. Probably the best experience I’ve had with macadamias & guava, which aren’t really my fave, but done very well here.
I was attracted most to the Sesame Fig, which I gobbled up after taking a photo. The sesame paste is combined with chocolate to create a sesame Nutella of sorts, though quite firm. Inside the center was a reservoir of fig jam. The toasted & grassy flavors of the sesame went well with the fresh & slightly tangy notes of the fig. Sunflower Honey was next on my hit list. Sunflower seeds have such a distinctive taste. This center was like a creamed honey with sunflower flavors.
Cashew Apricot was really decadent, as the apricot’s pine-notes were offset by the deep toasted butter flavors of the cashews. The hazelnut was also stellar, the freshness of the nut butter was so different from many other guianduias I have regularly. (I shared some others and didn’t take complete notes on the rest.)
Unlike many nut creations that rely on salt to bring the nut flavors forward, Ococoa lets the sweetness of the nuts come through. The only problem I had with these, if it could be called that, was the construction. The chocolate cap on the top was very thick, so biting the pieces in half wasn’t very easy. While I don’t think it’s imperative that all chocolates be dissected, it meant that there was always a larger reservoir of chocolate at the end when sometimes I really wanted to end on a nut note.
They’ll set you back $22 for a 9 piece box.
Monday, February 9, 2009
I got a hold of the king size version (I don’t know if it comes in the regular size) via Nestle’s PR company who offered me some samples. I’ve been looking for them for about a month, as the Butterfinger Buzz Facebook page says they should be available at 7-11 and Walgreen’s.
The package is a little confusing. It says with as much caffeine as the leading energy drink. The whole package has 80 mg of caffeine (the same as an 8 ounce Red Bull). But the recommended portion is one half of the package which nets you 40 mg of caffeine. 40 mg is about the same caffeine as 3 ounces of brewed coffee.
The little bars are less than attractive. The mockolate coating isn’t very chocolatey looking, it’s much lighter than most milk chocolate and has a chalky, matte appearance instead of a silky & shiny look. It does smell a bit like cocoa and peanut butter with a small whiff of Cap’n Crunch cereal.
The crunchy peanut butter candy center is rather different from the regular Butterfinger. First, it’s an unnatural red/orange color (thanks to Red 40!). It’s also denser. I’ve eaten three of these bars, just in case it was just that one bar that was a little off from the norm. The middle half of the bar is more like a hard candy than the flaky peanut butter crisp.
Other than the color & texture difference, I can also state that there is a definite bitter bite to this. (Who knows if it’s just the caffeine or and added contribution of the detestable red food coloring?) The bitterness lasts as a slight metallic aftertaste for several hours, at least for me. I don’t have this problem with coffee, which also has caffeine and can often be bitter, but will fade away after I’ve swallowed it.
I know these will likely generate lots of interest, especially from students, gamers and long-haul truck drivers. It is nice to have the option to get a little candy boost with some caffeine. This integration didn’t quite make the cut for me, though.
Mars introduced Snickers Charged around this time last year, which was 60 mg of caffeine as well as B vitamins & taurine.
Honestly, if Nestle wanted to impress me, they should make a gourmet Butterfinger, with some of their real Swiss chocolate. And I can have that with a cup of coffee and really a buzz going.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
I first experienced it in candy with the Yuzu HiCHEW and have eagerly consumed anything Yuzu I can get my hands on since. (And am considering planting a Yuzu tree in my back yard.)
So the Yuzu KitKat was enough to get me to place a pre-Christmas order with JBox. However, they were pretty expensive. $4.25 for 150 grams.
These little minis are two short fingers in a package (66 calories).
They smell like tangerines, chocolate and Cheerios.
The chocolate is rich and creamy and the zesty notes of Yuzu, which include grapefruit, mandarin, lime and tangerine come across immediately. The crunchy and bland wafers give it a bit of crunch. Towards the end there’s even a little bit of a bitter aftertaste from the citrus zest.
One of my favorite Japanese KitKats ever.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Azuki beans are used to make many confections in Japan, including a thick and sweet paste filling for mochi and a dessert soup called Oshiruko. Oshiruko varies depending on where you get it, but the little picture on the box looks like a thin, sweet bean broth with azuki beans and a dumpling of mochi in the middle.
The first Azuki KitKat I had was a white chocolate version, so I was definitely curious to try the red bean and milk chocolate combo in the newest Limited Edition from Nestle Japan.
This is definitely the kind of KitKat that fits into my mantra of “open your mouth, expand your mind.” Before I started my candy obsessed website I was pretty content with my American and sometimes Italian candies. I stuck to flavors and combinations that seemed logical to me. Combining beans and sugar (besides perhaps molasses baked beans) didn’t seem very confectionery to me. But now that I’ve had a good amount of mochi and red bean caramels I can say that beans are a natural, earthy & textured base flavor for candy.
This KitKat comes in the lovely box that is common in the Asian KitKats. Each little portion holds a two fingered KitKat. The front of this wrapper also has the new style of nutritional labeling that includes the calories right there - 110.
They’re glossy and pretty out of the mylar wrapper.
They smell like dirt. There are notes of freshly sawn wood, beets, caramel and rusted iron. It’s quite a different experience.
The bite and textures are the same as other KitKats. The milk chocolate is sweet and pretty creamy. The wafers are light and crunchy. The flavor is just as it smells - beets, charcoal, a hint of milk chocolate and butterscotch pudding. The Azuki flavor doesn’t quite make it in there, in fact, if I didn’t know that it was a red bean KitKat I probably would have guessed beets.
It’s not bad, a little bitter at times (which I don’t usually experience with other red bean items) but overall a tasty experience.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
I checked through plenty of stores and found Walgreen’s had the best selection by the time the 75% off discount came around. This is when I jump on items I only eye at full price and then hem and haw over at half off. One was this Ghirardelli Squares Limited Edition Holiday Chocolate Assortment. Full price was $8.99, so $2.24 for over nine ounces of chocolate sounded like a great deal even if it was seasonally themed.
The assortment includes Peppermint Bark, Egg Nog and Chocolate Pecan Pie.
Ghirardelli, I think, is known for their Peppermint Bark. It’s one of the few brands that dependably makes the stuff and actually uses cocoa butter for their white chocolate.
The construction of the square is pretty simple. A milk chocolate base layer is covered with a minted white chocolate studded with little crunchies.
The scent isn’t overpoweringly minty, which probably saves the other chocolates in the bag from tasting like mint, too.
The texture of the chocolates is smooth and silky, very sweet but not achingly so. The little crunchies in the white chocolate aren’t crushed candy canes though, they’re corn flake bits (colored red). The crunch is a bit more cereal than hard candy but still puffy.
It’s kind of odd that this sort of confection isn’t available year round, but since Ghirardelli has been bringing it back faithfully each winter, I shouldn’t complain.
Of the three flavors in the bag, this was the one that sold me on it: Egg Nog.
It’s just extra vanilla-y white chocolate (with real cocoa butter) and a visible dash of nutmeg.
I love the flavors of egg nog, but never really cared for sweet or thick drinks so the idea of a solid, melt-in-your-mouth version of it is ideal for me.
The square is a creamy yellow color and smells like nutmeg.
The white confection is sweet but pretty smooth and has the woodsy blast of nutmeg and tastes, like, well, Egg Nog. It could use a little more vanilla and maybe a slight hit of rum.
A real winner, if only because no one else makes a plain old white chocolate with nutmeg bar. Truffles, yeah, but not just a block of white chocolate. Great idea, well done, bring it back next year and I’ll probably buy it before it goes on clearance.
One of the reasons I thought that this review, even at this late date, would still be of value is that the Chocolate Pecan Pie is not a limited edition item. It’s available now as an individual bar or in single-flavor bags of the Squares. (Also, I don’t think Pecan Pie has a season.)
This little milk chocolate square smells wonderful, like maple, hot chocolate and caramel.
The milk chocolate is smooth, though plenty sweet. Mixed in is a light crunch of toffee coated pecan bits. They have a little salty hit and of course the caramelized & buttery crunch of pecans.
(The photos make it look like the chocolate is bloomed, I don’t think it was, I think it was the fatty pecans messing with the sheen of the chocolate. Mmm, fatty pecans.)
Overall, the array is fun and something I feel comfortable eating out of season at the moment. Especially because I love individually wrapped squares. A bonus is that a sandwich of the Egg Nog & Chocolate Pecan Pie actually go pretty well together. (But the Peppermint Bark doesn’t work with either.)
The only thing that really bugged me was that the ingredients weren’t listed separately for each of the squares. I was able to get the ingredients for the Peppermint Bark because it’s sold separately, but I really like to know what’s in items that I’m able to choose from a dish.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.