Friday, May 29, 2009
Now they’ve delved into mucking with the inside of the Raisinet ... the raisin.
In the new Cranberry Raisinets they’ve swapped out the dried grape for dried cranberries.
While the classic Raisinet is pretty simple & pure (just raisins in the center covered with some mediocre milk chocolate then coated with a sealing confectioners glaze), the new Cranberry version is a bit more complicated with a complicated package to match.
First, they’ve gone to a 100 calorie package which is priced the same as a standard serving package. Regular Raisinets currently come in a package with 1.58 ounces in there. The new 100 Calorie Cranberry Raisinets are .81 ounces. (If a package is 75 cents, that’s over $14 per pound.)
The front of the package says: 100% chocolate covered cranberries. I don’t know if that means that each cranberry is completely covered (which isn’t quite true, since some of mine had little bald spots) or that there are no raisins hiding in there ... but what’s really certain here is that there’s more than cranberries in the center.
The centers are “sweetened cranberries” with their ingredients listed as cranberries, sugar and sunflower oil. The little factoid box on the back of the package says: Good to Know: Dried cranberries are one of nature’s best sources of fruit ANTIOXIDANTS. Yes, that’s a nice thought, but there’s less than a half an ounce of cranberries here (I’m being generous with that estimate based on how much of the product is chocolate), so little that there’s no measurable amount of Vitamin C listed in the dietary specs.
All that prefacing aside, I love dried cranberries. I buy them often and eat them quite a bit (I love them mixed in with raw almonds). I’ve only been able to find the sweetened cranberries, no unsweetened ones seem readily available.
The Cranberry Raisinets are big and plump, usually flat and some of them were conjoined.
The chocolate is sweet, milky and flaky. The flavor is bland with a slight musty & cocoa note to it. The cranberry centers are chewy and tangy but also sweet. The overall effect is, well, sweetness without enough texture variation.
I’ve had quite a few different brands of chocolate covered dried & sweetened cranberries and think they’re just too sweet for the flavor profiles of the chocolate & cranberries to come through strongly.
I don’t see any reason to pay the same amount of money for basically half as much candy, even if it is some sort of portion control. 100 calories of something really tasty might be worth it, but this is simply not worthy of my limited calorie allotments for confections.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Way back in 2006 I first tried Wonka SweeTarts Rope. It was a cherry licorice rope filled with a tangy, grainy paste dotted with Nerds. It was definitely unique.
And then they seemed to disappear from shelves.
Then earlier this year I found Twizzlers Sweet & Sour Filled Twists, which seemed like a pretty good replacement, except perhaps a better deal since there were four ropes in each pack (and I preferred them because they had a pure lemon version).
Well it wasn’t really that SweeTarts Rope were discontinued, they were just retooled and are being relaunched as a new line called Kazoozles. They’ve dropped the Nerds and come in two different varieties now.
Cherry Punch Kazoozles are heralded as Delickoricious on the package. (Which makes me glad I only have to write this, instead of my reviews being delivered as a podcast - I’m not sure I can pronounce that.)
The ropes look a heck of a lot like their prequel, perhaps slightly less red.
They smell like a vat of black cherry flavoring.
The bite of the licorice tube is quite soft, less “wheat” flavored and more like a chew. The filling in the center is just slightly grainy, like a frosting made out of Pixy Stix. The punch flavor comes out loud and clear. It’s all rather artificial tasting and leaves an odd taste in my mouth later on.
The packages are color coded, so it’s pretty easy to tell them apart. The wrappers are thin, metallic mylar.
Each rope is nicely sized and weigh a little less than an ounce each (.9 ounces to be exact).
Here the lemon rope tube is textured with the ribbing that we usually see in licorice twists. But it’s also covered in a grainy sour powder. It’s sparkly! On top of that, it’s bigger around (but slightly shorter) than the Cherry Punch variety.
While the Cherry version smelled quite strongly, I barely got anything from this, just slight sweet fruity whiff.
The chew of the Lemon licorice rope is soft, softer than the Cherry, the sour grains give it a bit flavor punch right off the bat, instead of waiting to release after a few chews. The flavor is sour and stays that way for most of the experience. The lemony citrus really isn’t much of a contributor but later on when I got into the filling I caught some cherry notes.
Since I just had some of the Twizzlers version recently, I can say that I preferred the, but that’s mostly because I love lemon and the lemon was much more pronounced. As far as a reinvigoration of the SweeTarts Rope line, it’s nice to see a new flavor variation, even if it does have cherry in it just like the other flavor.
Like most licorice products, they’re made with wheat so are not gluten-free. They also contain a confectioners glaze and are not suitable for vegetarians.
Friday, March 27, 2009
It used to be that only Black Licorice jelly beans were sold in single flavor bags. Then Jelly Belly came along and let folks pick out just their favorite flavor and the whole world of jelly beans changed. But other than the gourmet beans, it still seemed like pre-packaged single flavors were pretty rare.
This year, as I was looking at the shelves at the drug store and grocery aisle, I was pleased to see so many different jelly bean flavor singles. (Gimbal’s also had color mixes that I might try to pick up on sale after Easter.)
Last year Nestle introduced the Nerds Bumpy Jelly Beans, this year I found a new jelly bean version of one of their classic candies, the Spree Jelly Beans.
What pleased me even more than the new product was that I could just buy the lemon ones. I found these only at Ralph’s (grocery chain) this year, not at any of my other regular Easter candy aisles. They also come in Green Apple (light green) and Cherry (pink).
The first thing I noticed about these beans was that they seemed more opaque. In fact, completely opaque. No vague translucence here. The second thing I noticed was that they’re very smooth and have no “bottom” to them like most beans.
The ingredients say dextrose first. Most jelly beans start with sugar (a disaccharide, dextrose is a monosaccharide which is also known as glucose). Dextrose is what Sprees are made of! (As well as most “chalk” candies.)
On the tongue the flavor is mild and slightly cool. Dextrose is a little lighter sweetness than sucrose. The shell dissolves pretty quickly but it’s definitely different from the usual jelly bean shell. It’s not grainy except at the margin between the jelly center and the shell.
The flavor is a very mild sweet lemon at first, then there’s a little burst of tangy flavor at the edge of the shell and center. However, it wasn’t consistent. Every once in a while I’d run across a bean that had a really good Lemonhead burst to it, but most were much milder. I’d say most failed on the Spree motto of a kick in the mouth, which is too bad, because when they got their kicks in, they were definitely sizzling.
The crunch of the shell, if I chewed them up, wasn’t quite M&Ms style or as thick as the Nerds Jelly Beans, but still closer to that than a traditional jelly bean. The centers were basically flavorless, but a smooth and firm jelly.
On the whole, these were a very nice changeup from a regular jelly bean. They’re not quite as fun as the Nerds version, but the fact that they come in the pretty standup bags in specific flavors sets them apart. But they are a bit more expensive than regular beans. I got these on sale for $2, which I still thought was a bit high for seven ounces of sugar candy.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Skittles Sour have shifted their flavor array. Originally Sour Skittles were just a sour dusted version of the Fruit Skittles in Strawberry, Orange, Lemon, Grape and Lime.
Somewhere along the way they dumped the Lime in favor of Blue Raspberry (which is a bit odd, considering that limes are the only other naturally super sour fruit besides lemon). I reviewed this version back in 2007.
So the new version is: Lemon, Strawberry, Blue Raspberry, Watermelon and Green Apple.
I think the addition of Green Apple is a natural evolution. It’s not one of my ideal flavors but really lends itself to a super-tangy version like this. The flavor was completely artificial, like some sort of off-gassing of some fresh plastic product, but that’s not necessarily a turnoff when it comes to ultra-artificial candies like Skittles.
The Watermelon is one of those bees in my bonnet. Unripe watermelon isn’t even sour, it’s just a different texture and lacking in sweetness ... it’s not like an unripe apple or strawberry. In this instance is a fake watermelon with a super burning blast of sour powder. It reminded me, though, of salty watermelon because of the sharp shock to the tongue.
Sour Skittles have their fanatical following, so I think it’s important for Skittles to cater to them. In my ideal candy world, the Sour Skittles would be more like the Crazy Cores, with a non-powdery shell that has the super tart blast and then the nicely flavored chew center. They’re really messy and even sealed packages are dusty and leave a sour residue on my fingers before I’ve even opened it. For me, I really only love the lemon one, so it’s not worth it for me to buy them.
Rating: 6 out of 10
The other new tweak on the market is Wonka Runts which seems to change their flavors about every 18 months lately. (Here’s my last review from March 2008.)
When originally introduced in 1982 Runts were Banana, Orange, Lime, Cherry and Strawberry. Each candy was shaped in some way like the fruit they were flavored for. Bananas are banana shaped, Oranges were little spheres, Strawberries were hearts, Limes were footballs and so on.
Then in the 90s instead of just a single substitution, Lime was removed and two new flavors were added, Watermelon and Blue Raspberry. Sometime in late 2007 there was a shift again and Watermelon, Cherry and Blue Raspberry left in favor of the more tropical Mango (a large football) and Pineapple (actually pineapple shaped!). I really liked the pineapple but many folks complained not only about the loss of their favorite flavors over the years, but also that the color variation was very citrusy.
So early this year I spotted the newest change.
Runts are now: Green Apple, Grape, Strawberry, Orange and Banana.
I was pretty excited about the Grape. They’re a big ovoid, I think the same mold as the Mango was. They’re extremely purple, but have that great fake grape flavor of SweeTarts or Spree.
The Green Apple is okay, but the addition of this flavor to the mix along with Grape makes this very similar to SweeTarts (though Banana still keeps these closer to the long-gone Wacky Wafers).
After munching on these for several days (it was a big 7 ounce box) I’m left with only the Green Apple ones, which aren’t bad so much as they were just more prevalent in my mix. (I really could have used more Orange and Grape.)
Of the two candies, simply because I bought this theater box at the Dollar Tree, it’s a really good deal - 7 ounces of candy for a buck, versus the 80 cents or so for the Skittles.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Monday, February 09, 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 08, 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
Monday, November 17, 2008
Years ago, before the current rage of putting carbonated popping candy into chocolate, there was a Wonka bar called the Exploder. It was released in 1999, though I don’t recall seeing it until the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie was released in theaters. And then poof, it was gone before I even got to try it.
Flash forward about four years and suddenly chocolate and pop rocks are all the rage. And finally Wonka (part of Nestle) has gotten back into the act. Earlier this year they released Wonka Tinglerz which they bill as Poppin’ Tinglin’ Chocolate Candy or Chocolattos que revientan en tu boca.
The package doesn’t hold much, just an ounce, but comes at a pretty dear price of a normal sized candy bar. (I got mine for $.69 at KMart.)
Nope, Nestle Wonka-fied these and the result is pretty surprising.
Instead of just chocolate covered unflavored pop rocks, it’s a combination of pop rocks and crisped rice. So biting into the bits, it was a gamble as to whether they were going to bite back.
The flavor isn’t as stellar as I’d like though. The chocolate is sweet and waxy and tastes more like powdered hot cocoa mix than rich chocolate. But the malty flavors of the crisped rice and of course the blend of textures sets this apart from other candies.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Above, on the left are Wonka Tinglerz. On the right are Nestle Buncha Crunch. Obviously Buncha Crunch are bigger nuggets (though some were the same size).
Pretty different, not just in size.
Buncha Crunch came along after I’d already made my crisped rice affections be known. As I’d already decided that I didn’t like Nestle Crunch much any longer, trying Nestle’s movie bite version seemed silly.
So at least I get to approach this with an open mind!
The movie box was a pretty good deal at only a dollar and filled with 3.2 ounces.
The idea behind the candy is pretty simple, globs of crisped rice covered in milk chocolate. They’re irregular, some as large as hazelnuts, some as small as peas.
Biting into them, they’re less than crunchy. There’s a lot of chocolate in most of them, which is a disappointment for someone who is expecting bunches of crunches.
The texture of the chocolate is decent. There’s a little waxy glaze on the bits but the chocolate flavor is mostly sweet, kind of musty and empty.
I was hoping the crunches would offset the sweetness or have a little salty kick. I can see these being a nice antidote to popcorn, but that’s about it.
Crispy M&Ms were far better at this game.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I thought, “What am I missing here?” Well, first of all, plain old Nestle Milk Chocolate bars aren’t that easy to find. But with a bit of persistence I did find this fresh 5 ounce “great to share” size bar.
First, I looked at the wrapper pretty carefully. Though Nestle is a Swiss company, this bar was made in Brazil. The ingredients don’t make it sound great, but I try to keep an open mind: sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, nonfat milk, lactose, soy lecithin, PGPR & vanillin.
So in this case the milk was much lower on the list than other milk chocolates (M&Ms and Hershey’s Milk Chocolate), so maybe it’s a darker tasting milk chocolate.
The Nestle website reveals this little tidbit about the Nestle Milk Chocolate bar’s past:
Okay, at least I’m not crazy, because I don’t remember plain Nestle chocolate bars being around when I was a kid. There was another strange line on both Nestle’s corporate page and their chocolate classics website, NESTL? Milk Chocolate tastes the way you expect great chocolate should taste, offering a milk chocolate alternative that the entire family can enjoy any time. So what the blazes is a milk chocolate alternative? Or is it the any time part I should be clued into, is that some sort of code that means that this is a morning chocolate bar?
It does look a bit darker than many mass-marketed milk chocolate bars. It was even and glossy and has a pleasant powdered milk and chocolate scent.
The bar has a rather soft snap but look well tempered. The melt on the tongue is fudgy, not slick or silky smooth, it’s still pleasant. I got a slight aftertaste, kind of like that from powdered milk.
The taste isn’t very chocolatey. It’s not overly sweet and has a lot of milk taste to it, but really lacks much else. It would go well with inclusions like crisped rice or nuts but as a bar where this is all I had to go on, it really didn’t satisfy at all.
I’m not one to be disrespectful towards other people’s preferences (ya like whatcha like!) and this bar was certainly inexpensive, but I wouldn’t rank it higher in quality than Hershey’s Milk Chocolate or M&Ms Milk Chocolate. In fact, I think I throw it a notch below Hershey’s, just because I didn’t enjoy the flavor. (That doesn’t make it a bad bar, before you go thinking I’m a hater, I just didn’t like it.)
Now, just so you know, Nestle does make other true Swiss chocolate and I have tried that and found it quite tasty, just not American (North or South, as the case may be) and also costs four times as much.
Thank goodness the wrapper tells me it’s great to share, otherwise I wouldn’t know what to do with it.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.