Thursday, February 15, 2007
While I was at the Fancy Food Show last month I saw that Brown & Haley (who make those Almond Rocas) had a large booth. It was devoted to the Rocas, which is natural for the crowd there. But their display case on one side caught my eye because it had a large pile of a Limited Edition Raspberry Mountain. (I hesitate to call them bars, as they fit into my category of “plops” instead.)
I looked around for a sample bin (but did eat a sample of the Candy Cane Roca while on my search), but when I couldn’t find one, I asked and they happily handed over one!
It’s not easy to find Brown Haley’s Mountain line in Los Angeles. In fact, the regular Mountain (see below) was purchased at Dylan’s Candy Bar in NYC (even further from its spawning grounds). But I know that many Northwesters are in love with their indigenous candy, so it’s high time I covered it.
I have to admit that when the Raspberry Mountain came out of the package I had to giggle. It looks rather poop-like. However, it had the much more pleasant smell of raspberries and sugar. My first bite into it was all mockolate. It wasn’t until the second that I reached the raspberry center. It’s very berry, in fact one of the ingredients, after milk powder, is raspberries. There’s a little tang to the filling and it’s a rather smooth fondant type center that has a little gooey flow to it. The peanuts and mockolate weren’t doing much for it, so I confined my bites towards the end to getting as much filling as possible (yes, eating it from the bottom and leaving the peak).
As the Mountain line goes, this bar is a winner. It’s a flavor combo that you don’t often see and is far and away more satisfying than the regular Mountain ... however, the classic Mountain has very little going for it.
Before I finish this up I should say a little bit about the classic bar. Since the Mountain is made with partially hydrogenated fats instead of cocoa butter for the chocolate, it really never achieves a chocolatey texture or taste. It’s greasy and slightly slippery on the tongue as it melts. In the case of the classic bar, the center is simply a plain firm fondant (think of a flavorless York Peppermint Pattie). It is sweet though perhaps a little bland (but I enjoy that texture). The only thing that offsets the whole fakeness of it are the peanuts, which give it all a little crunch and texture.
There are two other versions of this bar, Peanut Butter (which I bought it was completely rancid and unworthy of even photographing) and Cherry (which we all know I’m not going to like). You can buy the Mountains via the Brown & Haley website (and at a really good price). As a regional bar with such a great history, I’d love to see them convert to real chocolate and really show us how good this combination can be.
Note: after this review I created a new category called “mockolate” so you can find all the fake goodies in one place.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
This, I think, is the last of the candy I picked up on sale after Christmas. This was from Target during their 75% off phase. While I wouldn’t pay $8.00 for it, I was happy to pay $2, if only because I thought the jar was pretty cool. (Real glass jar, but the lid is clear plastic with a stainless steel rim.)
Peanut Butter Caramels candy, I figured, would be rather like the molasses peanut butter kisses that I like (and so many others loathe) that are sold around Halloween in orange and black waxed wrappers.
What’s especially pleasing about these is that instead of being wrapped in an opaque colored wrapper, these are in clear cellophane. You can see just what they are, a big O of caramel filled with a little spot of peanut butter.
It smells like peanut butter and tastes like it too, with a good salty, woodsy, nutty, creamy flavor ... and after you chew for a while the peanut butter dissipates and the soft chewy caramel with its buttery and caramelized sugar tones kick in.
I liked them. I like the simplicity of them, I liked the packaging. The ingredients were all natural. I loved the price. I might pay $4 for these, but I truly doubt I’d take the plunge at $8.
ALLERGEN STATEMENT [from the package]: this product may contain or have proteins derived from milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts and/or soybeans. (emphasis mine) ... wow, talk about covering your bases! (And maybe they need to keep their factory a bit cleaner!)
Thursday, February 1, 2007
Following up on the Munch Bar post a few weeks ago, this is the competing product: Planters Peanut Bar Original.
As pointed out in the comments on the Munch Bar review, the Planters bar isn’t as toffee-like. In fact, there are no dairy products at all in this bar.
It’s a heavily peanut bar, as you can see. The peanuts are jam packed together with the hard candy part just there to keep it all in one cohesive unit. The peanuts are toasty tasting and fresh with a nice salty hit from the candy.
It’s pretty satisfying even though it’s only 1.6 ounces. It also keeps well in harsh conditions, like warm summers or maybe in the car. It does just fine if it gets broken.
Of the two that I’ve had now (Planters Peanut Bar and Munch Bar), I think I prefer the Munch because of the more toffee-like candy cement. But I wouldn’t turn this one down. Both are a little hard to find. Drug stores seem to have a good selection, but I didn’t see this or the Munch bar at my usual 7-11s.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
I tried the Honey Roasted Peanut Roca for the first time at the All Candy Expo in Chicago last summer. It took quite a while before I saw it in the “wild” and I was really surprised that my first sighting was at the 99 Cent Only stores.
I don’t have a photo of the innards, but I can tell you that it looks just like any other Roca. The foil wrapper on this one is coppery-orange but the little turd-looking candy is just like you’d expect.
The aroma was definitely peanutty with a strong initial crunch in the toffee. The toffee softens quite quickly to a firm chew and then becomes very buttery and a tad grainy as the sugar gives up its structure. I didn’t get much of the Honey Roasted Peanut vibe but the toffee was certainly competent (and I’ve eaten a lot of toffee this week.)
The faux chocolate coating on the candy was less than satisfying though. Rather greasy and soft, it was held in place by the peanut bits stuck to it. I appreciate that they’re experimenting, but this particular one was distracting for me. It didn’t add any “chocolate” flavor to the mix.
On a side note I did try the Candy Cane Roca while at the Fancy Food Show. The combination of toffee and minted chocolate was kind of odd, but overall nice. I don’t think I’d buy it, but I’d pop a few in my mouth if they were sitting in a candy dish.
I found the packaging for Honey Roasted Peanut Roca a little odd on this one as well. Perhaps it was that it was sold at the 99 Cent Store, but the incongruous 3 PIECES on the lower left kind of cheapened the whole thing. It also didn’t look like it belonged because of the font and it didn’t have the gold shadow the rest of it had. I know, I’m being super picky here. But I actually looked at the label rather critically when I first picked it up because I thought it was some sort of knock-off.
I think I’m going to stick with Almond Roca.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Another Limited Edition item from Reese’s and again playing around with similar ingredients. This time they’ve taken the Big Cup with Nuts (which was also a limited edition item - review here) and added some caramel to the bottom of the cup.
I don’t have a cross section of the actual cup because I kind of trashed it taking it out of the package and though it was certainly edible, it was not photogenic. So have a look at the Big Cup with Peanuts (click to get a pop up photo) and imagine a smidge of caramel at the bottom there.
The cup itself is nice and meaty, with lots of room to explore the nuts and peanut butter and a good balance of chocolate. The center is a bit salty which is good because the milk chocolate is a bit sweet and kind of greasy (I know that’s the hazard with chocolate and peanut butter). The caramel blends in well, it has its own salty kick but it doesn’t detract from the crunchy nuts or add too much sweetness. I’d prefer a chewier caramel like you find in a Snickers, but that’s not Hershey’s way.
I actually liked this one a bit better than the Reese’s with Caramel, the caramel was distinctive and the roominess of the peanut butter/peanut stack let it all breathe.
Just to give you a sense, here are the previous Reese’s reviews: Reese’s Bites (soon to be discontinued), Reese’s Cookies, FastBreak, Reese’s Sticks, Nutrageous, Reese’s Snack Barz, Reese’s Pieces Peanut, Reese’s Easter Eggs (two versions), Reese’s Bars for those who don’t like their candy in cups or shaped like trees, and of course the less-than-comprehensive Reese’s Full Line, another Big Cup (with mixed nuts) and their new favorite child, the Reese’s Crispy Crunchy Bar.
Sunday, December 31, 2006
Every once in a while I get a hankering for peanut brittle. But aside from buying a tin of it or making it myself, it’s not that easy to find.
Enter the Munch bar. Billed on the label as “Only 6 Simple Ingredients” it’s just a buttery hard candy studded with peanuts. In fact, there’s more peanuts in here than most brittle I’ve had. The ingredients are: peanuts, sugar, butter, corn syrup, salt and soy lecithin.
The bars aren’t that easy to find, which is a shame, because they’re a nice alternative to a chocolate bar. Kind of like a Payday. Mars actually markets it using its wholesomeness as a selling point. I like it because it’s sturdy. You can expose it to higher temperatures without it losing its shape and taste.
The candy part of the bar is sweet and crunchy, not quite toffee and more solid than the usually slightly foamy peanut brittle candy. It’s buttery and has a light salty hit. The peanut flavor is, of course, the attraction. I love peanuts. There are 6 grams of protein in this bar, and at less than 1.5 ounces, that’s a lot of protein which makes it quite filling and satisfying.
They’re an excellent summer bar and worth the work at finding them. There’s another version of this made by Planters, I’ll try to have a review of that soon.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
I’m not sure what’s taken Reese’s so long to come out with a Butterfinger-like candy bar. Maybe when Hershey’s bought 5th Avenue they made some sort of a deal. But here it is, 2006, some 88 years after the introduction of the Reese’s Peanut Butter cup and they’ve done it.
Instead of being a clone of the 5th Avenue, Butterfinger or Clark Bar, this one has both that layered crispy peanut butter crunch in the center, a supposed stripe of peanut butter as well as a liberal sprinkling of crushed peanuts and then milk chocolate.
The effect is a rather creamy and very crunchy bar. The textured center provides that high-frequency crisp and the nuts provide the low frequency crunch. The center has a salty hit to it that also gives it a little zing along with a good dose of molasses, which always pleases me. It also has 5 grams of protein, which is a pretty good density for a bar that’s more candy than nuts.
The crispy center was also lighter than the dense and sometimes inconsistent Butterfinger bar. The biggest drawback here is that Hershey’s has again skimped on the chocolate on the outside and gone for the marginal stuff that has PGPR in it.
If there’s one thing that really turns me off for this bar it’s the promo they’re running with its introduction. You can vote on their website for Crunchy or Creamy? and win a car based on your vote. Crunchy people win a Hummer H3 (blech) and Creamy people are entered to win a Corvette Coupe (meh).
My preference for this type of bar is the 5th Avenue, but those are extremely hard to find. If Hershey’s is planning on making these as widely available as other Reese’s products, this might be a new bar added to my repertoire.
Thursday, December 7, 2006
Part of the fun of Candy Blog is going around town buying sweets because it’s, you know, for the blog. But even with my wide travels, there are still things in my very own city that I’ve never heard of. And shame on me for not seeking them out! I got an email from a blogging friend of mine who wanted to hook me up with a candy making friend of his. (Any candy making friends of yours are always welcome as friends of mine.)
Thus I was introduced to Valerie Confections. I’ll skip right to the point. It’s freaktastically good.
I’ve been introduced to a lot of toffee and I wasn’t that keen on finding yet another toffee company, but they currently have a seasonal Holiday Nougat. The nougat is in the soft French style, with a mellow flavor, soft chew and intense orange flavor and then studded with crunchy almonds. It’s all covered in excellent bittersweet chocolate and dusted with some flakes of real gold.
The nougat is firm but very soft with small candied orange pieces that give a burst of zest to it all over again.
The pieces are large and generous (about 1.75” square) and drop dead gorgeous.
I was so excited at how beautiful and tasty they were that I invited over my neighbor who has been around the world and shared a piece with her, saying that it was “really, really, really good.” She instead corrected me saying that it was “really good, really good, no, really good.”
I shared half that box of Holiday Nougat, which is often the way I feel about great candy. Part of me wants to hoard it and gobble it up and part of me wants to give as many people as possible the same experience I’ve had. The latter usually wins out. The nougat experience, however, was also encouraging for the toffees that were still sitting in my studio.
Like the Holiday Nougat the toffees were just lovely. The packaging is amazing. The boxes are soft looking and the simple grossgrain ribbon give an air of sophistication that is seldom imparted to the pedestrian toffee.
The toffee assortment that engaged me most, of course, was the The Debut which was all bittersweet chocolate - Almond, Almond Fleur de Sel, Ginger, Mint, Orange and Classic Toffee.
Let me just say this about the the toffee itself. Imagine butter that’s been sweetened to the point that it’s crisp and caramelized. That’s this toffee. It cleaves in the front teeth in a way that almost crumbles, but without all those flecks that toffees sometimes leave.
The pieces are thin, unlike many rustic toffee planks out there. It’s incredibly buttery. Each of the toffee squares is a different flavor. They were all perfectly balanced with the Ginger as a special standout in my mind because of the way the earthy notes of the ginger blend so well with the burnt sugar flavors.
The Peanut Assortment was rather different from the toffee. It was crunchier and less obviously sweet. Half the pieces were milk and half dark, all were sprinkled with fleur de sal and topped with a single red-skinned peanut. The salt dominated here and brought out the very smoky and roasted notes of the peanuts. It was like a peanut brittle that was completely integrated (the nuts were crushed so it was more the flavor than texture). It’s little grainier than the regular toffee but very satisfying.
Valerie Confections also features a Milk Assortment which is more than just a milk chocolate version of the Debut, it features two flavors unique in this set: Hazelnut Toffee - plus Gianduja Rocher as well as the Almond, Almond Fleur de Sel, Mint and Classic. Nut fans may also be intrigued by the The Almond Assortment, Gianduja Rocher Assortment or Hazelnut Assortment.
High quality ingredients, attention to detail, freshness and spectacular presentation all mark these as premium candies. They’re expensive at $20.00 for a six piece box (96 grams) of Toffee and $50.00 for the insanely delicious Holiday Nougat. Great presents or hostess gifts. Also keep them in mind if you’re one of those people who are angling for a high-end wedding favor since they do custom orders and packaging. I can definitely see myself buying the Holiday Nougat again, but I think I’d only pick up the Toffee as a gift or for a special occassion ... unless I found a store that let me buy just one piece (then I’m in trouble).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.