Wednesday, November 2, 2005
Name: Fast Break
I’ve mentioned brand extension before. Mars has done this with M&Ms beautifully in the past ten years with the introduction of Almond, Crispy, Mint, Peanut Butter and now Megas. Reese’s is no exception (part of the Hershey family). The base of the Reese’s brand is Peanut Butter. You can’t make a Reese’s product without it, as far as I know.
I bought four of these new candy bars, this is the first of the reviews of them. The Fast Break. Yes, it’s like Breakfast, only backwards and two words. I’)m eating it for lunch. Hey! It does have a lot of protein in it for a candy bar! (5 grams.)
I’m a nut fan, as many of you know (except for walnuts, to which I’m sadly allergic) so Reese’s have always been a huge favorite of mine. The Fast Break bar package says that it has milk chocolate, peanut butter (duh) and soft nougats.
The soft nougats part confused me. Nougats? More than one? Apparently. The center of the bar is a crumbly log of salted peanut butter. Good roasted flavor and not too creamy so that it sets off the other textures well. The bottom of the bar is soft, bland, light colored nougat that might have a hint of cinnamon flavor in it (though it didn’t say so on the ingredients). Plain old vanilla nougat. The peanut butter log is on top of that, and then there’s a thin layer (you can’t see it in the photo) of a caramelly nougat that drapes over the two before the chocolate enrobement (I just like saying that word). It gives the whole thing a nice texture that things mix up well when you chew it. It has a little chocolately/caramelized taste to it.
It’s a good bar, really. I like the roasted flavors and how it isn’t too cloyingly sweet like a Snickers or Mars bar can be. It’s a good snack because of the salty taste, like a Payday bar is.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Name: Overload Peanut Butter Cups
In my mind, there is no more perfect melding of chocolate and peanut butter than the Reese’s Miniature (yes, the minis are better than the full-sized cups). I do not pursue anything above that, but in the interest of fairness, I’m giving these Overload thingies a chance to prove themselves.
Overload is three peanut butter cups, each a slight variation on the tried and true original. One with balls of Butterfinger crisps tossed on top, another with some sort of fake m&ms (called ‘candies’) and the last with Buncha Crunch, which are just chocolate covered crisped rice like a Nestle Crunch bar.
First, when I pulled the tray out of the package, I could see that there was some sort of industrial accident. There were little ‘candies’ in ALL of the peanut butter cups and the ‘candies’ one had some buncha crunches in it. So much for segregation.
The chocolate is smooth and sweet, if perhaps a little more of it than a standard Reese’s cup. The peanut butter center is a little smoother than a Reese’s which is neither a good or bad thing, it just is. I kind of like a little grain to my nut butters, but that’s me. It was salty and very roasty tasting. The Butterfinger mixed in with that is a really good combo, a nice variation of smoothness, sweet, a bit chewy later with the Butterfinger and a lingering salty tone. The Buncha Crunch also has a nice texture to it, but in my mind it’s not quite enough crisp to make it through the cup. The ‘candies’ one is just kinda silly - is it the color that’s suppose to impress me or the texture of the candy shells? It’s by far the most chocolately, but the peanut butter part gets kind of lost without a texture to set it off.
These don’t even come close to most other peanut butter and chocolate products for me. The variety was, however, a welcome change when you’re buying a King Size item.
Rating: 5 out of 10 for ‘candies’ and Buncha Crunch and 6 out of 10 for the Butterfinger
Monday, October 24, 2005
Name: Abba Zaba
Again, I grew up on the eastern seaboard, so some of the candies I see on the west coast are unfamiliar to me. Abba Zabas are one of them. I think we had something similar, but I can’t recall what it was. The website for Annabelle’s is quaint, circa 1996, and entirely sincere like the candy. It’s a little disturbing that the ingredients label on the candy spells it Palm Kernal instead of kernel, but I have to admit that many spelling mistakes have made to the screen in this site.
Abba Zabas are a white taffy with a stripe of peanut butter in the center. If you open the package and take it out, it looks like a white subway tile and kind of sounds like one if you whack it on the side of the table. They’re dangerous things, really, the taffy is firm and sticky, so if you have any sort of dental work (fillings, crowns, bridges, dentures) you’re liable to lose it or loosen it. If you have firmly planted teeth, you’re probably their target consumer.
I found the taste to be very nice, the sweet taffy is a really good backdrop to the peanut butter, but I have to admit that I prefer either a hard candy shell on my peanut butter or a molasses chew like Mary Janes or Peanut Butter Kisses. The dental destroying qualities are just too overwhelming for me, so I’ll leave this one to the kids.
Rating - 4 out of 10.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
These have always scared me. I think because they’re called Chick-o-Sticks and look like they could be chicken legs. Not something I’d consider to be a sweet treat. And let’s face it, the orange color is pretty freaky. The Atkinson site doesn’t really say why they’re called that except that that’s what they’ve always been called.
What they really are is a peanut butter toffee crisp covered in coconut. Pretty simple. A lot like the inside of a Butterfinger bar, but a bit more solid (as you can see in the close up if you click on the photo).
The taste is good, sweet with a nice hit of salt and a really good roasted peanut butter flavor. Even though the coconut looks pretty minimal, the taste is pretty significant. Unlike some of the other crisped peanut butter candies, this one contains no trans fats, in fact the only fat in it comes from the peanut butter itself. They’re much easier to carry around than some chocolate candies because it doesn’t melt, so I can see this being a good treat for hiking or shipping long distances (the Atkinson website mentions shipping them to Iraq).
I know, I need to get a hold of a Clark bar and Zagnut to round out my tour of peanut crisp.
Rating - 7 out of 10
Monday, October 17, 2005
So, the Almond Joy cookies were nice. I loved the York cookies, but haven’t been able to find them again. What I have found are the Hershey’s with Almonds and the Reese’s (finally!).
Can I just say this about the Hershey’s with Almonds? OMIGOD! Awesome. Really. I wasn’t planning on reviewing them so close to the Almond Joy one ... but I wanted to photograph them, and once I opened the package and take a bit for the photo ... eek! They’re soooo good. I wanted to run down the hall and share them with someone else. I didn’t want to share them with someone else! They’re mine! I only have four!
The cookie part is light and crunchy with a good cocoa flavor like the cookie part of an Oreo, but lighter. The creamy chocolate topping has nicely roasted almonds in it. Not a lot of them, but enough for a good nutty flavor and texture. The chocolate is good and sweet and provides a good creamy balance to the slightly salted cookie. I wish they weren’t so hard to find and expensive as cookies go, but then again, I don’t want them in a larger package lest I eat more than four at a time. (I did share one.)
The Reese’s didn’t do much for me. They were peanutty, but lacked a creamy quality that the peanut butter cups have. I still think they’re a solidly good cookie - better than a Nutter Butter if you like chocolate with your peanut cookies.
Ratings: Hershey’s with Almond Cookie - 10 out of 10
Tuesday, October 4, 2005
I know that the 5th Avenue is a lesser known bar, but it’s quite similar to the Butterfinger. Though they’re both a peanutbutter crunch center with a chocolate(y) coating, they do have some differences. I’m doing this head-to-head in part to introduce Butterfinger fans to what I think is an exceptional bar. But in order to do that, I had to see them side by side again:
Both are massive bars. The 5th Avenue rings in at exactly 2 ounces and the Butterfinger at 2.1 ounces. The main difference, as far as I can tell between the two is that the Butterfinger coating is not chocolate but a chocolate-like substance where the 5th Avenue has a creamy milk chocolate enrobement.
The 5th Avenue bar of my childhood was not a Hershey product but made by Ludens (yes, the cough drop people). Also made in Pennsylvania, the 5th Avenue bar may not have had the wide distribution of the more well-known Butterfinger. When I first got to college I was forced to eat Butterfingers and developed a taste for them, but now that I’m back in an area that offers both, I’m a 5th Avenue girl. Of course, I seem to have a vague recollection of there being a couple of almonds on top. Does anyone else remember that?
The center is a crispy, crunchy peanutbutter crisp. Kind of like a flaky toffee. It has some peanutbutter between the layers, as far as I can tell. It also has a distinct molasses flavor to it, which brings out the roasted flavors of the nuts.
The Butterfinger bar was also not originally made by its current owner, Nestle. It was invented by the Curtiss Candy Company based in Chicago (a great candy town) that also made the Baby Ruth (also made by Nestle now). It predates the 5th Avenue, and frankly, has a much better name. It’s buttery and resembles a big finger and of course the play on words of being a clumsy person is kind of fun. The Butterfinger was always known as a great candy buy when I was a kid. Because the bar was so huge, you were sure to be satisfied. The center has similar crunch peanutbutter toffee-like layers that seem a bit crumblier (in a good way) than the 5th Avenue. The overwhelming taste in this center is buttery. A good hit of peanuts and a smooth, sweet and salty buttery taste. I’ve always loved the inside of Butterfingers ... it’s the fake chocolate coating that’s always bugged me. It’s waxy, overly sweet and just not milk chocolate.
So, if the fake chocolate doesn’t bother you and you’re looking for flaky, crunch buttery experience, pick up a Butterfinger. If you like your crunchy peanut flakes with real chocolate and a good robust hit of molasses, 5th Avenue is for you.
UPDATE 2/21/2007: I just found out via the comments that 5th Avenue no longer uses real chocolate ... such a shame. It was such a good bar, it’s sad that Hershey’s has now taken away the unique position it had in the market as the only chocolate covered peanut crispy bar. They have, however, introduced the Reese’s Crispy Crunchy bar, which has peanut butter and crushed peanuts in it. Not the same, but at least real chocolate.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
I don’t know if this bar is sold at this little candy shop at the Pittsburgh airport because it’s called Sky Bar or because they carry a lot of other hard to find nostalgia candies (they didn’t have Valomilks, but they did have Cow Tales). I’d seen these when I was growing up, but was never really interested in them, as I’d always assumed that they were the candy bar version of Whitman’s Samplers.
It turns out that it’s not far off from that. The bar is undeniably pretty. Four joined pieces of candy, with pretty domed tops, fluting up the sides and the Necco logo on top. Unlike Necco wafers, where you never know what you’ll get in the roll, the Sky Bar is consistent. The far left piece (if you set your bar like the package shows you) is caramel. Not a chewy caramel, it’s a sweet, sticky concoction with a nice salty hint and good carmelized sugar notes. The next one over is by far the least interesting to me, the vanilla cream. Slightly light, very sweet and rather bland, it simply brings out the rather cardboard notes in the milk chocolate. After that is peanut which I think is their masterpiece. This is not a peanut butter, like you’d think, it looks like caramel and is smooth but has the wonderful roasted taste of peanuts and a good hit of salt to balance out all the other sweets. The last section is fudge. Sweet and with that slightly cooling grain to it, the fudge is nice and not too sweet but suffers from the same blandness of the whole bar - too much sugar and not enough chocolate in the chocolate.
I can see how this bar was so successful for so long. Steve Almond talks about the history of the bar in Candy Freak (chapter 2), that it was one of the most popular bars on the east coast and had a prominent billboard in Times Square which was re-lit at the end of WWII. As a bit of nostalgia, it’s fun. But it’s not my nostalgia, I have not particular affinity for it, so it’s merely an experience for me. It’s probably a great bar to share with friends (as long as there actually is something for everyone) and probably speaks to people who really like variety in their candy.
Rating - 5 out of 10
Monday, September 12, 2005
Name: Five Star Bar - Caramel
A few weeks ago I did a radio interview and on the show Steve Almond gave the host a Five Star Bar. Steve had also featured the bar in his book Candy Freak, so I was already aware of its virtues. Still, I’d not seen one in person. I did get a gift over the holidays though, of a little package of their milk and dark chocolate squares, which were very nice and smooth.
The bar has it all. It’s a hefty little log, about as wide as it is high and twice as long as that. At two ounces, it’s bigger than your normal candy bar, but smaller than a king-size. It’s not quite gourmet, but too good for the regular candy shelf.
Upon biting into it there’s an intense explosion of caramel. The first ingredient on the package is CREAM, so you know how fatty and smooth this bar has got to be. The caramel has a good carmelize sugar taste to it, without going too far into toffee land. It’s very sticky and smooth. Inside there are nuts and a few dark chocolate bits (not enough for me, but you know, who am I to quibble with something so positively reviewed).
One thing’s for sure, I’m going to try all their Five Star Bars. For the record, my husband also picked up the Java Truffle Bar and a Peppermint Bark (I don’t have the package in front of me and their website is down). The Java bar is really nice, with a good smokey coffee flavor to it and it’s not too sweet (and made with dark chocolate). The mint one is really smooth but not quite minty enough for me.
Interesting note - I give high marks to all candies with the word five in their name. Coincidence?
Rating - 9 out of 10 (they’re really expensive)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.