Friday, March 5, 2010
They’re the third item in the new launch of the better quality Wonka chocolate products hitting store shelves now. The ingredients are all natural, the packaging revamped and the quality vastly improved.
Now that I’ve tried all three varieties I can say that they’re right, the quality of the chocolate is much better. The chocolate is smoother, has a bolder flavor and of course the fact that the ingredients are better should make it easier for families to choose Wonka. I’ve compared them before to Dove and Hershey’s Bliss - but what these have going for them is that the packaging is all about imagination - the bright striped foils are going to appeal more to kids than the sedate and elegant positioning of Dove or Bliss.
The pieces themselves aren’t quite as stunning to look at as the other two Exceptionals. The little domed blocks don’t stack either. I was hoping for some glossy dark chocolate, and while it’s tempered properly, the piece looks like well worn coat button instead of a sumptuous piece of dark chocolate.
The dark chocolate flavors are quite sharp. It’s acidic without being tangy, not quite chalky but a little dry. It’s smooth but I wouldn’t characterize it as the same silkiness as the milk and white chocolate from the Waterfall version. There are berry and raisin notes to the cocoa but nothing overtly complex. It’s toasty but not so dark that it’s roasty and too bitter like black coffee. The sweetness is pretty overwhelming, sugar is the first ingredient on the list.
As a dark chocolate, it’s very accessible, and probably won’t dissuade children from eating them. They remind me of eating chocolate chip cookies - the melt is similar to that in a fresh cookie.
I think Nestle has done a great job of reinvigorating the brand. It takes more inspiration from the original books and taps into the dreamy quality that Wonka has evoked in every kid who every kid who’s read it.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
The new line of Wonka Exceptionals are better quality chocolate candies. Nestle calls them The world’s most incomparably imaginative chocolate. The initial launch includes three chocolate products and to increase consumer interest a Golden Ticket giveaway for 5 trips around the world valued at $40,000 (that’s 5 different prizes, not 5 circumnavigations for one person).
Since the products are just being rolled out, they may not be on shelves everywhere yet. I found the Wonka Exceptionals Chocolate Waterfall Pieces at Ralph’s at a rather shocking price point of $4.99. The bars, which are 3.5 ounces are supposed to retail for $2.49. The package is gaudy and rather befitting the proud Willy Wonky tradition. The back of the package has the fun quote from the original Golden Ticket text from the book and exhorts folks to read the original book by Roald Dahl. (How many candies encourage that?)
The Waterfall chocolate is logged on the package as Bar No 99: Delectable combination of swirled milk & white chocolate.
The pieces are wrapped in blue and purple striped foil. They’re a nicely sized block of one or two bites (9.25 grams or 1/3 of an ounce). They’re 1.25” long, 1” wide and about .33” high.
The package (which is sometimes hard to read because of how busy it is) says that it’s truly amazing chocolate made with natural ingredients and then says refer to the ingredients list. The list is then asterisked with only one ingredient not flagged as all natural - the soy lecithin. I’m guessing it’s because it’s from genetically modified (GMO) soy. Still, it’s all real chocolate - basically sugar, milk and cacao with a little vanilla & emulsifiers (lecithin - no PGPR).
The milk and white swirl is nicely done, usually in three expertly centered spokes.
The pieces smell milky and sweet. The bite is quite soft, but still has a good snap to it for a high-milkfat chocolate. The texture does not disappoint. It’s very smooth and silky with a good fatty melt. The chocolate flavors are eclipsed by the dairy, but it’s still a comforting cocoa note that sticks to the woodsy and malty side of things. It’s very, very sweet though. They’re quite different from the Hershey’s Bliss White Chocolate Meltaway, which is not as sweet but of course doesn’t have the milk chocolate component.
There aren’t that many milk and white combination chocolates here in the United States, so this is a fun and original option. It’s probably not one I’d choose for myself but I don’t see the folks at the office complaining about them. (I’ve had the selection of all three versions in a jar for about a week on my desk.)
Monday, March 1, 2010
The Wonka brand of candies was launched shortly after the release of the 1971 movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. They were originally made by Sunline but Nestle bought up Sunline (also the maker of SweeTarts and Pixy Stix) in 1988. At that time the Wonka brand consisted of a combination of candies mentioned in the book, such as Everlasting Gobstoppers but mostly fanciful original creations such as Peanut Butter Oompas (picture here), Super Scrunch (picture here). They later focusing more on profitable and successful sugar candies such as Wacky Wafers (picture here), Dweebs, Runts, DinaSour Eggs (picture here) and of course Nerds.
The early Wonka Scrumdidilyumptious bar was a “chocolately caramel crisp” - the format was rather long, thick and narrow. (See this counter display.)
Nestle is reinvigorating the brand, both the sugar candy side (new gummis like Sluggles & Puckerooms, sour filled licorice like Kazoozles and chocolate popping candy like Tinglerz). Their chocolate line called Wonka Exceptionals capitalizes both on the imaginative side of the Wonka character from the Roald Dahl books as well as the quality aspect which has been largely lacking in previous chocolate products. The launch is with three different bars and foil wrapped pieces: Scrumdiddlyumptious, Domed Dark Chocolate & Chocolate Waterfall.
This new version of the Wonka Scrumdiddlyumptious Bar is spelled slightly differently: diddly instead of didily. It’s listed on the back of the package as Bar No. 17 and described as Milk chocolate with scrumptious toffee, crispy cookie & crunchy peanuts. Sounds good! No one else is making a bar quite like this, so it’s exciting to see them creating something original instead of a different packaging format of an existing product.
The little foil wrapped pieces are cute. They’re 1.25” long, 1” wide and about .33” high. They smell lightly chocolatey, but not as peanutty as I expected. The texture of the milk chocolate is super smooth and silky - a far cry from the waxy stuff in other Nestle products. It’s exceptionally sweet though, so too much of it and it burned my throat. The inclusions were little bits of graham cracker like cookies (digestive biscuits is perhaps more appropriate for comparison), little buttery toffee nuggets and peanut bits.
The variations in the nuggets meant that some pieces and bites were more interesting than others. The toffee had a good crunch to it and a salty note. The peanuts were not deeply roasted and were more grassy but still gave a different chew. The cookie pieces were mild and gave a malty cereal note to it.
The chocolate quality is a huge upgrade from the Wonka Bar (which is now discontinued - these will replace it). I don’t think I’d spend the premium for this in a bar format mostly because the Green & Black’s Peanut bar is truly scrumptious, similarly price but also organic & soon to be Fair Trade). However, foil wrapped pieces are different enough to warrant consideration.
Each piece is less than 50 calories, so if you have trouble controlling portions with a large bar, these are a nice option.
The packaging is fanciful, though definitely cluttered and not that easy to read as most of the colors are the same value. The holographic plastic is a bit of overkill as far as I’m concerned (and probably resource intensive) but I’m guessing the bags without the “Golden Ticket” giveaway will be a bit clearer. I was most impressed with the fact that they were even creative with the bar code on the package.
The product line is expensive, we’re talking Dove or Hershey’s Bliss level, not the ordinary Nestle Crunch prices. The bags I picked up hold 9.5 ounces and were $4.99 each. (The press release from the company said retail is $4.49 and I’m guessing there will be sales where you can find them for about $3 a bag.) The bars are 3.5 ounces and retail for $2.49 each.
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.
Friday, December 19, 2008
I’m buried in mints! So here’s a huge roundup of all the mint items in my queue that I wanted to get through before Christmas.
Like the Trader Joe’s Espresso Pillows I picked up a few months ago, Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Mints come in a cute round tin and hold 2.45 ounces. Unlike the Espresso Pillows, these are not a very original product.
Inside the tin is a fluted liner that holds a large handful of soft, white candy-shelled mints. Each is about the size of a kidney bean. The tin says that there are no artificial flavors or preservatives. I think they shy from the “all natural” part because the white shell is created with titanium dioxide.
They reminded me of the classic Dutch Mints and luckily I had some of those around for comparison.
Jelly Belly makes a large variety of Dutch Mints. They come in different colors, these are all hot pink and individually wrapped, though you can also get them in the stark white, pastel mint colors or right now in the Christmas assortment of red, green and white. (And they’re Kosher.)
The Dutch Mint is the size of a garbanzo bean but my guess is the same mass as the TJ’s.
They’re both the same construction, a soft mint fondant with a thin layer or dark chocolate then a crispy candy shell.
Both are lovely and addictive. The Trader Joe’s retails for $1.22 an ounce. The Jelly Belly can go for anywhere from $.70 an ounce for the small 2.9 ounce bag to $.56 for a one pound tub (check out Cost Plus World Market).
Jelly Belly Dutch Mints get a rating of: 8 out of 10
These also closely resemble the York Mints that also come in a tin.
The previous are great for toting around and especially nice if a restaurant gives you a few with the check. But if you’re entertaining, you might want to provide some other more chocolatey mint morsels.
I’ve always loved After Eight Mints, which are a flowing mint fondant in an ultra thin square. I used to love how they came in individual glassine envelopes, like a little file box of deliciousness.
Of course After Eights are made by Nestle now and not nearly as good as I remember them on top of the controversies that they’re made from questionably sourced chocolate. The Fair Trade movement has been working to bring families and communities out of poverty through fair payment for goods & services.
Divine Chocolate has been doing this since 1998 in the United Kingdom and recently expanded into the United States. Not only do they have tasty bars they also have addition treats like these Divine After Dinner Mints.
The mints are nicely sized for two bites at about 1.5” square. The mild semi-sweet chocolate is crisp and cracks well. The mint fondant center is creamy and minted only slightly so as not to overpower the chocolate. The dark chocolate has some berry and fruity tones that combine well with the cool peppermint flavors.
I’ve seen these at Whole Foods (at an endcap display for hostess giving), so they should be pretty widely available this season.
Divine After Dinner Mints get a rating of 7 out of 10.
Creme de Menthe Altoids have been out for a few months, though it took me a while to find the variety that isn’t covered in chocolate. I realized that I might have seen them before, the green of the package is only slightly lighter than the Spearmint boxes. These were on sale for $1.50 to boot!
Basically the flavor of these is like a Peppermint TicTac. It has a powdery vanilla scent, softer than a harsh peppermint and perhaps just a hint of licorice.
But these are Altoids. Though they might start out mild, they do pack a much stronger kick later on. I like the flavor a bit better than the straight Peppermint if only because of the mix of aromas.
Creme de Menthe Altoids get a rating of 8 out of 10.
Quite a few folks have been lamenting that Trader Joe’s discontinued their English Soft Peppermints. I’m pretty keen on the generic & mild butter mints I find at the drug store, but those were some pretty good mints.
Around this time of year, however, I see a lot of these See’s Peppermint Twists in candy dishes around the office. It took me a while, but I think I found out who makes them. There were two contenders: King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy or Bob’s Sweet Stripes.
I saw this box of King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy at the 99 Cent Only Store and thought I’d give them a whirl. They were a dollar for 3.5 ounces.
I thought they were “butter mints” and read through this to see how I came to that conclusion:
So I was expecting a soft mint. Either crumbly soft or mushy soft.
These were neither. They’re soft as in rounded and smooth, but after that they were not butter mints until I sucked on them for a while. Which is kind of the opposite of “soft from the moment you open the box”. Annoyance aside, they’re peppermint candies. They are airy and dissolve nicely and of course none of those hard candy sharp edges. They’re sweet and a bit less intense than a starlight mint and really pretty to look at. Like those English Soft Peppermints that were really made in the Netherlands, King Leo are made in Mexico. Kosher.
King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy gets a 6 out of 10.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Most of the marketing looks directed towards women with a tagline of a sweet break from life. This is probably why I’ve ignored them up until now. I don’t want chocolate that’s a break from life, I want chocolate that’s with me every moment of my life. I want a partner. But hey, it’s not like I’m a normal demographic and I think anyone who markets specifically towards people like me (obsessive candy bloggers) is gonna get fired for incompetence.
This particular version of the Nestle Treasures is also called Renew with Dark Chocolate (though it doesn’t really say that on the package, except on the other side panel. The back, near the flap says Say “I Do” to a whole New You. Really? A whole new me just from a truffle?
The box is a polyethylene terephthalate (PETE - coded 1 for recycling) stand up “bag”. It’s actually rather nicely done. The translucent bronzy brown plastic let me see that it was only half full (there were 14 pieces when I dumped them out and counted). The package could be at least a third shorter and still have lots of breathing room and probably save on material, space & shipping. (At least I can recycle it curbside in my blue bin.)
Inside the little pieces are individually wrapped in orange-gold mylar. They’re nicely molded, every one I opened was perfect and shiny.
They smelled deep and smoky and mostly of peanuts. Yes, roasted peanuts.
The shell is 50% cacao chocolate, so it’s middle of the road semi-sweet. (A little chart on the back reminds me that dark chocolate has naturally ocurring antioxidants which help to maintain health.)
It’s quite smooth and buttery. The “ganache” center is made from chocolate and palm oil and maybe more cocoa butter. It’s not quite the same as a real truffle made with butter or cream, but has a great slippery meltaway texture (not as slippery as a Lindt Lindor Truffle though). It also features a little sprinkling of cacao nibs. Not big bits, more like coffee grounds. They provide a nice crunch but not much flavor. But the peanut notes at the top are distracting for me. (The ingredients list both natural and artificial hazelnut & peanut flavors.)
They also come in two other varieties: Relax (milk chocolate & caramel) and Revive (milk chocolate & cappuccino).
There are lots of things I liked about these and I find myself continuing to eat them. But they don’t satisfy my desire for truffles, just my desire for something chocolate ... and not quite that either. Still, much better than the Hershey’s Bliss I tried recently (though not a one to one comparison as they didn’t really have a dark chocolate meltaway). They’re also quite different from the Dove Promises offerings as well, especially if you’re looking for something with nibs in it.
Friday, February 1, 2008
Last year I ordered some wonderful products from Artisan Sweets which included this Nougat aux Figues: Cuit au Chaudron. I promptly took a photo of the product and then ate it.
Made by Suprem’ Nougat G. Savin in Montelimar, France it is much like the Arnaud Soubeyran Montelimar Nougat that I’ve had previously, meaning it has wonderful lavender honey in it along with a generous embed of almonds. Of course it also has bits of figs in there too, as you might have guessed from the picture and name.
The figs gave the nougat a bit of texture, with the crunchy little seeds and combined well with the musky notes of the lavender honey. It seemed to make the whole thing a little sweeter, but it was a fresh taste. It’s expensive stuff, so it’s a sometimes-indulgence for me. ($8.00 for 3.52 ounces.)
This particular nougat has full macadamias in it. It’s a light nougat, it actually felt lighter than many nougats in the hand. The scent was a light vanilla, almost like toasted marshmallows. Wow, the marshmallow comparison was evident once I bit into it. The nougat is fluffy and completely smooth ... there’s no hint of sugary grain to it at all.
While I was completely missing any honey notes and macadamias aren’t my favorite nut, this was fantastic. Sweet without being sticky or cloying and just the right balance with the neutrality of the macadamias.
Walters is a South African company (which explains the macadamias) and besides these samples and a store I found in the UK online, I don’t know where else to get this. I guess I’ll just have to keep hitting Keller’s booth at the trade shows. Here’s a review from Our Adventures in Japan of the Almond variety.
I’ve been on the prowl for good sources of Caffarel in the United States. Besides picking up those few pieces at The Candy Store in San Francisco and seeing them at trade shows, I’m completely at an impasse on how to find them besides hyping them on Candy Blog in hopes that more shops will carry them.
And why? Their products are good quality and in most cases so freaking cute I want to put a leash on them and buy them squeaky toys.
Above is one of the new items they were showing called Conetto, which is like a teensy Drumstick Ice Cream Cone (warning, sound on that site).
The little confection is about 3 1/2” tall. The waffle cone holds a firm guanduia that is then rolled in little toasted cereal “nuts” with a few little chocolate chips tossed in there. The hazelnut paste is soft enough to bite like ice cream with the added bonus that it doesn’t melt. So take your time.
It only weighs .9 ounces, so it’s probably not a show-stopper when it comes to calories and since indulgence is partially about appearance, this might be an excellent calorie controlled treat. (Of course the wrapper doesn’t say how many calories, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s not more than 150.) Now the only things holding me back are where to get them and how much do they cost?
BruCo makes wonderful flavored chocolate bars. I’ve had their orange one and rum one and thought they were quite nice with an attractive package. Last year at the Fancy Food Show I also tried their spiced chocolate and found it far too spicy for me. This year that had some other items that were definitely to my liking: BruCo Salt Tasting Chocolate, Ciocc’Olio & Cabosse.
Ciocc’Olio: The firm white chocolate center has a quick buttery melt. The taste is not strongly of olives. I was expecting a sort of grassy quality to it, but instead it was more nutty. It was definitely smooth and set off by the equally smooth and slippery melt of the dark chocolate shell.
Cabosse: I wasn’t quite sure what this was supposed to be. At first I thought it was a dark chocolate guanduia, but later I thought it was simply a firm ganache with cacao nibs in it. Strong and fruity, this was a nice piece, the perfect size and really attractive.
I also tried a Salt Tasting Chocolate set. I’ll probably have a full review of that at a later date. Basically it’s two different versions of a salted chocolate in one package. Hooray for variety.
One of the other companies that I see at the trade show a lot is Marich. They’re known for their fine panned chocolates, especially their Holland Mints and produced the first gourmet malted milk balls in flavors like Espresso and Peanut Butter.
They’re based in Hollister, California (which seems to be a hotbed of panning with other confectioners like Jelly Belly, Sconza and Gimbal’s nearby) but seem rather hard to find. Part of it is that they sell in bulk to many shops that repackage the product without reference to the supplier or they end up in bulk bins. In this case I found this little package of their Triple Chocolate Toffee at Ralph’s in Glendale after trying them at the All Candy Expo.
They were absurdly expensive considering everything else in that aisle, $2.89 for that handful pictured above. But they are lovely to look at. They smell great too, like burnt sugar.
I didn’t know at first if the triple was referring to how much chocolate was on the outside or the fact that there were three different kinds. But suffice to say that either title works, because there is a lot of chocolate on each of these ... a pretty precise proportion that matches well with the chunk of butter toffee at the center. The toffee itself is wonderfully crisp and has that great cleave that very buttery toffee has. A little salty, it balances well with the not-so-dark but also not-too-sweet chocolates.
I’d probably pick these up again, but not at this price. Luckily Marich has a webstore.
Everything here gets an 8 out of 10 but no further specs as I don’t know retail prices (unless otherwise noted), calorie profile and often not even the ingredients.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
If I bought a product that was simply named Snickers Nutcracker and given no other information, I would assume that it was a Snickers bar in the shape of a nutcracker. And what would I think a Snickers bar is? Nougat covered with a stripe of caramel with embedded whole peanuts and then covered in milk chocolate.
Of course I did buy a product name Snickers Nutcracker and I did not get a Snickers bar in the shape of a nutcracker.
Instead I got a nutcracker chocolate shell filled with caramel creme with crushed peanuts.
This is in stark contrast to the Snickers Egg I had back in March 2006, which was pretty much a Snickers bar in elongated hemispherical form.
But expectations and disappointments aside, this product is a little one ounce bar shaped like a squat nutcracker soldier. Inside is a caramel creme with crushed peanuts in it.
The center caramel is salty and tastes strongly of peanuts, not like peanut butter, but actual roasted peanuts. It’s not quite chewy, instead it’s a bit more flowing but still pretty smooth. The milk chocolate is sweet and contains the caramel well (no broken oozes in any of the nutcrackers I’ve had so far) and in good proportion.
It doesn’t have that “satisfaction” element to it that the heavy nut-ratio a Snickers bar has. I thought it was kind of fun, after all, how many gooey peanut caramel products are there? But I was really hoping for a Snickers.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.