Friday, November 22, 2013
Ritter Sport has been creating limited edition seasonal bars for a few years. More recently these are available in the United States at specialty retailers. I found my Winter Edition bars at Cost Plus World Market as imported bars (the packages are in multiple languages, but not English).
The Ritter Sport Winter Edition Caramelised Almonds is a returning flavor, I reviewed it as part of set of minis back in 2011 (as Ritter Sport Gebrannte Mandel). Toasted, sugar coated almonds are a common treat at the Christmas Fairs in Europe, kind of like Kettle Corn is here. It plays on may of the strengths of Ritter Sport’s product line, such as the solid milk chocolate and nut inclusions.
The chocolate is smooth and creamy, but exceptionally sweet. The almonds are also sweet and crunchy with a hint of a cereal taste to it. The bits are quite small, not full almonds, so it’s hard to really discern the almonds from the crunchy coating on them.
I love the idea of this bar but found it achingly sweet, perhaps even more sweet than the first time around. The textures are exemplary, the ratios are perfect, the chocolate is wonderfully smooth, the nuts are fresh and crunchy. But it’s all overpowered by the sheer amount of sugar covering up the cocoa flavors and nuances of caramelized sugar. Now ... do this in the dark chocolate or a dark milk, and I think I’d be howling about the unfairness of the limited edition.
Ritter Sport has published quite a bit about their cacao sourcing and plans for sustainability. Though I found it sweet, this bar is a far better value and much better quality than a Toblerone.
Monday, November 18, 2013
Several times a week I browse eBay’s candy sellers’ section to see what sort of new products are out there. This is usually how I find out about new varieties of Mentos around the world. I spotted the Mentos Tutti Frutti a while back and have been trying to get a hold of them.
Tutti Frutti means “all fruits” in Italian and is a common dessert and ice cream flavor. This variety looks like it’s available in Europe and possibly Asia. This variety of Mentos is part of a new trend in the European releases made with all natural colors and flavorings.
The candies are the palest pink. They don’t smell like anything, but biting into them, there’s a lot of flavor. If you’re familiar with Juicyfruit gum, this will be a familiar flavor. It’s a combination of banana, apple and a touch of pineapple. It’s sweet and soft, like banana, with a sort of creamy note to it. But there’s also a light tangy hint like fresh apples or canned pineapple.
It’s an awful lot like a Skittles version of Juicyfruit gum. I like that it’s natural colors and flavors, there’s no weird bitterness or aftertastes. There’s a clean sweetness and soft of floral finish that’s not quite as breath-freshening as a mint, but still feels like I’ve had some jasmine tea or some other neutral drink.
There are quite a few other varieties of Mentos in Europe that we don’t have here in the United States. Kristian at CandyBrain.de was good enough to seek them out (some are sold only at gas stations):
I’ll have reviews later of the other versions: Mentos Mintensity, Mentos Incognito and Sour Rainbow Mentos. I feel like Mentos are stalled as a brand here in the United States. They’ve been spending more on their gum line than the mints and chews, so we rarely get to see the new flavors, even as limited editions here. As we become more global, it’s nice to experience the cultural crossover flavors at the local stores instead of having to pay the premium for eBay sellers or JBox. (I have some JBox candies on order.)
Of course it’s hard to do a review of a Tutti Frutti item and not include this: Little Richard singing Tutti Frutti.
Friday, November 15, 2013
I’m not usually a fan of R.M. Palmer candies (I can’t call their the vast majority of their products chocolate with any accuracy) but I do appreciate their packaging and design. I browsed their new Christmas offerings a few weeks ago and was actually excited by just the name of their R.M. Palmer Candy Cane Cups. Luckily at only $1.00 at the 99 Cent Only Store, the risk was low and possible rewards were high.
They kind of lost me at the description on the ribbon on the front of the package: Your Two Favorites ... Candy Cane Crunch in a Chocolaty Shell. I happen to know a lot of undiscerning people, but I can’t think of any of them that would call anything “chocolaty” their favorite thing. They might eat it pretty happily ... but most folks prefer the real stuff.
The ingredients include a lot of sugar and partially hydrogenated oils ... I’m not sure what will happen to these if the FDA bans artificial trans fats, though the nutrition panel lists that a serving of 4 cups contains 65% of your RDA of saturated fat, it doesn’t actually show any trans fats (though if it’s less than .5 grams, they can say there’s 0).
The cups are nicely designed. The foil is clean red & white stripes and easy to identify if you were to put them in a candy dish. The cup is a nice size, could be one bit or two small ones. (I always like to look inside.)
They smell quite pepperminty. The chocolate coating is oily but does have a melt-in-your-mouth quality because of all the tropical oils. It has a light cocoa note to it, but it’s barely discernible. The filling is firm but also has a melty but slightly grainy quality. There are little bits of peppermint candy in it that give a slight crunch and texture.
I was prepared to hate these, but it’s a great idea and though not executed with premium ingredients, they’re still passable. Now ... let’s see some real chocolate companies do better.
Last year Mars announced a new season flavor for their Twix candy: Twix Sugar Cookie. Sadly, they never showed up in stores in this dimension. Then this year they made their announcements for the holidays with nothing noted for the Twix line, so I was blindsided to find out that there is in fact a holiday version of Twix this year: Twix Gingerbread. (There’s also seasonal Gingerbread M&Ms out, but they are a Walmart exclusive.)
The description is a short listing of the elements: cookie bars - gingerbread caramel - milk chocolate. So it’s not a gingerbread cookie; it’s the caramel that’s flavored like gingerbread.
What I’ve always loved about gingerbread, whether in cake form or crunchy cookie, is the wonderful base of molasses that gives a touch of sweetness but mostly an earthy base for the spices. Recipes obviously call for ginger but also include clove, cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg, allspice and/or coriander. The ingredients for Twix Gingerbread doesn’t specify the spice array and does not list molasses at all.
The Twix minis are a little over a half an ounce each. They’re not quite as big as the regular bar you buy in pairs. The calorie count, though, is pretty low at 80 per piece and they’re about 2.3 inches long ... it’s a nice little snack.
They smell quite sweet and cinnamony, with a hint of woodsy but undefined spices.
The overwhelming flavor profile of the caramel is cinnamon and nutmeg with hints of black pepper and ginger. There is no molasses, it’s completely missing that earthy sort of beet flavor. The chew is great, the milk chocolate was creamy and fresh and the cookie has an excellent crunch and texture to offset the caramel. It’s a good iteration of the classic candy. It doesn’t really ring as a gingerbread item. I wish the cookie was different, was an actual gingerbread cookie, but I’ll forgive them for their manufacturing limitations.
My overall feeling about these seasonal flavors like Snickerdoodle, Pumpkin Spice and Gingerbread is they’re pretty much the same thing (we may as well throw Spiced Chai in there). It’s just a mix of those cinnamon spice flavors ... all pretty generic when the end up in a mass produced candy. The Pumpkin Spice M&Ms didn’t end up that different from the Cinnamon M&Ms and probably aren’t that different from the Gingerbread M&Ms. I like the infusion of new flavors into classic candies, but when they start thinking outside the box, I’d like them to be a little more faithful to the inspiration and allow for more differentiation.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
My European candy blogging friends latched onto a new product last year, the Peanut M&Ms Intense 65% Cacao which are made in France but sold in quite a few European countries. When I had the opportunity to do a candy swap with Kristian at CandyBrain.de, this was on my wishlist of items.
I have to admit that the United States has the most diverse selection of M&MS, and we’ve even had Dark Chocolate Peanut M&Ms in stores before. So, I was mightily surprised to see that France got 65% cacao M&Ms before we did.
The bag is pretty big, with 9 ounces in a stand up gusset package. Instead of the zip top that many snack sized packages are getting the US, this on has a little sticker on the back you can peel off to use to hold it closed after you roll the top down.
The color variety for these is interesting. I looked at the ingredient panel to check if these were all natural, and it appears that it’s nearly so. I looked up all the colorings and found the following listed:
e100 is Turmeric, a yellow-orange dye (derived from plants)
Here’s the weird thing about the coloring used on the shells. I could tell what some of the colors were without looking by the taste. The red one had a banana note and the orange one had a hint of curry.
The shell is quite the same as in the US version. It’s crunchy and not too thick but doesn’t crack easily. They smell nicely of cocoa and a hint of roasted peanuts. The chocolate inside is quite dark, with an immediate bitter note and a little bit of a dry undertone. It’s creamy and a little chalky but not in a grainy way. The peanuts however, were weird. I found most of mine were over-roasted, too dark, bitter and just plain ... well, not right. Maybe they’re not American peanuts, which I admit I’m quite acclimated to.
I wanted to like these more than I did, though I had no trouble eating them all. Of course the fact that they’re not available in the United States solves any issues I’d have if I did love them a little too much. Now ... maybe if they started putting Marcona almonds or Hazelnuts in there along with the dark chocolate ... then we might have something that would drive me to order from eBay regularly. I would be even better if the M&Ms World Stores would stock these international versions.
Monday, November 11, 2013
One of the items I’ve been eying for almost a year are the Good & Delish Milk Chocolate Maple Cream Charms. It’s hard to find good maple creams; my favorites were once the See’s Maple Cream, but now that my walnut allergy has developed, they’re off my list of edibles. It seems like these Maple Cream Charms are too good to be true. They were on sale for $2.99 for an 8 ounce bag. The ingredients looked good: real milk chocolate, real vanilla and whole milk without any weird fillers.
I was a little concerned that they were just going to be a sticky mass inside the bag, however, they’re individually wrapped. They’re even marked, so you could buy several bags of different candies from this line and be able to mix them in a candy dish and still be completely sanitary.
The pieces are nicely domed and a little over an inch at the base and an inch tall. They’re each about a half an ounce and come in at 75 calories each.
They don’t smell like much other than sweet. I didn’t get any maple hints, but perhaps a more woodsy note to the milk chocolate.
The filling is only lightly tinted on the caramel side. The fondant (made with egg whites) is soft and slight grainy. But there’s no hint of maple, only sweetness. It’s more sweet than possible for the size of the candy. The milk chocolate is similarly sweet but at least has the light milk notes, though not much in the way of cocoa flavors.
They’re terribly disappointing, given the packaging and the ingredients. I guess I shouldn’t have expected so much for a candy that’s only $8.00 per pound at regular price.
I was thinking these were also made by Harry London like the Cornflake Clusters, but they have a different Kosher certification, so now I’m stumped. It could be Bloomer’s in Ohio, which also does all natural chocolates at quite an affordable price. It appears that there are a lot of different sources for the Good and Delish line, so it’s hard give the brand my full confidence. Some of the Belgian bars and treats I also recognize from good companies as well, like their Belgian Crisps (they look like Pringles made out of chocolate).
Here’s another review: Hunting for the Very Best: Delish is Delish
Have you tried anything else from the Walgreen’s Good & Delish line you’d like to recommend or steer others away from?
Friday, November 8, 2013
The initial offerings for the Candy Crush line are: Candy Crush Sour Fruit Gummies, Fruit Mix Gummies, Jelly Fish and Color Bombs.
Like the other candies, the boxes are big but they contain very little. They’re 7” x 4.25” - which is bigger than the more typical theater box that you’d see from Mike and Ike, Hot Tamales or Starburst, which are about 6” x 3.25” and holds 4-6 ounces. The Candy Crush line gives you between 3 ounces and 3.5 ounces in each box. I can’t fault the graphic design though. They’re bold and easy to tell apart but also easy to spot from a distance. The happy mermaid character on the front and depiction of the candy is great. At first I didn’t like package artwork but they grew on me this week.
Here’s the weird thing that you might notice right away. The flavor set listed on the box for the Jelly Fish is exactly the same as the Gummies: Blue Raspberry, Lemon, Lime, Cherry, Orange, Grape. I thought this was a great selling point, because Swedish Fish only come in four flavors. So this would be a similar candy with a different flavor variety. However, it’s pretty clear that the colors are Orange, Yellow, Green and Red. I thought maybe I didn’t get a full variety, but checking the Dylan’s Candy Bar website (which says it’s selling them exclusively in the first few weeks of the roll-out), I saw that they had the exact same description but still only showed the four colors.
The fish are soft with a matte finish to them. They didn’t stick together, but tended to tear and break when bent instead of just, well, bending. My assortment was in perfect ratios - four of each.
Red is Swedish Fish (Lingonberry) - lovely, sweet, floral and jammy. They’re soft and chewy and maybe stick a bit to my teeth.
Green is Lime - this is a dying flavor, so it’s rather strange to get it in a box (especially one that says that it’s going to be green apple). Tangy, zesty. Done.
Yellow is Lemon - a well rounded lemon flavor, a little on the zesty side without much of a tangy note.
Orange is Orange - this was good. Zesty, sweet with a hint of juicy tartness.
Even though the candies were purchased four days after their announced release, came in a sealed pouch inside a sealed box, they seemed a bit stale. Three of my fish were broken. Yes, jelly fish that were broken. They weren’t different from Swedish Fish. I love Swedish Fish, but there’s really no reason for me to buy these instead of Swedish Fish.
They’re expensive. Only 16 fish in the box. This is a sugar candy, not made with organic ingredients or all natural flavorings, yet it’s more than $22 per pound. It’s not even a unique set of flavors like it promised on the front of the box ... there’s no grape! (Which is missed by many in the Assorted Swedish Fish world.) The Mixed Fruit Gummies and Sour Gummies were at least in themed shapes that matched the game. These Jelly Fish had nothing about them that indicated they were anything other than a repacked existing product. Swedish Fish have either Swedish or Malaaco on them. Albanese Gummi Bears have a little A on their bellies. These have nothing that says anything other than generic. (Okay, I do recognize that in the game they don’t actually have a name on them either. But Jelly Bellies and M&Ms have little brands on them as well.)
For the entire Candy Crush line I can only say I’m disappointed. There’s really nothing here that’s new or innovative and since they’re more expensive than many other candies of similar quality, I can only surmise that the premium goes to the licensing fee.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
Candy Crush Saga is one of the popular tablet/phone games on the market right now. The concept is simple, you just move one “candy” match three or more of the same “candies” in a row to eliminate them from the board.
Since the game is candy-themed, it’s only natural that someone would get a license to develop a line of candy to go along with it. King.com granted its license to Healthy Food Brands, who already makes the Angry Birds gummies in stores now. The initial offerings for the Candy Crush line are: Candy Crush Sour Fruit Gummies, Fruit Mix Gummies, Jelly Fish and Color Bombs. Yesterday I reviewed the two gummies, today I have the Candy Crush Color Bombs.
The box for the Color Bombs features some sort of a horse creature (or maybe that’s a dinosaur), the package describes them as Chocolaty Drops with Rainbow Sprinkles. Note that it doesn’t say that they’re chocolate, which is disappointing. The box was $4.00 (though the retail price on the press release says they’re supposed to be $1.99) and it only holds 3 ounces. It’s a really big box for such as small amount of candy. It’s 7 inches long and 4.25 inches wide. I compared it to the more standard Mike and Ike box which was 6 inches by 3.25 and holds 5 ounces. The candies in this line are also inside a white plastic pouch inside the box. For freshness. But it highlights the fact that the candy only takes up one third of the volume of the box.
For a company that’s making Better for You Confections, that’s a lot of stuff that’s not chocolate in a chocolate confection.
The drops are about 3/4 of an inch across. They’re covered in nonpareils in orange, white, yellow, blue and purple. It’s a festive look, though you can imagine that some come off in transit so the bottom of the bag is a rather substantial puddle of maddeningly rolly sprinkles.
They’re sweet and have a comforting cocoa flavor to them. It’s like eating a paste made from hot cocoa mix. There’s a cardboard note to it and the crunchies add even more sweetness. The melt isn’t much, it becomes fudgy but never smooth. They’re passable for decorations, but not something I would ever spend my own money on for actual eating.
So, they’re chocolate flavored disks with colorful nonpareils ... that cost over $21.00 for a pound. There are some excellent, beautiful chocolates available at that price that taste terrific, are sourced well and have exceptional ingredients. They might not come in a box that references a game, but they’re probably more satisfying. (If you must, buy this box and then refill it with something good, heck, I bought some Ghirardelli 60% cacao chocolate chips for $2.49 for 12 ounces at Target over the weekend, they’d fit well in here. Or if you must go colorful, Nuts.com has some semi-sweet buttons with colorful crunchies for only $6.00 a pound.)
In short, a dismal disappointment. Bad ingredients, deceptive package size and just regrettable candy. Probably not unlike the feeling of accomplishment when you finish a level of one of these video games ...sure, you finished it, but how satisfying was it really?
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.