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The Butterfinger bar was also not originally made by its current owner, Nestle.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.
Monday, October 3, 2005
Some folks have written or commented that I try other candies and ask why some haven’t been covered here. With only a few exceptions this blog contains candies that are new to me. But I recognize that not only is the world a finite place but that I’m also excluding a lot of fine candies that you may not be familiar with on the blog.
So, I’ll try to catch up with some tried and true candies or just new iterations of old favorites with this new feature: Short & Sweet. Just a brief on the candy and my rating and hopefully a photo.
After the recent introduction of the Nestle Crunch with Caramel and the Hershey’s with Caramel, someone suggested this bar. I hadn’t had one in years, so it was back to the store. The bar is a European style milk chocolate with four creamy caramel filled sections. The chocolate is very sweet and milky and the caramel has a good burn sugar/salty taste to it. Not a true chewy caramel, it’s a good balance for the sweet chocolate.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Name: Mega M&Ms
Just a larger sized morsel of chocolate, the Mega M&M also sports a different range of colored shells. The oddest part about these candies is that the colors reminded me of 1986. I don’t know why, I’m not sure that they were fashionable colors then or not, but they remind me of college. My college colors (they were Green & Gold) aren’t even among these, so it doesn’t even make sense.
Aside from that they’re just big M&Ms. Imagine a Peanut M&M without the peanut and you’ll have a mega. The thing I miss in these megas is the ability to cleave the shell off with my eye teeth. Maybe I just need more practice.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Name: Orange Cream Kisses
These are quite the little cuties and fill a niche that I’ve not really seen before in mass-consumer candies. You know, flavored white chocolate. The only other flavored white chocolate candy I can think of are those pastel misty mints. They smell a bit like aspergum (I’m sorry, I compare a lot of orange flavored things to aspergum, I blame my mother for giving me the dastardly stuff when I was a kid), but have a good approximation of a creamsicle - creamy white chocolate with a hint of orange essence.
I think they’d be fun to eat with cookies or within a mix of other Kisses, but I can’t imagine eating a whole bag of them.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Friday, September 30, 2005
Name: KitKat Coffee
I know Marvo already covered KitKat Coffee this week, but if I don’t review it, I don’t get to eat it. I’d been looking for this bar for a few weeks when I finally saw it at the 7-11 I pass on my way home. There are a few 7-11s that I go to, but this one, on the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Virgil seems to stock the best candy. The store is clean and the candy fresh. Though a little pricier than a lot of other places I shop, I’m willing to pay an extra 10 cents for something that I haven’t found elsewhere.
I was so excited by this bar that I bought two, one to eat when I got home and one to review, so by the time I took the photos, I knew that this was a good bar.
Upon opening the bar, the coffee scent is quite powerful and mixed with a sugary sweet smell. Where the Nestle Coffee Crisp bar smells like a creamy coffee concoction with toffee, the KitKat Coffee smells like a fresh brewed cup of black coffee. As with the Nestle KitKat Orange, the coffee flavor is actually in the chocolate (and maybe in the creamy filling of the crisps). It makes me wish that Hershey would release Coffee Kisses.
The bar is very simple and benefits from the addition of the coffee flavoring. It’s pretty amazing how the KitKat can be so good with so many other flavor iterations (Orange, Green Tea, Dark Chocolate, Melon, White Chocolate) but I think that shows that it’s a really well-engineered bar. The blank slate of the crisps and the vaguely vanilla cream can stand on its own or get a boost from another flavor.
I have my doubts that this will be added to the permanent KitKat repertoire (but they did add white chocolate, so who knows) but I’ll enjoy it while it’s around.
Rating - 9 out of 10
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Name: Jelly Babies
If you have ever watched Dr. Who with Tom Baker, you’ve seen him carry around that little white paper bag and offer folks Jelly Babies. I never knew what they were, just that they were different from jelly beans and not quite Swedish fish. I finally stumbled across them at a little grocer I stopped in after a meeting in San Francisco over the weekend that carried a lot of UK candies (I picked up a very fresh Curly Wurly while I was there too!).
Unfortunately, not having grown up in the UK, that is the sum total of my exposure to them. I had no idea until I started to make this post that the different colors had some sort of personality. This site has a pretty good history of the candies (apologies as they seem to have put black text on a dark blue background). The important thing to note about this review is the brand - these are Norfolk Manor Jelly Babies. The Bassett’s Jelly Babies (the original) are not imported into the US (so I’ll have to have someone grab some in the UK).
A jelly baby is simply a jelly candy with a grainy, crystallized sugar coating on it. Not quite a smooth as a jelly bean, the coating is like a very fine granulated sugar, only with flavor.
The colors are quite nice, in soothing herbal colors of red, green, another green, orange, yellow, another yellow, and black. The smell fruity and sweet, just like jelly beans. If you remember the Swedish Jelly Rats I reviewed a while back, they’re kind of like that, but larger and with a bit more of a sugary coating. The shapes are wonderful, little pudgy-bellied, round-headed babies. The babies are flavored according to their colors, but I wasn’t really able to figure it out. Orange is orange, yellow is lemon and one of the greens is lime. Beyond that, I can only say that they were fruity. Black might be currant, red might be strawberry.
They’re exceptionally sweet and the flavor has no hint of tart to it, just a slight blessing of fruit aroma for the most part. They cute and easy to share and of course they’re a nostalgia favorite for generations of Brits. I am, sadly, not terribly impressed with them. Should I find the Bassett’s, I will probably give them a try, just to be sure that I’m not missing something. Just for the record, I do like jelly candies in general: gummi bears and Swedish fish and even some jelly beans, these were just too sweet without enough flavor.
More about Jelly Babies here.
Rating - 4 out of 10 (alas, I don’t think I’m going to eat the rest of them)
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
I know it seems odd that I’ve never had a Rocky Road bar before, but I’ve never been much of a marshmallow fan. To me the best thing about marshmallows is that they’re a dessert you can make on the grill. If marshmallows disappeared from the earth, I’d probably only lament the loss of Rice Krispies treats.
But, I thought it was high time I gave it a try - after all, how did I know I wouldn’t like it? First, the package is just fantabulous. It’s flashy red mylar and the lettering is bold and you can spot it easily from 20 feet. No wonder, it’s a big bar. At 1.8 ounces and the size of a tree limb, it’s a sizeable purchase for 75 cents.
The bar is rather unappealing when pulled out of the package, but really, when you look at most candy analytically it’s unattractive. I first pulled the bar apart for the photo and the sugary smell is just fantastic. It’s like putting your head into a box of Count Chocula.
The marshmallow isn’t overly sweet, but it’s foamy and has a good rubbery pull to it. The chocolate coating though is very sweet and the cashews are rather hard to discern. The mixture of textures is the real treat in this bar, with a real focus on the marshmallow, the light airyness of the bar sets it apart from just about everything out there. I hardly feel like I’ve eaten almost two ounces. It still hasn’t changed my mind about marshmallow in general, but I can see why it’s such an enduring favorite.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
On my quest to find a good consumer coffee-infused chocolate bar, I found this at Target recently. It’s not quite mass-marketed but at least it wasn’t prohibitively expensive.
The package heralds the candy as a “Truffle Bar” but it really doesn’t rise to that level at all. As far as I know, a chocolate truffle is a mixture of chocolate and butter and/or heavy cream. It’s usually dipped in chocolate because it’s gooey but may be rolled in cocoa to keep it from sticking to things. The fascinating thing about a chocolate truffle is that it’s more fat (often) than chocolate, but this fat helps to highlight the intense and subtle flavors of chocolate in ways that a higher cocoa solids bar is not able to. This bar had no such center. The center was slightly softer than the plain chocolate outer shell, but more like a Frango than a melty chocolate cream.
The coffee flavor in the firm center comes from “Turkish grind decaffeinated [coffee]”, which probably explains the graininess of the center. The bits aren’t big enough to be considered crunchies but large enough to interfere with a smooth texture. Of course being decaffeinated means that there won’t be much of a problem with eating this bar before bedtime.
Overall the bar is a little sweet but has a nice chocolately flavor and a really good punch of coffee once it melts on the tongue. The chocolate and coffee blend well, with good woodsy notes and a slight acidic bite.
It’s not my dream coffee bar though, so I’ll keep looking. (I’m not sure what I’m looking for, but it’s been a fun quest.)
Rating - 6 out of 10
Monday, September 26, 2005
I’ve seen these tins at Trader Joe’s for about a year. While I was fond of the idea of a tin of chocolate instead of a foil wrapped bar, I just didn’t get a good feeling from the package. I was worried that the chocolate would taste tinny or perhaps be chalky.
Happily, as you can see from photo the wedges are shiny dark chocolate with a good snap to them. They’re simply bittersweet Belgian chocolate that’s been repackaged here in the states in Chinese made tins.
The chocolate is 70% cocoa solids but it’s still rather sweet for bittersweet. The sugar is most apparent upon first resting a bit on the tongue. Then it melts pretty easily with only a slightly uneven grain to it. It’s got good chocolate notes, mostly in the lower, earthy range without the higher acidic and fruit notes. The smoky quality is there as are the woodsy tones. The cocoa butter is really nice and light and allows the flavor to spread easily, there is only a slightly dry finish to it.
The grain is a little distracting and the sugar a little too apparent. However, I did just what the package shows, I traveled with this chocolate, putting it in my bag and taking it on a humongous two-day road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco and back and it not only weathered it well, it was a welcome treat.
Rating - 7 out of 10 (I’m keen on trying the flavored chocolate wedges, too)
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Both Hershey and Nestle recently introduced their standard chocolate bars now stuffed with a caramel center. If they could stuff two different candies into one, I can stuff two bars into one review.
Hershey seems to have changed their chocolate recipe. Maybe it’s like the New Coke. Many of their products, including their limited edition line are sporting something they call “Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate” but here it’s called simply “Creamy Milk Chocolate.” It’s definitely different than the chocolate I’m accustomed to in my Kisses.
This is a four segment bar with a little filling of soft, flowing caramel. The chocolate is very sweet and doesn’t really smell like much, but the caramel has a nice toasty scent to it. It’s rather runny, so instead of biting each segment in half, I’d recommend stuffing the whole thing in your mouth. It’s got a little salty tang to it, but mostly it’s a very sweet bar.
(After writing all of this I realized I should probably pick up some Rolos and find out how different this bar is from them.)
Since the Crunch bar is the centerpiece of the American Nestle brand, it only makes sense that they’d put caramel inside of it eventually. This bar has three beefy segments. The bottom layer of chocolate is very thick, about half the height of this bar and contains a good amount of crisped-rice crunchies. The rest of the chocolate coating does not have crisps in it.
This caramel center is less runny than the Hershey’s but is immediately saltier. I checked the label and it has twice the sodium content of the Hershey’s. The salt is actually a nice counterpoint to the exceptionally sweet Nestle chocolate. The crisps really aren’t as dense as you’d find in a regular Crunch bar, which is kind of disappointing. This bar had a bit more of a cardboard flavor to the chocolate and it was so sweet that it made my throat hurt. Though I love Nestle’s European chocolate, I really don’t care much for the American stuff because of the lack of chocolatey flavor to it.
If I could, I’d put the caramel from the Nestle version in the Hershey version and call it a great bar. As it is now, both are good bars but nothing mind-blowing for me. The Five Star bar holds my heart right now for caramel bars.
Ratings - Hershey with Caramel - 7 out of 10
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