Wednesday, September 2, 2009
I was at the drug store a few weeks ago and wasn’t really thrilled with the selection of candy. Well, it was a nice selection but I’ve tried all of that stuff before. Then I spotted the new display of Russell Stover & Whitman’s Samplers (they’re owned by the same company now) and was debating whether to review a full box of candy from them.
Instead I wussed out, blaming the heat that it was impractical to bring a large amount of chocolate into my 90+ degree home. So I got one of each of their little 1 ounce boxes - just as a teaser. I thought, here’s an opportunity for Russell Stover & Whitman’s to wow me ... they have two pieces to do it. For the opportunity to snare me, I gave them $1.25 for each sample sized box.
Russell Stover Private Reserve features two pieces of their premium assorted chocolates. The red foiled box is elegant and simple.
I have no idea what they are, the box tells me nothing specifically about them, well, it specifically tells me the combined ingredients and that’s about it. I only have the shapes go on. Inside is a little tray with spaces shaped like the candies.
The nut looking one was in fact a nut flavored paste inside ... perhaps a gianduia since far down on the list of ingredients were hazelnuts.
This was terrible. It looked great, I’ll grant you but had an odd waxy & greasy feel to it. The hazelnut paste as more of an amaretto flavor, which is fine with me ... though confusing because the nut shape was kind of like a walnut and kind of like a hazelnut but definitely not an almond.
The second one was a lovely milk chocolate covered caramel. The caramel was stiff & had an excellent pull. It had a good combination of toasted sugar flavors and a touch of butter. A little bit of vanilla. It was sweet, the milk chocolate was decent but didn’t really contribute much of a chocolate punch.
The Whitman’s Reserve was the same price, but honestly didn’t look as appealing on the box. It bills itself as a Premium mini collection as if a pair is a collection. Like the Russell Stover, it makes no mention on the box as to what’s actually in the box besides the ingredients. As far as the actual ingredients go - they both use vanillin (fake vanilla) but otherwise rather decent source materials.
The large and puzzling piece here was the white chocolate item with the stripes. It does look just like the one on the box - both pieces are pristine - so I’m satisfied right away with the appearance.
Sniffing it brought me no closer to discerning what it was (no nuts, that was certain, though). It smells simply sweet & milky.
The bite is soft and I decided it was either a poor excuse for a truffle or simply a chocolate cream. It’s a milk chocolate center - sweet and greasy but at least not as sweet as the white chocolate coating. It doesn’t do a thing for me.
Happily the second piece was identical to the second piece in the Russell Stover - a simple milk chocolate covered caramel. I couldn’t tell it apart at all and that’s not a bad thing.
For the $1.25 I spent, I got two pieces of candy. One I liked and one I didn’t. So for the future I’ll probably stick to the Russell Stover Pecan Delights, which are usually a better value and of course a good variety of textures & flavors. (They can now be found in a “candy bar” format for about the same price in stores.)
Am I missing something about the appeal of Russell Stover & Whitman’s boxed chocolates?
Friday, July 10, 2009
At the same time I picked up the Trolli Sour Brite Crawlers, I also got a smaller bag of Trolli Sour Brite Crawler Eggs.
While I knew what gummi worms were, I never had these before and wasn’t quite sure what they were.
They certainly look like jelly beans but the ingredients, with gelatin as a key component, read like gummis.
It turns out, after just opening the package and squishing one between my fingers that they’re jelly beans with gummi centers.
(I appreciated that the package on this one had a clear best by date - which the Brite Crawlers did not have.)
Like the Crawler worms, there are three color varieties here:
Red & Yellow = Cherry & Lemon - I loved the look of these when I bit them in half, it’s like tie-dyed candy. The color goes through and through, and the flavor is virtually identical to the worms, a mix of cherry and lemon but with the added texture of the sandy candy shell.
Blue & Pink = Raspberry & Strawberry - for some reason my blue & pink ones were remarkably larger than the two other varieties. Like the worms, I liked this variation best. The woodsy berry & cotton candy with a little tangy pop goes well with the grainy jelly bean coating.
Green & Orange = Lime & Orange - because I was eating these whole instead of biting one end or the other, the combination of flavors was much more important. Lime and orange make a great citrus combo, so I’d say this one works better than the worm version.
The attention to detail and the readily identifiable flavor combos made this a really distinctive candy. As far as jelly bean shaped gummis, I’m not sure anything could supplant the Meiji Gummy Chocos. They come in a close second though. They’re not really sour as advertised, but that aside, it’s a fun, easy to share candy ... perfect movie food.
Friday, April 10, 2009
I bought it because Hershey’s has tweaked their White Reese’s Peanut Butter products. They were once a real white chocolate coating with cocoa butter, but now they’re a hydrogenated tropical oil concoction.
So I was careful to read over the ingredients on the Russell Stover white chocolate: White Chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk, soy lecithin, artificial flavor & salt), peanut butter (peanuts, hydrogenated vegetable oils, salt) sugar, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, tapioca dextrin, dextrose and salt.
It’s a pretty sizable rabbit, though it’s also over-packaged. The box is 4.5 inches wide and 7.5 inches high but the bunny is only 3.25 inches at its widest and 5 inches at its tallest. The rabbit is inside the sealed box in a little plastic tray.
It weighs three ounces and this one cost me $1.50 which I didn’t find at all unreasonable.
Opening the box, it smells like Easter baskets - milky sweet and fake.
It’s a nicely molded Rabbit with good details. The proportion of white chocolate to peanut butter varies greatly, depending on where I bit into it. The edges and creases were loaded with more white chocolate and the domed portions were mostly peanut butter.
The white chocolate is sweet and surprisingly smooth. But it was oddly waxy, not in a bad way, just in a fake way, like it needed an authentic dose of real vanilla beans or something. The peanut butter center is the crumbly peanut butter with the slight grain to it. It’s salty and nutty, but also rather sweet, too. The effect of the product is that it burns my throat. I think I might like it with more peanut butter and less white chocolate, perhaps a version of the peanut butter egg?
It just didn’t thrill me much. I ended up eating the whole thing, but it took me about three weeks of nibbling on it now and then. But if you’re a white chocolate & peanut butter fan and are disappointed with Hershey’s turn towards the oily side, it might be a good option ... especially if they’re on sale starting Monday.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
It’s not often that I’ll stop my fast forward through commercials to watch something. I definitely did when I saw the Reese’s: Perfectly Easter advertisement.
I’m not only a huge critic of candy (because I love it so), I’m also rather fond of breaking down advertising, but I’ll save that for another time.
The important takeaway I got on that advert was that Spring is in the Air and Reese’s Eggs are a chocolate covered peanut butter product.
Candy Blog reader, Peloria, has been wonderfully helpful in helping me track down these two versions by leaving comments on my original review of the perfect Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs (2006 version). I got a hold of eggs for 2009 from three stores with two different wrappers. For the most part single Reese’s Eggs are sold with the package that doesn’t say that they’re milk chocolate. But I also found the six pack that says Milk Chocolate above the Reese’s logo.
The classic Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg ingredients were (2005 source):
The current 2009 ingredients:
For reference, the standard Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ingredients are (in 2009):
There are a few changes there, but nothing that definitively says that these aren’t a real chocolate product any longer. But they’re different enough to change the nutritional profile. There’s more salt (they’ve gone from 140mg to 150mg), and 11 grams of fat now instead of 10.
So I tasted them (after all, at this point I had 9 of them). The chocolate coating looked a bit chalky, not glossy (and some looked a little swirly and uneven in color). They’re soft and the peanut butter overwhelms any chocolate flavor anyway. The peanut butter center is crumbly and nutty, not completely smooth but not crunchy, just a little more rustic than the stuff in a jar. Salty, sweet and satisfying. The chocolate coating feels cool on the tongue and seems to melt pretty well, but it also melts in my fingers pretty quickly too. It’s a good time these come along in the spring because they’d never make it in a Los Angeles summer.
I’m not sure why Hershey’s has removed the Milk Chocolate part from some wrappers, I fear it’s because they’re planning something for next year ... kind of easing us into crappy candy instead of a sharp shift that causes an uproar like the true & mockolate Kissables being on the shelves at the same time. I still consider them a winner. The prices appear to have gone up. I got the six pack for $2 on sale, but buying the individual ones, the best sale I could find was 75 cents each.
Hershey’s has a bunch of other candies for Easter in the Reese’s line, too. There are Fudge Covered Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs and Reester Bunnies, which are just a molded version of the RPBC in various sizes. They’re more chocolate than peanut butter. Then there are the Foil Eggs, the Reese’s Pieces Eggs (in beautiful pastels),
Then there’s this strange monstrosity which is also called Milk Chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg but unlike the 1.2 ounce version, this one is molded. It’s also 6 ounces (so five times as big but twice the price per ounce).
The box is ridiculously oversized for the product - it’s 6.5 inches long. The egg itself is 4.5 inches long, 1.5 inches high and 3 inches wide at the broadest part. That means one inch of space on all sides ... feels like more than just protection, feels like a bit of fakery. (Though it’s easy to see the entirety of the product through the cellophane window.)
The ingredients are pretty much the same as the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup - erring on the chocolate as the first ingredient, not peanuts.
I get the sense that these are supposed to be like those deluxe slicing candy eggs that have always puzzled me. Candy, in my opinion, doesn’t need any serving implements. It’s meant to be eaten with the fingers and needs no preparation or tools. Either I bite into this one and eat it all by myself, of I slice it up. Which I did.
Looking at the slices there, I think you can tell that this is not the same center as the 1.2 ounce egg ... it looks and feels a bit oilier (which is not a bad thing, just a different thing).
The interesting experience with these slices is that the amount of chocolate shell varies so much depending on where the slice comes from. The ends, of course, are mostly chocolate. But even in a center slice, the chocolate shell is especially thick, much thicker than any cup I’ve ever had from Reese’s, as thick as a regular Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar.
The chocolate flavor was completely lost on this product, it tasted like peanut butter fudge, though it was pretty smooth and sweet with a slight milky flavor to it. The peanut butter center was stellar. It was relatively solid, had the crumbly texture and didn’t taste as sweet as the regular eggs. I liked the clear distinction between the chocolate shell here and the peanut butter filling, instead of the unclear margins in the smaller egg. But sometimes the chocolate had a coconut flavor to it that I can’t quite explain nor say that I cared much for.
However, the silly over-packaging and price tag would certainly keep me from buying these ever again. But if you’re looking for something for a peanut butter obsessed person’s Easter basket instead of a pile of the small eggs or the standby bunny, it might be fun. Portion control was a lot easier than I thought, I sliced up rather logically into five pieces, though I can’t be sure that they were actually the same weight. The package says that it serves four (which means each serving is more than a single regular egg).
I feel like downgrading the 1.2 ounce Reese’s Eggs to a 9 out of 10, but maybe that’s an emotional response, a response out of fear, not one based on my actual tasting (though there was some throat burning from the sweetness I don’t remember from the past). As for the giganto one, it’s not something I appreciate, though I guess it’s okay. I give it a 7 out of 10.
UPDATE 3/30/2009: Thanks to Peloria’s continued documentation, I kept looking for these other non-milk chocolate labeled eggs. I finally found them at the 99 Cent Only Store near my house. The packages were 2 for a dollar.
Sure enough the ingredients indicated that they’re really not chocolate (I know, the photo looks like all the other photos, but trust me, this is what the reverse says):
Peanuts, sugar, dextrose, vegetable oil (cocoa butter, palm, shea, sunflower and/or safflower oil), chocolate, nonfat milk, contains 2% or less of milk fat, lactose, salt, whey, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, corn syrup, soy lecithin, cornstarch, glycerin, TGHQ & PGPR, vanillin.
They look a little flatter than the milk chocolate eggs (labeled or not). As for the taste, well, this one seemed really salty to me, but maybe that’s what happens when I have peanut butter eggs for breakfast. (Hey, eggs are a breakfast food!)
The mockolate coating wasn’t bad, it wasn’t any worse looking than the current eggs. It has a similar melt and cool feeling on the tongue, it’s sweet but I didn’t taste any milky component to it.
I still don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know why they’ve have both on the market at the same time, why they’d make two versions and ruin something that was perfectly good and perfect. As for the ruining part, well, they’re not that bad but I’m not fond of eating palm oil when I could be eating cocoa butter.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Russell Stover offers a lot of Easter goodies, I’m most fond of their eggs, which are usually fresh and the perfect size at about an ounce for less than the price of a candy bar these days.
But I was mighty tempted by these Marshmallow Rabbits. They’re two ounces, and since they’re marshmallow they’re pretty big. The packages are 6 inches tall in vibrant metallic colors with a rather realistic rabbit illustration on the front.
They come in two varieties, the regular vanilla marshmallow covered in milk chocolate and a chocolate marshmallow covered in milk chocolate.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened the package. Some marshmallow shapes can be curiously amorphous. These looked, for the most part, like the outline of the image on the package. They’re about 4.5 inches tall and about 2.5 inches at their widest part.
I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be a rabbit face with extra huge cheeks/jowls, or the whole body with a big meaty legs. (Part of me also thought they looked like a Buddha with rabbit ears.)
The chocolate is wonderfully rippled and I was pleased with how well I’d picked my rabbits out, as they were practically flawless (though I ended up dropping the chocolate one and denting his ear as I was taking the photo).
Russell Stover Marshmallow Rabbit
The chocolate shell has a nice snap to it and an overall chocolate malt scent. The marshmallow center is soft and moist with a strong vanilla flavor. It’s not quite as fluffy as some I’ve had, but it’s also very satisfying and has a bit of salt to it (60 mg in the whole 2 ounce portion).
Though the package says that a whole rabbit is a single serving, I found just the ears was plenty satisfying. The problem with a very large marshmallow items is that it’s hard to save some more for later without it making a mess. Still, I found them pretty easy to slip back into their packages and pinch shut for later. (I wouldn’t save it for more than a day or two, or else they get hard and tacky.)
Russell Stover Chocolate Marshmallow Rabbit
The chocolate on this one looked slightly lighter than its vanilla counterpart, though that could have been all in my head (well, it’s all in my tummy now).
This one has a light cocoa scent that reminded me of cookie dough.
The chocolate has a similarly crisp snap but still doesn’t flake or crumble off of the marshmallow excessively.
The marshmallow is soft, though not as mushy as the vanilla. It has a very springy and latexy quality to it. The flavor is mild, like a cup of hot cocoa, definitely less sweet than the vanilla but also much saltier (210 mg per 2 ounce portion).
The chocolate on both was really flavorful and helped to make these some of the better chocolate marshmallows I’ve bought at the drug store. The novelty shape and price makes them a really good deal. But the large portion size and awkward shape makes them difficult to share (as I think traditional chocolate rabbits are). There are no artificial colors in them.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Elmer’s Candy Corp is a very popular and inexpensive brand of boxed chocolates from Louisiana. More recently I’ve been seeing their Valentine’s heart assortments at drug stores and discount chains. For the price I’ve found their candies to be a decent value.
I also knew that they did Easter candies, though this was the first year I saw them at my stores here on the West Coast. The most famous products are their Gold Brick and Heavenly Hash Eggs, which are still devilishly out of reach.
What I did find at the Rite Aid was Chocolate Covered Toasted Marshmallow Eggs
The cartoon rabbits on the package are the product of Jim Benton, part of the It’s Happy Bunny (tm) series. (Official website here.)
Inside the tray the little packages come in either pink or powder blue mylar and have a different saying on them:
Each little marshmallow is about two and a half inches long.
They’re quite nice looking, especially for the price (I got my tray on sale for $1.50). The chocolate ripples on the top and for the most part they were in good shape. A few were cracked, but the marshmallow just seemed to seal any fissures. I was afraid they’d be like the Melster ones I got a couple of years ago, but the ingredients here looked decent. More importantly, these smelled sweet and toasty.
The marshmallow here is rather like what you’d get if you just toasted a real marshmallow, it’s very soft, almost runny. The chocolate shell is soft as well, but at least it doesn’t flake off. The marshmallow center has a strong single note vanilla flavor (like fake vanilla extract) but then there’s a second component that’s a little toasted sugar flavor.
The very soft texture of the marshmallow is a little different from other more foamy Easter concoctions, but it’s very smooth (no grain). I ate half of the candies in the package and was overall pleased with them but ultimately they’re too sweet for me to just eat without something to balance it. The little bunnies and their quips on the package was a nice change and would be a fun item to give to friends or pop in your kid’s lunch box. Each egg is about 80 calories.
Monday, March 2, 2009
I bought another molded Palmer Easter item. (A product which I generally consider a biodegradable decoration, not actually meant to be eaten.)
I have to hand it to R.M. Palmer. They do a great job of keeping their prices low and their designs contemporary.
Quax: The Yummy Ducky pretty much had me with the packaging. (It certainly wasn’t the description of Hollow Milk Flavored Candy Duck that sold me.) It looks just like a bathtub rubber ducky. But it was also on sale for only a dollar.
Quax is a bit smaller than the average toy duck. He’s about 3 inches from beak to tail and three inches high.
He’s well molded, with a seam through his head and down his sides. (I would have thought it would be constructed with mirror-image sides, but this way presents a flawless face.)
He sounds like plastic, looks like plastic but thankfully smells like an Easter basket. (Mmm, vanillin.)
The ingredients are what I’d expect from Palmer:
The packaging seems a bit excessive for such a tiny candy toy - it’s 4 inches wide and 6 inches tall. But it does have a little to and from tag area on the back for gifting.
So I got out a bowl of water and plopped my Yummy Ducky friend into it.
Sure enough, he floats. He floats just fine. But he’s not balanced, so try as I might, I couldn’t get him to bob like a duck should, upright (or even tail up like a feeding duck might). Instead he did the duck equivalent of belly up and rested on his side. What this duck needs is a keel. Or feet. Then I think we might have something, an edible decoration for a punch bowl.
At this point I was pretty happy with my one buck purchase. It was cute, it smelled better than some vinyl toy and provided at least 800 words for my review without even cracking it open.
But I have to actually eat some, don’t I?
So I bit off the top of his skull.
The milk flavored candy has a very strong vanilla flavor with a little bit of dairy/dried milk going on. It’s incredibly sweet, actually throat searing.
It’s not that bad! Since it’s not trying to be actual chocolate, it succeeds at being better than plastic. I don’t plan on finishing it, but it was a fun little novelty item. It might even be amusing if they made them in a few sizes. You know, because they’re really not for eating, just decoration.
For those of you who for some reason now want to watch Ernie sing Rubber Duckie, here it is on YouTube.
Friday, December 5, 2008
One of M&Ms Holiday Mixes isn’t just a color shift in the regular offering. It’s the Mint Chocolate M&Ms, which aren’t available during any of the other special editions for other holidays like Easter or Halloween.
I haven’t had these in years, as I used to find them to be dangerously addictive and for the past few years I’ve tried to concentrate on candies that were new to me.
But this year I was happy to hear that they were back and thought it was high time that I had some again and of course document there here so fans could squee with delight. (Also, they were on sale, so I bought this bag and a bag of the Holiday Mix Almond M&Ms, which I ate in two days.)
The lentils come in three colors: White, Green and Red.
I pulled out a few regular M&Ms as a comparison (on the left) for the photo because I thought the green and red were actually a different shade. And so they are!
It’s tempting to think that these are just minted Milk Chocolate M&Ms, but they’re a little different in several ways.
Size: they’re bigger. Well, most of them are bigger. There are a few that are the same size as regular M&Ms. But they’re not even all the same size.
Colors: aren’t consistent. There are two different greens in there. Though I’m not sure if it’s on purpose or a quality control issue. They’re both pleasant looking, though I prefer the darker green.
Shell: the candy shell is thicker. This means it’s crunchier. I decided I really liked this feature.
Ingredients: list includes salt. So the milk chocolate is not only lightly peppermint, it’s also not-so-sweet.
Yeah, they’re really good. I love mint & chocolate and though the milk chocolate of M&Ms isn’t spectacular, it’s certainly fun to put away.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.