Monday, March 25, 2013
This year was, I felt, the best we’ve had so far this decade for Easter candy diversity. It was a nice mix of classic products, new flavor twists on existing items and then some exciting new diversions. The stores seemed well stocked, better than I saw them two years ago, for example. It’s an encouraging sign for the economy and for our tummies.
Just Born is celebrating 60 years of their iconic Peeps marshmallow candies. They’ve come a long way from the early years when they came in plain yellow. Now they’re available in all the colors of the rainbow and special flavors.
To mark the anniversary, they’ve created a 60th Anniversary version in Vanilla Creme flavor. They’re the individual Peeps (not a conjoined row) and feature little sparkly flecks of multi colored candies, like edible confetti.
I prefer an uncolored Peep, as I think the artificial colorings get in the way of the pure sugary flavor. (Ghost Peeps, for that reason, are the best.)
The Vanilla Creme is a soft flavor, artificial and lacking in the complexity of a nice Tahitian vanilla pod, but still it has a soft and comforting flavor that cuts a bit of the sugary sweetness. They’re bouncy and fluffy and grainy. The little confetti add a little bit of a crunch, but mostly they dissolve quickly on the tongue.
These would be a fun version available all year round. I also heard that they’re releasing Birthday Cake Peeps which are a turquoise blue and yellow cake flavored. (Which is also a great idea for a year-round Peep.)
Rating: 7 out of 10
They’re just egg shaped gumballs.
Smarties Bubble Gum Eggs are made by Ford Gum in the USA with real sugar, there are no artificial sweeteners in there. I bought them for $1.49 at Cost Plus World Market, but then I saw them at the 99 Cent Only Store for a dollar.
They’re passably good. They come in different colors, but I really didn’t get a sense that they were different flavors, all vaguely and pleasantly fruity. They were soft enough to bite but have a satisfyingly crunchy shell. Each piece is a good size for chewing, two make for a little too much. The sugar takes a while to be dissolved, so there’s no bubble blowing right away. Even after the sugar is gone, they’re a little too stiff and snappy to blow a good bubble with.
At other times of the year, they’re also available as plain old gumballs. I bought them before and feel the same way about them. They’re okay. Mostly I like them because they’re pretty. I just chew the sugar out, spit out the gum and start up with a new piece.
Rating: 5 out of 10
The concept is that the bunny is flat instead of dimensional, and pre-sectioned to break apart easily. The version I purchased, for a buck, is 2 ounces, or about the size of a King Size bar. It comes apart into five pieces. Each is a good size for dipping into peanut butter, which was always my favorite way to eat my Easter Rabbit.
This is one of those products that solves a problem you didn’t know you had. I’m sure if this were sold on infomercials, the first part would demonstrate all the frustrating things about a sumptuous solid chocolate bunny and how hard it is to eat, how children fight over it and what it should be named.
I don’t have much to say except that it’s a rabbit shaped Hershey’s bar. It’s made from Hershey’s marginally satisfying chocolate, the same stuff in Hershey’s Kisses, Hershey’s Miniatures and those addictive little Hershey’s Candy Coated Eggs. While I don’t think Hershey’s Milk Chocolate is good chocolate, it’s mighty fine candy. It’s fudgy, grainy and tangy and comforting.
It’s also made in Mexico. (The Candy Professor had a bit of a rant about Snapsy.)
Rating: 5 out of 10
Friday, March 22, 2013
This isn’t Starburst’s first foray into the berry world, they used to make a version called Berries and Creme which had a creamy version in strawberry, raspberry, blueberry and mixed berry. This version is a bit more bold, dumping the creme for a more fruity intensity.
The package says Great fruit taste! Real fruit juice! (That’s apple juice. They all have apple juice, and less than 2% of it, too.) They also have 20% of your RDA of vitamin C.
I picked these up in their Easter box, but they’re also available in the single serve package and bags. The hazard with the bags and box is that you’re never sure of the ratio you’ll get. My box had an inordinate amount of blueberry and only one raspberry.
This flavor sounded great, even though I’m never sure what the difference in artificially flavored candies is between raspberry and blackberry aside from the color.
The flavor is, well, good. It’s very floral and deep with a lot of black cherry, cranberry and raspberry notes. But overall there’s a sort of softness to it, it’s not a lack of intensity, it’s just not puckery or dry like pomegranate can be.
I had a lot of these and I was a little put off by the color. It’s not the color of food, it’s the color of a drug or a toy. The flavor is balanced and does a good job of being blueberry “flavored.” It’s a mix of tannins, like iced tea and a floral note that reminds me of ball point pen ink. It’s a little tangy, between the tartness level of a citrus and the blander strawberry.
Blueberry is hard and the most interesting thing about blueberries, to me, is the combination of textures. It’s a difficult thing to mimic in a chewy candy, like the fuzz on a peach or the layers of flavor and mouthfeel of a concord grape.
Well, it’s the strawberry Starburst. There’s not much else to say except, “Welcome!” It’s a softer flavor, more like cotton candy than a sour berry flavor. There’s a light tartness to it, but mostly it’s sweet with a little kiss of floral strawberry flavor.
The wrapper is a different color pink or at least it seemed brighter. I’m glad it’s in this mix.
This is very floral and deeply jammy. There’s a hint of pineapple tartness but overall it’s a well rounded flavor with some cherry notes as well. It’s not wholly raspberry, it lacks a “seed” flavor to it. I can’t say much more because I only had one.
Overall, it’s a nice mix. It’s less sour than some of the other varieties that include citrus flavors. I liked the colors, and if you’re going for something like a glass jar that would be on display on your desk or at a party, the look is quite striking.
Starburst contain gelatin, so they’re not for vegetarians and not Kosher/Halal. They are gluten free.
Monday, March 18, 2013
Here are a few Easter candies I bought but I’m not going to get around to doing a full review.
I was actually out at CVS looking for the Cadbury Hollow Bunny that I noted in my roundup of products for 2013. (I was hoping it was on sale, because the first time I saw them, they were $4.79 for a 3.5 ounce bunny and I didn’t really want to fork that over for Cadbury chocolate.) While looking though I spotted this bag, which reader Kate mentioned was available last year.
They’re pretty and feature good quality milk chocolate. These were a little softer in texture and had a silky melt. The coconut mixed into the chocolate is crispy, though it does become chewy after a while. It’s a nice combination of textures and flavors. I found the coconut a little too, I don’t know, difficult to get out of my teeth. Still, I manged to finish the bag within 24 hours, so I must have liked them. I’ll still go for the Milk Crisp version over this.
Rating: 7 out of 10
I found Ferrero Tic Tac Bunny Burst at Target with all the other little Easter Basket stuffers. I didn’t see a press release on this, so I didn’t know it was coming out. Further, there’s no listing on the package or anywhere I can find on the internet that says what flavors are actually in the Bunny Burst.
The green is pretty easy to figure out. It was green apple. They’re sweet and tangy, with a very sweet, odd aftertaste. I didn’t care much for it and was hoping for better in the lilac colored ones.
The soft purple is a bit of a mystery flavor. The ingredients list dried apple, dried grape, dried acerola (West Indian Cherry) and dried lychee. So I’m going to call this one tropical. It has a light green grape note, I also tasted violets along with a floral melon and vague medicinal cherry note. At one point did think about lychees, as well. It’s interesting and unique. Not really what I’d call good or refreshing, but I didn’t notice the weird sweet and metallic aftertaste with this one.
They’re made in Canada and contain carmine, so they’re not suitable for vegetarians.
Rating: 6 out of 10
I bought this pair of Cemoi Classic Creamy Egg (Milk Chocolate) at Cost Plus World Market. I was actually hoping to find a dark chocolate version, perhaps more upscale, of the classic Cadbury Creme Egg.
This is not that. I can’t give it a full review because I didn’t actually eat it. Both were sticky and oozy under the foil wrap, though I made my choices from the box at the store very carefully. I opened both and found overly sweet, grainy fondant. The chocolate was marginal, it was all just very sweet and unappealing. So into the trash they went.
Rating: 3 out of 10
I reviewed the Snickers Peanut Butter Squared before when they came out. The Snickers Peanut Butter Egg is the same construction, only in hemispherical ovoid shape. It’s a little different because it’s molded instead of being enrobed. Of course the domed shape also means different bites have different ratios. But overall I noticed more caramel in it. The chocolate and caramel and peanut with peanut butter is a nice combination. The salty peanut butter keeps it from being too sweet. I enjoyed it more than the Square thing. I also reviewed the Santa version of this which also has different proportions because of the shape of the mold.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
The idea of caramel filled milk chocolate eggs is pretty appealing, too. There’s no dearth of choices at Easter, as I think that Cadbury may have the corner on that market with their mini version of the Cadbury Mini Caramel Egg that comes in a little egg carton. But the Nestle version, though not quite as charmingly packaged, were far less expensive. (The Cadbury’s were actually the same price, but only had 4.8 ounces in them, instead of 10 ounces in the Nestle bag.)
The little foil wrapped eggs come in two different colors: purple and a sort of pastel green. They helpfully have the candy contents printed on the foil; if you’re like me and like to mix your foil covered sweets, this is extremely helpful. Inside the foil the little eggs are nicely molded with the Nestle logo on two sides.
The eggs smell sweet and a little like cereal. The size is nice, I like to gently press along the seam to pull the eggs apart into little dishes of caramel. The chocolate is exceptionally sweet, a little grainy and on the fudgy side. The caramel is smooth and has a little bit of a salty and dark note to it, keeping it from being equally sweet. On the whole, they’re, well, cloying. I can have a couple, but then I’m done. They make my throat hurt. I’m still drawn to the look of them.
I’m hoping that someday Ghiradelli will do a dark chocolate salted caramel version (their new Easter eggs here) ... I’d definitely pay the premium for that.
Nestle also makes several other versions of their NestEggs. There’s a classic Nestle Crunch and a version of the Butterfinger that has milk chocolate mixed with Butterfinger peanut butter pieces. I’ve had the Jingle (Christmas bell) version, and they’re pretty good. Again, there are better versions if you’re willing to pay a premium.
Nestle has not given any information about the sourcing of the ingredients, though they are on track for more sustainable targets for the future.
Friday, March 1, 2013
When Easter rolls around, I usually spend my discretionary calories on new holiday candies. One candy that I do purchase year after year, though, are the Hershey’s Candy Coated Milk Chocolate Eggs. The shell is thick and crunchy and the fudgy Hershey’s chocolate center soothes me in a way that high quality chocolate cannot.
I was interested to see Hershey’s newest item in their growing category of candy coated items. Hershey’s Candy Coated White Chocolate Flavored Eggs were on sale. Last year Mars introduced the White Chocolate M&Ms as an Easter item (still an exclusive at Target this year), so it’s natural that Hershey’s would want to be in the white game as well.
The big thing to note is that this is white chocolate flavored, not fully-accredited white chocolate. Instead of using only cocoa butter and dairy fats, Hershey’s has added all sorts of other vegetable oils.
Hershey’s is capable of some wonderful white chocolate, the Cookies ‘n Creme bar used to be spectacular. Here’s the ingredients list for the white eggs:
The sized and shape are the same as the Milk Chocolate Eggs, in fact, I bought some at the same time just to compare.
The shell is quite thick, very hard and crunchy. Though there is quite a list of artificial colors in the ingredients, they’re only splattered with color so it’s not much to get in the way of the pure flavors. And by pure, I mean the sugar and the artificial vanilla and the milk.
It tastes artificial, like fake vanilla or instant pudding. It’s a wonderful shorthand for the smell of Easter, it’s like an Easter Basket in a candy shell. It’s certainly not for those who don’t like their candy sweet.
Compared to the new White Chocolate M&Ms, they’re vastly different. The M&Ms are smaller, have a more delicate shell and a more well-rounded butter flavor. The M&Ms are smoother and have a higher fat content and slick, almost greasy, texture (especially if they get warm). The Hershey’s White Eggs are a great mix of textures but don’t have flavor nor the cleanest ingredients to go with it.
Still ... there’s something about them that reminds me too much of those Easters of childhood when there really was an Easter Bunny and the candy was special. Cheap white chocolate is so inextricably tied in my head to the holiday, it’s hard to objective about it. I’m eating these, but I’m not sure I actually like them. And I’m considering buying them again.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Easter is the season for foil wrapped chocolate eggs. They can be solid, they can be filled with things. They can be the size of a peanut or a football. The fun part is when they’re actually made with good chocolate.
I was excited to see Ghirardelli Milk & Crisp Chocolate Eggs at Target. Ghirardelli makes very good chocolate for the price, right here in California. I’ve been searching for the ideal crisped rice and milk chocolate combination, so this was the perfect item for me to pick up.
The yellow bag contains about 15 gold foil wrapped eggs. They’re a rich milk chocolate with crisped rice. They also come in a blue foil version that’s solid milk chocolate.
The bag is on the expensive side. The 3.5 ounces is about the same price as a chocolate bar from Ghirardelli, $3.49 ... one dollar an ounce. It’s a bit steep for chocolate that’s not marked as ethically sourced or organic but it is all natural. (The facility also processes tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and eggs. Contains milk and soy.)
The eggs smell dark and smoky, less sweet than many milk chocolates but still with a dairy note to it. The melt is soft and has that same sort of smoky note to it with a strong malt flavor from the crisped rice. There’s a hint of bitterness to it, but not much. Overall, it’s far less sweet than something like a Nestle Crunch chocolate and thought thick, not quite as sticky as Cadbury.
Overall, it was a bit more grown up than a Nestle Crunch NestEgg, but should probably be reserved for adults since the price is so much steeper. I would buy these again, and of course I’d prefer a half pound bag so I could put them out in a dish.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Brach’s Ice Cream Conversation Hearts provide a conceptually different choice in the area of conversation candies. They’re flavored like ice cream, which is to say that they’re more mainstream than the original spice inspired flavors that Necco used to produce.
When I go to the store and browse ice cream flavors, the tops on my list of consideration go something like this (not necessarily in order): chocolate, coffee, mint chocolate chip, butter pecan, peanut butter cup and then maybe vanilla. I can’t remember the last time I bought strawberry ice cream (though I buy strawberry sorbet rather often) and orange sherbet is so far off my list of viable flavors, I can’t even recall seeing it in stores.
Strawberry (pink) was bitter and only a vague floral hint of berry. Mostly bitter from the food coloring.
Cherry (same shade of pink) was bitter and sweet with only a faint cherry flavoring note. Not tartness, just sweet. I’m still not convinced that there was any difference, except strawberry seemed even more bitter.
I had to take a break at this point because of the bitterness. A bit of water. Some crackers. I don’t know why I started with pink.
Vanilla (white) was expected to be flavorless, but actually does have a pleasant vanilla note to it. It’s like a marshmallow flavor. Really the only one I picked through assortment to eat. But it was really that I was actively avoiding nearly every other piece.
Chocolate was just horrible. Worse than the pink candies, because it was so lacking in chocolate and ended up tasting like a musty basement. You can tell just by looking at it that it can’t taste like chocolate, it’s not brown.
Orange was mild and did remind me of orange sherbet, except for the fact that it was missing that juice tartness. So it was more like an orange chapstick.
Now that I’ve tried their take on the classic ice cream flavors, I have no interest in their take on something more complex like butter pecan or mint chocolate chip. It’s best they failed at the easy stuff so I don’t get my hopes up.
Brach’s also has Heartlines Classic Conversation Hearts (I reviewed them when they were called small conversation hearts) on the shelves again this year. They’re better than the classic Necco (which are achingly hard to find) but still, not quite right.
Taken as a non-toxic and cheap decoration, there’s little better than conversation hearts. I paid only $2.50 for a full pound. Even if no one eats them from this cute jar on my desk, it was an inexpensive way to look like I’m observing the holiday. If you’re not eating them, it doesn’t matter which version you pick up. Choose based on the color combos, the sayings on them, or where they’re made. (These are made in Argentina.) There’s little point in choosing based on flavor.
Monday, January 14, 2013
Ritter Sport, the German chocolate company, has really stepped up its game in North America. Not only do we get a large array of their inventive and good quality bars, they’re also delivering some of the fun limited editions that were once just for their European consumers.
For winter this year they presented the Limited Edition Ritter Sport Amarena Cherry. The bar features Milk chocolate filled with cherry flavored cream and wafer pieces. The wrapper shows a vanilla and cherry ripple ice cream cone and a couple of ripe cherries next to it.
I’ve recently become more familiar with preserved cherries, as I’ve been introduced to Luxardo Maraschino Cherries. They’re quite good and don’t resemble those strange, translucent pink things that come on top of cheap ice cream Sundaes in the United States. These are tiny little nearly black balls of syrup saturated cherries. They taste like fruit, they taste like sugar and there’s a little alcoholic bite to them (well, that could be because I usually find them at the bottom of a Mahnattan). They’ve changed my mind about preserved cherries and even the origin of the fake cherry flavor.
While that’s all delightful fun, the reality was a bit less than enticing. The first ingredient is sugar (not chocolate) which is okay when there’s a lot of filling. But the second ingredient is palm oil. Somewhere down near the bottom of the list is real morello cherry puree and morello cherry juice concentrate, which is comforting.
The actual construction of the bar is rather like the ice cream on the wrapper - it’s a firm cream center that has a light cherry flavor to it and then some little freeze dried cherry bits (that are a bit tangy) and the wafer bits which are like a crumbled up wafer cone.
The bar smells an awful lot like cherry flavor. Good cherry flavor, but still ... not very chocolatey. The milk chocolate shell is smooth and creamy but very sweet. The cream center is less sweet, less smooth but much more cherry. The high point are the little crunchies, which might be the freeze dried fruit or the wafer. Either one is good.
The entire thing is just not for me. Too sweet, too much fat without feeling like it was creamy. Instead it was too cherry. If you’re looking for a very cherry bar, well, this might be yours. I’ll go back to my Espresso bar, which I also bought on the same trip.
Ritter Sport sources their cacao almost exclusively from Central and South America and has several initiatives regarding sustainability for their ingredients and energy usage in manufacturing. The bar itself may contain traces of peanuts and tree nuts and contains soy, wheat and dairy.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.