Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Name: Starburst Sours
I love sour stuff, though I must admit that as I get older, I’m not really into the tortuous super-sours that I pursued as a kid. So, basically what I look for in a sour is something that gets my salivary glands to tingle, but also delivers flavor and hopefully doesn’t trash my tongue too bad.
The issue I run into with many of the more modern sours is that they’ve gone off and created rather chemical tasting candies. I’m kind of a fan of citrus sours, but the new sour flavors like green apple just taste like something I’d clean my windows with. The Starburst Sours are green apple, blue raspberry, cherry and watermelon. Now, I don’t think I’ve ever had a sour watermelon in my life, so that one was especially puzzling. But perhaps I should drop logic and reality from this review.
First flavor was watermelon. It’s got a nice sour bit to it without overwhelming the watermelon flavor. Green apple is chemical through and through. Very sour and creates (sorry to be gross) some pretty unpleasant burps for me. Blue Raspberry reminded me of blue highlighter pens (and a bit like those scented markers we also had as kids) - the flavor is just like what I’d expect for a red raspberry, but I think that’d be too many pink things in the package, so they made it blue. I think the most successful flavor in the package is the cherry one - though I’m not a big fan on the flavor cherry (mostly because I associate it with poison because the red dye #2 thing back in the 70s) but this has a lot of flavors within it. It’s got a good sour bite to it that goes on through the whole chew, a nice woodsy cherry flavor and then a sweet maraschino topnote.
On the whole, I think Starbursts are great. They were a great addition to the market when they first came out because they filled that hole - they’re chewy like taffy but not likely to pull out your fillings (or as a kid it seemed like I was always losing a tooth or a new one was growing in so taffy was pretty hard to eat). Starbursts have that great chew but are forgiving and not so rubbery as to pull on anything. Don’t get me wrong, they can get plenty stuck in your teeth, they’re just not taking your teeth out.
These are not a flavor pack that I’m likely to buy again (I really love the originals though and will continue to buy them or Skittles) but I appreciate the addition to the line for those that like artificial sours.
Rating - 7 out of 10
Monday, July 25, 2005
I’m as big a fan of novelty items as the next person, but what always disappoints me is that the actual product rarely matches the packaging. Here’s an exception. CandyWarehouse gifted me with these incredibly cute poker themed chocolates. There are playing card mint truffles and milk chocolate poker chips. Poker, as we know, is all the rage, with tourneys going on all over the country and of course those crazy celebrities getting in on it. If you’re like me, you’ve probably played for pretzel sticks at some point in your life. While playing with real food is dangerous (because you’re likely to eat your winnings), it’s also a bit more fun (at least to me) than playing for money.
These chocolate poker chips come in a clear plastic tray that you could actually use for racking real chips. Like chocolate coins, the disk of milk chocolate is held inside a foil top and bottom. The chocolates themselves have no embossing, so their value is lost once you unwrap them (or is it?). The milk chocolate is creamy and smooth, very sweet and would be a great complement for other card playing snacks like pretzels.
For folks who are seriously interested in using these as real chips, you’d better pick up the 5 lb version. The high-stakes chips are like the mint chocolate cards below.
These were seriously good and I’ve had to restrain myself. Think of a giant Andes Mints. Because of the dastardly heat wave here in SoCal, I’ve been keeping these in the fridge and they’re wonderful served that way (I don’t usually like chilled chocolate). The mint is very strong and the chocolate combo (two layers of semi-sweet chocolate with a minted white chocolate in the middle) is just right. It melts easily on the tongue and refreshes.
The face card theme is fun (but entirely unnecessary in my opinion). Forget poker with these, I’d prefer to play blackjack with them and keep having the dealer hit me.
If I were going with a Vegas themed party, I’d absolutely order some of these up because the chocolate was of good quality and the packaging was very well done.
Ratings - Poker Chips - 7 out of 10 (I think the mint chocolate chips would be 8s)
Saturday, July 23, 2005
Here it is, the neatest thing to hit candy since citric acid. That’s right, the ultra-cheap LED technology is now being applied to candy. Malibu Toys has created a whole line of light up candies, with the Finger Lites as the center of the line. They have other products, like clip ons and necklaces, but they’re based around the same center of a battery hooked up to an LED. Personally, of all the formats I prefer the ring, since I really don’t want a slobbery piece of hard candy hanging around my neck and getting lint stuck to it.
The ring comes sealed in a little plastic pouch. To activate the light, you pull out a little paper tab that allows the battery to make contact with the wiring for the LED. Then it starts flashing. And flashing. The package says it will stay lit for at least two hours. Mine is still flashing and it’s been a week since I pulled the tab and ate the lolly.
I picked an orange one, though they come in a large variety of colors/flavors and have themed shapes for different holidays (Easter means bunnies and duckies, Halloween means vampires and pumpkins). The orange one was a little bland, not terribly tart or flavorful, but then again, it’s a novelty.
Would I buy this again? Hell yes, I’m planning my next party around them. I think the cool thing to do is probably figure a way to hang up the eaten ones on a string or something (maybe I’ll do it for a Christmas party and hang them on the tree). Some convenience stores are refusing to carry Finger Lites because they think that kids will chew up the LED/Battery. I’m one of those people who can’t help but chew up my hard candy and had no trouble telling the difference between the candy and the hard plastic housing for the light. In fact, I don’t think I could break it with my teeth if I tried. I’m wondering if those convenience store people tried them.
I know, I know, it’s not a terribly eco-friendly product either. Forgive me, I usually make good choices when it comes to that stuff, but I couldn’t help myself.
This candy gets points mostly for novelty, not taste, but it’s still a winner in my book.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Name: Mike and Ike Orange ‘n Cream
Mike and Ikes are made by the Just Born candy company. They make such love-‘em-or-hate-‘em products as Marshmallow Peeps, Hot Tamales and now Goldenberg Peanut Chews.
Now, this review probably comes a little late as I’ve found no mention of these on their website (that’s what I get for shopping at the 99 Cent Only Store). They’re a special edition of Mike and Ikes in Orange ‘n Cream.
Think of a chilly orange creamsicle.
Then think of orange aspergum.
It’s somewhere in between.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Mike and Ikes are great. Well, I’ve loved Hot Tamales for years. They were like the original Jelly Bellys because they actually put lots of flavor into the candies instead of those bland jelly beans that were on the market before. In fact, Just Born makes a line of Teenee Beanees.
Mike and Ike also put out a limited flavor last year called Root Beer which I liked in principle but not in practice. However, Just Born did the right thing by making the hotter version of Hot Tamales.
So, to sum up, don’t buy really old candy that’s been discontinued. They probably stopped making it for a reason.
Rating - 4 out of 10
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Name: Nestle Toll House Candy Bars
If you’ve got a jones for sugar and something a little more satisfying than a candy bar, this might be the thing. Inside is a dense, crumbly cookie bar topped with caramel then a few chocolate chips and all enrobed in sweet milk chocolate.
The cookie part of the treat was least impressive. Because it was so thick it lacked that cookie feel and tasted more like a blondie and had no strong flavor of its own besides sweet. The caramel was non-existent, as it’d been absorbed by the cookie part and had no distinct chewy-ness to it. The occassional chocolate chip was a nice addition as it provided some actual flavor. The milk chocolate coating is all sweet and milky, but no real chocolate taste. What makes a Toll House cookie is the balance of the sweet and bland cookie to the complex pop of the dark chips.
There’s none of that here.
However, I still enjoyed the bar and found it rather satisfying. If I had anything to say about it, I think I’d suggest leaving the caramel out and maybe making the cookie just a smidge saltier. I’ll give the brownie bar a try to see if the flavor balance on that one is bit better. I’ve also seen that Hershey started selling cookies a while back (I’ve had the York ones and enjoyed them quite a bit) so I’ll have to check those out.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Monday, July 18, 2005
Now, when I was a kid there was a candy called Oompa-Loompas and they were nothing like this. Well, they were something like this - they came in a bag and were about the same size as these but they were like a mash-up of M&Ms and Reese’s Pieces (this is all a vague recollection, correct me if I’m wrong). When you bit into the little disks (like fat, large, plain M&Ms) the top layer was peanut butter cream and the bottom was milk chocolate and it was all covered in a bright candy shell.
Wonka discontinued those pretty quickly.
Now we’ve got the new Oompas which are pretty much jumbo Skittles.
Oompas are brightly colored and about the size of garbanzo beans (about two or three times the size of Skittles). Where most of us eat two or three Skittles at a time, I’d probably only eat one of these at a time. Thus losing out on one of the great things of Skittles which is flavor combos - you put a lemon and lime in your mouth at the same time. Generally with Skittles consumption I spill the bag out on my desk and separate them and eat pairs of comparable flavors - citrus with citrus, although lemon can be combined with grape or strawberry, etc.
Okay, enough with the Skittles comparisons. Oompas come in six flavors: Green Apple, Cherry, Lemon, Orange, Grape and Strawberry. What’s especially interesting about eating these is that they’re very sweet when you start to chew and they get more sour and zesty as you go (which is the opposite in most chews). Though I don’t care for the intense sweet start, these have a nice finish and are less grainy that some other chews. Think of them more like Starbursts than Skittles.
My thing about these assorted flavor packages of stuff is that I invariably only like a few of the flavors. I don’t care for the cherry at all, though it does have a strong flavor. I didn’t like the strawberry or green apple either, and again, that’s personal preference, I’m not saying they were bad. What I did like was the orange and lemon and the grape was just okay. If I liked the majority of the flavors, I think I’d be able to give this a higher rating. As it is, they’re pretty good and I wouldn’t turn them down if you put a big bowl in front of me and I could discreetly pick out the flavors I like.
Interesting fact from the wrapper: made in New Zealand.
UPDATED UPDATE (4/17/07): For lovers of the original Peanut Butter Oompas, you might want to try the Easter M&M Peanut Butter Speck-Tacular Eggs for a more consistent ratio.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Friday, July 15, 2005
Name: Butterfinger Crisp
I’ve always been fond of wafer and creme cookies. They’re a pure blast of sugar in a rather bland styrofoamy cookie. I figured this bar was similar to that, only butterfingery.
Essentially there are bland wafers with a butterfinger creme which is a sweet peanut butter flavored concoction. The whole bar is then enrobed in a chocolatey wax and some more crumbled “crunchety” bits.
What I can say, beyond the fact that this bar is a great mix of textures, is that it’s salty. I know that sounds like a weird thing to mention, but there’re 140 mgs of salt in this bar. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the salt is a great complement to the flavors in this bar, but it’s very noticeable.
That aside, the crisp wafers and smooth and strongly peanutty creme is a great combo and if I could just find that as a cookie, I’d be pretty happy. What makes this a candy bar though, is that they dipped the whole thing in some sort of chocolate flavored wax (similar to what they put on Butterfingers). This waxy coating is the reason I don’t enjoy Butterfingers. In fact, if you gave me a Butterfinger, I’d probably scrape the chocolate off and enjoy the great peanut butter crisp center. I couldn’t even find any mention of the chocolately coating in the description of the bar on the Butterfinger site, so they must not think it’s much of a selling point either.
What I should mention is that the bar I tried was manufactured in Venezuela. I don’t know if this is the norm for all bars sold in the states of if it’s how I was able to purchase a normally 75 cent bar for 33 cents. (And it was fresh.)
In general, if I feel like a nutty crisp bar covered in chocolate, I go for a 5th Avenue.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Name: Take Five
If I were to create the perfect candy bar, a great snack bar that would give me energy and taste good, it would contain the following: chocolate, pretzels, caramel and nuts. It’d be a great mix of simple carbs, fat and protein so as not to overwhelm the bloodstream with too much sugar. In my world it’d be a super turtle with a pretzel base, chewy caramel then pecans all covered in semi-sweet chocolate.
On a visit to the Chocolate Homeworld, er, sorry, Chocolate World in Hershey on New Year’s Day, this was the sample they gave us at the end of the ride. I quickly bargained with the other people in our party for theirs.
Hershey’s is dang close with the Take 5 bar. It’s got a pretzel center covered with peanut butter then a layer of caramel, a few chopped peanuts and then it’s all enrobed in milk chocolate. (Maybe I got that order wrong, it’s hard to tell.) The proportions are solid and the pretzel has got a great salty kick. If anything, the milk chocolate is a little sweet, but the salt on the pretzels and the slight saltiness of the peanut butter (which tastes like the center of a Reese’s ... maybe sweeter) balances well. If it only came in dark chocolate I might be in heaven.
The packaging is good, there are two little pieces in a tray and sealed in a the plastic packaging so they stay intact and are easy to slide out. I really wish they could figure out how to make this without hydrogenated oils, though it’s pretty far down on the list of ingredients and doesn’t show up on the nutrition part. For now I’ll keep buying it when I need a little boost during the day. It’s especially good with a morning cup of coffee, as I’m having the second piece right now.
As far as I’m concerned this bar could have lots of versions. A pecan/maple version, a pecan/dark chocolate turtle one, maybe white chocolate and walnuts or macadamias (not really for me, but a solid combo - I know that a white version of this same bar exists but I haven’t seen it yet) then another version with mint cookies and almonds.
Rating - 9 out of 10 (just make a dark version or a pecan one!)
UPDATE 9/2/2008: Sometime when I wasn’t looking (I photographed it last summer again) the Hershey’s Take 5 left the list of chocolate candy bars and joined the growing list of Hershey’s Real Mockolate.
The package now says: made with chocolate & pretzels & caramel & peanuts & peanut butter. That “made with chocolate” part means that the coating may contain chocolate, but it has other additives such as vegetable oils that mean that it’s not pure chocolate. The actual chocolate as an ingredient comes far down on the list as the number 6 item, after vegetable oils and high fructose corn sweetener and before nonfat milk (you can imagine there’s not that much milk in there).
The bars actually still look quite fetching. Little rather rectangular lumps with a pleasant sweet & peanutty scent.
Mine were exceptionally fresh, the pretzel was good and crunchy, a nice salty complement to the sweet coating. The coating didn’t have much flavor but did add a creamy texture.
This one was passably good, but I’ve had others in the past few months (I picked them out of a mix of snack size in a bowl at the office a couple of times) and I didn’t realize why they were kind of empty tasting for what I remembered. I just thought they were stale ... turns out that they’re just not designed to be good any longer.
Hershey’s still has an opportunity to reverse this and make it real chocolate again.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.