Thursday, January 18, 2007
I’ll save you from skimming to the end of the review. Yeah, that holds true in the case of American Value bars.
This is a long thin Milk Chocolate bar that clocks in at a respectable 1.4 ounce portion and mentions the price of “4 for a Dollar every day” in a ghastly yellow logo in the corner. The label couldn’t possibly be less compelling if you gave me a version of Microsoft Word 95 to make it in. The package says nothing to recommend it, it doesn’t get our hopes up, it doesn’t lend any expectation to the experience.
Inside the package things get a bit better. It looks like a chocolate bar (and the ingredients reveal it’s real chocolate as well). It smells a little nutty and a little like chocolate. Sweet and less that ultra smooth, it’s a passable chocolate bar to give a child that isn’t very finicky, has a short attention span or perhaps you don’t like that much.
Since the bars are rather attractive (probably more so if you don’t leave it at the bottom of your bag when traveling) I would be comfortable recommending this bar for craft projects like Gingerbread Houses in the style of mid-eighties cubicle farms.
Though the Milk Chocolate bar was plain, it wasn’t pretending to be anything it wasn’t. The Four Finger Wafer Bar is a KitKat clone. Instead of the simple declaration of the contents that the Milk Chocolate bar has, this one says that it’s “Crisp Wafer Fingers Covered in Smooth Milk Chocolate.”
Oh, now they’ve raised my expectations. I’m expecting some smoothiness and some crispiness.
The wrapper features more design than a lowly word processing program could handle. This does not make it any more attractive. It’s not your monitor either, there’s a strange green cast to the package as well.
There are, in fact, four fingers. They are, in fact, crisp. They do not taste like KitKat fingers, and there’s nothing wrong with that. These are a bit less flaky and light. Looking at the ingredients I see that maize flour (corn) is used instead of wheat flour of a Hershey’s or Nestle’s KitKat. I actually rather enjoyed the malty corn flavor of the wafers. However, the chocolate here was funky. It had an odd flavor to it, kind of like a new car smell.
This bar was made in the UK (the Milk Chocolate bar was made in the USA). Taquitos.net has a few of the other Dollar General candies reviewed. I get the sense that Dollar General just subs out the manufacture of all of their candy - the Rocklets they sell under their own name are made by Arcor in Brazil, this four fingered bar in the UK and the milk chocolate bar in the US ... so you wouldn’t expect them to be so consistent.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Another Limited Edition item from Reese’s and again playing around with similar ingredients. This time they’ve taken the Big Cup with Nuts (which was also a limited edition item - review here) and added some caramel to the bottom of the cup.
I don’t have a cross section of the actual cup because I kind of trashed it taking it out of the package and though it was certainly edible, it was not photogenic. So have a look at the Big Cup with Peanuts (click to get a pop up photo) and imagine a smidge of caramel at the bottom there.
The cup itself is nice and meaty, with lots of room to explore the nuts and peanut butter and a good balance of chocolate. The center is a bit salty which is good because the milk chocolate is a bit sweet and kind of greasy (I know that’s the hazard with chocolate and peanut butter). The caramel blends in well, it has its own salty kick but it doesn’t detract from the crunchy nuts or add too much sweetness. I’d prefer a chewier caramel like you find in a Snickers, but that’s not Hershey’s way.
I actually liked this one a bit better than the Reese’s with Caramel, the caramel was distinctive and the roominess of the peanut butter/peanut stack let it all breathe.
Just to give you a sense, here are the previous Reese’s reviews: Reese’s Bites (soon to be discontinued), Reese’s Cookies, FastBreak, Reese’s Sticks, Nutrageous, Reese’s Snack Barz, Reese’s Pieces Peanut, Reese’s Easter Eggs (two versions), Reese’s Bars for those who don’t like their candy in cups or shaped like trees, and of course the less-than-comprehensive Reese’s Full Line, another Big Cup (with mixed nuts) and their new favorite child, the Reese’s Crispy Crunchy Bar.
Friday, January 12, 2007
I’m a big lollipop fan. (No, not that I like big lollipops.) My favorite cheapo lollipop is the Orange Tootsie Pop (though I enjoyed the Limited Edition Tropical flavors last year, too). Blow Pops aren’t quite as good, mostly because the gum isn’t candy and they don’t come in orange.
While wasting time at the Pittsburgh Airport, I found these Blow Pop Minis. They herald, “It’s a Blow Pop with NO Stick!” Hallelujah! Now adults can eat their Blow Pops without being branded Rejuveniles.
While they say they’re Blow Pops without sticks, they’re also without mass. They’re wee little candies, about the size of a smooshed garbanzo bean. And they’re mostly candy. They come in four flavors: Watermelon, Blue Razz, Cherry and Sour Apple. (No, no grape, which is a classic Blow Pop flavor.)
I talk a lot about proportions when it comes to candy. Sometimes something can be coated in too much chocolate or not have enough of a particular element. Let me just say that the blow part of the Blow Pop Minis is sadly lacking.
First, the gum is hard and tacky. Some of the time it wouldn’t even chew, just sit in the crevasses of my molars until I picked it out or ate something to dislodge it. Second, if I got the gum to chew, it was a wee amount. We’re talking the size of a BB. It would probably take six candies to make the amount of gum in one Chicklet.
These are stupid. Why not make one large enough to hold a responsible amount of gum? These little candies are probably a third of the size of a Root Beer Barrel. And you’re wondering, why not just sell them has plain old unfilled hard candies? Well, then they’d just be Charms.
The gum ends up being tough and flavorless ... rather like chewing a stamp or a piece of paper.
The candy part isn’t bad but, of course, none of the flavors are favorites of mine.
This is just a bad idea.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
I’ve often said that you can cover garbage in chocolate and sell it as a delicacy. And we do, you can find chocolate-covered candied orange peels and even dead bugs. (I’m rather fond of the former, not so much with the latter.)
Of course potato chips are hardly garbage, they’re wonderful, wonderful things. I don’t eat them much any longer but I do admit that I miss them. But since my life is all about candy now, something had to go.
When I saw these in the 75% off post-holiday clearance section at Target I figured this was my opportunity to have some chips!
Let me start by saying it’s more chocolate than chip. Each chip is quite heavy but still bears the unmistakable shape and ripple of a potato chip. They even smell a bit of potato chips.
The coating on them smells sweet but not very chocolatey, it smells more like coconut and caramelized sugars. Some of the chips are stuck together, but hey, that happens in bags of chips anyway. There is an unmistakable crunch at the center and a nice hit of salt and an immediate potato chip flavor there.
But something is off about the chocolate. It felt greasy. It didn’t so much as melt as just slide around in my mouth. At first I didn’t know if it was because the chips imparted that but after looking at the ingredients I realized that it’s not chocolate.
Maud Borup’s recipe for milk chocolate goes something like this
So, I guess that’s why they’re called “Milk Chocolate Dipped” in quotes. When in reality it’s just the milk chocolate part that should be in quotes. I’m quite sure the dipped part is accurate. But real milk chocolate, at least in the United States must contain chocolate liquor (the slurry made from grinding up cacao until it’s a smooth paste that is often separated into cocoa powder and cocoa butter). Just putting in the cocoa powder does not make it chocolate. It makes it chocolatish or chocolate-flavored. The fat in chocolate should be cocoa butter ... not palm kernel and partially hydrogenated palm oils. (For the record, the partially hydrogenated amount must have been small since the trans fat content was marked as zero on the label, but who knows if the small print is accurate if they’ve already duped me with the milk chocolate claim.)
Anyway, I really wanted to like these because I am a huge fan of chocolate dipping, including savory items like pretzels. But the greasy texture of the not-chocolate coating and the weird buzzing feeling that the chips left in my mouth (I don’t know what that was ... maybe there were some traces of walnuts in there) just makes me wanna chuck these out the window. I’m really glad they were only two bucks and I didn’t pay the original $8 for them because then I would need to sweep up some glass.
(I’ve had other candies from the overlord company that owns Maud Borup and found them quite tasty, so I’m not going to write the company off completely, though I may email the company about my displeasure.)
Tuesday, January 9, 2007
Joseph Schmidt is a high-end chocolatier based in San Francisco and known for their stunningly beautiful sculptural creations of chocolate. I went to their shop and picked up the ugliest chocolates I could find, cuz I’m like that.
Okay, maybe they’re not the ugliest chocolates I’ve ever had, certainly some of my homemade creations have been pretty homely. The candy above is a strange disk of chocolate referred to as a Batik Slick. Sounds as good as it looks, eh?
It’s simply a very flat truffle. The disk has a little batik-inspired pattern on the top and a lightly flavored ganache in the center. It’s a lot of chocolate and very little filling.
They came in a box of four, weighed in at 3 ounces and had a strange design of bats made from artisan paper and gold googly eyes on the outside. (I bought them on November 1st ... they were from Halloween and 25% off). I have no idea what the different flavors are.
Dark Chocolate with Yellow Tulip may have been rum. Sweet and mellow, a bit creamy and with no real notable flavor except for maybe a hint of bubble gum. Milk Chocolate with Full Moon tasted a bit like coconut. Very sweet and a little greasy. Red-Centered Chocolate Blob had a nice milk chocolatey taste, smooth and creamy. Yellow Burst with Green tasted like lemon. How nice! I like lemon. The dark chocolate was very sweet but creamy and set off the zesty taste.
The truffles are a bit more traditional, except for the fact that they look like the nose cone of a missile. I’ve never been fond of molded chocolates, for some reason I prefer enrobed or dipped chocolates. I don’t know if it’s the rustic look or there’s actually some difference in the chocolate structurally. I’ve had Joseph Schmidt truffles before a few times but I’d never been able to pick them out myself. So at the store I picked the “mini” version because I thought the large ones were just so freakin’ huge that I’d want to eat them with a knife and fork ala Mr. Pitt.
This one is Raspberry Brandy and is nice and dark with a soft and flowing ganache. The shell cracks and falls apart quite easily but has a nice mellow and smoky taste to go with the raspberry infusion.
The other flavors were just as acceptable though nothing thrilling. Pecan Praline was sweet and woodsy, but more maple flavor than nutty. All Dark gave me a good sense of the chocolate, which is Belgian and smooth but the ganache was more buttery than chocolatey. Grand Marnier was ordinary, a touch of orange but it seemed lost in the butter and underwhelming chocolate.
I guess I just don’t understand the fuss about Joseph Schmidt. They’re interesting and certainly less expensive (about $25-$55 a pound) than some of the upscale chocolatiers out there makin’ noise. I have nothing against the tried-and-true flavors either (I’m a See’s nut, remember?) I just wasn’t satisfied after eating them.
Monday, January 8, 2007
Though I try to be on top of the Limited Edition candies and review them when they first come out, I totally dropped the ball on this one. The KitKat Mint Dark Chocolate Minis came out in time for Christmas, though they’re not specifically packaged as a holiday item (other Hershey’s holiday products had little snowflakes on the packages).
The good thing about them being a quasi-holiday item is that they came on sale after Christmas along with all the other holiday candy that may be fresh but sports a now dated red and green wrapper. According to the freshness code, these are good until July 2007!
(On a side note, I have not seen the Cookies ‘n’ Mint Nuggets again this year.)
Let me just start by saying that I liked these far better than the Mint KitKat that came out in the middle of last year. While that one was sickly sweet, this was minty and fresh tasting.
The little shape of these Minis is also fun. Instead of the usual two-fingered snack size, these are a little shorter and of course are only one finger. About the size of my pinkie, which is rather small as fingers go. Because of the small size I felt like there was more chocolate on these. But I also felt like the crispy wafers were really, really crispy. The minted chocolate is pretty smooth, a bit sweet and lacking a rich chocolatey experience, but generally in support of the cookie and mint elements.
I don’t know if I’d buy these again since I’m getting a little tired of them since it was a 10.5 ounce package, but I found them to be far better than most of the other Limited Editions I’ve had in the past year or so.
Thursday, January 4, 2007
This was a super-cute stocking stuffer that Santa gave me this year. I have to say that Whitman’s has never been of much interest to me. Perhaps it’s that I’ve found them a bit stale tasting. But it also might be the package, sure Whitman’s Samplers are retro looking, but that not-so-fresh appearance may have been affecting my taste.
But without the regular packaging, I have to say these looked pretty good. The tin has a Tiffany blue background and gold printing. It’s about the same size as a Sucrets lozenge tin, but a little deeper. Each piece of candy is nestled in a little perfect-shaped spot in the plastic tray.
The long milk chocolate rectangle was called Milk Chocolate Butter Cream, which was a kind of chewy sweet fudge. Very sweet, but a pleasant flavor combination.
The round dark chocolate piece was called Dark Chocolate Coconut and unsurprisingly had a coconut center like a Mounds bar. Fresh tasting and not too sweet, the real winner in the box.
The Messenger Boy was cute, with it’s little cross-stitch look. It was a small tablet of milk chocolate. Sweet and unremarkable.
The last one was the Milk Chocolate Caramel which was just the right consistency. Easy to bite but chewy with nice long strands of caramelized sugar and butter. It could have used some more salt to balance the very sweet milk chocolate.
Do they beat See’s (my touchstone for inexpensive boxed chocolates)? No, not even close. These were fresh tasting but a little too “middle of the road” for me. I wanted more zing, more flavor and less sweet. But I do love the tin.
I am curious to try their new Organic Sampler at some point.
Tuesday, January 2, 2007
There are three things people bring back from Hawaii: photos, coffee and chocolate covered macadamia nuts(CCMN). These are from Big Island Candies, which is a local chocolatier that does more than the typical Hilo Hattie’s style box (and sells both CCMN and Kona coffee).
Yes, everything Big Island Candies does seems to have macadamia nuts in them, but they’ve got some inventive combos with potato chips (Hawaiian style!) and crisped rice. This box featured a mix of milk & dark chocolate covered macadamia nut cups.
The macadamias are crisp and large, with an even crunch and light coconut taste to them. The milk chocolate was very sweet, a little too sweet for my taste, but still good smooth quality stuff. The dark chocolate set off the macadamias better, with a dark smoky flavor and smooth texture. All that said, there’s nothing wrong with me, but I’ve never been a huge fan of macadamias. They’re okay as an added element to a cookie, but as the feature in a chocolate they’re just not what I want to use my daily allotment of calories on (and boy howdy are macadamias calorie intensive!).
If you’re looking for something a little more interesting to bring back from your next island trip, make an effort to find Big Island Candies. Their flagship store is in Hilo on the big island of Hawaii (with factory tours and free samples!), they also have more than candies, they’re known for their cookies as well.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.