Thursday, October 12, 2006
I’m still on my quest for a Green Halloween and wanted to revisit Thompson Chocolate because they make organic chocolate which is pretty tasty and not that expensive. Though not Fair Trade certified, organic has a lot of benefits to the community (primarily that the forest where the cocoa is grown isn’t being polluted with pesticides and of course it means that you and your kids aren’t eating those residues either).
On the Thompson site they show that they have organic foil wrapped chocolates for Halloween and I did see them at Whole Foods, but only in single serve mesh bags.
I also got a hold of these Jack-O-Lantern Milk Chocolate with Crisp disks. They’re not organic, but all natural. Which is also a good thing when giving kids rather unwholesome things. What’s especially nice is that they walk the line of being both cute and compelling as well as the all-natural thing.
The milk chocolate is sweet and smells a little malty, a little milky. It’s smooth and very sweet but the crisped rice gives it a good crunch. The flavor of the chocolate is mellow and has a slight cool effect on the tongue that had me unwrapping one after another. So, if you have the means and the opportunity to go Green this Halloween, try out their organic foil wrapped treats. You can order via their toll free number on their website.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Purple is the best color ever. It’s the best of both worlds - half blue and half red, like a melting pot of America. When I was a teenager and on the swim team I had two sets of sweats - both were purple. I loved purple and often wore it head to toe (with purple Robin Hood boots). My attraction to grape candies is based largely on this affinity for the color and possibly influenced my love of grapefruit even though it has no grape in it and isn’t purple.
I had a good experience with the Mike and Ike Tangy Twisters and was hoping with something at least equal to that, after all, Jolly Joes have been around a lot longer, so you’d think they’d have something going for them.
They’re very dark, such a dark purple I’d call it eggplant. They smell fake-grapey, with a slight odor of Bic pen ink. When you first place it on the tongue, there’s a slight tangy tingle, but that soon goes away and there’s very little flavor. They’re soft and chewy like a jelly bean, but with very little going on. At the end the flavor is more like cotton candy than grape. Not really very jolly at all.
Special note: this package has both a manufactured date and expiration date ... all in plain English. Hooray for clarity! However, the back of the package was also printed in Hebrew (I think it’s Hebrew, it’s going right to left). I have no idea what market these were intended for, that’s what you get at the 99 Cent Only Store!
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Every great candy has variations in size. Of course shrinking or enlarging a candy doesn’t necessarily make it better, in fact, it usually makes it different. Same components, just different ratios.
Trader Joe’s has gone and mucked around with their Peanut Butter Cups. These are made by the same manufacturer but are wee-tiny. Seriously, you can hardly call them cups. They look like knobs. Little peanut butter and milk chocolate knobs.
The little knobs don’t have flat tops, so they don’t sit quite right, they roll over easily. The easiset way to line them up is to have the top of the cup facing down ... which makes them more knob-like.
The ratio on these definitely leans towards chocolate over peanut butter. The chocolate is cool and sweet and slightly grainy, but matched well with the dash salty peanut butter.
It’s quite easy to just grab a handful of these out of the tub. And of course being chocolate they start to melt in your hand and you have to pop them in your mouth ... then you’ve got an empty hand and need to repeat. So the tub can go quickly. I know it’s tempting to want peanut butter cups with out the little fluted paper cup so that you can shovel them into your maw faster, but really no one needs anything to improve the efficiency of gobbling Trader Joe’s candy.
In the end I kept eating them because I wanted more peanut butter. I think I’ll stick to my Reese’s miniatures.
Note: Yes, I’ve been eating a lot of peanut-heavy candies lately, I credit it to the change in the weather. Some people think fall is all about spice, I think it’s all about nuts.
Monday, October 9, 2006
Ever want a Chick-o-Stick without the coconut? Well, Atkinson’s makes those, too, though they come with the rather boring name of Peanut Butter Bars.
They’re not really bars, either. They’re more like rods. About the size and shape of a cigar or pretzel rod, they’re a hard candy shell with a crunchy peanut butter honeycomb center.
The candy actually comes in a variety of sizes, I usually see a small “changemaker” size with little one bite, individually-wrapped morsels. I like the ratio on this rods quite a bit, it’s a lot more peanut butter honeycomb than it is a hard candy. It has a nice flaky quality with a good salty hit and nutty crunch. It’s really crunchy, which is a great plus and they’re not nearly as messy as the Chick-o-Sticks but also a good all-weather candy.
Atkinson’s also makes something called a Pico-o-Sito which is a spicy peanut butter candy. Sounds pretty good to me, why can’t I find them at a store near me? Atkinson’s does have a nice website where you can order all of their candy and at pretty good prices (and free shipping).
Interesting fact from the website: Chick-o-Sticks & Peanut Butter Bars are vegan - there are no animal products in there (however, it depends on how observant you are on the sugar thing, their site doesn’t say if they use cane sugar or beet sugar).
Friday, October 6, 2006
Around this time last year I barely knew what Fair Trade was and there really weren’t that many chocolate products out there that were Fair Trade Certified. Now you can not only get cocoa and plain dark chocolate, but also some pretty cool flavored chocolate bars. Endangered Species seems to be leading the way with the Fair Trade “candy” bars in their new Premium Organic line.
Each bar is a single serving and easy to pick up at the checkout of your favorite “wholesome” market like Whole Foods, Wild Oats or Zoo gift shop.
Along with the Fair Trade and organic certifications, this bar boasts high cocoa content of 52% (high for a milk chocolate). This wrapper has a giraffe on the label and everyone knows that the pattern on giraffes is known as the peanut shell. (Okay, I made that part up.)
The chocolate is buttery smooth and very sweet on the tongue. It has very strong smoky qualities with a slight bitterness at the start but a good nutty flavor. Once I start eating the bar, the unpleasant burnt quality goes away, but each time I stop and start I have to go through the process all over again. I’m afraid I can’t give it the highest marks because of that. Now, I’m one of those “supertaster” people, so I tend to be more sensitive to bitter, so your mileage may vary.
Interesting fact about giraffes from the wrapper: A giraffe’s neck contains seven vertebrae, just like ours.
Wednesday, October 4, 2006
These aren’t really called Peanut Butter Kisses ... I believe those are molasses taffy with a bit of peanut butter inside of them and are often wrapped in black or orange waxed paper with twisted ends. The real name of these is Hershey’s Kisses filled with Peanut Butter.
PB Kisses were introduced as a limited edition item but were quickly deemed popular enough to become part of the regular repertoire and were added in June 2006.
The PB Kiss sports a light gold wrapper with red wiggly stripes and the word Peanut Butter on the foil. The little red flags say Peanut Butter as well. The Kisses look a little different out of the wrapper, the shell is smoother. These Kisses are molded instead of being extruded, so they’re shiny.
Inside the milk chocolate shell is a little dab of peanut butter filling. It’s got a good roasted flavor with a little hit of salt. It’s not super-smoothed like a Reese’s Pieces, but more like the inside of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (but not quite as crumbly).
They’re very tasty and quite addictive. The only problem I have with them is they’re a little greasy feeling when you take them out of the foil - I know that’s because of the peanut butter.
I’m not quite sure why these needed to be created though ... how different are then from the Reese’s Miniatures, except that there’s only one wrapper on them instead of a cup and a wrapper? The ratio, which everyone knows is very important with peanut butter items, is different though - there’s less peanut butter to chocolate here. So if you’re a chocolate fan but not so keen on a giganto hit of peanut butter, this may be your new favorite candy.
Monday, October 2, 2006
In the continuing series for a Green Halloween, I’m on the lookout for no-compromise treats for kids and adults.
Endangered Species is offering up party packs of their individually wrapped tablets of milk & dark chocolate called “Halloween Treats” - I got a package of the Dark Chocolate ones as a sample directly from Endangered Species.
The package contains 24 fall colored treats that look tasty and should appeal to trick-or-treaters. The cool thing about the dark chocolate ones is that they’re certified vegan, kosher and are ethically traded. Here’s my full review of this product under the name of “Bug Bites.” The dark chocolate is rather dark and intense, so I’d recommend the milk chocolate for trick-or-treaters (unless you want to go vegan).
That all comes at a price though, they’re on the expensive side at $5.50 a bag online but I saw them at Whole Foods for only $3.29. (The display was near the bulk foods, not by the registers or with the rest of the chocolate near the bakery in my store.) They’re a bit cheaper than the Bug Bites, I’m guessing because they don’t have the trading cards. Though that’s a bit much by the pound, the pieces are kind of small which means you get 24 in there. Mix it in with a few hard candies (College Farm - review next week) or lollies (College Farm or YummyEarth - review later this week) and the kids won’t be tempted to egg your house. Ethically traded means that you’re not taking advantage of families in Africa and South America, so it really can be a Happy Halloween all around.
To learn more about Fair Trade (and the difference between Ethically Traded and Fair Trade Certified) check out GreenLAGirl ... October is Fair Trade Month!
Friday, September 29, 2006
I’m not quite sure what possessed me to do this array of bars, but here it is. Readers write in and ask what sorts of American candy they should take with them as hostess gifts or ship to friends overseas as quintessential American bars. The Milky Way is right up there, as one of the earliest bars that Mars developed (1923).
It’s a bar that I should love, after all, it’s supposed to be a malted milkshake in a bar.
There are several iterations of this bar both here and abroad. I got a hold of the American versions of both the milk chocolate and dark versions and the UK Mars (milk chocolate) and Canadian Mars Dark (dark chocolate).
The bar is called Milky Way in the United States but everywhere else on the planet it’s known as the Mars. (There was once an American Mars bar, but that’s since been renamed Snickers Almond ... there is a bar called Milky Way in the rest of the world too, but that’s like the American 3 Musketeers bar.)
I haven’t had a Milky Way bar in about 10 years. I’ve always thought they were too sweet, but after breaking one open the smell of malt was really compelling, making me doubt the wisdon of my embargo. The nougat here is the highlight, a medium color of fluffy, slightly grainy nougat covered with a stripe of caramel and covered in milk chocolate.
The flavors go nicely together and the caramel has a slight salty note to it that balances out the very sweet and only passably smooth chocolate. The malt is earthy and brings flavor to the bar.
The UK bar known as Mars has a similar cocoa colored and grainy, fluffed nougat covered with a stripe of glossy caramel and then milk chocolate. The caramel here was noticeably smoother, but the maltiness was much more subdued and replaced with a milky flavor.
The American bar is on the left and the British on the right. There was a difference in size, the British slightly larger at 62.5 grams over America’s 58.1 grams. The UK bar as slightly longer and a little taller.
Recently the standard bars started to appear in darker coats. Back in 1936, based on the success of the Milky Way bar, Mars introduced the Forever Yours bar. It remained in the Mars product line until 1979 when it was discontinued. Customers complained and the Milky Way Dark bar was introduced in 1989 and then the name changed to Milky Way Midnight in 2000.
Milky Way Midnight - beautiful dark bar with little folds of chocolate on the top. The dark chocolate has a little reddish tone to it. Inside is a fluffy white (with a yellow tone) nougat and a stripe of caramel. Smells slightly smoky and very sweet. The caramel dominates in this bar and its sweet stickiness isn’t completely offset by the smooth but otherwise flavorless dark chocolate.
Mars Dark - a stunning dark bar with glossy dark brown chocolate. Inside is a fluffy white nougat (with a slight yellow tone) and a stripe of caramel. The nougat on this one seemed slightly grainier but still sweet and only slightly less overwhelmed by the caramel. The chocolate, though pretty still doesn’t add much of a flavor counterbalance for the whole bar just a smooth texture.
The wrapper on the Mars Dark bar is a bit of a blunder, if you ask me, as it seems to indicate milk chocolate by its lighter, creamy color over the black package of the Mars bar.
So, you’re wondering what the difference is? The American one is on the left and the Canadian on the right. The Canadian bar is larger, by .1 grams. The ingredients list is virtually identical as well. The only difference on the labeling is that the Canadian one lists the true trans fat content at .1 grams (American food does not have to be labeled if it’s less than .5 grams).
The important thing to note is that the milk chocolate and dark chocolate versions differ in more than their coats. The nougat is markedly different. The dark bars are missing the malt component, and instead have the vanilla nougat (that’s found in the American Snickers Almond bar). The difference between the American and foreign bars isn’t that marked and I think that fans should be happy with either when they’re traveling. I give all bars a 6 out of 10.
Overall, I wish that the Milky Way Midnight or Mars Dark really was just a dark chocolate version of the Milky Way/Mars bar - I think the combo of dark chocolate and malted goodness would be great. But Mars must not believe that (I’m not sure if the Forever Yours had the malted nougat or not ... honestly I think it’s wrong to muck with too many ingredient variations and try to stick the same name on it). I might pick one of these out of a bowl of miniatures, but I’ll stick to the See’s Awesome Nut & Chew Bar as my favorite nougat candy bar for now.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.