Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Name: Ghirardelli Squares - Milk Chocolate with Carmelized Almonds
I couldn’t resist picking up this bag of sweet treats. I was originally plowing through the clearance table at the drug store because they had Hershey’s cookies for 50 cents a package (and it was one of the few times I’d seen the York ones) and I was hoping for some Halloween finds but then I thought, $2 bucks for Ghirardelli? I’ll take it!
I suspect that this flavor is being discontinued because it has no page of its own on the site (well, there’s a link, but the page has a 404 error on it). Anyway, these are cute little 1.75” squares of milk chocolate with little crunchy almond bits in it.
The milk chocolate is smooth and creamy, not too milky tasting but a bit sticky. The almonds are nicely roasted and have a good carmelized bite to them. Mellow and a little bit zippy, there are really nice little sweets to have around.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Monday, November 21, 2005
Here’s a perfectly good idea gone awry. There’s no reason there can’t be good, tasty, “natural” chocolate candies (I think that’s been proven more recently with things like Equal Exchange, Green & Black, Newman’s Own, etc.). This is an example of a weak candy line. Here’s why: First, the colors are dull and unappealing. They’re not colors that I want to eat (except for the yellow, they look like old-lady lipstick colors). They’re not strong or clean, they’re muddy looking and uneven. A grainy looking outside does not bode well for the inside.
The ingredients are basically sugar (natural with unsulfured molasses, blah, blah) then milk powder, then the chocolate ... that’s a long way down the list. And it shows in the final product. The addition of molasses is a little odd. It gives the whole thing a rather toasty burnt flavor, which I enjoy with my oatmeal but not in my chocolate. In fact, I can taste everything in these drops except for the chocolate. The powdered milk, overly sweet sugar and slightly grainy chocolate just combine for a depressing treat. The crunchy shell is too tough and again adds sweet without flavor and further distances me from any chocolately goodness. If it’s possible, the peanut ones tasted more like burnt sugar and milk powder.
With the same number of calories and fat as M&Ms, why am I eating these? I gave them to Amy to try and after much cajoling (because the package, colors and list of ingredients scared her off - and she was the one that wanted to go to Wild Oats on Saturday!) she did put one in her mouth. She chewed a couple of times and then spit it out in my trash can.
If you are a parent trying to find a wholesome treat for the kids, this isn’t it. It sets them up for a lifetime of disappointments, now that’s spoiling them. Just let them have some M&Ms in moderation (the Almond ones are actually not bad for you since the bulk of the candy is actually a very healthy nut). Or just let them have plain old semi-sweet chocolate chips. Dark chocolate really isn’t that bad as a food. Raisinettes? Really, anything but this. Don’t tease the poor kids by telling them this is candy.
Rating: 2 out of 10
Friday, November 18, 2005
Name: York Chocolate Mint Truffle Pattie
I have no idea how long these limited editions last. But I’m still seeing the Whopper’s bars in the 7-11 (I picked up three on this trip and I’m considering checking out CostCo to buy a whole box of them). York did a limited edition Pink Pattie this year too, but that wasn’t really a taste change, as they only made the center of the patties pink instead of white.
This is a different product.
First, I have to say that the Pattie that I got at the 7-11 was exceptionally fresh. The chocolate on the outside was smooth and glossy, the smell was minty with a hint of chocolately promise to it. The center of a York is usually a bit more crumbly, like fudge than it is like a truffle cream. The chocolate truffle pattie is no different. More mint than chocolate, it was much more mild than the traditional mint pattie center. Not quite chocolately, but a nice mellow taste to it. Almost like a brown sugar instead of a sweet white confectioners feel to it.
If you can get past to the promise of a truffle inside, it’s actually a really nice bar. The calorie count per ounce is pretty low for a chocolate candy, so if you’re on a diet and looking for a little treat, this might be very satisfying.
As for the difference from the regular pattie, well, it’s not substantial. If they stick around for a while, I’ll continue buying them. They’re a little creamier, a little mellower than a regular York.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Again I’m trying another Reese’s candy bar. I’m not sure why. I think Reese’s cups are pretty darn close to candy perfection. The Nutrageous bar adds whole nuts and caramel to that.
The bar, as the photo shows, is a center of peanut butter (which is more crumbly than creamy), which has a caramel stripe under it, then the whole thing is rolled in nuts and covered in milk chocolate. It’s a really satisfying, meaty bar. Not too sweet, a good hint of salt to it and some good textures. I don’t know why I haven’t tried this bar sooner. I prefer it far and away over a Snickers bar, which is a little too sticky sweet for me.
It’s still not a “go to” bar for me. I’ll still pick up a packet of Reese’s cups before this, unless I was really looking for a calorie charge with more protein in it. (Reese’s cups has 4 grams of protein, the Nutrageous has 6 grams.)
Rating - 7 out of 10
Monday, November 14, 2005
Name: Snickers Cruncher
I thought this was going to be a different bar. I was expecting it to be a regular Snickers bar but instead of just a chocolate enrobing, I thought that it would have crisped rice mixed in with the chocolate. (I didn’t really read the wrapper.) It’s not quite like that, as you can see from the photo.
Instead it’s a completely different bar. It’s crisped rice mixed with crunchy peanuts with a stripe of caramel on the top and then covered in sweet milk chocolate. Think a Hershey’s Whatchamacallit, only with whole peanuts in it.
It’s definitely crunchier and less sweet than a Snickers bar. It has an overall toffee taste to it because of the caramel and the nuts are very good (not gamey tasting like I’ve found in some cheap candy bars from time to time). It’s not as filling as a regular Snickers (you know they’re all about that “satisfying” thing). It felt lighter and left me wanting more (could be that it has 50 fewer calories). In fact, I’m probably more likely to buy this one than a regular Snickers in the future.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Friday, November 11, 2005
Name: Coconut Slice
I’ve seen this a few times while in the 99 Cent Only store. My neighbor, Robin, won $99 worth of gift certificates to the store, so on our recent shopping trip I was a lot more adventurous with my choices (cuz it was really free).
This candy is basically a coconut slab, kind of like a fruit rollup ... call it coconut leather. The different colored strips might actually be flavored. I detected a little bit of raspberry in the red stripe, but really couldn’t tell the difference between the yellow one and the white one.
The coconut is chewy and not too sweet. If you like coconut and don’t want to bother with all that other stuff like nuts and chocolate, this is the stuff for you. Two grams of fiber in each bar but it does contain about 5 grams of saturated fat (that’s the coconut oil).
Tom’s isn’t really known for their candies, more for their nuts and snacks. They seem like rather a niche company (based in Georgia) and I don’t often see their products here on the West Coast except for the nuts, and those are usually at convenience stores on the highway.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Monday, November 07, 2005
Name: Reese’s Sticks
Years ago Hershey’s made an incredibly good candy bar that I miss very much called Bar None. That has very little to do with this candy bar, but I’d been meaning to mention it. It also had wafers. My grief over the loss of that bar kept me from trying this one for more than five years. (Okay, I really didn’t notice it until about a year ago.)
This package contains two wafer sticks with peanut butter cream filling then covered in milk chocolate. Another really pleasant surprise was that the candy looked EXACTLY like it was shown on the package. The wafers are crisp and substantial and the salty hit of peanut butter is immediate. These are not like a peanut butter KitKat at all, if that’s what you were thinking. The wafers are thicker and crunchier (instead of being crisp). The peanut butter filling is just peanut butter, no fancy creamy stuff and I’m not sure if there’s even any sugar at it (most of the sugar in the bar seems to be in the chocolate).
The crunch is nice and the twin bars are a nice, ample size. The paper tray keeps them intact (I really abuse my candy inside the package before I eat it). It’s very filling and the variation in textures (creamy sweet milk chocolate, crunchy wafers and salty smooth peanut butter) is really satisfying. There are four grams of protein in this candy.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Friday, November 04, 2005
Everyone’s talking about Choxie. Probably half of you reading this right now are here because of a Google search for Choxie. Under a huge marketing blitz, Target is running national commercials that feature go-go dancers extolling “Cha-cha-cha Choxie. Chocolate with Moxie!” They’re having free tastings this weekend (Sunday, November 6th from 1-5 PM at all locations).
A couple of weeks ago my husband picked up some new candy at Trader Joe’s called “Slate of Bliss.” Very cool, I thought. Then I went to Target and saw the SAME thing under their Choxie label called simply “Thin.” As Trader Joe’s is well known for their repackaging of food under its own label, it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. The Choxie is $2.50 a package, the Trader Joe’s is $1.99 ... a 20% savings. The biggest question is who makes the candy for both Target and Trader Joe’s? Actually, the biggest question is ... is it any good?
Since the packaging is identical (a clear cellophane inner wrapper and a matte cardboard box) and the sizes (2.5 ounces) and flavors are similar (Trader Joe’s carries only two flavors, both are included in the Choxie line, but Target has added selection on top of that) I’m going to treat them all the same.
Slate of Bliss - Espresso and Milk Chocolate: I’m not sure why I’m starting with this one, because I was most disappointed with it. The milk chocolate base is sweet (32% cocoa solids) and has that European milk chocolate taste. On top are crushed Arabica espresso beans. The beans are crunchy and of course taste like coffee. They’re not bitter, but definitely have a lingering taste to them and oodles of caffeine. 7 out of 10.
Choxie - Toffee Ginger Thin: I’m a ginger nut, and I love toffee too, so I had high hopes for this. I was a little leery of the milk chocolate base though from the description, as I thought the sweet toffee and crystallized ginger would be set off better by semi-sweet chocolate. The label does not say how much cocoa solids are in the chocolate, and it’s definitely a different chocolate blend than the espresso Slate of Bliss. The milk chocolate is not as dairy smooth, but very sweet and lacks a chocolate punch. The toffee is nice, but I didn’t think there were enough bits on it and the ginger chunks were few and far between (when breaking the whole thing into 8 pieces, two ended up without ginger). 7 out of 10.
Slate of Bliss - Cacao Nibs and Dark Chocolate: I’ve had a few premium bars this year that have cacao nibs in them, and I really enjoy them. They’re like nuts, only chocolate! This bar has a wonderful cocoa aroma to it. Smoky and roasted with a slightly fruity fragrance. The chocolate here is only 54% cocoa solids, but instead of being overly sweet, it has a wonderful creamy cocoa butter melt. The chocolate is smooth with no hints of grainyness and the nibs give it a punch to highlight the nice apricot and cherry notes to the chocolate. 9 out of 10.
Choxie - Peppermint Marbled Crunch Thin: The sassiest of all the packages, this one is exactly what you’d expect from looking at it. A rich semi-sweet chocolate with a little marbling of white chocolate on top and some crushed peppermint candies. There’s no indication of the cocoa solids on this one, but with Sugar as the first ingredient of the chocolate, I suspect it’s less than 50%. The chocolate is slightly more astringent than the chocolate in the Slate of Bliss Cacao Nib one, but the light bitter/dry finish helps to buoy the lighter note of the mint. Though the bar smells mostly minty, it’s definitely chocolatey on the tongue. 9 out of 10.
Now, there’s been some talk in the comments section of this blog about BruCo being one of the company’s that’s making Choxie (I suspect that Choxie is made by several different candy manufacturers to Target’s standards). I don’t know BruCo well enough to comment on that. The two BruCo bars I’ve tried were not at all similar to anything that I’ve seen as part of the Choxie line. I’ve also heard that Vosges is making some of the candy (specifically the chocolate bars and some of the truffles - especially since the flavor of Vosges’ Red Fire Bar is similar to the Choxie Hot Chocolate Bar), but again, I have no confirmation on that. No matter who makes the stuff and my opinions on the flavor combinations, it’s all good quality with fresh and real ingredients.
UPDATE (11/15/05): I got an email from a very helpful reader that pointed me to Veritas Chocolatier who makes something called True Flats which looks EXACTLY like the Trader Joe’s Slate of Bliss packaging shape and of course the flavors.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.