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Von's

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Head to Head: Twisted vs Take 5

TwistedSometimes I wonder if these energy bars are really better than plain old candy bars. Back in the depression candy bars were meal replacements. Many were packed with nuts and over two ounces, which made them a pretty cheap source of satisfying calories at a nickle.

Of course the object these days is not the maximum number of calories per ounce, but how good the nutrition profile is.

Take 5When I want a little lasting energy & snack, I usually reach for some sort of nutty bar, as they tend to have a good amount of protein. Payday bars are always dependable. But I’m also a fan of Lara Bars, which are basically mashed up almonds and dates with a few spices thrown in. At about twice the price though, I often grab the Payday ... and I don’t feel that bad about it.

TwistedAt the 7-11 I spied this little bar in a red metallic wrapper. It’s called Twisted, a “four layered protein bar” features pretzels, caramel, peanuts, nougat and a chocolate coating.

This sounded familiar. In fact, it looked familiar ... very familiar. The Take 5 features pretzels, caramel, peanuts, peanut butter and milk chocolate. Wow, not much difference there ... even in the ordering of the elements.

The price?

Well, Twisted was $1.29 and a Take 5 is $.89 at the 7-11.

The taste?

Take 5I’ve reviewed the Take 5 before and I stand by it. It’s a good bar with a lot of variety of texture in it, not too sweet and because it’s in two pieces, it’s easy to have a little now, have a little later.

The Twisted bar is merely a Tiger’s Milk bar covered in weak chocolate with a pretzel thrown in. It smells like baby formula. It seriously tasted like I was chomping on vitamin leather or something. I often enjoy things that are rather unpalatable, just because I’m fascinated by all the different flavors there are and maybe catty things I can say about it. I didn’t enjoy this, even for the prospect of reviewing it. Luckily the two piece format of the Take 5 meant that I had a palate cleansing second piece at hand.

So you might feel like you’re doing the right thing when you eat this lower calorie version of a Take 5, but you’re certainly not going to enjoy it.

I have to admit that it’s probably unfair to match a candy bar with an energy bar ... but hey, that’s the breaks. They started it by packaging it to look an awful lot like the Take 5.

For some other balanced reviews of snack bars, check out I Ate a Pie’s special roundup from earlier this year.

Nutrition versus Taste
Bar Twisted Take 5
Size 1.62 ounces 1.5 ounces
Fat Grams 6 g (9%) 10 g (15%)
Sodium 150 mg (6%) 180 mg (8%)
Protein 15 g (30%) 4 g
Carbs 21 g (7%) 26 g (95)
Calories 190 210
Brand Premier Nutrition Hershey
Dietary Status none Kosher
Rating 2 out of 10 9 out of 10

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:17 pm     Comments (8)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Starburst Retro

imageSometimes I don’t read the directions. Especially when it comes to things like Ikea furniture and software. On an evening walk a couple of weeks ago with the neighbors and my lovely site programming/design team, we stopped at the 7-11. I scanned the racks for something new and sure enough found the Limited Edition Retro Starburst Fruit Chews. Or so I thought.

I got them home and the next morning went to take their picture. As you can see, that went pretty well. Then I opened the pack only to find that it was the regular flavors with just one of the limited edition array inside. Drat! Not only did I have to buy keep searching, I’d have to buy another package ... and take another photo. Drat!

As luck would have it (I do have plenty) I got an email from a similarly snack-obsessed reader in Colorado who said that they had the large bags at Safeway (called Von’s in my area). So I stopped at Von’s on my way home and lo and behold they serviced all my limited edition needs on sale.

imageI’ve decided after living with them in a jar on my desk all week that I LOVE the Skittles Carnival flavors. For that same period of time I’ve had the Starburst Retro bag on my desk as well. Granted, they fruit chews are not in a pretty glass jar, but I have to admit the tie-dye look of the package is pretty fun and tasty looking.

The package shows a slice of watermelon, a mango, a lime and some cherries. Not really a good sign for me. The concept of retro confuses me as well. From the package design I was expecting something from the sixties and seventies; perhaps the original Starbust flavors (which would be lame as originally the Cherry chew was Lime).

Or maybe retro is just anything that used to be a fad and is no longer popular.

image

  • Psychideli-melon - I consider watermelon a classic flavor, but not one that’s ever really gone out of favor, certainly not in the candy world. It was one of my early favorites from Jolly Rancher. This is tasty and has a big punch of watermelon flavor in it, though a slight bitter aftertaste to me.
  •  

  • Optimus Lime - I’m guessing this name is taken from Optimus Prime, the Transformer with a chest shaped like a Mack Truck. First introduced in 1984 as a toy and later a cartoon, I guess this concept qualifies as retro. As a candy flavor, well, it’s lime. Classic lime. Tart, full bodied with zesty notes and a long slow, salivary-gland-activating chew.
  •  

  • Hey Mango-rena! - I never thought I’d have to bring up the Macarena on Candy Blog. The song and dance of the same name hit big in the States in the summer/fall of 1996. Is that old enough to be retro? The mango is a classic tropical fruit consumed for thousdands of years which only became widely available in the United States in the early eighties. The flavor isn’t really very mango-ish. It takes more like fruit punch to me.
  •  

  • Disco Berry - so we’ve got the eighties and nineties represented, I guess Disco Berry is going to carry the seventies in this mix. This is a very dark red chew that also happens to turn the tongue a similar color. It’s a good berry flavor, kind of like punch but not terribly different from the Mango-rena.
  • As a mix I wasn’t that fond of these. Lime was nice, well, they were all nice, but I never felt like picking out a particular flavor and preferred to eat the Skittles all week. What I really want is a good Citrus Mix. Grapefruit ... why haven’t they done grapefruit? They could put in a tangy tangerine, zesty lemon, biting grapefruit and a key lime.

    Name: Limited Edition Starburst Retro
      RATING:
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 3 UNAPPEALING
    • 2 APPALLING
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Mars
    Place Purchased: Vons (Los Feliz)
    Price: $2.59
    Size: 16 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 120
    Categories: Chew, United States, Mars, Starburst, Limited Edition

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:59 am     Comments (25)

    Monday, May 7, 2007

    Skittles Carnival Flavors

    imageThis bag of Limited Edition Carnival Flavor Skittles absolutely smells like a carnival midway: a combination of waffle cones, cotton candy and freshly shaken lemonade.

    I was a little peeved that I couldn’t find these in a single-serve bag, but at least they were on sale. While many chocolate based products in large bags are only 11-14 ounces, Skittles still come in a full pound bag.

    Skittles Carnival Flavors

  • Cotton Candy (light blue): cotton candy barely qualifies as a flavor. It’s just spun sugar. Some places give it a light strawberry or raspberry flavor, but often I think it just tastes like the color pink. This is sweet and has that light touch of burnt sugar and floral, strawberry sweetness ... all kissed with blue food coloring.
  • Bubble Gum (pink)  - stunningly faithful to the flavor of real bubble gum, sweet and disconcerting, as I thought I could just keep on chewing but eventually it disappeared
  • Candy Apple (light yellow) - candy apples are another one of those things that isn’t quite a flavor. The candy shell on an apple is usually just boiled and colored sugar. I guess the flavor here is cotton candy touched with a little bit of tangy apple.
  • Red Licorice (red) - I’ve never been quite sure what the flavor of red licorice is. I suppose it’s a very mild berry (strawberry and/or raspberry). It’s all sweet with none of the tangy bite of berries.
  • Green Slushy (light green) - this is more than lime. It does taste kind of like Mountain Dew (or what I remember MD tastes like, I haven’t had one in at least 15 years. It’s lime with a bite of bitterness or key lime perhaps. It’s actually really good. I like it better than a regular lime Skittle.
  • The only strange thing about all of the flavors is that the candy shell was every so slightly tangy when first placed on the tongue. While that’s fine for Red Vines and Slushie, it didn’t really belong on the Bubble Gum and Cotton Candy. I’m wondering if that sour bite is the ascorbic acid that gives each serving of Skittles its 45% RDA level of Vitamin C.

    I didn’t care much for the extended flavors I reviewed last week, but I found myself happily munching away on this bag of Skittles without picking out particular flavors. Also, the flavor combinations pretty much all work with each other. Perhaps Slushy and Candy Apple are my least favorite combo but Cotton Candy and Bubble Gum are quite a nice mix. The other fun thing is that there’s not strange Skittles Breath after eating them. Often with the fruity Skittles I find coffee unpalatable. Though they’re not really coffee compatible, they don’t spoil the experience for me.

    Related Candies

    1. Skittles Blenders
    2. Skittles Fizzl’d Fruits
    3. Skittles Crazy Cores
    4. Skittles Carnival Flavors
    5. Skittles (Fruits, Wild Berry, Tropical, Smoothies & Sour)
    6. Skittles Fresh Mint
    7. Skittles Ice Cream
    Name: Skittles Carnival Flavors
      RATING:
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 3 UNAPPEALING
    • 2 APPALLING
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Mars
    Place Purchased: Von's (Los Feliz)
    Price: $2.59 (on sale)
    Size: 16 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 113
    Categories: Chew, United States, Mars, Limited Edition

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:09 am     Comments (90)

    Tuesday, April 17, 2007

    Candy Shopping in Los Angeles

    I buy the vast majority of the candy I review here right in Los Angeles. Nearly all of it is from the normal places where most people buy their candy: Drug Stores, Grocery Stores and Convenience Stores and a few other specialty spots.

    I frequent the following in no particular order:

    Walgreen’s: this chain started popping up in Southern California more than six years ago, but didn’t appear in my neighborhood until the Pioneer Market in Echo Park on Sunset Blvd. closed and they took over the spot. They have a nicely organized candy section with a good variety, regular sales and the store is frequented enough that the inventory turns over quickly. I like it after the various candy holidays as their goods go on deeper sale much quicker. (I got Valentine’s candy for 75% off on the 18th and Easter candy the following Saturday.)

    CVS: This chain just bought out our old chain called Sav-On. Sav-Ons were on and off of my poop list. I’ve bought expired candy there (before I learned how to read the expiration codes), even bloomed chocolate that was supposed to still be fresh and have found their selection a little lacking. CVS hasn’t been around long enough for me to develop an opinion of them yet, but I like how they don’t treat you like a criminal when you try to enter or exit the store, so points there. (They used to have these gates you had to go through with turnstiles to get in and the only way to get out of the store if you weren’t buying anything was to scoot past people in the checkout line.)

    Target: there are several in the area now, each with slightly different layouts and selection. Some of the prices are very good, especially when you find it on sale. They carry their own line of Choxie and can have some incredible after holiday clearances. My favorite one to shop at for candy was in Harbor City and torn down to make way for a newer double-decker model later this year. Holiday clearances can be hit or miss because people make this one of their first stops.

    Von’s: this is not my favorite grocery store, but they do have a rather good candy selection, especially when it comes to mid-range candies and gourmet bars (Ritter Sport, for one). The layout of the store that I frequent on Sunset Blvd. in Los Feliz happens to have a season candy display right at the entry of the store, so it’s an easy stop for me to make on my way home from work. They also seem to carry a lot of limited edition candies.

    Trader Joe’s: this store chain has lots of fans for good reason. Good quality food at great prices. They make you work for it though, with narrow, crowded aisles, difficult parking and long lines. They carry house-brand candies as well as great imported and domestic items at unheard of prices.

    Ralph’s: there are a few locations near to me, but I usually go a bit further afield to a location in Glendale (near the Petco and Cost Plus World Market). They usually have a huge selection of holiday candies (and companion clearance) as well as one of the few bulk candy selections I’ve found in SoCal. I don’t use the bulk bins, only the dump feeder bins (that way I know no one else has been putting their greasy paws on the goodies).

    7-11: the largest convenience store chain in the US, they’re known not only for a location for a quick drink fix, but also their inventory of single-serving candies but also as one of the best sources for limited edition candies. When choosing a regular store, I look for one that has a candy aisle that does not face the large plate glass windows, which can cause chocolate candies to bloom. Prices are steep but if the store has good foot-traffic they candy is always fresh.

    Cost Plus World Market: an import market that features furniture, housewares and food. Their candy selection is excellent, though the freshness is sometimes questionable for the niche candies. Prices can range from reasonable to strangely high. At Christmas they have a wide selection of imported sweeties from all over the world and an equally fun post-holiday sale.

    Specialty Stores:

    Munchies: In West Los Angeles in an orthodox Jewish neighborhood, they have an amazing selection of bulk goods but also a lot of Israeli stuff. Pretty low key place with decent prices. Skip the ordinary stuff here and take a risk on the imported goodies.

    Mel & Rose’s Wine & Spirits: If you’re in the mood for seeing a great selection of high-end chocolate bars & boxed chocolates, check out Mel & Rose’s Wine & Spirits on Melrose Blvd. They also have a huge selection of imported consumer candies from Australia and Europe at decent prices. They’re not far from the Beverly Center and Pacific Design Center just on the border of Beverly Hills.

    The Candy Baron: This is a small chain in California, I found them to be pretty good, they carry a lot of regional favorites and of course bulk goods. They’re in Santa Monica. I don’t recommend a special trip for them, but if you’re down by the Promenade/Third Street/The Pier it might be worth it:

    The Grove and the Farmers Market is a great option for “one stop shopping” in LA. The Grove is an upscale mall attached to the original LA Farmers Market.

    In the Farmers Market there’s a stand called Ultimate Nut & Candy. No great shakes (but they do have good toffee popcorn) but an admirable selection of bulk candies behind the counter along with dipped dried fruits and nostaligic fare.

    There’s also a Fudge & Toffee shop called Littlejohns. I’ve had their fudge, which I think is decent, but their pecan pralines & caramel marshmallow kisses are my favorites. (I haven’t tried their toffee yet.)

    Tucked inside the south east corner is a place called Mr. Marcels - it’s the upscale grocer for the market and they carry quite a few imported candies. Prices are a bit inflated for imported mass-produced goodies, but a good selection and they seem to have a good turnover of product to keep it fresh.

    Also in the compound is Cost Plus World Market (see above) Around the corner from that is a place called Duck Soup that carries regional candy bars and retro favorites.

    India Sweets & Spices: this is a small chain of vegetarian India food served cafeteria-style along with a grocery store. I’ve visited the location in Los Feliz and found a decent selection of European (mostly UK) candy bars. For some reason they keep them in the refrigerator case all year round.

    Asian Sweets:

    Little Tokyo is the ultimate location for candy in Los Angeles not just for Japanese goodies (though that’s the best reason to go there).

    Mitsuwa: a grocery chain, found mostly in California but also a New Jersey location. They have all the standard Japanese fare (Pocky, HI-Chew, KitKat, etc.) plus Hawaiian goodies and some Chinese. Excellent prices, especially given that these are imported. (Most times I get regular Pocky for 99 cents a box.) I go to the one on Alameda and 3rd Street.

    Nijiya Market: a small grocer in the Japanese Village Plaza with an excellent selection of take-away meals, snacks and candies. Good prices, fresh inventory and great location in the heart of the pedestrian area.

    Marukai: clean and bright, excellent selection and location in Weller Court. They also carry a large selection of American consumer candies.

    Fugetsu-Do: Los Angeles’ oldest purveyor of fresh-made Wagashi and Mochi. Red bean, white bean, soy and even peanut butter. They also have a moderate selection of Japanese candy standards.

    Chinatown is also an excellent source of sweets, I’ve not fully explored it though I’ve made plenty of visits.

    Okay, if you live in Los Angeles or have visited, where is a good place to get candy? (I’m still looking for a good store to get bulk candies at a decent price.)

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:44 am     CandyLos AngelesShopping7-1199 Cent Only StoreCost PlusDollar TreeRalph'sRite AidSav-On/CVSTargetVon'sWalgreen'sComments (8)

    Wednesday, May 17, 2006

    Reese’s Bars

    I saw these new limited edition Reese’s Bars and I grabbed one over the weekend.

    image

    The new Reese’s Bar seems to answer the call for the Reese’s Egg to be made year round. But for some strange reason it’s a pale imitation of the Reese’s Egg. I can’t quite figure out why, it is basically an uncupped peanut butter cup.

    The bar is a little messier to eat if you take it out of the package. The oiliness of the peanut butter and the softness of the milk chocolate make it especially soft for handling.

    The peanut butter center crumbles and melts nicely in the mouth, but the proportion of the chocolate to the peanut butter just isn’t right for me. I think I want a smidge more chocolate or lots more peanut butter.

    image

    The other new limited edition addition is this Fudge Reese’s Bar. I was thinking, “Hey, I’d like some peanut butter fudge right now!” But that’s not what I got. In fact, I was wondering if this was ANY different than the Reese’s Bar shown above. The crumbly and cool peanut butter center was just as I remembered eating just a few minutes earlier.

    I looked at the labels:

    Reese’s Bar...............................Fudge Reese’s Bar
    Peanuts…..........................................Peanuts
    Milk Chocolate…............................Milk Chocolate
    Sugar…..............................................Sugar
    Dextrose…........................................Dextrose
    Vegetable Oil…..............................Vegetable Oil

    It continues identically to the very end. The difference appears to be within the ingredients of the Milk Chocolate itself. The coating on the Fudge Reese’s Bar is, well, fudgy, instead of chocolatey. The Fudge Bar has more milk in the chocolate enrobing.

    While that sounds like it’d be nice, it makes for a mess. It’s not that warm here today (in the high seventies) and it’s rather hard to keep this thing from losing its bar-shaped coherence.

    It doesn’t taste as good either, it tastes more like cardboard and less like chocolate.

    Whatever the difference, I reject these bars because there’s nothing wrong with the plain old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. These give you 1.3 ounces, the regular cups give you 1.5 ounces. They cost the same price ... and because they’re leaving out the little paper cups, I get shafted for .2 ounces? Maybe if you’re on a diet and want to trim those extra, um, 31 calories this would be a good deal. I’m not saying these are bad bars. If Reese’s Peanut Butter cups had never been invented and this was my first introduction, I’d be all for them. But they’re far from an improvement on the existing cups, so they get a poor score and can sink into the dark recesses of Limited Edition history.

    Name: Reese's Bar & Fudge Reese's Bar
      RATING:
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 3 UNAPPEALING
    • 2 APPALLING
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Reese's (Hershey's)
    Place Purchased: Von's & 7-11
    Price: $.39 (sale) & $.85
    Size: 1.3 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 154
    Categories: Chocolate, Peanuts, United States, Hershey's

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:20 am     Comments (9)

    Tuesday, June 21, 2005

    Starburst Chew Pops

    Name: Starburst Chew Pops (Green Apple, Orange & Strawberry)
    Brand: Starburst (Mars)
    Place Purchased: Von’s Grocery
    Price: 10 cents each
    Size: .49 oz
    Calories 100
    Type: Lolly/Taffy

    I’ve got to hand it to Starburst. They’ve always packed their candies with flavor. When Starburst first came on the market, I loved them. They were much more flavorful than other taffy treats available at the time. Easier on the teeth, too.

    Starburst now offers lollypops. In the tradition of Charm’s Blow Pops and Tootsie Pops, there are fruit flavored hard candy with a same-flavored Starburst fruit chew center.

    I picked these up at the grocery store at the check out counter (thanks Russ!) for ten cents a pop. The orange is by far my favorite. It’s really orangy, and the flavor goes all the way through with the continuation in the chew. Dirt cheap, I know I’d buy these again. In fact, they’re perfect for Halloween (I like to give away a mix of chocolate and non-chocolate/nut treats for the kids).

    I wasn’t as keen on the green apple flavor as it had a very unpleasant chemical taste to it. But then again, green apple usually does. The strawberry is good too, but also a little bit on the artificial side. They’re rather tart, which is something I enjoy in a fruit hard candy.

    I hope they come out with more flavors. I bet I’d love lemon.

    Rating: 9 out of 10.

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:06 pm     CandyReviewMarsChewsHard Candy & LollipopsStarburst9-YummyUnited StatesVon'sComments (6)

    Page 2 of 2 pages  < 1 2

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