Friday, January 10, 2014
A couple of years ago I was treated to a small tasting of a new line of candy bars. They’re from Amy’s Kitchen, which already makes vegetarian convenience foods. I finally started seeing them on store shelves at the end of last year, even at major grocery retailers like Von’s, not just Whole Foods or Mother’s Market. I’ll have reviews of all four of the bars, but I thought I’d start with their unique offering first, the Amy’s Organic Andy’s Dandy Chewy Candy Bar.
The package says Soft caramel with pecans covered in chocolate. Well, that not only sounds good, it doesn’t sound like any other candy bar on the shelves.
All the bars in the line are color coded and feature the name large and in the middle of each wrapper.
As you’d expect with an organic candy, they’re expensive. I didn’t see them selling for less than $2.29 a bar, and as high as $2.79.
They’re 3/4 of an ounce each, about 2.25 inches long and one inch wide.
The bite is excellent, it’s soft and chewy, with a stringy pull to the caramel that’s not too sticky. The pecans are small, but provide a lot of texture and maple-flavor. The milk chocolate is robust and stands up well to the rest of the ingredients. The whole thing isn’t too sweet, though it is rather milky.
There’s a lot of information on the wrapper. I love transparency. But it’s poorly organized. So here’s all the info provided, in order for people who read left to right, top to bottom. (I don’t, but I’ll list them that way.)
0 g of trans fat
So when I went looking for the peanut statement it wasn’t with the gluten free statement (which may or may not be contradicted by the wheat in the facility statement), it was on a separate line in different type. It’s a big old mess. Some are marketing statements, some are transparency statements, some are FDA mandated inclusions.
My issues with the back of the package aside, this is a no-compromise bar when it comes to taste and ingredients. It tastes like candy, but I feel like someone is putting a lot of thought and consideration into it behind the scenes. For this bar, the fact that it’s not even something that I can get in GMO form means that I’m more likely to reach for an Andy’s Chewy Bar in the future.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Easter is the time of cream eggs. There are so many different versions and Russell Stover makes about half of them. From caramel and peanut butter to raspberry whip and strawberry cream, they go for variety. This year their newest introduction is not another egg, but a reshaping of one of their classic eggs into a different format. Behold the Russell Stover Big Bunny Dark Chocolate & Coconut Cream.
The package design is nice, I liked it quite a bit, with its bold illustration style. Though the wrapper is a bit flimsy, it seems to do a good job of protecting the contents. It says that it’s made with 100% real chocolate, which is great news and that it’s made proudly in America. They were on sale for $1.00, which is a pretty good deal for a 2.25 ounce candy bar these days.
The bunny is large, just as the package promised. It’s a little over 5 inches tall (though one of my ears was a bit broken off because I fumbled with it when I took it out of the wrapper).
The shape is only vaguely rabbit. I’m not even sure if it’s just a giant rabbit head or supposed to be a whole rabbit body. It’s enrobed though, which is my favorite kind of chocolate coating. If you’ve ever seen a chocolate enrober, you’ll understand part of my fascination with the technique. A center is pushed through a curtain of melted chocolate, which coats it and hardens as it moves along a conveyer that cools it. (Watch it here, it’s kind of mesmerizing.)
The chocolate is thick enough to create a bit of crunchy break when I bit into it. Because of the irregular shape of the rabbit, it also meant that the ratio of chocolate to coconut would change. The center was thick and had a large density of coconut cream. The cream is light and airy with a smooth sugary grain to it and not too much coconut. The coconut is in very small pieces, less like a Mounds or Almond Joy. There’s even a light hint of salt in there.
It’s a nice product, easier to eat, oddly enough, than the egg version that’s a classic. However, it’s quite large. The package says that it’s one portion, which is 280 calories. I’d prefer to consume it in two or three sittings, as I did. The package was pretty easy to open and fold over and tape closed between those portions.
It’s a good addition to the Russell Stover line of Easter goodies. It’s not overwhelming as a huge chocolate rabbit, but a little more precious than the chocolate covered coconut cream egg.
Though it’s made with dark chocolate, there’s plenty of dairy in there and may contain traces of nuts.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Godiva Chocolatier has been moving into more stores lately - places like Cost Plus World Market and even drug stores like CVS. This holiday was the first time I saw them in my ordinary grocery store (Von’s). The mass-market fare isn’t quite like the stuff in their shops, it’s small bites (Gems) and bars along with their Chocoiste line of little pearls.
They’re still rather expensive, this bag of Godiva Gems Peppermint Truffles was selling for $6.00 before Christmas. Though the bag looks pretty big (similar to the stand up bags from Ghirardelli which holds nearly 3 times as much), it only holds 3.5 ounces. But after Christmas I snagged this for only $2.64 ... a fair price for a real white chocolate product.
The package says: White chocolate with creamy candy cane filling.
The package warns that some settling of contents may occur in shipping, and they’re not kidding. There are 10 individually wrapped Gems inside, making two layers - that’s a lot of empty space in the bag. Each sphere is wrapped in a candy cane striped mylar twist.
The truffles are about 1 inch in diameter. They’re not completely spherical, they’re slightly faceted, I’m guessing to go with the Gems part of the name. They remind me of well-used polyhedral dice.
They’re formed from two hemispheres, so there’s a distinct seam in the center. Sometimes with a little gentle pressure on opposite sides of the seam, I can pop the sides apart. They’re each filled with the pink cream and then joined together with some more white chocolate.
The pieces are soft, the shell yields easily when bitten. The center is a soft cream made of white chocolate, sugar alcohols, butter and some palm oil along with some red food coloring and peppermint flavor. There’s just a little dash of salt in there. The sorbitol and xylitol are used as sweeteners to good effect. Both of them are lower in calories but they also are less sweet and provide a cooling effect on the tongue. (Some folks cannot tolerate sugar alcohols, but I don’t think there’s much in here.)
They were good quality, I liked that the ganache filling wasn’t greasy and thin tasting like the Lindt Lindor Truffles, which I see these as competing with. But the flavor combo wasn’t really best for me, I wanted a rich, silky dark chocolate shell and the white chocolate, minty ganache center. White chocolate lovers may disagree though. They’re not too sweet, which is also refreshing.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
The companion to last week’s Licorice Natural Vines are the new Strawberry Natural Vines.
I’m often hesitant to call them red licorice, but in this case the wheat based chew made by the American Licorice Company does have a small amount of licorice extract in it. As a natural product they’re made with wheat flour, cane syrup, sugar, brown rice syrup, palm oil, malic acid, natural strawberry flavor, beet juice (for color), glycerin and licorice extract.
The package is nicely designed, I had no trouble spotting it on the store shelf. It’s a soft but light plastic bag that looks kind of like kraft paper at first glance. It has a resealable zipper top, which is handy for a half pound bag.
They’re not as sticky as the Black Licorice version, which was a bit of a relief. The Strawberry version are slightly translucent, which kind of got my mouth watering, like they might be some sort of wheat flour thickened Strawberry jelly.
The twists are pleasantly big with a good bite and chew. They’re soft but not mushy. They don’t smell like much, just a light fresh and slightly sweet scent that’s not even strawberry.
They’re tangy. That’s the first thing I noticed, they’re not quite sour but definitely tart. The chew is smooth but eventually a little crumbly, so they don’t stick to my teeth like some soft licorice products can. They’re not doughy but still have a bit of a starchy film towards the end.
The strawberry flavor is a bit green, since it’s more on the tart side of things, it’s not the sweet, cotton candy floral note that some real strawberries exude. The only other all natural product that I’ve had that’s similar is the Panda Strawberry Bar, but that’s almost like a fruit leather texture to the chew and has a slightly more earthy and jam flavor because of the molasses in it.
I found them appealing to eat, but not exactly begging for me to have more. They seemed more like a snack than a candy since they’re not that sweet. But of course the “less sweet” part and wheat base may be appealing to some parents - there’s only a trace of fat (1 gram per 1.41 ounce portion) and slightly more than 100 calories for that serving. A serving is nine of these pieces, so a child or adult could be satiated by this. They’re expensive at regular price (2.99 for this half pound bag) but a bit cheaper than some “fruit snack” options - though these have no vitamin C fortification. These might be considered vegan (depending on your feelings about sugar).
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Earlier this year one of America’s largest licorice companies introduced something radically different for them. American Licorice launched Natural Vines. They come in black licorice (true licorice) and strawberry licorice (red licorice).
I liked the package, it’s a sharp looking kraft brown with black vine swirls. It stands up well, with a gusset on the bottom. It looked pretty small but each bag is a half a pound. I was a little aghast at the price though. I paid $2.99 for mine. I’d been looking for it in stores for a while and finally found it at the grocery store and it wasn’t on sale. I bought a half a pound of Red Vines last month for a dollar, so this stuff is three times the price.
As the name implies, they’re all natural and feature real licorice extract. The style is America, with its soft chew and molasses and wheat flour base.
Yes, they’re slick looking and shiny. They’re also sticky; far too sticky for my liking as they’re almost moist.
The smell lightly spicy like a cup of chai or a gingerbread cookie. Each nub is about an inch long and a big bite or two small bites.
The chew is soft and a little bouncy. It doesn’t stick at all to my teeth and has a mild flavor overall. The molasses is woodsy, but not bitter. There are notes of toffee and of course anise. There’s also that true natural licorice flavor, which is light and sweet and a little slick on the back of the throat.
The flavor is fresh but also not very intense. I found it easy to eat but not actually satisfying to my cravings for really intense licorice and deep molasses. They’re better than regular Black Vines (or Red Vines Black Twists as they’re officially called), I can’t give them a higher rating. The stickiness, mildness and vastly higher price didn’t really balance it all out.
The ingredients are considered vegan (although there’s cane sugar in there). Also of note, there’s no artificial colors or corn syrup (they use rice syrup). The only hinky ingredient is palm oil, though it’s not much as each 1.41 ounce serving contains only one gram of fat. There’s also 15% of your RDA or iron, 6% of your calcium and a gram of fiber & protein.
Friday, August 1, 2008
Altoids has a pretty wide variety of flavors and their newest innovation (from late 2006) is offering their most popular mint flavors covered in dark chocolate. This summer Wrigley’s has not only brought out a new mint flavor, Creme de Menthe, they also offer it in the Altoids Dark Chocolate Dipped Mints format.
The dark brown tin with gold and green accents looks rich and inviting. It was easy to spot on the rack at the checkout at Safeway when I was up in the Bay Area and I was lucky enough to catch them on sale, too, at only $1.50 for the package.
The dark chocolate covered mints don’t look like much and look identical to the previous varieties. They smell, well, minty and chocolatey.
I prefer crunching mine. The chocolate cleaves off pretty easily and the mint inside has a satisfying crunch. But the chocolate is pretty good too, though tastes more of mint than chocolate, it’s creamy and has a buttery melt and dry finish.
I can’t quite peg what Creme de Menthe is in the first place, so all I can say is that this variety is for people who would like Altoids but find them too strong.
These are like eating a hardened Junior Mint. The dark chocolate complements the mellow mint well, the mint lingers and feels fresh and cool longer after it’s gone.
I ate the whole tin. While the curiously strong Peppermint variety keeps me from eating more than, say, eight or ten in one sitting, it took me only two sessions to eat this whole package. But of course the package only holds 1.76 ounces, so it wasn’t a huge binge. And my breath smells pretty good now. I think I might prefer the softer bite of something like Junior Mints, Dutch Mints or York Peppermint Patties, but I have to say that the crunch was different enough that these aren’t quite interchangeable. (But they are more expensive.)
As with all the traditional Altoids mints, these have gelatin in them and are unsuitable for vegetarians.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Earlier this year I teased a new line of Dots from Tootsie. The single flavor boxes of the [Aristotelian] Elements line are based on the four elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Each of these elements is assigned a flavor and a not-found-in-nature color. (There’s actually a fifth element in Aristotle’s list, Ether, which makes up the stars and celestial bodies.)
The idea behind these elements was that they were combinations of heat and moisture, or lack thereof. So Water is wet and cold, Fire is hot and dry, etc. We now have an exceptionally complex table of the elements which takes a completely different approach to what makes up the physical world.
The packages for Dots Elements are quite striking. Black and neon, they’re hard to miss at the store as they stand out from other theater-sized boxed candies. (This is the only size I know that these come in so far.)
I didn’t buy these, instead Sera who was visiting Los Angeles last week shared her bounty of huge boxes with me (so look for her perspective soon).
The color is hard to describe, it’s translucent and reminds me of the color that results when you mix water with absinthe. Milky green.
The scent is, well, like walking into a Bed, Bath & Beyond. A strange floral smell that I can’t quite put my finger on.
The nice thing was that these were exceptionally fresh. The smooth bite gives way to a rather delicate sweet flavor.
I tastes very little like green tea to me, which usually has a rather grassy flavor to it. They’re fresh but a little cloying. They remind me a lot of Turkish Delight.
This was the most predictable flavor of the new line. What’s more, there used to be Hot Dots (made from 2004-06, I stumbled across some very old boxes at the 99 Cent Store in Hollywood late last year).
The color is a bit light, but that’s okay with me, as I don’t need the bitter food coloring especially when there’s only one flavor in the box.
These don’t smell like much at all, but have a pleasant cinnamon bite to the. Not too sweet either, there are little pockets of sizzle now and then, they remind me of Spearmint Leaves.
I’d be pretty happy if these stuck around.
This color was freaky ocean blue ... unless you put them under florescent lights and then they were more green.
Like the cinnamon they don’t smell like much.
These seemed a bit firmer than the rest but still had a smooth chew to them.
The wintergreen flavor is pretty strong and brings to mind things like root beer (pleasant), teaberry gum (yum) and ben gay (ewww).
They feel fresh. But I’m always hesitant to eat wintergreen things because so many people have a visceral reaction to them. The good thing is that until you chew them up, no one knows what they are.
This is the only fruit flavor among the group and it makes sense that it represents the earth. The pomegranate was actually cultivated in Aristotle’s time and had great cultural significance.
As daring as I thought the green tea flavor was, I think pomegranate is pretty high up there. I love pomegranates though I don’t eat them as much as I used to. Real pomegranates are intense with a combination of tart berry flavors, a dark drying quality in the mouth and of course a deep syrupy sweetness. Oh, and they’re very pretty both on the tree (they look like huge rose hips) and taken apart in a bowl.
Instead of being a garnet-colored drop these are purple, which I guess is what color pomegranate juice is. This is the only Dot in this group that has a touch of tanginess to it. The flavor doesn’t really feel like pomegranate. If someone gave these to me I’d just say that they’re cherry-berry.
On the whole, I actually think they’re a good effort. They’re different, the hook of the elements had me more than interested and of course they’re dirt cheap. It’s a bit different for Dots to have just one flavor in a box, so you’d really better like it. I finished the cinnamon first, then the green tea, then the wintergreen and I still have some pomegranate left.
Dots are a starch-thickened candy, so there’s no gelatin in there. These are suitable for vegetarians and even vegans.
Monday, January 7, 2008
I was at the grocery store and saw these “petite mint chips” on post-holiday sale. At only $1.24 for a 12 ounce bag, I could hardly resist. Sometimes I find myself spending six or eight dollars a pound for these little beauties in pastels at a candy shop when I get one of those strange cravings. They come in two different sizes, the regular which are the size of a squat Hershey’s Kiss and these that I picked up are the petite size that are like little chocolate chips.
What are Smooth n Melty? Sugar, partially hydrogenated oils and mint ... and a few nonpariels thrown in for a little crunchy texture.
While that doesn’t sound good, they’re simply buttery melting mints. They’ve very sweet but not too minty. There’s a milky component to them, but it’s not an overwhelming dairy flavor. They’re completely unsatisfying in the sense that I have to eat them one after another until the whole bag is gone. (Well, there are a few left in the bag right now.)
The only thing I didn’t like about this “baking chip” variety over the pastels is that I had that little bitter taste from the red nonpariels (red dye #40 again).
Back in ‘06 when Hershey’s introduced their Candy Cane Kisses I was so excited. They were Smooth n Melty, only made with cocoa butter instead of partially hydrogenated tropical fats. Sadly Hershey reformulated those seasonal Kisses so they are no longer made with just cocoa butter so I didn’t buy them this year.
Now if the partially hydrogenated thing puts you off, I did talk to Gary Guittard about Smooth n Melty. He said that they are working on reformulating them to include no trans fats. (But Guittard has no plans to make a real cocoa butter version, drat!) You can also get the mint disks without the nonpariels on them (usually for melting & candymaking) but I prefer the little crunch.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.