Thursday, April 9, 2009
While some folks find the Cadbury Creme Egg to be the ultimate achievement in Easter confectionery, be warned that there are some pretenders to that throne. At the stores this year I found two such “knock offs.”
I found Walgreen’s and CVS had their own eggs this year. The CVS brand is called Absolutely Divine and comes in gold foil with a purple and black logo ... which made me wonder if they were a dark chocolate product. The Walgreen’s version is in primary/secondary colors and comes in both the Creme Egg and Caramel Egg.
What could a store brand have to offer? Well, the first thing I noticed about these CCE simulations is that they’re bigger. In fact the shelf box for the Walgreen’s said that they’re 14% larger. These eggs are like the once powerful Cadbury Creme Eggs in their original 1.38 ounce size (CCE are now 1.2 ounces).
Walgreen’s had these generic looking Creme Eggs on sale this past weekend for 40 cents each, which is not much less than an actual Cadbury Creme Egg. What I found so surprising is that I’ve been to that Walgreen’s at least twice before during this Easter season and these weren’t out on the shelves.
It was tough to read the wrapper. What I did get was that these are made in Canada and the chocolate shell is made of real chocolate.
Biting into the egg was a bit tough. It’s a thick shell and I was greeted with a creme that resembled a cordial more than the fondant than I was used to.
The difference between the egg white and egg yolk wasn’t quite apparent, though the best I could tell was there were two different colors of fondant in there. The center was sticky and inconsistent. Sweet, flavorless with little patches of clotted graininess.
Rating: 3 out of 10.
Biting it was similarly difficult to the Creme version - the shell is thick and almost solid on either end with only a minor void for the caramel at the center.
The caramel isn’t chewy or flowing. Instead it’s more of a pudding-like goo. As far a flavor though, it’s like a good caramel pudding, it’s very smooth and has some toasted sugar flavors. The chocolate shell is a bit hard, a little grainy and very milky tasting.
As far as this brand goes, I rather liked this Caramel Egg ... not enough to buy it again, but as a simulation of the venerable original, it at least meets expectations.
Rating: 4 out of 10.
The CVS Absolutely Divine Creme Egg didn’t look like much in the store. There was no explanation on the display box, and actually finding the “creme egg” part on the wrapper was pretty tough sleuthing that involved carefully flattening the foil after unwrapping.
I fully expected these to be made in Canada like the Walgreen’s counterpart ... that they just came spilling off the line to be randomly divided into different groups for different foil wrappers. This was more shocking when I read that they have identical ingredients and molding. But origins aside, the important part is how much they cost and how they taste.
I paid 50 cents each for these.
The creme center was also similarly inconsistent, though not quite as flowing as the Walgreen’s version.
The chocolate shell was disgusting. It tasted like roasted cardboard. Musty, grainy and overly sweetened, perhaps steamed cardboard.
The sweet filling was completely overpowered by this too-much-bad-shell. And the name, well, they’re absolutely not divine.
Rating: 2 out of 10.
I have one other piece of not-so-shocking info. These are all sticky. Not something to be eaten while using a keyboard.
What I came away with is this: if you love Cadbury Creme Eggs, buy Cadbury Creme Eggs. If you don’t like Cadbury Creme Eggs, these aren’t going to persuade you that they’re a great candy. Spend the extra eight cents or whatever the price difference is and get the real stuff.
Friday, January 16, 2009
In Los Angeles this week it’s been in the eighties. Yes, in January. So the thought of Mike and Ike Italian Ice doesn’t feel a bit out of place in this strange heat spell.
Though Mike and Ike are available in single serve bags, I see them most often in the movie boxes. I think it’s cool, I like the bold designs on them and of course they’re usually a better value than the single serve. But the packaging itself has been bugging me for a while. Inside the rather large box (for something that holds 4.2 ounces) is a plastic bag. I’d be just as happy to pick up a peg bag for the same one dollar as the box. (A package that collapses as you eat it is handy, too.)
To have both the box and the bag is wasteful, though probably ensures freshness and keeps the soft candies from getting crushed.
I’ve had my fair share of Italian Ice over the years, though usually in the little cups from the convenience store freezer. And always lemon. What distinguishes Italian Ice flavors from other fruity flavors? There’s no indication on the box, except that it tells me that it has Your Favorite Italian Ice Flavors. Which isn’t exactly true, since as I mentioned, I really just like lemon and they’ve put four other unnecessary flavors in here.
The colors are similar to a set of highlighter pens. A little less vivid, a little less dark than the regular Mike and Ike.
The flavors here are:
Light Red = Cherry: A light woodsy cherry flavor. Because the color isn’t quite as dark, I’m guessing it didn’t need as much food coloring so I don’t get a typical bitter aftertaste. Which makes this a flavor that I don’t have to avoid. (Though it was still the last flavor left after I picked over them anyway.)
Light Blue = Blue Raspberry: this one has flavors on the darker end of the raspberry flavor profile, kind of like jam. But then there was a pop of menthol or mint in there. I don’t know if this was the Italian Ice part of it that was supposed to emulate that cool feeling of sorbet, but really it just make me think I was eating a cough drop.
Light Green = Watermelon: Grossly artificial tasting and a strange aftertaste, especially when paired with the citrus ones. (Bitter & slightly medicinal.) Bad artificial watermelon may replace my dislike of cherry very soon.
Light Orange = Orange: Nice blend of orange essence and orange juice flavors. Could use a little bit more tartness.
Light Yellow = Lemon: Light, tangy but also a little fizzy. Didn’t quite have a minty taste. Becomes rather sweet and flavorless quickly.
As you can guess, my favorite assortment so far was been the Mike and Ike Alex’s Lemonade Stand. But Tangy Twister comes in second and if you look sharp in late February you’ll probably see the Jelly Bean variety for Easter as well (I bought them last year on an after-holiday sale and, well, ate them).
These are filled with artificial colors & flavors but are technically vegan.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
I checked through plenty of stores and found Walgreen’s had the best selection by the time the 75% off discount came around. This is when I jump on items I only eye at full price and then hem and haw over at half off. One was this Ghirardelli Squares Limited Edition Holiday Chocolate Assortment. Full price was $8.99, so $2.24 for over nine ounces of chocolate sounded like a great deal even if it was seasonally themed.
The assortment includes Peppermint Bark, Egg Nog and Chocolate Pecan Pie.
Ghirardelli, I think, is known for their Peppermint Bark. It’s one of the few brands that dependably makes the stuff and actually uses cocoa butter for their white chocolate.
The construction of the square is pretty simple. A milk chocolate base layer is covered with a minted white chocolate studded with little crunchies.
The scent isn’t overpoweringly minty, which probably saves the other chocolates in the bag from tasting like mint, too.
The texture of the chocolates is smooth and silky, very sweet but not achingly so. The little crunchies in the white chocolate aren’t crushed candy canes though, they’re corn flake bits (colored red). The crunch is a bit more cereal than hard candy but still puffy.
It’s kind of odd that this sort of confection isn’t available year round, but since Ghirardelli has been bringing it back faithfully each winter, I shouldn’t complain.
Of the three flavors in the bag, this was the one that sold me on it: Egg Nog.
It’s just extra vanilla-y white chocolate (with real cocoa butter) and a visible dash of nutmeg.
I love the flavors of egg nog, but never really cared for sweet or thick drinks so the idea of a solid, melt-in-your-mouth version of it is ideal for me.
The square is a creamy yellow color and smells like nutmeg.
The white confection is sweet but pretty smooth and has the woodsy blast of nutmeg and tastes, like, well, Egg Nog. It could use a little more vanilla and maybe a slight hit of rum.
A real winner, if only because no one else makes a plain old white chocolate with nutmeg bar. Truffles, yeah, but not just a block of white chocolate. Great idea, well done, bring it back next year and I’ll probably buy it before it goes on clearance.
One of the reasons I thought that this review, even at this late date, would still be of value is that the Chocolate Pecan Pie is not a limited edition item. It’s available now as an individual bar or in single-flavor bags of the Squares. (Also, I don’t think Pecan Pie has a season.)
This little milk chocolate square smells wonderful, like maple, hot chocolate and caramel.
The milk chocolate is smooth, though plenty sweet. Mixed in is a light crunch of toffee coated pecan bits. They have a little salty hit and of course the caramelized & buttery crunch of pecans.
(The photos make it look like the chocolate is bloomed, I don’t think it was, I think it was the fatty pecans messing with the sheen of the chocolate. Mmm, fatty pecans.)
Overall, the array is fun and something I feel comfortable eating out of season at the moment. Especially because I love individually wrapped squares. A bonus is that a sandwich of the Egg Nog & Chocolate Pecan Pie actually go pretty well together. (But the Peppermint Bark doesn’t work with either.)
The only thing that really bugged me was that the ingredients weren’t listed separately for each of the squares. I was able to get the ingredients for the Peppermint Bark because it’s sold separately, but I really like to know what’s in items that I’m able to choose from a dish.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
So I greeted these Disney Happy Holiday Chocolate Figurines in milk and white chocolate with a bit of an eye roll. However, I did look over the package pretty carefully before opting to pay the $1.99 and saw a few things that convinced me that these might be worth the premium royalties to the Disney company.
First, the ingredients are all natural. Second, they’re made in the United Kingdom, not China or Brazil. Third, they list the actual cocoa solid content on the back (30% for the milk chocolate). Fourth, the white chocolate is real, there’s no palm oil or coconut oil in here. Fifth, the product is nut free (and also says it’s suitable for vegetarians).
They’re specific about the lengths that they go to and further, they give actual contact information for the company. Not some silly info email address, an actual person with a real email address and phone number (I didn’t try it though).
The box and little molded chocolate shapes reminded me of Advent calendars. When I browsed through the annoying but pretty complete Kinnerton website I found that they do make Advent calendars and most of their products are marketing tie ins with branded characters like The Simpsons, Barbie, Spiderman and Disney.
The chocolate pieces came in three different designs:
Winnie the Pooh sits there looking kind of rolly polly. Eeyore with his little bow-tied tail looped over his leg with one paw up, he seemed kind of happy. And Piglet was holding a jar of huny.
The milk chocolate is smooth and tastes a lot like powdered milk. It’s super sweet but also has almost no grain to it, even though it’s pretty sticky it has an excellent mouthfeel and melt.
The white chocolate tastes like Easter, through and through. A bit on the grainier side, there’s a strong milk and fake vanilla flavor. The cocoa butter background does a good job of allowing the flavors (such as they are) to come through.
Overall, a little on the pricey side. However if you have a kid with food allergies, these have no other compromises. They’re cute, the piece size is excellent for little ones and the design of the tray & pieces is well done. However, the little icons aren’t exactly holiday themed, just the box that they come in.
The packaging also had Walgreen’s information on them, so I’m guessing these are packaged for sale in the US just for their chain. The Kinnerton website mentions Aldi as well as Toys R Us as distributors.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
It’s a molasses taffy with a pocket of peanut butter in the center. They’re wrapped in black or orange wax paper.
This bag is from Melster, but my favorite brand is Necco that makes them under the Mary Jane monikker.
At only 99 cents though, it was hard to pass up the opportunity to try another variety.
The ingredients list seems impossibly long:
Is it just me or is that may contain list a little scary? What the heck is sodium hexametaphosphate?
Oh, here, Wikipedia has some info:
So it’s an emulsifier, a deflocculant for ceramics, tooth whitener and water softener! But who knows if my saliva will have fewer dissolved minerals and my teeth white because I don’t know if it’s actually in there.
Have I digressed enough?
Basically these are worth about 99 cents. The peanut butter flavor doesn’t pop and the molasses aspect of the chew is barely noticeable.
I’ll probably finish the bag, but I don’t think I’ll buy them again. If I’m going to have these as a treat only once a year, I want them to be as memorable as possible, even if I have to pay a dollar fifty.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
A few keen eyed readers and Candy Forums friends spotted the new Reese’s Bar. (I’m not sure what this is actually called. The wrapper says: Milk Chocolate Reese’s filled with Reese’s Peanut Butter. But that sounds infinitely silly and doesn’t even include that it’s a bar and not a cup.)
I’ve only seen it so far in a 4.5 ounce size and only at Walgreen’s. But it was on sale for $1.00 and has disappeared in the weeks since I purchased it.
It was easy to spot what with the Reese’s orange wrapper.
The ingredients list is incredibly long:
The bar is attractive and thick. Each lightly rounded section holds a portion of crumbly yet smooth Reese’s Peanut Butter filling.
What’s clearly evident about this bar is that it’s all about chocolate and less about the peanut butter than the traditional cups.
I usually prefer the high ratio of peanut butter such as the Reese’s Eggs around Easter, but for those looking for the opposite end of the spectrum, this is an interesting flip.
The difference in ratios aside, this bar is far harder to eat and share though certainly a good value.
What confused me most about this bar was that Hershey’s already has a peanut butter filled bar. I’ve even reviewed it.
It looks pretty much the same - 4.5 ounces and the same number of sections. Really the only difference in looking at them is that this bar says Hershey’s on top of each section instead of Reese’s.
But it is different. The center here is smoother and a bit stickier and perhaps even saltier.
The ingredients list is shorter by about a third:
I questioned the purpose of this bar the first time I tried it and why it was under the Hershey’s label and not Reese’s. I don’t know if both bars will continue to co-exist but if they have a limited number of slots I’d recommend dumping them both and concentrating on the quality of their core products. It’s not that it’s bad, but it’s just superfluous.
Some Reese’s products are gluten free, but this one lists wheat in the ingredients.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
First thing I have to say about Brach’s Milk Maid Chocolate Caramel Candy Corn is that the name is too long. If the name takes up three lines, it’s too long. These are tiny little pieces of candy ... the name should not weigh more than the candy itself.
I knew this candy existed, but I was having trouble finding it. I was delighted not only to find it at Walgreen’s, but also in this 7 ounce bag (instead of the 9.5 ounce Caramel Apple Candy Corn a few weeks ago and the mondo 22 ounce bag I got of the the Caramel Candy Corn last year).
The package says that it’s made with real cocoa and real milk. I’d never really thought about candy corn being a dairy product. (Makes me think about creamed corn.)
My bag was exceptionally sloppy. There weren’t many well-formed pieces, some were missing a color but mostly they were just irregular. Part of the fun is the attractiveness of candy corn. This didn’t quite measure up.
The base flavor is the caramel. It’s a bit salty and has that fake butter flavor to it that I can handle in tiny doses. The middle section has a light cocoa flavor and the white top is, of course, unadulterated sweetness. They taste a bit richer than the typical orange & yellow candy corn, but I found the fake butter a little too artificial to keep me eating these.
It makes me wish they sold these in 1 ounce bags. That would have been enough to satisfy my curiosity.
The ingredients list salt above the actual milk in here. There’s also gelatin, so no good for vegetarians and it’s not Kosher.
This was the first Brach’s package I’ve seen so far that makes note of the new Farley’s & Sathers ownership.
The package joyfully tells me it’s America’s #1! (It’s also made in Mexico.)
Honestly it’s been so long since I had the Brach’s Mellowcremes, I didn’t remember whether they were flavored or not. (The Autumn Mix is not distinctly flavored.)
These little fondant nuggets come in four colors and eight shapes: crescent moon, black cat, pumpkin, jug, jack o’lantern, bat, corn cob and sheaf of wheat.
The flavors are determined by the color of the Mellowcreme.
Yellow = Banana - either you love fake banana or you don’t. As strong as my aversion is to fake butter flavor, my affection for artificial banana matches it. The flavor is mellow, with a touch of honey and salt. It’s soft and slightly grainy but melts easily.
Tan = Maple - this was the surprise of the package. I fully expected these to be the caramel flavor. Instead they have a nice woodsy/toasted taste to them, like a hunk of brown sugar.
Dark Brown = Cocoa - far more cocoa flavored than any Indian Corn I’ve ever had. But not really that good either, terribly empty and cardboard tasting, like a Tootsie Roll that’s been freeze dried, pulverized and smashed into a bat shape.
Orange = Candy Corn - the pumpkins are faithful to the Brach’s Candy Corn flavor. Sweet, bland and with a slight touch of honey. (Though there’s no honey in here.)
The package I picked has more yellow and tan ones, so I think I did well here as those are the ones I’m picking out to eat anyway.
The salt really helps these out. There’s 110 mg of Sodium in every serving, which is quite a lot for a candy (but an excellent stat if this was a canned soup). Consider it a boost to your electrolytes, maybe athletes will start carrying Mellowcremes as a recovery supplement.
I think the bragging rights are earned here. I now think that Mellowcremes are worth the search. (These also contain gelatin.) 7 out of 10
Friday, August 15, 2008
On my continuing quest to try off brands of confections to see if saving a little money means sacrificing taste, I came upon this bar at the Walgreen’s, mixed in with the other upscale chocolate bars: Regal Dynasty European Chocolate. This bar was called simply Dark Chocolate. For $1.29 and clocking in at 6.3 ounces, I was more than curious how well it could compare.
The packaging is less than exciting, in fact it looks dated, like some sort packet of cheap stationery from the Office Max circa 1993. The paper is rather flimsy and the foil wrapper inside is similarly thin, though both seem to do their job of protecting the bar well enough. So I can look past that (especially since I’ve had some very expensive bars that I don’t think have very attractive or useful packaging).
The ingredients however are a big old red flag: sugar, cocoa mass, vegetable fat, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, flavor. It states that the cocoa solids are a minimum of 45%. But it never says what those vegetable fats are or if that flavor is natural.
The bar is lovely. It’s well molded and has a crisp snap.
It has a sweet and slightly cinnamon & cereal smell to it. It has a difficult melt though, but as it does soften, it is very sweet but at least not chalky or gritty. But it’s cool on the tongue, which usually means substitute fats or substitute sugars and always makes me a bit uneasy.
The chocolate notes aren’t deep or complex or satisfying. I would probably find this passable in a chocolate croissant, but standing alone as a piece of confection, it tastes watery and empty of nuance.
The simple fact is that it’s not chocolate. I’d hazard that since the vegetable fats come before the cocoa butter on the ingredients list that it wouldn’t even qualify under the laxer rules in Europe that allow veggie fats up to 5%. No, this is a plain old false label. It’s not chocolate. Not even close. But in an odd twist, it doesn’t have any dairy fats so can be considered vegan!
Even though I liked it a bit more than the Carlos V Chocolate Style Bar and it was cheaper, I can’t get past the fact that its downright false label.
Hopefully it will make passable brownies (which is what happens to many of the bars that I can’t bring myself to eat). Oddly enough, I can see myself buying this again though if I need a really nice looking, generic chocolate bar for a photo shoot. But if you’re looking for something you can actually eat that doesn’t cost too much, wait for a sale on something you know you like or just settle for a smaller package.
UPDATE November 3, 2009: Walgreen’s is discontinuing this bar. In it’s place you can buy an even more dreadful bar from R.M. Palmer called 2 Buck Choc, which has awful and unappealing graphics on the wrapper and of course doesn’t taste nearly as good as this (which I didn’t like but at least give it credit).
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