Wednesday, November 4, 2009
The Twilight Saga: New Moon opens in theaters all over the world at the end of November. It’s expected to be a huge hit, as was the first movie in the series, Twilight. New Moon again stars Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan and Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen. If you’ve been under a literary rock for the past five years, it’s based on the popular young adult/fantasy Twilight quadrilogy by Stephenie Meyer.
Necco, maker of Necco Wafers, Sweethearts, Clark Bars and Mary Janes has a licensing deal with Summit Entertainment. It started earlier this year with Forbidden Fruits Sweethearts and has expanded now with the line of chocolate candies under their Sky Bar brand called Heart’s Desire.
The products are various bars and individually wrapped pieces. Gigi Reviews had the full bar, which is like a regular Sky Bar but with only three segments but a hipper looking wrapper. I found these little individually wrapped pieces, which are one ounce each and retail for about fifty cents.
The package calls it a creme filled milk chocolate heart. The ingredients actually sound pretty decent for a movie tie in product. Real milk chocolate filled with a sugary, corn syrup, invert syrup, artificial flavors, salt, egg whites and invertase.
It’s odd though that the candy of choice for New Moon would be a boring old vanilla cream. The Sky Bar has four fillings: caramel, vanilla, peanut and fudge. Of those I think the peanut one would be best. It’s definitely different from other candy products on the market because the peanut section in the Sky Bar is a peanut flavored caramel ... worthy of a starring role by itself.
It’s rather large for a filled chocolate, they’re 2 1/3 inches tall and 1 1/4 inch wide at most. The highest part in the center heart is just shy of one inch.
The molded design is of two stacked hearts. The heart on top bears the female protagonist’s name: Bella (though when I first looked at it I thought it said Petta, which made no sense to me). The second heart says Cullen and looks like it may be the family crest. The crest is a hand print over a profile of a lion with a chevron with the outline of three shamrocks.
It smells rather like a Cadbury Creme Egg and honestly, it’s not that different. Of the three that I opened, two were cracked around the edges and leaking (but dried).
The chocolate is pretty good for a cheap piece of candy. It has a nice snap and a milky flavor. The creme center is smooth, a bit soupy and merely sweet with no other features worth mentioning. The whole thing though was a bit off, a little bit musty tasting and lacking that fresh pop of real vanilla. It’s too bad that it couldn’t distinguish itself with a fresh vanilla flavor so it would be more like a Valomilk than a Cadbury Creme Egg.
As a little treat to stuff in your pocket before heading out to stand in a long line at the movie theater, it’s a decent enough value. Not something I would buy, but if I were a parent and going to see the movie with my kids (or just driving them there) it would be a thoughtful little celebratory gift. As an enduring confection ... well, it’s not befitting immortal status, especially when it bleeds its contents so easily.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Yesterday I reviewed the new All Natural Necco Wafers. Today I have the All Natural Chocolate Necco Wafers and I’m sure some people are thinking, Why review a single flavor from the regular Necco Wafer roll?.
When Necco went all natural, they also tweaked their Chocolate roll to include four flavors instead of just one. Now it contains Milk, Dark, White and Mocha.
I’m was scratching my head, wondering if something so un-chocolately and bland can possibly come in four different flavors when the original is barely flavored.
First, I like the new package. I like the little brown on brown dots on the background. I don’t like the new logo, but hey, the frustrating paper wrapper is usually torn into little strips to get to the candy, so it’s not like I’m saving it and making noisy jewelry out of it.
The first problem I encountered when trying to review them was determining which disk was which flavor. I had to assume the white one was white chocolate, but beyond that I really couldn’t tell. There’s definitely a medium chalky brown that I assumed was milk but then I lost the key, the dark colors were too close for me to call and they weren’t even that much darker.
White Chocolate - this is not chocolate. There is nothing chocolatey about this. It’s not creamy, it’s not milky, it’s certainly not cocoa-ish. It’s an unflavored Necco Wafer. It’s like the test strip for Necco Wafers. You can reset your tasting abilities with this. It’s sweet, maybe it has a hint of vanilla but a toasted marshmallow would have been better. (Or maybe they could have done salted caramel instead of the white chocolate.)
Milk Chocolate - it’s like the old chocolate Necco Wafer, a bit like cardboard in both texture and taste. Not quite musty but not anywhere near chocolate or even chocolate milk.
Mocha - I think this one was the lighter of the dark browns. It was just as sweet as the milk chocolate and did have a hint of coffee flavor. But half the time I didn’t know if I was eating the mocha or the dark, so again I missed the point. It was kind of like eating old frosting from a donut wrapper. By far the most successful in the roll for me.
Dark Chocolate - I can accept chocolate ones in the regular roll because they’re just kind of sweet and different and not trying too hard. But in a roll where I’m supposed to be having a great time with four great flavors I’m greatly disappointed. Maybe it even rises to the level of irritated.
I had two rolls of these. The first roll I photographed and then threw into a little bowl to munch on while I watched TV. After three days of not munching on them, I kept smelling something that was akin to paper grocery bags. (I had no trouble eating the regular rolls though.) So I threw them out. Then I took out the second roll and started on those for the review. They can’t be stale or old, they’re brand new. Just so incredibly bland.
If you want to buy a candy to help you lose weight, this is something to stock up on. You’ll never touch them. For fans of the original Chocolate roll, I think you’re going to be disappointed.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Classic Lemonheads are one of my favorite candies. Even though I have to eat a huge variety of new to me candy for the blog on a regular basis, I still find a bit of room to indulge in Lemonheads from time to time.
There’s nothing else like the line of candies - a hard and mildly flavored candy core covered with a grainy and intensely flavored coating then a shiny coat.
A couple of years ago Ferrara Pan expanded the line with their Chewy Lemonheads. They’re kind of an amped up jelly bean. A chewy jelly center with the same grainy and blisteringly sour layer covered in a light shell. They came in the same flavors we were accustomed to with the Lemonheads and Friends.
Now Ferrara Pan is mixing it up again with new flavors, this time only in the Chewy line with their Tropical Chewy Lemonhead & Friends.
It’s an odd name, and kind of misleading. There are no Lemonheads (there are pink-lemonade-heads though) in here, now the name has become a brand and shorthand for a whole line of candies.
The unique proposition here is that there are two flavors in each piece. The shell is one flavor and the core is another. (Sounds kind of like Skittles Crazy Cores, doesn’t it?)
The flavors are Kiwi-Strawberry, Peach-Mango, Berry-Banana, Cherry-Watermelon and Pink Lemonade-Lemonade. The colors are muted and tropical, definitely different at a glance from the regular Lemonheads which are far brighter.
This blue shell is almost aqua and the inside is supposed to be yellow according to the key on the box, but it’s more green to me.
The shell is that blue raspberry flavor that was invented by confectioners and has little relation to any real fruit flavor. There’s no tangy layer between the shell and the jelly center. So it’s a sweet berry outside with a mild banana inside. It’s pleasant enough and did start off the tasting with a tropical bent.
The shell is medium green and the center is a light red.
The outside doesn’t taste like much, but there is a pleasant tangy pop between the layers on most of them (some were just all sweet). The strawberry center is floral and tasted a little like cotton candy. It’s mostly an inoffensive piece of candy. Not intense but just a little more interesting than a standard fruity jelly bean.
The red shell on this one has a lighter pink center. (A green shell with a red center would have been rather more like a watermelon though.)
The red is intense and bright and the cherry flavor is strong and medicinal without the robust sour cherry note that I was hoping for. (There was also that bitter aftertaste from the food coloring.)
Pink on the outside and yellow on the inside.
I don’t really know what pink lemonade is, most of the time it’s just lemonade with a dash of red food coloring, though I think classically it’s lemonade with strawberries. In this instance I think it’s the former. The outside is just a little bit lemony and the tangy layer is, well, only slightly tangy. The center does have a little lemon zest to it. All this really does is make me want a Lemonhead. As far as I’m concerned the Pink Lemonade-Lemonade Chewy Lemonhead is for wusses who can’t handle the real thing.
The outside is a great peachy orange color. The center is green.
Experience has taught me that I’m rarely pleased with peach or mango flavored candies. It’s not that I don’t love peaches or mangoes, but they’re very hard flavors to duplicate. Probably because so much of their flavor also depends on the texture. In this case the flavors are quite mild but passable. The peach outside is sweet and like canned peaches (lacking that balsam note that some candies try to include). The inside is a little more woodsy and green tasting, a little grassy and a little like pine. I can’t say I loved the, but I didn’t pick around them as much as the cherry.
I read a lot of other reviews on these when they first came out (I finally found them in stores here in California earlier this month) and I have to wonder if they punched them up recently. Or maybe they’re just plain inoffensive and I’m not angling for a fight. Because Mr. Lemonhead is my bestest lifelong friend.
Monday, October 12, 2009
At the Walgreen’s I noticed a new set of bars far down on the bottom shelf in the candy aisle. They’re simply called 3 for $1 Buck (which seems redundant, three for one dollar buck bar?). They’re Proudly manufactured in the USA by R.M. Palmer. I picked out one of each and today I thought I’d do a head to head comparison between one of them, called Cookies ‘n’ Creme.
Of course the best known Cookies ‘n’ Creme bar is made by Hershey’s. It was introduced in 1994 and for a long time was made with real cocoa butter so it was a white chocolate product. Now it’s made with a white confection so a good item to do a match up with the Palmer version.
Each bar is a white confection (a mix of vegetable oils, milk & sugar) studded with chocolate cookie bits ... the whole effect is like Oreos in ice cream at room temperature.
Ingredients for Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme (1.55 ounce)
Ingredients for R.M. Palmer 3 for $1 Buck Bar Cookies ‘n’ Creme (1.45 ounce)
The Hershey’s bar is formatted just like the regular Hershey’s Milk Chocolate. 12 rectangles make it easy to snap & share. The ingredients aren’t quite as good as the pure white chocolate they used to use, but this is still a distinctive bar of decent quality.
It smells quite a bit like ice cream. The melt is rather smooth and cloyingly sweet. The cookie bits are jam packed in there, you can see from the flipside view that they’re little cookie pellets so there aren’t a lot of little crumbs, just real crunch & toasty chocolate flavor. It has a good bit of salt to it (110mg) so it helps the vanilla and chocolate flavors pop.
The Palmer version is a nice long, domed format. It’s a little lighter in color compared to the Hershey’s version. Even though it weights a tenth of an ounce less it has the same number of calories (220) and one more gram of fat (12 g).
It’s immediately sweet, but has a good, cool melt on the tongue. I didn’t get as much in the way of milky flavors from it but a fun fake vanilla that reminded me of taffy. There really weren’t that many cookie bits, which was disappointing, especially since I figured those were the cheapest ingredient in the whole thing.
Overall it was far too sweet, even statistically I can tell: Hershey’s has 19 g of sugars & Palmer has 24 g ... and remember, Palmer’s is smaller.
There’s really no comparison, the Hershey’s is a well rounded white confection with a dark chocolate cookie crunch. The Palmer is just a cheap sweet and fatty imitation. If the Palmer price tag is too much of a temptation, wait until the Hershey’s come on sale.
They’re both Kosher and both made in the USA.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
The most basic ingredients are sugar, corn syrup and baking soda. There’s no butter in it, like toffee and just about any kind of nuts or snack seeds can be added.
The crunch of brittle is provided by both the hardened sugar (which is made airy by the use of baking soda added just as the boiling mixture is removed from the heat) and the use of fresh nuts.
Most nut brittles are served in a rustic fashion. Big sheets of the candy are broken into little bits and planks.
I found Old Dominion brittle at the drug store and was intrigued. First of all, it’s all natural ... no coloring, no preservatives. Second, Old Dominion is a peanut company and they’ve been around for 95 years, so they must be doing something right. Third, the stuff was cheap.
I picked up two boxes. The Cashew Brittle was only 99 cents at Rite Aid and the Peanut Brittle was $1.69 ... but was twice the weight of the cashew.
The box seemed a little big for the amount of candy in it. But it was well packaged inside with an oversized & thick mylar pouch.
Inside the planks, slivers & pieces clank pleasantly, kind of like poker chips.
It definitely smells like toasted peanuts. Glancing at the pieces though they don’t have as many peanuts as I would have hoped, there’s a lot more brittle than peanut.
The candy has a fresh and crunchy bite - there’s a slight foamy lightness to it. It’s just a little salty, a bit buttery tasting. The nuts are small, like those Virginia Red-skinned peanuts. I ate about half the bag and got only one bad nut, and that one was just overtoasted. Yes, I would have preferred more nuts, but considering the price, it was a pretty good deal for a fresh & natural product.
I thought this would be a straight swap of cashews for peanuts but it’s actually not. The ingredients list butter (though rather far down on the list) and the color is just a bit lighter. It smells buttery and a little grassy like cashews often do.
I love cashews and all of these were sweet & crunchy. It’s fun to see someone making an affordable cashew candy.
The pieces were a little light on the cashews, but the candy part was still crunchy & fun without them. It tastes just a little saltier, which seems to offset the sweetness of the cashews themselves. I really can’t complain about it at all ... it’s a quarter pound of good quality candy for only a buck.
I liked the design of the boxes, classic and accurate in their depiction of the product ... well, maybe the pictures make it look like there are more nuts. I might have preferred a zip locked bag inside, but I usually have extras around and just tuck them into those to keep them from getting sticky from ambient moisture. It’s a little hard to see because it’s just emboss/stamped into the end of the box, but they do list a “best by” date.
The calories listed for the peanut brittle are 180 per 30 grams (a little over 1 ounce). This makes no sense to me, even one ounce of peanuts is only 160 calories ... so I think there’s a typo. The cashew package says 130 calories, which seems about right for a product that’s mostly sugar.
Old Dominion, based in Norfolk, Virginia, also makes Butter Toffee Peanuts, Peanut Squares/Bars and a “covered” version of the peanut brittle (which I steered away from because it was mockolate).
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Every once in a while a limited edition comes back. This one, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Lovers Cups, came out in 2005 along with its companion, the Reese’s Chocolate Lovers Cups. I spotted them again in stores a few weeks ago and picked them up on sale at Walgreen’s over the weekend.
The package is more peanutty looking than the traditional bright orange wrappers. It was easy to spot on the shelves as a different variety. Unlike some limited edition varieties that other candy companies make, this is a full sized version of the original - the same 1.5 ounces (.75 ounces per cup). Yes, it’s true that Reese’s Cups have gotten smaller over the years. Brad Kent has the 1.6 ounce wrapper from 1997 and the change made sometime circa 2003 based on Mike’s Candy Wrappers.
I don’t think I tried these the first time they came around, as I think that the regular ratios of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are ideal. When I opened the package I was wondering if there was any chocolate at all ... even though it said Milk Chocolate right at the top.
Once I pulled the brown fluted paper off the cup I understood the construction. There is a milk chocolate container which is filled with the Reese’s peanut butter center and that’s capped with a peanut butter candy coating.
The cup has a soft bite, slightly crumbly. It’s definitely all about the peanut butter. The chocolate base provides a little cool & creamy sweetness but very little in the way of cocoa notes. The dry and salty peanut butter center has that inimitable texture and roasted peanut flavor. I found it to be much saltier, so I looked around for sodium content for the original and found that has 130 mg per package and this limited edition version has 170 mg. (Just a note, I think everything is salty these days ... my otherwise healthy diet is rather low in sodium.) However, it does have 6 grams of protein versus 4 grams in the classic. More peanut butter means more protein and actual less fat & fewer calories ... a whole 10 fewer calories.
I enjoyed these, and certainly had no trouble finishing the package. But given the choice I’m either going to go for the regular cups or the minis (I don’t think I’m going to touch the once perfect eggs now that they’ve gone mockolate).
Friday, July 31, 2009
The matte beige & powder blue wrapper does give it that classic look, though the mylar/plastic packaging made it feel modern (as did the presence of a web address on the back of the package).
It also comes in a raspberry licorice version, which I also bought but was disappointed to find it crumbled to bits (so I’m not reviewing it now).
The bar is attractive and looks like it could easily be an unsalted pretzel rod covered in milk chocolate.
It smells nice, a bit like anise and chocolate cake.
The bite is soft, the chocolate barely flakes, which is a great relief after the red licorice catastrophe.
The licorice at the center is quite soft and has a strong molasses flavor - the chew is almost jelly like, but has the satisfying rib-sticking of a wheat-based confection. The anise and licorice notes are rather mild and more of a generic spice cookie feel. The chocolate is sweet, not terribly chocolatey but seems to seal in all the flavors well.
It’s nice to see an Aussie licorice being sold at American candy prices. It was a nice change up from Twizzlers, Good & Plenty or Crows, which are really the only plain licorice products sold in single serve packages any longer.
My big hesitations are why they put artificial colors in a chocolate covered item. But my guess is that this licorice is available bald.
Aussie readers, do you recognize this bar? (I was thinking it was RJs but those aren’t real chocolate.)
I’m eager to try the raspberry again and see what else Walgreen’s is going to put in their Candy Classics brand.
Note: The calories made no sense on this package. 220 calories for 1.4 ounces is insane for a chocolate covered licorice. It says 2.5 grams of fat, 22 grams of carbs and 2 grams of protein (that makes 120 calories or so) ... I can’t figure where the rest of the calories are coming from. The ingredients are Sugar, Treacle, Wheat Flour, Molasses, Chocolate, Hydrogenated Coconut Oil, Licorice Extract and then a bunch of less than 2% things.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
It was launched barely more than a year ago with little promotion to support it, no website (just a page on the Starbucks site) and a baffling retail plan where it was sold everywhere except Starbucks.
The line included coffee & tea infused chocolate bars, tasting squares and truffles. The packaging echoed Starbucks strong image, was all natural and made no direct mention of Hershey’s as the manufacturer. For Christmas special flavors were created that echoed the seasonal coffee drinks. However, the new brand was a tad on the expensive side and entered the mass-manufactured upscale chocolate market just terms like staycation entered the vernacular.
So last week as Hershey’s announced huge second quarter profits, it also formally announced that they were discontinuing the Starbucks Chocolate line.
CNN Money summed it up pretty well:
Added to that happy news about their profits (which were the result of cutting manufacturing costs by closing factories in the US, moving to a Mexican facility, raising prices and using cheaper ingredients), Hershey’s also formalized the discontinuation of Cacao Reserve, Hershey’s own branded high end chocolate line. (Hershey’s also closed Joseph Schmidt, a chocolatier line based out of San Francisco earlier this year and moved all production for Scharffen Berger to Illinois.)
The Caramel Macchiato Truffles come in a nicely packaged pair at the ghastly price of $1.39 at the drug store. Honestly, if this sort of truffle pair was available at an actual Starbucks to accompany my plain coffee, I might have gone for it more regularly. With the “startling news” that coffee drinks contain huge amounts of calories which cause cancer, a simple cup of coffee with cream and two truffles would actually be a smaller indulgence than an actual Caramel Macchiato.
I’ve never had a Macchiato (I’ve never actually had anything fancier than a latte or mocha in all my years), so I can’t comment on how well it mimics the frothy creation described thusly by Starbucks:
The milk chocolate shell is nicely molded. It holds a fudgy, smooth cream that tastes a bit like a mocha cheesecake. Sweet, a little tangy with a light coffee taste and maybe, just maybe a hint of toffee (caramel).
It was pretty sweet but with coffee it works ... though the actual coffee overpowers the not-much-coffee-taste.
In the end, I don’t think it was bad timing that sunk this line. I think it was bad merchandising - it should have been available at actual Starbucks. And a year is far too little to decide the success of a new line of chocolate. My view is that Hershey’s is uninterested in building brand loyalty through quality.
The only thing that makes sense about this is the statement on the side of the box:
Watching Cadbury & Mars move more and more towards ethically traded and sustainably grown & harvested cacao, I’m not seeing much for Hershey’s except from their Daboga arm. I can see where this Starbucks line is just a liability for profits. Hershey’s has shown itself to be more concerned with profits (and high profits, not just tidy ones) than the quality of its products and place within the economies it locates itself.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.