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).
Friday, July 18, 2008
After my stellar experience with the Look! bar last month, Christine suggested in the comments that it was like Charleston Chews.
Honestly, I’ve avoided Charleston Chews, mostly because they have the dreaded mockolate coating. I bought a bar once before and upon opening, it was apparent that it wasn’t fresh or maybe that’s the way they were supposed to look, so I opted not to review it.
However, at the Walgreen’s the other day they were having a sale on theater box candy. I really wanted some Good & Plenty, but the sale was 3 for $3.00 instead of $1.50 each, so I obviously bought three boxes of candy. (The other was Crows.)
Charleston Chews are named after the dance craze of the 20s. Introduced in 1922 by the Fox-Cross Candy Company they’ve changed hands a few times, manufactured by Warner-Lambert and then Nabisco before being picked up by the Tootsie company in the 90s. Tootsie understands a good taffy chew. The design of the box is classic, as are many Tootsie items. It conveys what to expect, some sort of small white bar of chew covered in a delicious chocolatey coating.
Though the box tells me that these are Vanilla, I know that the long bars come in other flavors including Chocolate and Strawberry. I’ve never seen those in the mini chew size. (Which is too bad, because I think it’d be fun to be able to buy a mixed box.)
This box was so much better than the first bar I had, so things were encouraging. First, it has a cellophane overwrap. Second, the Walgreen’s where I usually shop has pretty good control over their temperature. I’ve never been in there and found it to be sweltering (and there are plenty of other drug stores in Southern California that have that problem and I won’t buy chocolate candy there ... or even chocolatey candy.)
The mockolate coating is kind of chalky looking but I figured that was because of the friction of rattling around in the box. The coating is thin, but enough to usually contain the fluffed chew in the center.
They smell sweet, like vanilla candles. It’s soft enough to bite in half or simply chew up. It’s a smooth chew to the very end (not like Starbursts or Sugar Babies which both disintegrate into a grainy mess).
The flavor is pleasant, the fake chocolate contributes next to nothing here, not even a little cocoa pop. But the chew is enjoyable enough that I ate most of the box (but didn’t have access to much other candy as I’m traveling). As a movie treat, they’re easy to eat mindlessly.
However, having had the Look! bar, which is a chew covered in real chocolate, this is a silly waste of my time. But I still think I’ll try the Strawberry & Chocolate varieties at some point.
These contain egg whites (and oodles of milk products) so are not suitable for vegans. Kosher.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
The Oh Henry! bar is one of oldest extant candy bars in North America. There are two stories of the origin of the bar. The first is that the bar was invented by Tom Henry in 1919, who ran the Peerless Candy Company (known for their hard candies) where the bar was known as the Tom Henry Bar. He sold the recipe for the bar to Williamson Candy Store in Chicago.
The other story is that it was actually invented by the Williamson Candy Store and named for a helpful customer whom the female clerks would often ask favors of, by saying “Oh, Henry, could you move that heavy box.”
It was often billed as “the ten cent piece of dollar candy” and became popular in Chicago eventually expanding as a national candy bar through the tenacious efforts of John Glossinger (whom Glosettes are named after). Williamson Candy, at some point, sold out to Ward-Johnson which was swallowed up by Nabisco in 1981 (which was also holding the Curtiss bars - Baby Ruth & Butterfinger included- at that time). Finally in 1990 Nestle bought the Curtiss bars, SnoCaps, Goobers & Raisinets from Nabisco. (Some of this is a bit murky and I traced it mostly through trademark registrations, and probably matters very little in the end.)
The bar is simple enough, a vanilla fudge center with caramel & peanuts then covered in chocolate. It’s gone through some changes over the years besides ownership. This is where things get interesting from an evolutionary standpoint. In 1987 Hershey Canada got the rights to produce the bar (through Nabisco which owned Canadian confectioner Lowney). The Hershey’s Oh Henry! is more than a little different from the American bar, as we’ll see.
Though the American bar used to be a single, it has now morphed into a double bar (a la Mounds) while the Canadian version remains pretty much the same as it was 30 years ago.
The package on the Nestle version says: 2 peanutty * caramel * fudge bars in milk chocolate. It weighs 1.8 ounces (51 grams). It comes sealed in a simple yellow plasticized wrapper.
The package on the Hershey version says: crunchy peanuts, chewy fudge, creamy caramel, covered in a chocolaty coating. It weighs 2.2 ounces (62.5 grams). It comes in a mylar wrapper with a small folded paperboard tray.
The innards of the two Oh Henrys! tell more about them. The American Oh Henry! is rather organized and stratified.
The Nestle one has a caramel base then a fudge mixed with peanuts. It’s all covered in what they call real milk chocolate. It has a nice roasted peanut flavor, but the difference between the caramel and the fudge is minimal. The fudge is a bit saltier, but caramel is short and grainy instead of being chewy and creamy. At first I thought it was just a not-so-fresh bar, so I bought another. And another. This is the third I’ve bought and second I’ve photographed for this review.
The two pieces are nicely sized and the flavor balance overall is good. I would prefer some really good creamy chocolate to pull it together, but that’s just not Nestle’s style.
The Hershey one reminds me a bit of a narrow Payday Chocolatey Avalanche. The fudge is at the center here and much lighter in color (reminding me quite a bit of a nougat except there are no eggs in it). On top of the fudge is a thin layer of caramel which holds the peanuts. The whole thing is covered in a chocolatey coating (which actually contains real chocolate with cocoa butter, but it also has modified palm oil in it, which takes it out of the real chocolate column).
The nuts play a much bigger role here, probably because they mingle with both the (mock)chocolate and the caramel. For fake chocolate, it does a much better job of being creamy and tasty than Nestle’s real stuff. The caramel has a kind of fake butter flavor to it, but this is only noticeable if you take the bar apart and try to eat the elements separately (now why would you wanna do that?).
While Nestle just lets the Oh Henry! bar do its thing here in the States, up in the Great White North it’s another story entirely. Hershey goes to down with the bar. First, it’s one of the largest single-serve bars in Canada, so it’s known as a good value. Hershey also does limited editions and other versions of the bar. I got a hold of a few.
It’s not quite as sweet as the regular Oh Henry! and really quite a nice bar. The dark chocolate gives it a bigger chocolate pop instead of all that dairy-tasting milk chocolate. I could use a dash of salt, but, that’s just me, eh.
All of the variation bars are slightly smaller, at only 60 grams (2.12 ounces).
It’s a bit flatter than the other bars. It’s also a bit greasy. This one also has a mockolate coating which isn’t as creamy and just a bit bloomed.
It’s really peanutty. It’s also pleasantly salty ... or unpleasantly so if you think that 115 mg is a little much for a candy bar (the standard Hershey Oh Henry! has 50 mg).
The peanut center also made the caramel more noticeable, probably because it isn’t as dense and chewy as the fudge. (This one is not a limited edition but appears to be a permanent variation.)
The final limited edition item is the Oh Henry! Oh Canada. It first appeared last year for Canada Day (July 1st) so mine is a bit past its prime (the expiration says January 2008).
The bar is described on the wrapper: Crunchy peanuts, red chewy fudge, white creamy caramel, covered in a chocolatey coating. This combo results in red and white in every bite!.
Yes, that fudge center there is actually red. And maple flavored.
Even if it is expired, it was still pretty tasty. I liked the intense maple flavor that permeated the bar. It was like toasted, caramelized pecans.
Overally, I much prefer the Canadian Oh Henry! from Hershey, even if it does have mockolate on it. The Dark Oh Henry! is superior to all the others, but since it was a Limited Edition, the original (which by the way, better reflects the American original anyway) will do in a pinch. But given a choice, I’d probably opt for the whole thing sans (mock)chocolate and get a Payday.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.