Monday, November 30, 2009
Russell Stover has a large assortment of holiday treats in Santa-themed packaging. What’s nice about them is that they’re always fresh and moderately priced (often on dramatic sale for three for a dollar but usually about 50 cents a piece). I picked up every variety I could find this year:
What I noticed first was that the packaging is inconsistent in its design. Sure they’re all a mylar wrapper, but beyond that the Santas are different drawing styles with the Maple Cream, Strawberry Cream & Coconut Cream sporting the same Santa holding a gift aloft as he sits in a chimney. But The Peanut Butter Santa is more streamlined, the Marshmallow Santa has some freaky bright red cheeks and insanely short arms and finally the Marshmallow & Caramel Santa is in the style of the European Saint Nicolas complete with staff.
What I also found out is that the definition of “Santa Shaped” is pretty loose in Russell Stover’s world. It’s not quite as egg shaped, and maybe the tapering ends can be a feet/boots and a head. But really, it’d be best to just call these Christmas Lumps or Snow Clods.
The Peanut Butter Santa is pure simplicity: a peanut butter bar covered in milk chocolate. The shape of it is kind of figure-like. It’s the smallest of the pack as well, clocking in at only .75 ounces. It smells nutty and sugary and a little bit like peanut butter cookies. The milk chocolate is quite slick and melts easily, it has a light cocoa flavor to it. Most of all the salty peanut butter center is grassy-tasting. It’s a strange green flavor more like edamame than roasted peanuts.
It was tasty enough for me to finish it easily, but being small didn’t hurt either. The center is moister and a bit oilier than the center of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Tree (or Egg or Cup). This wasn’t a bad feature, just different.
Rating: 7 out of 10
I thought perhaps I’d tried these before and looked up to find that I reviewed the Maple Cream Egg way back in 2006. But the Russell Stover Maple Cream Santa is actually different. While the Easter version is coated in dark chocolate, the Christmas version is Milk Chocolate.
The amorphous lump didn’t remind me of Santa’s silhouette in the slightest but the maple cream flavor is a bit more Christmassy than Easterish so kudos for that, Russell Stover.
It’s been a while since I’ve had the dark chocolate version so I’ll spare us all comparisons. What I can say is that this is ludicrously sweet. The milk chocolate is sugary and not terribly creamy and the center while moist and fluffy is also throat searingly cloying and sticky. The maple flavor was simply a flavor, not something that felt natural or integrated into the candy itself.
Rating: 5 out of 10
While the Strawberry Cream Santa is also milk chocolate like the Cream Egg, this one lacks the pretty little swirls and curls on the top. It does smell a little like berries, but mostly it smells like milky chocolate. It’s quite sweet and has only a faint hint of strawberry and is rather similar to a Nestle Strawberry Qwik shake. I know it was really sweet, but I like the texture of the cream center that Russell Stover uses for both this one and the Maple Cream. It’s rather like a marshmallow cream, quite smooth and fluffy and moist without being runny.
Rating: 5 out of 10
The Coconut Cream Santa is also unlike the Cream Egg in that it’s milk chocolate, not dark chocolate. In this case as well, I think the sugar-laden milk chocolate is simply over the top. I like the coconut flake texture of the cream filling and the nice size of the piece, but the sugary quality of the chocolate with its grainy and fudgy melt is just too much. It’s amazing what a difference dark chocolate can make, but it does.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Things were looking up when I found the Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Santa. I didn’t really expect this to be terribly different from the Easter Rabbit version, except that one was huge at two ounces and only in milk chocolate where I shopped.
This one was by far the most attractive of my Santa set, a nicely detailed figure of Santa Claus scratching his head. Unfortunately I smashed him somewhere along the way and his face was a little worse for it (or maybe he wasn’t scratching his head, maybe he was holding his hand over his nose and cursing me).
The marshmallow is latexy and has a chewy pull. Not too sweet and with a faint whiff of vanilla flavoring.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Of course this one looks like it could be a Mummy or Generic Figure for Unisex Bathroom Door.
It’s smaller in dimensions from the Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Santa, yet it’s actually heavier, it’s the same 1.25 ounces as the Cream Santas. I’ve had the Caramel and Marshmallow Pumpkin before and found it interesting.
This one seems to be more evenly balanced between the caramel and the marshmallow. It’s dense for a marshmallow product, the marshmallow is fluffy and has a light hint of vanilla to it with a smooth and velvety melt. The caramel isn’t runny nor quite chewy but has a good stringy pull to it.
It’s lacking a punch like the See’s Scotchmallow, but for 50 cents and in the shape of a clothes pin, well, I don’t want to sound too ungrateful for a decent piece of candy especially since this one seems to have the proportions just right. I wish the caramel was a little more chewy, a little more salty, but still a fun piece.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Monday, November 23, 2009
Last month I reviewed the new Ferrara Milk Chocolate with Almond Nougat, today I have the companion bar without the nuts and nougat bits. The new Ferrera chocolate line is to take the place of the chocolate products from Kraft that the company used to distribute from their Terry’s Chocolate Orange and Toblerone brands. They can be found at drug stores and discount retailers.
The Ferrara Belgian Milk Chocolate Bar is the same format as the faux-Toblerone, a long and domed trapezoidal shape with deep sections. The snap is good, though sometimes I had trouble cracking off just one segment and if I had a double I found it impossible to break that into two pieces. (So I had to eat two sections.)
The texture is quite smooth and creamy. It reminded me a little bit of Dove Milk Chocolate, but slightly sweeter. The silky melt and light caramel notes are pleasant. It’s a little sticky feeling in the mouth, but not overly thick. I prefer a less sugary bar but the fat in this one was a delightful mix of cocoa butter and whole milk.
The ingredients are all natural and the bar is Kosher. The package says the chocolate was made in Belgium but molded & packaged in the United States.
I was hoping for something a little deeper and richer, but for two dollars and the nice packaging I think it’s a good deal. I like the thick pieces compared to the flat tablet chocolate bars that are usually 100 grams, it makes the melt a little more interesting to have a chunky nugget. Since Toblerone doesn’t even make a nougat-less bar, it’s hard to even compare it. It’s not quite as satisfying as a Ritter-Sport which is in the same price category, but might make a prettier stocking stuffer in some instances.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I know some folks may have been worried that I wasn’t going to give Fannie May another chance after the disappointing Mint Meltaway yesterday. Well, no worries, as I also found the Fannie May Pixie at Walgreen’s on the same trip.
Again, it’s a pricey piece of candy - at $1.39 for a 1.5 ounce candy billed as Crunchy pecans in smooth caramel, drenched in rich milk chocolate. But a careful shopper might notice that Pixies go for $22.99 per pound on the Fannie May website yet these individually wrapped pieces work out to $14.83 per pound. (But they’re also available in dark chocolate on the website.)
Fannie May is famous for these turtle-like candies and I’m a huge fan of turtle-like candies. The ingredients look much better. There’s real chocolate, 50 fewer calories and no trans fats make it into the listing. (There is some hydrogenated vegetable oil on the list, but it’s very far down.)
Honestly, it’s a huge turtle. Far larger than I’m accustomed to. The ratios are a bit off from smaller ones, as far as I can tell. There’s a lot of caramel here and what seems like a lot of chocolate and not a lot of pecans.
The crunch of the pecans at the base is good, they’re crisp and fresh without that trace of fibery chew or rancid oily taste that some drug store turtles can get. The chocolate is creamy, not terribly milky but has a good snap to it and stays on the caramel center well. The caramel has a nice buttery flavor. It’s not quite a stiff chew but still has a good stringy pull and smoothness.
So while I thought it was a bit too large at first, I had no trouble finishing it (though I did it in two sittings).
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
It’s November, there’s a crisp chill in the air (yeah, it was in the fifties last night here in Los Angeles) which usually signals mint & chocolate combinations are in season. Last week I tried Dove’s new Peppermint Bark. This weekend my eye was drawn to this Fannie May Mint Meltaway in with the holiday candy at Walgreen’s.
First of all, I never see Fannie May all the way out here in the West Coast. Second, this was a drug store, someplace I didn’t expect to run across a boxed chocolate brand. I know many readers have been urging me to cover Fannie May, so into my basket they went without complaint.
Fannie May used to be a fine chocolate company, founded in 1920 and based in Chicago. In 2004 they declared bankruptcy and were bought up by Alpine Confections who already owned a similar Midwest confectioner, Harry London of Canton, OH. In 2006 they became part of 1-800-FLOWERS. So they’re not quite the tiny little boxed chocolate company any longer; this is what their website says:
So some of you caught that I said that they used to be fine chocolate. Well, read on and you’ll see where I take issue with including them saying they’re “fine chocolate” when they’re not using the “finest ingredients.”
The Mint Meltaway package is rather refreshing and easy to spot. It’s a rather clinical white with a little pile of the candies isolated in the middle of the wrapper. The top and bottom edges have simple evergreen boughs and pine cone trim. There’s actually only one piece in the package though the image shows three, but at 1.5 ounces, it’s definitely not skimpy. The package describes the meltaway as Rich chocolate mint center drenched in creamy pastel coating. Wow, creamy pastel coating, can you tell how much my
mouth is watering at that? What is creamy pastel coating? Here’s what takes up a portion of the back of the package:
You know what all that adds up to? 1.5 grams of trans fats. Most companies have mucked around with their serving sizes so that they can skirt in under the “you can say there’s no trans fats if you have less than .5 grams in a serving” but Fannie May, well, she’s bold. She’s out there with a huge 240 calorie portion (160 calories per ounce) that contains 49% of my daily value of saturated fats. And those actual trans fats.
The block is two inches square and a half an inch high. The soft, matte & dull green looks like a bar of soap or a vintage fireplace tile. It has a soft peppermint scent, not menthol nasal-passages-clearing-strong.
The white coating is rather smooth and not at all greasy. It’s not minty but also not really much of anything besides a texture and slightly salty. The chocolate center isn’t a soft meltaway, it’s a bit firmer, like a Frango. It melts quickly though, cool and chocolatey with a pleasant peppermint essence to it. After a while it gets a little greasy though, a little thin and watery.
The ingredients don’t warrant the $1.39 price tag when I can get the Dove Peppermint Bark made with real cocoa butter just a little further down the aisle. Or if you don’t mind the mockolate, just eat some Andes Mints.
Friday, November 13, 2009
If you’d asked me a year ago if there were any more mint flavors that Altoids could come in, I would have said, “Nope, it’s all been done.”
I know, this is a really short review but it has a really big picture. I spotted these new Cool Honey Altoids at Walgreen’s. I liked the prison stripes of yellow and black,oh wait, maybe they’re supposed to be bee colors. It’s distinctive enough I don’t think anyone will mistake this for Ginger or Licorice.
I liked the idea of cool honey, like a cough drop version of Altoids. (Honestly a eucalyptus version might be good.)
They’re lightly tinted, maybe a little yellow, I thought sometimes they looked a tad green. Perhaps absinthe! But the flavor? They’re minty and strong but other than that I wasn’t getting anything honey-ish out of them. They’re milder than a regular Altoid, but lacking the complex flavor combination that I enjoyed in the Creme de Menthe version.
It’s too bad, it was a nice idea. But at least the tin is cute. Gigi also reviewed them.
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.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.