Tuesday, February 5, 2008
There have been a lot of variations on the Hershey’s Kiss. Some of them good (I loved the original Candy Cane Kisses when they were made with cocoa butter) and some of them dreadful (Candy Corn Kisses). But through all of this, like the many variations of Pocky & KitKats, I’ve realized that the original was fine and I’d much rather have that. Except now when I look at the little foil wrapped friend I have a mix of associations. (If this were a movie this is where there’d be a montage of happy moments and then scary or unpleasant bits where I ate a Candy Corn Kiss or the horror of opening a drawer and finding a stinky bag of Candy Corn Kisses.)
I couldn’t bring myself to buy the big bag, so I was happy to see this pack of 5 mega Kisses.
The construction is as you’d assume. A milk chocolate shell and a “artificially vanilla-flavored creme” center.
Because they are packaged differently than the foil wrapped brethren, these are exceptionally shiny and pristine, which is an appealing aspect. They smell sweet and a little cheesy.
They’re a little smaller than the foil wrapped kind as well, but also come unwrapped ... so no little flags or bits of foil to roll into tiny spheres.
It was sweet and less chocolaty. The “creme” center was really creamy, more like smooth fudge.
It just didn’t excite me. I had them sitting around for a while and couldn’t be bothered to eat them. (I found the Bee Mine more compelling, at least with its overt badness.)
I think Hershey’s should just do what they do well and stop mucking around. Yeah, I know it’s hard after making Kisses for 100 years, they want to mix it up. But really, you don’t last 100 years when you go too far off the rails. (However, I know there’s a Cheesecake version out there that I’m still curious about.) These do not say that they’re a limited edition item, but they also have little tulips on the package (a spring thing?) and aren’t listed on the Hershey’s Kiss page.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
One of the items that I’ve gotten several notes with recommendations to review is the new line called Cocoa Deli out of the United Kingdom. One of the things that I think some folks will find exciting about these little upscale treats is that they’re made in a “no nuts” facility. It’s pretty unusual to find anything other than a plain chocolate bar that can claim that.
The unique selling proposition with the Cocoa Deli Chocolate Heaven collection is that they look like little ice cream pops.
It took me a few months to track down a place that sells them, it turned out to be Walgreen’s. But I really lucked out because this variety package with all four varieties in little tins turned out to be half off. So the original price was $6.99 for 5.1 ounces and I got it for $3.50.
I’ve heard that the variety in the little tubs that they sell year round can vary, but in this case each flavor came in its own color-coded tin with a clear lid. They’re really cute and useful tins that have no actual branding on them, so I could probably re-gift them with other little sweets in them if I felt like it.
While the package says that each tin is “filled with indulgent mini popsicle shaped chocolates” there were three inside each package.
Each chocolate is individually wrapped and clearly marked with the flavor. Each package boasts that the chocolate comes from Belgium and in smaller print on the back of the box it says that the whole thing was packaged in China. So, let’s see ... the cocoa beans are grown in the tropics, shipped to Belgium where it’s made into chocolate, which is then shipped to England where it’s made into the little candies, which are then shipped to China to be put into tins and boxes and then shipped to the United States. No wonder they want $7 for twelve little chocolates (about $22 a pound at regular price).
The little nuggets look like tiny popsicles, though in this version there’s no wooden stick (they do other confections on sticks that are a bit larger ... this one is all edible).
The first flavor, Vanilla Caramel was a lovely little piece. The milk chocolate (30%) is very sweet but seems to be offset very well by the caramel filling. It’s a saucy caramel that feels more like it’s about the texture, which is smooth with only the slightest hint of grain. There’s not much of a burnt sugar flavor but a nice saltiness that keeps the whole thing from being cloyingly sticky.
Citrus Chocolate smelled very orangy right out of the package. The milk chocolate is quite smooth, though also very sweet and a little sticky feeling. It’s a pretty dense milk chocolate, boasting 30% cacao content. But in this case it’s all about the orange flavor. The orange center is a soft, truffle-like thing, though not quite as buttery. The orange notes are all zest and quite strong. It reminded me of what a Terry’s Chocolate Orange should taste like (instead of being grainy and too sweet).
Rasberry Truffle is the only dark chocolate piece in the set. Wow, the center of this was a pretty intense fuschia, but the ingredients only list dried rasperries as an ingredient, so that’s all natural. The raspberry scent is nice, floral and little grassy. The creaminess of the center is interrupted by the actual bits of raspberry. For the most part it’s little tangy bits surrounding seeds. The flavor is nice, but I’m not terribly keen on seeds like this in my chocolate. The dark chocolate is sweet, not terribly complex but stands up well to the berry.
When I got to the Peppermint Crunch Truffle, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a milk chocolate truffle center or a white cream. It ended up being the milky former, which was a nice surprise. The crunch part, as you might imagine, is crushed candy pieces (not polenta or nonpariels). I was glad these were not only individually wrapped but also in their own tins, as this one smelled strongly of mint before even opening the wrapper. It’s nice to avoid that cross-contamination of strong flavors. It was pleasant, super creamy smooth with a light and cool touch of peppermint. The crispy crunch of the bitty mint bits brought some nice texture to it.
I’m curious to try some of their other items in their line but there’s nothing in particular that sets these apart from other comparably priced chocolates (See’s, for one) except for the no nuts part. For someone looking for some help with portion control, each piece has 60 calories (so one of these single-flavor tins has only 180 ... less than most candy bars). As a Valentine’s treat purchased at the drug store, it’s certainly far better than most of the other choices (I’d much rather have these than the Dove Jewels, but at regular price these cost twice as much). The packaging is cute and I’m glad I have a few tins to put other candies in later on for snacking. I’m just glad I didn’t pay full price for them.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
The box is very tasteful and appealing with a tiny cellophane window that shows that they’re nice looking glossy dark chocolate covered almonds. While they’re not the largest almonds in the world (I think Trader Joe’s consistently has the largest chocolate covered almonds I’ve ever seen) I was hoping that they were fresh.
The box is interesting, larger at the top than the bottom, which was kind of odd when I opened it because it means that the opening for spilling out the almonds from the top is pretty wide (and that means easy to fumble).
My experience with World’s Finest Chocolate is limited to the fundraising bars, and since I don’t have any neighbors or co-workers with kids in band, I haven’t had one in about a year (and that was a milk chocolate crisp bar). I never much cared for their chocolate, I always found it a bit sweet and waxy. (Our band in high school sold mostly those boxes of M&Ms ... or at least that’s what I bought.)
Some of the pieces looked about the size of a Peanut M&M and others were the larger almond size you’d expect. They smell very sweet, though not much like chocolate or almonds, more like a vanilla candle.
The chocolate coating is passably creamy, a little on the dry/chalky side with a very strong sweet and fake-vanilla finish. The almonds inside are pretty consistently crunchy, but not very fresh tasting. There wasn’t a bad nut in the bunch, but they just didn’t have a strong nutty taste ... it seemed to be all about the chocolate.
Dark chocolate covered almonds are one of my favorite foods. In fact, I think a handful with some pretzels and coffee are an ideal breakfast. I’ve had these sitting on my desk for a little over a week and I ate less than half the box. They look great, the spare packaging is elegant and the price, even when not on sale, is pretty decent. But the taste just didn’t wow me. These taste more like the box than those two great elements: dark chocolate and fresh almonds. Instead I find myself eating my plain old raw almonds instead.
I may give World’s Finest Chocolate another try at some point, though according to the WFC website, the Continental Almonds are their top seller.
Note: the bittersweet chocolate World’s Finest Chocolate uses contains milk, so is not suitable for vegans. Their website says their Kosher, but the package doesn’t indicate that.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
You know what makes a candy satisfying? Sweet fat and protein. It’s a delicate balance, but I find that peanuts are usually up for the job. Mars pretty much knows that and designed the Snickers bar to take full advantage.
When I first heard about the Limited Edition Snickers Nut ‘n Butter Crunch I was wondering if it was going to be a Butterfinger knockoff, as the Butter Crunch portion of the name might indicate. Then I wondered if it was a remix of the Snickers Cruncher. But it turns out it’s something altogether different.
Instead of nougat, peanuts, caramel and milk chocolate in the regular Snickers, this new Snickers Nut ‘n Butter Crunch is peanuts and some sort of peanut butter mass (something they call “peanut butter taste” on the wrapper) in milk chocolate. I’d characterize this stuff as a chewy peanut butter fudge or maybe a chewy peanut butter nougat. I think it falls into the nougat camp since there are egg whites in there.
The bar is a little smaller at 1.71 ounces, but still rivals the fat content of the regular Snickers which is 2.07 ounces.
It’s odd, because the texture of the bar makes me think that there’s some caramel in there, it is definitely chewy. But look at that cross section ... it’s jammed full of that “peanut butter taste.”
I like it, I really really like it. I actually like that it’s smaller than a regular Snickers bar, which is always just one bite too much for me. I like the solidness, I like that it’s less sweet and I actually like that it has 5 grams of protein. I’ll be curious to see if this becomes a regular item like the Snickers Dark did.
Monday, December 31, 2007
I’ve seen these at the Walgreen’s since this summer but didn’t really feel like paying $3.50 for a bag of something that I can’t quite get my head around. I was hoping to try them at the All Candy Expo, but the Necco booth doesn’t really “do” samples of anything other than their most common products.
Instead I found them last week on sale along with the Christmas items for 50% off. So at $1.75 for 10 ounces, I felt like a fool not buying them.
I believe the product is called Cafe Select Chocolate Coffee Trios but there’s so much going on with the package. Things like “Made with Real Coffee!” and “Espresso - Cappuccino - Latte” and then the disclaimer, “Naturally & Artificially Flavored Crunchy Coffee Centers in Rich Chocolate.”
This is one of those occasions where I think my photos look better than the one on the package.
Basically, they’re malted milk balls, only with a coffee flavored center instead of malt. The center is amber colored with an even aerated crisp. There were perhaps two or three “duds” in the whole package (ones that had deflated or weren’t ideally sized, which is really good quality control in my opinion.
Espresso - a dark chocolate shell and a coffee crunch center. The chocolate shell isn’t very dark or rich, but beyond the “shellac” on the outside, it’s creamy and not grainy or chalky. The crunchy center is a little salty and less like a malted milk “cereal puff” and more like a sponge candy or center of a Cadbury Crunchie. The coffee flavor is mild, but since it’s not very sweet the coffee flavors come through.
Cappuccino - the milk chocolate makes this a little sweeter than the espresso one, but I can’t detect any difference with the crunchy center. I prefer the dark ones.
Latte - these are kind of freaky looking. The color is less “creamy” than I think they intend, it looks more like a rock than some foamed milk. However, they tasted richer than the cappuccino ones. These were my second favorite, but also the rarest in this mix.
Overall, I was really pleased with these. I know there are better upscale versions from Koppers & Marich, but for something I found at the drug store (and at half off), I found them really tasty and a great change of pace. I’ve been hungering for a coffee candy lately, and this just might be it.
Necco makes another variety called Cafe Select Chai Tea Trios, which also sound kind of interesting (but strangely named) but I haven’t run across them yet.
In other news, Necco was purchased by a consortium of investors and it sounds like the company will continue to make candy (I can see where folks might think their assets are more valuable than their products). Here’s a press release with more financials in it and an easier to understand article.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I’ve talked a lot over the years about Candy Season and the accompanying seasonal candies that go with each. Slowly the candy companies are seeing that those seasonal favorites can be re-purposed into other seasons. Just like M&Ms are found in color combos for every time of the year and Russell Stover is making a marshmallow-filled pumpkin, Santa and egg, it seems that Cadbury doesn’t want anyone to miss out on incorporating their egg-shaped candies into the major holidays.
This is where the Cadbury Ornament Creme Egg comes in. It’s just a Cadbury Creme Egg with a red foil wrapper.
It seems silly, but I’m going to re-review these, even though they’re no different than the Easter version. However, the last time I ate one was back in ‘06 when they were 1.38 ounces. This made for a very large reservoir of fondant ... which is not my favorite part of the Cadbury Creme Egg. (My favorite part of the Cadbury Creme Egg, for the record, was the clucking bunny commercial.) The more recent version is 1.2 ounces.
The egg has a wonderful sweet dairy chocolate smell to it that reminded me of powdered milk. Both of mine had a small sticky problem around the seam (and I tried to hard to pick good ones).
The nose cone of both seemed extremely thick, which gave a good dose of chocolate to the otherwise too-sweet fondant density.
The fondant creme center is sweet, it’s nice and smooth indicating its freshness (an old Creme Egg will have a slight grain to the fondant). But really, it’s just a big hunk of sugar, and while I often enjoy big hunks of sugar (rock candy anyone?), I still felt a little too much of a sugar rush aftewards.
I think I prefer the smaller one. I’d love it if they made a mint one (and I did find the orange one a bit better). That said, it’s still not a favorite of mine. But I’m sure fans of the Creme Egg will be happy to see it now as their stockpiles from Easter are probably long gone.
While I can fault them for doing nothing more than slapping a different color wrapper on it and the word “ornament” to make it a Christmas product, I did find that making the Mini Eggs into little spheres for their new Christmas thingies did actually muck with perfection.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
I buy the vast majority of the candy I review here right in Los Angeles. Nearly all of it is from the normal places where most people buy their candy: Drug Stores, Grocery Stores and Convenience Stores and a few other specialty spots.
I frequent the following in no particular order:
Walgreen’s: this chain started popping up in Southern California more than six years ago, but didn’t appear in my neighborhood until the Pioneer Market in Echo Park on Sunset Blvd. closed and they took over the spot. They have a nicely organized candy section with a good variety, regular sales and the store is frequented enough that the inventory turns over quickly. I like it after the various candy holidays as their goods go on deeper sale much quicker. (I got Valentine’s candy for 75% off on the 18th and Easter candy the following Saturday.)
CVS: This chain just bought out our old chain called Sav-On. Sav-Ons were on and off of my poop list. I’ve bought expired candy there (before I learned how to read the expiration codes), even bloomed chocolate that was supposed to still be fresh and have found their selection a little lacking. CVS hasn’t been around long enough for me to develop an opinion of them yet, but I like how they don’t treat you like a criminal when you try to enter or exit the store, so points there. (They used to have these gates you had to go through with turnstiles to get in and the only way to get out of the store if you weren’t buying anything was to scoot past people in the checkout line.)
Target: there are several in the area now, each with slightly different layouts and selection. Some of the prices are very good, especially when you find it on sale. They carry their own line of Choxie and can have some incredible after holiday clearances. My favorite one to shop at for candy was in Harbor City and torn down to make way for a newer double-decker model later this year. Holiday clearances can be hit or miss because people make this one of their first stops.
Von’s: this is not my favorite grocery store, but they do have a rather good candy selection, especially when it comes to mid-range candies and gourmet bars (Ritter Sport, for one). The layout of the store that I frequent on Sunset Blvd. in Los Feliz happens to have a season candy display right at the entry of the store, so it’s an easy stop for me to make on my way home from work. They also seem to carry a lot of limited edition candies.
Trader Joe’s: this store chain has lots of fans for good reason. Good quality food at great prices. They make you work for it though, with narrow, crowded aisles, difficult parking and long lines. They carry house-brand candies as well as great imported and domestic items at unheard of prices.
Ralph’s: there are a few locations near to me, but I usually go a bit further afield to a location in Glendale (near the Petco and Cost Plus World Market). They usually have a huge selection of holiday candies (and companion clearance) as well as one of the few bulk candy selections I’ve found in SoCal. I don’t use the bulk bins, only the dump feeder bins (that way I know no one else has been putting their greasy paws on the goodies).
7-11: the largest convenience store chain in the US, they’re known not only for a location for a quick drink fix, but also their inventory of single-serving candies but also as one of the best sources for limited edition candies. When choosing a regular store, I look for one that has a candy aisle that does not face the large plate glass windows, which can cause chocolate candies to bloom. Prices are steep but if the store has good foot-traffic they candy is always fresh.
Cost Plus World Market: an import market that features furniture, housewares and food. Their candy selection is excellent, though the freshness is sometimes questionable for the niche candies. Prices can range from reasonable to strangely high. At Christmas they have a wide selection of imported sweeties from all over the world and an equally fun post-holiday sale.
Munchies: In West Los Angeles in an orthodox Jewish neighborhood, they have an amazing selection of bulk goods but also a lot of Israeli stuff. Pretty low key place with decent prices. Skip the ordinary stuff here and take a risk on the imported goodies.
Mel & Rose’s Wine & Spirits: If you’re in the mood for seeing a great selection of high-end chocolate bars & boxed chocolates, check out Mel & Rose’s Wine & Spirits on Melrose Blvd. They also have a huge selection of imported consumer candies from Australia and Europe at decent prices. They’re not far from the Beverly Center and Pacific Design Center just on the border of Beverly Hills.
The Candy Baron: This is a small chain in California, I found them to be pretty good, they carry a lot of regional favorites and of course bulk goods. They’re in Santa Monica. I don’t recommend a special trip for them, but if you’re down by the Promenade/Third Street/The Pier it might be worth it:
The Grove and the Farmers Market is a great option for “one stop shopping” in LA. The Grove is an upscale mall attached to the original LA Farmers Market.
In the Farmers Market there’s a stand called Ultimate Nut & Candy. No great shakes (but they do have good toffee popcorn) but an admirable selection of bulk candies behind the counter along with dipped dried fruits and nostaligic fare.
There’s also a Fudge & Toffee shop called Littlejohns. I’ve had their fudge, which I think is decent, but their pecan pralines & caramel marshmallow kisses are my favorites. (I haven’t tried their toffee yet.)
Tucked inside the south east corner is a place called Mr. Marcels - it’s the upscale grocer for the market and they carry quite a few imported candies. Prices are a bit inflated for imported mass-produced goodies, but a good selection and they seem to have a good turnover of product to keep it fresh.
Also in the compound is Cost Plus World Market (see above) Around the corner from that is a place called Duck Soup that carries regional candy bars and retro favorites.
India Sweets & Spices: this is a small chain of vegetarian India food served cafeteria-style along with a grocery store. I’ve visited the location in Los Feliz and found a decent selection of European (mostly UK) candy bars. For some reason they keep them in the refrigerator case all year round.
Little Tokyo is the ultimate location for candy in Los Angeles not just for Japanese goodies (though that’s the best reason to go there).
Mitsuwa: a grocery chain, found mostly in California but also a New Jersey location. They have all the standard Japanese fare (Pocky, HI-Chew, KitKat, etc.) plus Hawaiian goodies and some Chinese. Excellent prices, especially given that these are imported. (Most times I get regular Pocky for 99 cents a box.) I go to the one on Alameda and 3rd Street.
Nijiya Market: a small grocer in the Japanese Village Plaza with an excellent selection of take-away meals, snacks and candies. Good prices, fresh inventory and great location in the heart of the pedestrian area.
Marukai: clean and bright, excellent selection and location in Weller Court. They also carry a large selection of American consumer candies.
Fugetsu-Do: Los Angeles’ oldest purveyor of fresh-made Wagashi and Mochi. Red bean, white bean, soy and even peanut butter. They also have a moderate selection of Japanese candy standards.
Chinatown is also an excellent source of sweets, I’ve not fully explored it though I’ve made plenty of visits.
Okay, if you live in Los Angeles or have visited, where is a good place to get candy? (I’m still looking for a good store to get bulk candies at a decent price.)
Sunday, April 15, 2007
I did a little more shopping this weekend and picked up some good deals since Easter goodies were now 75% off.
Rite Aid (Hollywood) - only 50% off on Thursday night but I was stopping for batteries because the power was out
Target (Burbank Empire Center):
Walgreen’s (Echo Park):
Long’s Drugs (Glendale) - this location is in the basement parking area of a shopping plaza. They had a WHOLE aisle of Easter goodies, all in good condition and with a pretty good selection. They had cases and cases of Mini Eggs left for any of those folks who live in the area
The one thing I’ve found when shopping after holidays is you have to go where people aren’t planning on stocking up on candy. I know this seems like a weird thing to consider, but the Walgreen’s in Echo Park seems to be the best place for me to find a good selection even after the deeper discounts, while the one in Hollywood on Sunset Blvd was cleaned out on Monday. The Long’s in Glendale seemed to be the same way, excellent selection left (and still pretty neatly organized) and great prices. I was on the prowl for Lindt items, but I guess you have to get there early for those (or maybe they ship them out). Cost Plus World Market didn’t have a single candy item left and the Ralph’s and Von’s I stopped at also didn’t have any marked down candies - or perhaps they put them someplace I don’t go, like the meat department.
I’m going to do a roundup review of those things that are new here.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.