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.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
I like the kind of sour stuff that gets the jaw a-tingling, stuff that has a bit of flavor to go along with the intense acidity. Warheads by Impact Confections makes some pretty intensely sour stuff, but their new QBZ are simply rated sour on their intensity scale. (The Warheads Junior Extreme Sour are two steps above.)
These little gem cubes come in Green Apple, Strawberry, Blue Raspberry & Watermelon. They’re marketed as “bite-sized, sour-coated cubes don’t stick to teeth like many chewy candies.” I picked these up at Walgreens in a cute single serve package.
They are actually little cubes, a bit irregular but brightly colored. They have a little sugary/sour sanding on them to keep them from sticking together.
They have an easy, soft bite, a bit of a cross between a fruit jelly and a gummi (they do have gelatin in them).
These are definitely edible, not something you’d only do for a dare. The flavor mix is fun though I’m mystified why there’s no orange or lemon in there as they are actually flavors that are supposed to be sour.
They’re fun to eat either way - you can suck the sour powder off and get a really intense tingly kick or chew it quickly to mix the tangy outer coating with the milder, more flavorful center.
I think I still prefer the sour gummi bears, but then again those just had a flavor variety that I prefer. These are also similar to the Albanese Beeps (Caitlin at Candy Addict reviewed them here). Albanese is made in the USA, Warheads are made in China.
Preferences aside, these may be easier to find than other, better gummi sour options or, of course, Sour Patch Kids.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Ghirardelli has really expanded their line of chocolate bars over the past five years. Not only that, I see their products everywhere now thanks to the expansion of higher end chocolate into grocery stores and drug chains. They even have a charming chain of ice cream stores.
But I’ve ignored them on the blog for a long time. Probably because my initial impression of them has been that the chocolate bars is waxy and bland. But they’re wildly popular and have been making chocolate since 1852 in the Bay Area, one of my favorite candy destinations, so I needed to put those impressions to the test.
That’s not to say that I don’t use their chocolate chips, I prefer them to Nestle’s Toll House Morsels or Hershey’s Baking Chips and they’re often on sale for a decent price.
So I picked up this assortment of tasting squares after Christmas when they were on sale. They feature the new line of Intense Dark in three different flavors.
The Espresso Escape wrapper says: dark chocolate with finely ground espresso beans in 60% cacao. As usual I was worried about the bits of coffee beans, but in thsi case they really were so finely ground as they matched the particle size of the cocoa solids.
Roasted brewed coffee flavors mixed with the woodsy taste of real beans. Very little chocolate flavor here, it’s all coffee but with a smooth chocolate texture. Good cocoa butter melt, very silky. Light vanilla overtones. But the cedar and smoke is quite tangy.
While I enjoyed the texture quite a bit, the flavor was just a little too, well, Intense (tm).
The Mint Bliss package says: dark chocolate with natural mint in 60% cacao. What the front of the package doesn’t mention is that there’s also some unidentified “artificial flavor” in this as well.
Nice buttery texture, but an incongruous tangy and musty taste along with the peppermint. It’s more of a fresh peppermint leaf taste, not a pure peppermint oil, which is a nice change of pace from their Peppermint Bark that I had over the holidays. But the combination of flavors still doesn’t quite jive for me.
It has a nice buttery melt with a light cool feeling but the flavor is a little thin. It’s a little fruity, on the raisin side of things.
It’s sweet, only the lightest trace of bitterness. Light dry finish.
Ghirardelli has some other versions in their Intense Dark line, including the Midnight Reverie that has 86% cacao, Evening Dream with only 60% cacao and two other flavored 60% called Citrus Sunset & Toffee Interlude. They also have some filled bars that I haven’t tried yet.
Overall, it’s nice stuff, certainly worth the price and a fun little pickup for coffee or after dinner, maybe a mid-day munch. I like the 10.6 gram squares, it’s a good size for a little taste of chocolate.
Note: the Mint Bliss & Espresso Escape have milk fat in them, so are unsuitable for vegans, but the Twilight Delight is milk-free (though made on equipment that processes dairy).
Friday, April 11, 2008
I’m hearing a lot of hatin’ on black licorice in the entries for the Red Vines Giveaway. Which makes me sad. I think a lot of folks are very attached to their favorite candies and I’m probably one of those people and maybe I take it a little personally when someone calls something that I appreciate disgusting. (But I’m not a converter or anything, I don’t like to force candy on people who say that they don’t like something.)
Licorice has a long and wonderful history as a confection and even a medicine. It’s also very flexible, used as a flavoring in hundreds of different sweet and savory items. It has some companion flavors as well, such as anise and fennel. One of the more commonly found licorices is the Red Vines Black Licorice Twists.
The most common kind of licorice here in the United States is the twist. It has a wheat base and is usually flavored and sweetened with molasses (and in this case, corn syrup too). Molasses is a great companion to licorice. While pure licorice is very sweet and soft on the tongue, molasses is deep and only mildly sweet with some interesting mineral notes.
The earthy combination and less sticky complexity to it all makes Red Vines Black Licorice Twists a nice treat. They’re not very licoricey, but that’s okay, they do have a nice texture and feel more like a snack than a candy sometimes. (Wheat-based candies can do that.) I think they’re best when they’re fresh, but stale is okay. I’ve revived stale licorice before by placing it in the microwave on top of a very lightly damp paper towel, covered with another paper towel and zap it for 10 seconds.
Licorice and licorice-like candies are increasing in popularity, probably because of their low caloric density and satisfying chew. As a grocery store purchase of licorice, I prefer Good and Plenty, but if you put Red Vines Black Licorice in front of me, I’ll definitely eat it.
Rating: 6 out of 10
I’d never had them until I started the blog. I picked them up two years ago to try and found the bag was so horribly stale that it wouldn’t have been fair. So again with full warning this time that National Licorice Day was approaching, I picked up another bag.
It’s mind boggling. I don’t even know where to begin with how confused, anxious and actually angry these make me.
First, I opened the bag and it smelled like sweet musk. Yes. Like the Australian Musk Lollies. And I know this smell because I recently bought a bag.
At first I thought I was crazy. I’ve had smell hallucinations and I’ve heard that simply coloring a food one way will make someone expect that flavor, so maybe I was just having some sort of synapse malfunction.
But it’s been a full week and I’ve checked with others. The reaction to the smell ranges from “It smells like my grandmother’s purse” to “that’s like a bad candle shop.”
None of it gets better. The colors are odd, like slightly bleached by the sun or perhaps rinsed in the colander with some fresh veggies and they’ve run.
The texture is like eating surgical tubing ... that’s been sitting next to leaking perfume samples for several months. They candy is made of little tubes of a similar wheat-based licorice vine (no twist to it) that is then coated on the outside with a candy shell (I can’t call it crunchy, only colorful). After chewing a bit the flavor does kind of warm up, after the musk has gone away it’s a little bit like licorice, but lacking the anise punch and the deep earthy molasses flavors.
The American Licorice Company explains them this way:
Maybe it’s just because I don’t like musk. But someone must like these candies or they wouldn’t be making them for those rabid fans. Or maybe people just use them for craft projects. They might make some decent kid-safe chunky beads for stringing on some embroidery thread.
I just ... don’t know what else ... to write about them. I can only assume that those people who hate licorice have tasted this and I can’t blame them for their hostility towards the stuff. (Go ahead and call me hypocritical for hatin’ on this stuff, I can take it.)
Rating: 2 out of 10
The Red Vines Giveaway closes on Saturday, April 12th, so enter if you want some! (Don’t worry, there will be no Snaps in the winner packages.)
Thursday, April 10, 2008
I was looking forward to this bar when I heard about it at All Candy Expo last September. It was teased, “Satisfy your taste for adventure! Rich chocolate. Crunchy nuts. And a cliffhanger kick of exotic spice and a hint of sweet coconut flavor.” That description doesn’t sound that gripping, but still a tasty combo.
The bars began showing up on store shelves in the past few weeks, along with the other tie-in items like the new color & icons in the Milk Chocolate M&Ms and Peanut M&Ms as well as the Mint Crisp M&Ms.
Here’s the obligatory and gratuitous cross-section:
It looks like a regular Snickers, it has the same milk chocolate coating and two layers inside. The top layer is caramel studded with peanuts and the bottom is a fluffed nougat.
There is a faint whiff of coconut, but I’m not getting any chai spices in there.
Still, all I’m getting is a bit saltier nougat and the coconut flavor mixed into the caramel.
It’s not bad, but certainly doesn’t live up to its name. If you’ve always wanted a coconut Snickers (and I know a few people mentioned a love of coconut in the Snickers Rockin’ Nut Road Ideal Candy Bar question) this might be the bar for you. Of course it may also be a big disappointment for true coconut fans, as there is no actual coconut in there. You might just want to pick up an Almond Joy and smash it on top of a regular Snickers for a better effect (and a true mash up!).
While this may have disappointed me (and the Snickers Rockin’ Nut Road Bar didn’t), I’ve got to give them props for trying some new things instead of just using the same ingredients in different ways (like the Snickers Nut ‘n Butter Crunch) or taking away an element (like the Snickers Xtreme).
The package design is a bit better on this one, I think, than the Mint Crisp M&Ms. Don’t forget to check out the new colors of M&Ms, too.
The Milk Chocolate M&Ms are in a muted color palatte: Red, Brown, Amber and Cream.
They all have assorted new icons on them, integrated with the letter M in some way. I like the one that’s wearing the Indiana Jones hat and the map ordinal. There are also various pyramids and native masks. Some of them feel a bit like a retread of the Pirates of the Caribbean, including the skull. But I guess that’s the genre of movie. The Peanut ones rarely have a legible icon on them as well, but hey, that’s the hazard with using a real peanut center.
All of the Indiana Jones tie in Mars products are available in stores now. I found mine at CVS and Walgreen’s.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
They turned up at Walgreens, and on sale to boot (well, it was strange sale where they’d charge $2.99 a bag to mortals off the street, but someone with a coupon could get 3 for the price of 2 or something like that, but I was charged $1.59 after I gave them my best, “I don’t understand, the tag on the shelf says they’re a dollar each, but I don’t want to buy three.” and then they tried to explain it and I just kind of kept sweetly repeating that I should be able to just buy one and still get a sale price, even if it’s not the super-low price. Finally they just put a key in the register and that’s what I paid).
Each of these ropes is just shy of an ounce (.988 ounces), so it’s a satisfying portion and about 100 calories to boot.
They’re very soft, sometimes so soft that it’s hard to pull apart the ropes without breaking off pieces.
They’re fun to twist and roll, even tie in knots or probably do macrame. (I should have photographed the little scarf I made for a Peeps Bunny.)
And the taste? Well, it’s definitely a spicy cinnamon. It smells like Red Hots and has both a sweet flavor, a bit of a tangy bite and then after chewing for a bit, a low and pleasant cinnamon burn.
I don’t know what’s taken Twizzlers so long to make a really good cinnamon twist like this, but I’m glad they did. For those minding their calories, you may enjoy the interactivity and the low caloric density and overall satisfaction of the candy. I’m not sure when they’ll come out with these in single serving packages, but they should.
For some bizarro reason, these aren’t listed on the Hershey’s website even though they’ve been on shelves for at least three months.
These are made with a corn syrup and wheat base, so they’re not suitable for those who cannot have gluten.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.