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.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
So last night on the way home from work I stopped at Walgreen’s and CVS to see what was still around. Both had 50% off sales. Now, this may sound like a good deal, but this is off of the “regular” price, which they don’t usually sell stuff for anyway. (At least I don’t buy stuff at regular price.)
Here’s what I got:
There isn’t much in online sale land. Godiva hasn’t put their stuff on sale yet, there are a few things at Lake Champlain and See’s never seems to have sales. Pop a note here if you see a great deal though.
Deeper discounts come as more time elapses, but then the selection decreases. The trick, I’ve found, is to shop at a store where people don’t usually stock up on candy. I’m not going to tell you where that is until I’ve plundered their selection yet! (I love you, sweet readers, but not that much!) I’m actually looking for stuff like the Lindt bunnies and Easter truffle assortments I saw a few weeks ago, but no luck yet.
I’m going to do a little deeper digging later this week (I have a bunch of deadlines right now and can’t quite devote as much time to candy acquisitions as I’d like). What have you found so far?
Friday, March 23, 2007
I think it must be Egg Day here at Candy Blog! Russell Stover makes a lot of different Eggs. I covered some last year and was pleasantly surprised.
This egg wins the award for “color of center that I’d most like to have as a cashmere sweater”. It’s a delicate dusty pearl pink. It’s light and fluffy (the cream, not the imaginary sweater) and the first thing that hits me is a little bit of salt, then the sweet floral flavors of the rapsberry. It’s not tangy ... all sweet and berry. Then it starts to sink in ... it’s really really sweet. Even the mild dark chocolate shell can’t cut through it.
It smells good, but it’s just not quite for me (I’ll gladly swap it for a Strawberry though). There are real raspberry seeds in there.
I reviewed the Organic Pecan Delight last month and found it a decent candy. So I thought I’d give the original a try in the form of the Pecan Delight Egg. It has to be good, there’s gold on the wrapper, right.
Well, color me disappointed. Mostly because one of the major elements promised in the name of the candy is missing ... the pecans. While the Organic Pecan Delight had quite a few, it was as if they used the same amount of pecans for this whole egg as they did in those smaller candies. The caramel is nice and smooth with a light chew to it and the chocolate was okay, without the woodsy crunch of the pecans, this just wasn’t my thing.
Peanut Butter Egg is a milk chocolate egg with a peanut butter crumble filling. It’s dark tasting, smoky and nutty.
It’s rough when I eat candies similar to See’s around the same time, because they suffer by comparison. However, I have to say that this is a rather different peanut butter egg and good in its own right. It’s not a Reese’s, not a See’s, it’s a Russell Stover. More roasty tasting, a little salty and really quite good.
I think my fave of the Russell Stover Eggs is still the dark chocolate coconut (which I picked up in Heart form at Valentine’s), but it was fun to give these a go. They’re often on sale for 50 cents each, perhaps a fun change-up from the drudgery of regular candy bars (and because they’re only an ounce, perhaps a little savings of calories).
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Wonka makes a product called Runts, which are little fruit flavored & shaped compressed dextrose candies covered in a hard candy shell. They’re super cute. They’ve recently added a couple of flavors (some sort of blue balls and pink hearts), but the essence of Runts has always been quirky shapes to match the flavors.
The unique item about Runts has always been the banana. Love it or hate it, you can’t argue that it doesn’t look like a banana (but you’re welcome to argue that it doesn’t taste like one).
Enter the holiday version of Runts, the Runts Freckled Eggs. They’re little egg shaped Runts ... with freckles!
These Runts, as you can see, are egg shaped. They’re also spattered in a sassy way in different colors. There are four flavors: Orange, Blue Raspberry, Green Something and Strawberry. The spattering varies from egg to egg, which pleased me.
The candies themselves are fun, they’re kind of like Gobstoppers, they have a hard shell that feels cool on the tongue, it’s ultra smooth and sweet. Unlike Gobstoppers these shells are thin and you can crack open the candies to reveal the compressed dextrose (ala a SweeTart) candy inside. The candy center isn’t a tart as a SweeTart but more mellow. Not very flavorful either, but I could tell the difference between the flavors ... expect the green one. Sometimes I thought it was watermelon, sometimes green apple.
My complaint here is that there’s no banana. But if you approach these without any preconceptions attached to the all-season Runts, these are tasty and certainly a bit different than jelly beans and marshmallow eggs. I kind of liked the box too.
These were made in Mexico.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
You know what surprised me most about this candy? It recognizes that it’s for Easter. There’s only one other product I’ve reviewed (as far as I can tell) in the past two years that actually mentions the Easter holiday on the wrapper. (The bunny is holding a basket that says “Happy Easter”) Strange, isn’t it? Are we all kidding ourselves that all these egg shaped things could easily be for Passover? (Oddly enough, this is Kosher ... though not for Passover since it has corn syrup in it.)
But I guess I digress.
This is the second Cadbury Royal Dark Raspberry Bunny I’ve bought this year. I lost the first one after I took the photo. (So calling out to it does no good ... it’s missing its ears!) It’s probably in the seat cushions in the car or stuck to the bottom of one of my backpacks.
It’s a very pretty bunny. It’s really well made, nice and shiny and with a pleasant chocolate scent. It’s well formed and looks like a bunny, unlike some candies I’ve purchased for Easter. It’s mostly chocolate with only a small reservoir of “Raspberry Creme Center” in it. It’s not very big, so it’s a good chocolate treat that won’t leave you hating yourself.
The only problem is that Raspberry Creme center ... what is it? At first I thought it was a caramel. It’s almost a syrup and certainly not a creme. It’s sticky and drippy and a little tangy. It even tastes a little salty. It doesn’t taste much like raspberry. Smells a little like it, but doesn’t really taste like it.
The chocolate is that Royal Dark chocolate that Cadbury is pushing now (with the Royal Dark Mini Eggs) which is rather palatable. It’s sweet but also has some nice cocoa notes. It lacks a sort of buttery oomph that good dark chocolate can have.
I’m not really that fond of this. It’s fun and of course it’s not terribly big or expensive, so I can’t be that disappointed.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.