Wednesday, July 11, 2007
There are a bazillion candy bars in the world because people have different preferences and determinations of why they buy & eat them (dietary restrictions, politics, price, availability). While I review candy, I’m giving my opinion with information about all my other preferences as a touchstone and I respect other people’s opinion (that’s why there’s a comment section on this blog!). I don’t think I’ve ever gotten in someone’s face and said “this bar is better than that one and you’re a fool if you believe otherwise.” (Okay, I’ve been a bit harsh on Arcor.)
The funny thing about the whole article was the comparison between Cadbury made in the UK and the American Cadbury chocolate manufactured with some UK ingredients here by Hershey’s.
Anyone who’s been following along with the story about the FDA considering the dilution of the definition of chocolate will recognize that the stuff that Cadbury sells as “chocolate” in the UK doesn’t even qualify as such in the US. (So it’s good that the article is titled best candy bars and not best chocolate bars.) Also that last bit about soy lecithin makes it look like there aren’t any emulsifiers in the UK version, which are listed quite clearly right after that vegetable fat. (Honestly I’d like to see the complete lists side by side.)
I have to give it to the Brits though, they still have the Curly Wurly ... what a sad country we are that the Marathon bar is gone. Here’s my roundup of English candy ... which I generally like quite a bit! (I don’t think it’s better or worse than American and I’m glad that so many of the traditional English candies are still around ... Allsorts & Barley Sugar anyone?)
As for Hershey bars tasting like ear wax as Kevin Ellis was quoted in the article, well I’ve never tasted Kevin Ellis’ ear wax, so I can’t comment about his opinion, but I’ve always likened Hershey’s to being like a yogurty chocolate (the tangy milky taste) instead of the dried milk flavor of Cadbury. To each his own.
(I haven’t done many head to heads, but here’s one on the Milky Way/Mars bars from UK, Canada and US.)
Summertime is about long trips in the car with whiny, sweaty children. One of the options to appease the little ones, of course, is candy. But I know a lot of parents want to do better by their kids so they opt for fruit snacks, items that are ultra-portable, don’t spoil and can take the heat of a parked car.
So while on a trip to the 99 Cent Only store I decided to pick up a couple of brands that seemed to be positioning themselves for kids but not made by candy companies. I found the Betty Crocker Scooby Doo Fruit Flavored Snacks and the Kellogg’s Hello Kitty Fruit Flavored Snacks. Both say they have 100% of the RDA of Vitamin C and have six flavors (naturally and artificially flavored).
The Hello Kitty snacks come in one large bag (3.8 ounces) while the Scooby-Doo ones come in four pouches of .9 ounces each (3.6 ounces total weight for the box). The portion control of the Scooby-Doo ones is a nice feature, since it’s only 80 calories for a pack. (And if you have kids who can’t share from a single bag, that might be a good option.)
Just a note, when I looked online for these products I did see that the Hello Kitty ones come in boxes with individual packed portions as well, so you can have it either way.
I used to watch Scooby-Doo when I was a kid so I can tell you that I didn’t have to go looking up anyone’s name (like I tried for Hello Kitty). My packages (I’ve only eaten two of the four so far) were slight on Velma, which is too bad because I like orange best. Shaggy was grape and tasted like magic markers and the Mystery Machine was green and tasted like floor wax. Daphne is red and cherry ... which fits because she was always my least favorite character.
They were soft and fresh. Not bouncy like a gummi, but not as chewy as Swedish Fish either.
The Hello Kitty ones are so cute I could cry. Look ... a bow! Look ... a star! Of course my favorite is the little pink bunny winking at me (someone help me out with a name there).
The pieces are soft and chewy, but not sticky. Firm, but not hard. The flavor is good, it’s easy to tell them apart (pink is cherry and red is strawberry). They’re not super-tangy, but do have a little tart kick to them. It may just be my imagination, but these have a little coconut background flavor to them. I know that the ingredients mention coconut oil which is way down on the list and I’m guessing is something they use to keep them from sticking together.
The only real difference so far between these snacks is the shape of the candies and that one comes in individual portions. So I turned the packages over to study the nutrition (the same) and ingredients. I found this part rather interesting, so I’ll share what’s inside each:
Scooby Doo Fruit Flavored Snacks
Hello Kitty Fruit Flavored Snacks
So when I first looked at these I thought, Scooby Doo wins ... the first ingredient is fruit juice! But upon looking closer, Scooby Doo has lumped apple & pear juice together as a single ingredient, while Hello Kitty breaks them out into two separate ingredients, which makes them fall, by proportion, lower on the list.
Both products are made by cereal companies (Betty Crocker is run by General Mills). While they both have fruit juice as an ingredient, let’s be realistic here, Apple and Pear juices aren’t known for high antioxidant properties or their nutrition profile. (There’s a reason why applesauce makes such good cake, after all.) The packages call these “snacks” but these products are candy plain and simple and the 99 Cent Only store rightfully put them in the candy aisle. (I don’t know where they keep them at the grocery store, but I don’t see them in the candy aisle.)
As portion controlled candy, hey, they’re fun. They’re small, they don’t have a lot of calories because there’s no fat, but then again, they don’t have any fiber or protein in there either. If your kids want some candy and they like these, then hey, give them to them as a sometime snack. If you think that these are part of a balanced breakfast, well, do some more reading and maybe buy some fresh fruit instead. There are other candies that have a similar nutrition profile (jelly beans) so don’t be afraid of looking at some labels to find a good compromise between treat and indulgence. (There’s an article in the Detroit Free Press today that lists 10 great healthy snacks for kids.) If you’re actually looking for a candy that’s free of artificial colors and flavors, try the Organic Surf Sweets.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Once upon a time the 3 Musketeers candy bar made sense. Back when it was first introduced in 1932 it was actually a set of Neopolitan bars. One was a vanilla fluff, one was a chocolate fluff and one was a strawberry fluff. In 1945 all three segments were switched to the chocolate fluff. Then sometime later (I think in the late sixties) it was formed into a single bar as we see it today.
The current 3 Musketeers bar is supposed to taste kind of like a malted milkshake. A chocolate outside and a chocolatey malted milk fluff inside. Though it’s not malty enough for me (and they long ago dropped that marketing aspect), the bar is very popular, especially among dieters who like the heft and satisfaction but lower fat (though it does still contain 260 calories at 2.13 ounces). The package even mentions that it has “45% less fat than the average of the Leading Chocolate Brands.” The commercials lately feature skinny women at the office and movies.
So that brings us up to today where 3 Musketeers is finally extending their line of bars, not by looking back to the glory days of Strawberry but forward to the cluttered field of Mint and Dark Chocolate.
The new 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate is a very attractive set of bars. The package weighs significantly less than its chocolate progenitor at only 1.24 ounces but boasts two Musketeers inside. Dark Chocolate coating with an appealing and clean looking white fluffy filling. (I was afraid it was going to be pink or green or have sparkles.)
I rather like bars that come in smaller portions inside the pack. I like it in my Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, I like it in my Goldenberg Peanut Chews and I think it was the right move for 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate.
I’m not a huge consumer of 3 Musketeers, I prefer them in the miniature size but sometimes I’ll eat a frozen one. So with that in mind I bought two packages of the 3 Musketeers Mint and froze one.
The room temperature 3 Musketeers are nice. They have an easy bite and an appealing sort of spongy give like the regular 3 Musketeers. However, my first impression after the nice dark chocolate shell is SALT. Then comes a light hit of peppermint, but really it tastes salty to me.
So I went and found a York Peppermint Pattie, just to see what the salt content is on that (and figured, what the heck, I’ll take a photo of it and really compare the two candies). The 3M (I just can’t keep typing that long name) has 65 mg of salt (3% of your daily value) ... that’s 52 mg per ounce. The York Peppermint Pattie has 10 mg in a 1.4 ounce pattie ... that’s 7 mg per ounce. So let’s see ... that’s more than 7 times a salty.
Maybe that’s the new fad 3M is starting here. They’re going after the crowd that enjoys artisan sea salt caramels ... it’s the new rage ... salted mints! (Hey, it’s been working for Licorice for a long time!)
Okay, all that aside, I enjoyed the salty difference. It didn’t feel cloying and sticky like some peppermint creams can. There was a bit of a grain to the fluffed center (as there is with the regular 3M bar). But since I had the York PP sitting nearby, I had to have some of that as a side by side comparison. The YPP is smooth and has a very noticeable minty blast, much more noticeable than the 3M.
However, upon taking the 3M out of the freezer, I noticed that the salty flavor wasn’t quite as apparent and the actual cold supported the cooling mint quite well. Freezing it though does make the center a little tacky and chewy, not really a selling point for me.
So, if you like a really strong minted bar, this isn’t for you. It you dig a really subtle hit of mint and perhaps need to recharge with some electrolytes (salt) this may be a pleasant change. Also, because this bar weighs less than the regular 3 Musketeers, it’s only 150 calories but still really quite satisfying. (For reference the slightly heavier York Peppermint Pattie is 160 calories).
3 Musketeers Mint have egg whites in them so are unsuitable for vegans. They are Kosher though ... may contain Peanuts.
Monday, July 9, 2007
I finally found a video on YouTube of the most disturbing Skittles commercial ever. And that’s saying a lot, because just about all of the Skittles/Starburst commercials are disturbing on some level. I love their inclusiveness (they embrace the disinfranchised and marginalized, as far as I can tell).
You might be old enough to recognize the fellow being milked ... that’s David Groh (not Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, silly!). David Groh is an actor who is best known as Rhoda Morgenstern’s husband, Joe Gerard. (The best part of that show was Julie Kavner who went on to become an integral part of The Simpsons.)
Anyway, back to the commercial at hand ... I guess the most disturbing part is that he has six teats. Which is really odd ... cows only have four and of course humans only have two. Pigs, I think, have six or maybe eight. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this. You’re either going to love it or hate it. (I’m just glad they don’t say that Skittles have David Groh milk in them ....)
Here’s the recap of the week in Candy Blog reviews:
Monday: Twix PB (6 out of 10)
Tuesday: Nestle Crunch Crisp (4 out of 10)
Thursday: Sour Patch Kids (7 out of 10)
Friday: The Candy Dump: Chocovic Jade, Gazillions, Fauchon Hazelnutties, Fruities & Fruitips (6 out of 10)
Weekly Average: 5.875 ... 44% chocolate content (if you count the Nestle Crunch Crisp as chocolate).
It’s been well over a year since I had my first Pocket Coffee. They’re not easy to find in the United States, so I’ve been looking for an adequate locally-found replacement. I tried the Anthon Berg Coffee filled chocolates as well, but I haven’t been able to find just the espresso ones (the other flavors are a little too sweet for what I’m looking for in this case).
So I was quite excited when I saw these at Trader Joe’s, Espresso Chocolates. The package says that they’re “Rich, Dark Chocolate filled with Liquid Espresso Coffee.” Exactly what I’ve been looking for.
The package holds 3.88 ounces, and by my count, that’s 11 or 12 individual pieces (I can’t remember how many I ate ... except for “all of them.”)
The pieces are about the same size and shape of Pocket Coffee (or Mon Cheri) with a pleasant little wood grain on the top. Like it’s a log filled with espresso ... you know, the kind that you find in the Black Coffee Forest.
The chocolates are gorgeous and all were prefectly formed with no cracks or bleeds. Unlike the Pocket Coffee, these have no internal sugar shell (though they might form one eventually ... see above where I admit that I’ve already eaten them all and can’t experiment). The ingredient are: Cocoa Mass, Wheat Syrup, Sugar, Lactose, Cocoa Butter, Espresso Coffee, Soy Lecithin. Now, I suspect that the Wheat Syrup and Espresso Coffee are the syrupy filling (as I can’t imagine Wheat Syrup integrating well with chocolate and the Espresso filling is definitely sweet).
The filling is thicker than espresso, it’s woodsy and tangy and has a good coffee flavor but also some other notes rather like molasses or barley. The chocolate shell is sweet and tasty.
I’m not quite sure who makes these for Trader Joe’s, but the box says that they’re made in Germany, so I don’t think they’re made by Ferrero (the ingredients aren’t quite the same either). The package is very kind to list the caffeine content: 22 mg for a serving of 4 pieces. Compare that to a small cup (6 ounces) of brewed coffee which has 100 mgs. Sleep easy and have one in the evening!
Notes from the box:
While it recommends one bite, I like biting off one end and holding it upright, drinking the syrup center, then eating the chocolate. Melting them in your mouth is a completely different experience, because it reverses things and you get your chocolate first and an espresso chaser.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.