Monday, June 25, 2007
The first thing I was looking for at the Candy Palace at Disneyland was something unique. Why should I eat something that I can get anywhere? So I scoured the store to find something that was made only for sale at the Disneyland candy stores. Sadly, there really wasn’t anything there like that, so I settled for something that I thought I’d like that had a novel take ... the Dark Chocolate Pretzels in the shape of Mickey Mouse.
They were sold in a couple of different formats, a simple plastic baggie tied with a bow with a stack of four (mostly shopworn though), they had singles in the candy case for $1.25 each and then a nice box with 8 ounces of dark chocolate pretzels for $9.95. The box had all the classic Disney characters on it. Nothing from this century (the most recent characters on there are Beauty & the Beast and The Little Mermaid). The box looked like it protected the contents well (shaking it actually didn’t yield much in the way of sound, which is a good thing).
The pretzels are gorgeous! The dark chocolate is glossy, thick and with cute little scribbles to make it extra dense in spots. They’re in a deep tray, leaning against each other in little slots, eight pretzels total. (So that makes them 1 ounce each.)
Only one was broken.
The pretzels themselves are bigger than I’m used to, at first I thought they were stale but then I realized they were just really crunchy and a bit dense ... which kind of keeps them from being crispy in the way I’m accustomed to. The chocolate is good quality, not too sweet and with a good balance of smoky notes and a dry finish. The pretzel is only lightly salted, so this remains a sweet treat. Unfortunately this “dark” chocolate has milkfat in it, so it’s not for vegans. It is Kosher though (I don’t think anything in the candy case is). 8 out of 10
For the record I also tried a Milk Chocolate Pretzel out of the candy case, which I ate as I left the park. It tasted like, well, candy case. The pretzel was a little stale and the chocolate bland.
The candy case has a huge variety of chocolate treats in it. Nut clusters, caramel patties, peppermint patties, chocolate dipped crisped rice treats, chocolate marshmallow bars on sticks, little cups with white chocolate mixed with cookie bits, milk chocolate with M&Ms, chocolate haystacks, toffee, and of course the chocolate covered pretzels mentioned above.
I was drawn to the Milk Chocolate Caramel Marshmallow Bar. It’s about the size of a Snickers bar, though not quite as dense in hand. I was hoping for something to approach the See’s Scotchmallow.
Inside the bar the caramel and marshmallow are in equal proportions. The caramel is thin, though chewy and smooth (but lacking some deep burnt caramel flavors). The marshmallow is moist and springy and not too sweet. The milk chocolate is okay, sweet and milky and pretty smooth. It’s a sweet bar, but the marshmallow makes it feel both satisfying and light at the same time. $1.95 ... I give it a 7 out of 10.
I had very low expectations for the Small Mickey Turtles. The large ones in the case, though attractive in shape and size were a bit bloomed. The little ones weren’t quite as pretty, but the price was certainly better for someone who was looking for variety.
My expectation for something called a “Turtle” is this: caramel and pecans covered in chocolate. I like my caramel to be soft and chewy, but also flavorful to provide more than a textural counterpoint to the nuts. Pecans are a strongly flavored nut, so a good caramelized caramel is important.
The Mickey Turtle is a huge disappointment. The nuts didn’t taste fresh. The chocolate had more of the flavor of the refrigerator case than of chocolate and the caramel was less like caramel and more like a fudge or pecan praline (a chocolate covered pecan praline would be delightful, too).
Oddly enough the “turtle” pictured here with the white stripes wasn’t a turtle at all. I think it was supposed to be a truffle, but it tasted a bit more like a piece of fudge covered in chocolate. Again, it tasted like refrigerator more than chocolate.
The large (bloomed) Turtles were $3.00 each. The mini versions were 94 cents. Not bad as price goes, but it’s certainly not worth it. I give these (even the accidental “truffle”) a 5 out of 10.
If you’re coming to California and want a special candy treat to take home, go to See’s. The prices are better, the candy fresher and of course it just tastes better. (And I’ll wager you won’t stand in line as long ... most California airports even have a See’s kiosk.)
Next, I’ll try some of the prepackaged candy bars!
I went to Disneyland last week with my family. This was my niece and nephew’s first visit there and my third (though I never got to go as a child). They had their priorities (meeting the Princesses and Jedi Academy, respectively) and I had mine.
Before going to the park I did some reading about what’s there. I found out that there is a candy store on Main Street called the Candy Palace that has been there since the park first opened fifty years ago. (There are very few candy stores in southern California that can say the same.) They actually make their own candy on site (fudge, chocolate cups, dipped apples, etc.). Of course I fully expected everything to be expensive and I wasn’t disappointed on that front.
So, what can you expect to find at Disneyland?
The store is themed like an older arcade. The center section of the store features those machines that you put a penny and two quarters into to make a souvenir and pick a stamp to smash into the penny. There were also some old fashioned fortune telling games and nickelodeons. And of course fudge. Lots and lots of fudge.
There are three counters. The center one by the door sells fudge and salt water taffy. Behind that is a short wall of jelly beans (Jelly Belly, I’ll wager). At $12 a pound, they’re pretty pricey, but you can buy a quarter pound, which I suppose isn’t so bad if you’re getting exactly the flavors you want.
At the side counter, by the candy kitchen that faces the street, they sell peanut brittle and dipped apples (candy, chocolate and caramel) along with some other things.
Then in the back the store opens up and there’s a large center counter with a refrigerated case that sold all sorts of chocolate treats (most made on site). This ranged from chocolate dipped strawberries to chocolate dipped pretzels, caramel cups, rocky road, a few different varieties of turtles and nut rolls and even some sugar free items.
The rest of the store is devoted to prepackaged items in different themed “brands”. There were the Goofy items which are all non-chocolate like taffy, red licorice, gummi and compressed dextrose. Most were in character shapes. Goofy also had a Pucker Powder dispenser (one of two in the park that I found). Other items were tins of chocolates (truffles, nut clusters and chocolate covered pretzels). There were items for Pirates of the Caribbean (swords filled with tart candy “treasure”) and Princess items (pastel tarts and lollipop).
Mickey Mouse has his own line of chocolate bars (milk, dark and milk with almonds) and lollipops. Prepackaged can be good if all you want is a little pick-me up. You won’t find any other candy in the park ... no Snickers, no Hershey bars, it’s all Disneyland branded sweets.
Prices were pretty clearly marked on most items, which is always a relief. Some were rather reasonable like the chocolate bars at only $1.25 each. Others seemed absurd, such as $4.00 for a little clear 2” plastic cube with some gummi bears in it for $4.00.
The clerks were super-friendly and patient, as you’d expect at Disney, but it’s worth noting. They were also knowledgeable about the products ... except the woman who ended up ringing me up couldn’t find the little SKU to ring in some of my items from the cooler case ... but we found it! Around the corner in the same building is a little ice cream shop as well, and outside of that a small plaza with tables to consume your sweets. I had a $2.69 bottle of water for the day and snacked on a soft pretzels (shaped like Mickey, natch). Mary Poppins and Bert came by for a while and danced to the ragtime piano music and signed autographs (we suspect that the Mary Poppins was the same cast member we met earlier as Princess Belle).
Other stores ...
Pooh Corner is over in Critter Country tucked away in a corner and themed the Huny Spot. The store was nearly deserted when I went in there the first time, it was after lunch and I guess everyone was back on the rides. They have a smaller candy counter that has the same chocolate dipped goodies as well as a selection of cookies. There was a large display of Goofy Candy, the sour, Pucker Powder dispenser, and of course the lollies.
I liked the Pooh Corner shop a bit better, even though the selection wasn’t as wide. Perhaps it’s because it wasn’t as mobbed, or maybe it’s just because I like Pooh (and the Tao of Pooh).
Now, those are just the two actual candy stores. Don’t get the impression that’s the only place you can find the stuff! Just about every store I went into had some version of the lollipop display. They offered the unicorn style twisted pops, swirly pops with Mickey or the Princesses on them and some large sour pops in the Goofy brand. There were also some Mickey Head shaped pops that came in little bundles that I picked up.
There are also cotton candy vendors everywhere (though none to be found at 9:30 in the morning, I guess Walt Disney doesn’t think it’s appropriate breakfast fare). Cotton Candy is $3 and sold in bags. I never found a cotton candy maker. Though the stuff sold in these little carts was certainly fresh, half the fun is watching them twist it all up and that wonderful burnt sugar smell.
Later, I’ll have a roundup of reviews of some actual candy ... how good is something that costs twice the price of stuff found outside of the park? I spent $35 ... how much do you think I got and how much of it was any good? As for the stores, I give them an 8 out of 10, for the variety, perky sales staff and cleanliness.
Here’s the list of reviews:
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Posting was a little light this week as I have visitors in town.
I Heart Candy is over at YumSugar and the list of of sweets lovin’ posts is extensive! Have a look. I heart these posts: Bertie Bott’s Jelly Bean Roulette (a fun game for summer camp) and the pure simplicity of Pretzels + Kisses + M&Ms.
Here’s the recap of Candy Blog reviews this week:
Monday: Skittles from the UK (8 out of 10)
Tuesday: Good & Plenty Fresh from the Factory (9 out of 10)
Wednesday: Twisted Energy Bar versus Take 5 (2 out of 10 & 9 out of 10)
Friday: Tootsie Pop - Regular & Supersized (9 out of 10 & 7 out of 10)
Weekly Average: 7.33 ... 33% chocolate content.
Friday, June 22, 2007
After a recent writing session on a new play (for Script Frenzy) I stopped at the 7-11 near the coffee house where I was holed up to see what they had. I didn’t see much new, except for these gargantuan Tootsie Pops.
I picked up two, in my favorite flavors, Orange and Grape and thought I’d compare them to the classic sized ones.
The big ones are .85 ounces and regulars are .60 ounces.
I did try to compare the center of the Tootsie Pops, in case the hard candy proportion was the only difference. As far as I could tell, there was a slightly larger amount of Tootsie Roll at the center of the .85 ounce one but it was consistent with the larger amount of hard candy ... so they got the proportions right.
But here’s the thing ... there’s nothing wrong with the size of the regular Tootsie Pop. In fact, it’s darn near perfect. It actually fits inside my mouth. Not that the .85 ounce one doesn’t, but the problem is that I can’t put it between my cheek and my teeth. Maybe with some careful, long-term stretching, but then I’ll probably be left with Tootsie-Jowl. The other complaint is that the jumbo pops are wrapped in some sort of plasticized paper instead of the classic waxed paper. While this may provide a better seal on the candy (I think they hot melt it to the stick or something) this makes it frustrating to open and the wrapper simply cannot be used to wrap back around the partially eaten pop ... it just pops open unless you use some tape on it. (I usually save the wrapper to wrap up my stick that may be, well, sticky, and put it in my bag until I can dispose of it properly if need be.)
I love Tootsie Pops, they’re an ideal summer candy, as they have no melting issues but still offer a sightly chocolatey flavor.
My ranking of the current flavor offerings:
Your mileage may vary. I give the traditional Tootsie Pops a 9 out of 10 ... the new jumbo sized ones get a 7 out of 10 ... yeah, size matters. Tootsie Pops also come in miniatures, which look about the size of a Dum Dum pop. I’ve had them before, I tend to pull the stick out right away and crunch it up (rather like the old Tootsie Pop Drops). Read more about the history of the Tootsie Pop at their site and their TV spots.
Here’s the classic one:
Here’s the new one:
Which do you prefer?
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Sometimes I wonder if these energy bars are really better than plain old candy bars. Back in the depression candy bars were meal replacements. Many were packed with nuts and over two ounces, which made them a pretty cheap source of satisfying calories at a nickle.
Of course the object these days is not the maximum number of calories per ounce, but how good the nutrition profile is.
When I want a little lasting energy & snack, I usually reach for some sort of nutty bar, as they tend to have a good amount of protein. Payday bars are always dependable. But I’m also a fan of Lara Bars, which are basically mashed up almonds and dates with a few spices thrown in. At about twice the price though, I often grab the Payday ... and I don’t feel that bad about it.
This sounded familiar. In fact, it looked familiar ... very familiar. The Take 5 features pretzels, caramel, peanuts, peanut butter and milk chocolate. Wow, not much difference there ... even in the ordering of the elements.
Well, Twisted was $1.29 and a Take 5 is $.89 at the 7-11.
I’ve reviewed the Take 5 before and I stand by it. It’s a good bar with a lot of variety of texture in it, not too sweet and because it’s in two pieces, it’s easy to have a little now, have a little later.
The Twisted bar is merely a Tiger’s Milk bar covered in weak chocolate with a pretzel thrown in. It smells like baby formula. It seriously tasted like I was chomping on vitamin leather or something. I often enjoy things that are rather unpalatable, just because I’m fascinated by all the different flavors there are and maybe catty things I can say about it. I didn’t enjoy this, even for the prospect of reviewing it. Luckily the two piece format of the Take 5 meant that I had a palate cleansing second piece at hand.
So you might feel like you’re doing the right thing when you eat this lower calorie version of a Take 5, but you’re certainly not going to enjoy it.
I have to admit that it’s probably unfair to match a candy bar with an energy bar ... but hey, that’s the breaks. They started it by packaging it to look an awful lot like the Take 5.
For some other balanced reviews of snack bars, check out I Ate a Pie’s special roundup from earlier this year.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.