Monday, July 11, 2005
Name: Vaque Tona (Chocolate and Caramel)
In an attempt to be more international, I picked up these curiosities last week at the Big Lots, after being sent there by a blog posting about ice cream toppings.
Now, I know I said that buying candy at dollar stores is scary. And I don’t think this review should dissaude you from that notion.
I could not get an accurate translation of Vaque Tona on the web. I tried both Spanish and Portuguese (the manufacturer is in Brazil) but didn’t get much out of it. So I’ve decided these are called Cowbells. I think that’s what they’re supposed to look like. Unless they’re udders.
What they are is a little tube that ends in a mesh dome. You press up on the plunger inside the tube to dispense lickable goo ... something akin to frosting. You can suck it right from the plunger or smash the little ring into it and lick it off of that.
The two flavors I picked up were chocolate caramel and caramel.
It’s basically frosting. A cutesy delivery device for frosting. And that’d be okay if it was actually good frosting. Frosting isn’t that hard to make, so it’s beyond me why these can’t be good. First, they’re rather stale tasting. Sure, they’re sweet, but the chocolate one doesn’t really have a cocoa punch to it, more of a cardboard taste to it. It’s mostly smooth and creamy except for a plethora of little chunks of what I think are sugar. They don’t seem to be distributed consistently enough to be a feature, but they were both like that. The caramel one was very strong in its flavor, which I think is kind of an artificial vanilla flavor.
I’m gonna have to give this one a resounding thumbs down. Though the packaging and concept is sound, the execution is, well, unappealing.
Rating: 3 out of 10
If you missed the broadcast of KCRW’s Good Food with Evan Kleinman on Saturday morning, it’s now available at their website:
You’ll find my segment starting at 34:20 (though they’re all great fun, especially the drive-in food segment before mine).
Saturday, July 09, 2005
Name: Wilbur Buds
I’ve mentioned my favorite chocolate before, it’s Wilbur. Wilbur is made in a small town in Pennsylvania, Lititz, a scant 27 miles from the more famous Hershey. Wilbur, in fact, predates Hershey and even has a version of the kiss, known as the Wilbur Bud (which was also introduced several years earlier than the Hershey Kiss).
The Wilbur bud comes in milk or semi-sweet chocolate and is pure simplicity. It’s just a large chocolate chip, with a little curl on top and a molded bottom that says Wilbur. What’s great about the Wilbur buds is that they are incredibly smooth and creamy. Where Hershey and Nestle chocolate has a slight grain to it, Wilbur has none, it’s pure chocolate smoothness. The milk chocolate is European style, so those who are fond of Cadbury will appreciate it’s milkyness. The semi-sweet is bold, with a strong cocoa taste, complex and slightly bitter but melts easily on the tongue. Part of this explained by the cocoa butter content. I know a lot of people are into this movement of 70%+ cocoa solids, but besides the smoky flavor of chocolate, what sets it apart from all other candies is cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is one of those rare fats that is solid at room temperature and liquid at body temp. The more cocoa butter, the more melty the chocolate.
So knowing all that, it should come as no surprise that I would go to such lengths to purchase said chocolate. A few weeks ago I called up the factory order line and got a five pound box. After all, it’s the best deal. And I have a wine fridge to store it in through the hot summer months.
One of the big things about chocolate is that there are two kinds: there are candy chocolates and savoring chocolates. Wilbur, for me, falls into both categories. Because of the high cocoa butter content (only 50% cocoa solids) it’s more snackable but the creamyness makes it wonderfully rich. I love eating these with other foods, too. It’s great in a homemade trail mix for hiking where you mix in some dried fruits (cranberries, apricots or raisins) and nuts (almonds, hazelnuts or cashews) and some pretzels. When I’ve got a stash, I usually keep a small bowl of them around at all times.
Rating: 9 out of 10 (if I could find it easily it’d be pure 10)
Friday, July 08, 2005
I’ll be on KCRW’s radio show Good Food tomorrow (7/9/05) at 11:00 AM talking about candyblog.net. If you don’t live in Southern California where it airs, you can also catch the show on the web via real player on this page after it airs. KCRW also offers PodCasts of its shows.
Leave me a note here if you know of where the show airs other places in the country (I was having trouble with a websearch on that).
Name: Green Tea and Black Sugar Caramels
I know, you must think me obsessed with caramels. But they are one of the most perfect expressions of sugar and fat. Soft, yielding, bursting with sugary flavor that lingers in the crevices of your mouth. They’re great for summer too, since they’re not subject to the temperature extremes of chocolate.
As promised, I’m ready to share my Japanese finds from my recent shipment.
First is Morinaga’s Kokutou Caramel. This is what’s known as a black sugar caramel, or probably what westerners know of as brown sugar or molasses. This caramel is darker than the milk caramels I’ve tried from Japan. It has a slightly rummy aroma and a definite molasses bite to it when chewing. It’s a really nice, smooth caramel with a good finish. There’s no molasses bitterness either. It’s not sticky, but plenty chewy with a good milky consistency.
Morinaga also makes a Matcha Caramel, which is a green tea flavored caramel. The nugget is definitely green. It smells of green tea and tastes just like green tea ice cream, with that same smooth roasted flavor and slight bitter tinge. Unfortunately after chewing for a while, it feels a little grainy and slightly bitter, like there are real ground up leaves in there. That aside, they’re quite addictive and both caramels complement each other well - so I can just alternate between the two all afternoon.
Rating: Kokutou Caramel - 8 out of 10
Thursday, July 07, 2005
Name: Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Mint
I love these bars. Well, I did when they first came out. The thing is, I’m not sure they’re out now. I checked the Hershey’s site and didn’t find any mention of the Cookies ‘n’ Mint being reintroduced ... so is this a very old bar? It was certainly dusty. (Again, I’d love it if Hershey’s started putting freshness dates on their products.) While they’re at it, the packaging is a little deceiving - it’s milk chocolate, not some sort of green stuff like the picture shows.
That aside, when these were out and widely available I preferred the “nuggets” format. I don’t know why, but the flat bar didn’t make the crunchy parts sing as well. I think the surface area isn’t good for the chocolate either, I think it makes it all more prone to temperature changes.
But I digress.
This is a minted milk chocolate bar with small chocolate cookie bits (think of the cookie part of an oreo crumbled into minty chocolate). It’s a great combination. I think the crunch provides a nice contrast, and the fact that the cookie isn’t terribly sweet offsets the sweetness of the milk chocolate.
I hope this bar gets reintroduced or at least the nuggets will be available for a limited time every year. If you like this bar, I suggest the Harry London Cookie Joys as an excellent substitute.
Rating: 8 out of 10 (would be more if the bar were fresher)
UPDATE: See my Cookie Joys and Cookies ‘n’ Mint Nuggets head to head post.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Lollipops have kind of come back. When I was a kid there weren’t many good lollipops. There were those pretty ones that you’d see at the fair or candy shop - you know, those big paddle-looking ones that were of twisted hard tack. But they had no flavor. Then came the Charms pops, the Tootsie Pops and Blow Pops. There were the occasional novelty pop along the way, but that was pretty much it for some twenty years or so (I’m just saying this from memory ... I’ve done zero research).
Now there seems to be a revisiting of lollies. I noticed this a few years back when I discovered the wonderful Chupa Chups. These are great Spanish lollies that have good flavor, come in a huge assortment and have a PLASTIC stick, which means that it doesn’t fall apart on you if you’re a slobberer.
Name: Jolly Rancher Fruit Chew Center Lollipop
It’s kind of odd that this package doesn’t really give this candy a title. It’s Jolly Rancher, and it’s described in the sense that it’s assigned to be “GRAPE - artificially flavored” and “Fruit Chew Center” but it’s not really called Jolly Rancher Lolly or anything.
This was very artificially grape flavored and that’s okay. The flavor was through and through with a solid tart taste as well. The center was like a grape starburst, if they make those. What was a little weird though was the that lolly wasn’t made of a Jolly Rancher. You know, that tacky melty consistency that Jolly Ranchers have ... that’s not here. It’s not a bad thing, but something I missed.
Name: Way Sour Super Blow Pop
This is a downright huge lolly. It has a strong orange scent and an excruciatingly sour bite. Well, it’s called Way Sour, so I can’t complain. But I will. I think it comes from being an adult, there’s only so much sour I can take. I can eat Lemonheads because there’s a rest period when you’ve eaten through the sour layer. With the Way Sour Blow Pop, I never got there. I tried for about a half an hour and never made even a dent in this thing.
The flavor is great, very orangy, very sour. It’s not a blistering sour, but tart nonetheless.
UPDATE - I gave the Way Sour another try. I thought maybe my mouth was a little tender from eating too much fresh pineapple. Anyway, the second go around was much more doable, it’s still very tart, but has a lot of flavor, it’s not all about the sour. The gum center is a little bland after all that, and slightly rubbery instead of gummy. I’ve upgrade my initial score from a 4 to a 6.
Rating: Jolly Rancher Fruit Pops - 6 out of 10
See also - Starburst Chew Pops
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Name: Hershey’s Double Chocolate
I’m not sure what Hershey’s is up to with this one. It’s just a bad idea. There are plenty of good filled candy bars, but I’m not sure I understand how you’d go so wrong with this one.
Inside on the little white cardboard tray is a bar with four square segments of milk chocolate. Inside those is something that looks like Hershey’s chocolate syrup. Which we all know isn’t chocolate, it’s just cocoa/sugar/water. So what you end up with is a very sweet milk chocolate outside and a sickly sweet cardboard tasting sugar goo. It’s messy, it’s sticky.
I hope that this edition is very limited because this bar is just sad and cheap. I ate two out of the four squares and threw the other half out. Don’t get me wrong, I think that Hershey’s makes good product. It’s consistent and fresh and I applaud their use of the “Limited Edition” to try out new flavor combinations, but I’m not sure how this one made it past the test stage. I would also suggest the use of freshness dating.
Rating - 3 out of 10.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.