Thursday, February 2, 2006
Do you ever wish that Chick-o-Sticks came in larger bars? Ever wish that Butterfingers didn’t come with that fake chocolate? Ever want a little coconut on your 5th Avenue?
Zagnut has been around for ages and was once proudly made by the Clark company in Pittsburgh alongside the more famous grandfather, the Clark Bar. For some reason when the Clark company was broken up the Clark bar went to NECCO and the Zagnut bar went to Hershey’s. I have no explanation for this. My guess is that Clark was struggling to stay afloat and of course couldn’t sell off their namesake bar as a way to raise capital.
The bar was first introduced in 1930. (The Clark bar came out in 1917.) In a weird way, we have the military to thank for many of our favorite candy bars. Confectioners were usually enlisted to create ration bars for servicemen as quick and easy-to-carry calories. Servicemen would often get a taste for the bars (most of which were made with nuts and chocolate for a balance of protein, fats and carbs) and introduce them to their families back home.
The Zagnut bar, like the Chick-o-Stick is a great summer alternative to the 5th Avenue, because it has no chocolate coating to melt. It’s a large, flattened log of honeycombed peanut butter and molasses crisp. The flavorful and smooth center has a nice sparkle of salt in it and the toasty coconut on the outside goes surprisingly well with the molasses and peanut flavors. There’s some sort of a peanut/white chocolate coating on the bar, just enough to get the coconut to stick. If anything, this bar seemed more like a 5th Avenue than a Clark. (That’s a compliment.)
It’s a solid, midrange performer when it comes to candy bars, a good backup when maybe you don’t want an Almond Joy or maybe want a little more crunch than a 3 Musketeers. I know some folks aren’t keen on them, but now that Hershey’s has them in their stable, I’m actually seeing them more often. Now all they have to do is replace the hydrogenated oils in there.
Wednesday, February 1, 2006
Toffee is a strange thing. It’s like caramel gone too long on the burner, but it becomes its own special delight. In the United States, toffee is generally hard caramel: a mixture of sugar and butter. It’s boiled slowly to “hard ball” stage and then cooled, usually as flat pieces. What’s so wonderful about it is the way it cracks. It’s completely irregular. It flakes, it crumbles and it fractures. It’s buttery and sweet and often has a nice salty twang to it that cuts through the stickiness. (In the UK they also have soft toffees, which confuses the heck out of me, until I start eating them and then I get distracted. Mmm, toffee.)
I got these full-sized samples directly from Brian at Silver Bear Toffee in Colorado. The first indication of their decadence is that the label says “refrigerate,” now that’s fresh toffee!
The ingredients are pretty compelling too: chocolate, almonds, butter, sugar and corn syrup. Each package was a little white box with planks of broken up toffee. The toffee was then covered in chocolate on top and sprinkled with more almonds. The dark chocolate one was my favorite as the smoky and smooth chocolate matched the sweet and salty toffee perfectly. The toffee was so buttery though that sometimes my chocolate fell off the slab. No matter. Toffee is casual; toffee is jeans and a tee.
While I may have said I preferred the dark chocolate one, the milk chocolate one disappeared first (it could have been that toffee snitching elves were visiting my kitchen). The toffee crumbles wonderfully on the teeth and becomes a smooth and buttery experience on the tongue. There are lots of nuts in both versions but not in huge pieces, which I prefer (otherwise it’d be nut brittle).
When I eat commercial toffee bar, like a Heath bar, my usual custom is to eat the chocolate off first and then eat the toffee slab by itself. I have no desire to do that with this stuff, I want to eat the whole thing: the chocolate, toffee and nuts all at once.
The webstore isn’t open yet (I was hoping it would be in time for Valentine’s) but you can still order by phone:
Silver Bear Toffee
Toffee is $15 a pound and
$8.00 by the half pound. Mine came boxed well with a cold-pack to keep it from melting (not really an issue in the winter).
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
In my continuing effort to bring you timely reviews of new products (that’s a joke), I finally found some Darth M&Ms at the 99 Cent Only Store. I picked up collector’s pack 18 of 72. In fact, they were all 18 of 72 at the 99 Cent Only Store. I’m not certain if these are still available, the website is still up.
I was a little confused at how these are considered dark chocolate, as they have milk in them, but that’s probably part of the evil Sith plan. The colors are actually pretty nice. Navy Blue, Maroon, Gray, Black and Lavender. All great colors for a snazzy sweater or scarf.
As long as I’ve brought up the subject of color, this is probably a good time to talk about consumption techniques. There are those people who like to eat M&Ms by color. Eating your candies by color of course makes sense with Skittles where they’re different flavors. But M&Ms are not. Still, when I dump a bunch out on my desk for snacking, I divide them up by color. Plain M&Ms are consumed in lots of three, all the same color and when I get to the end, there are particular pairings of colors that are acceptable. I have no idea why I do this, but I’m guessing it’s a way of taking full advantage of the colors as a feature.
Anyway, these are darker-than-milk chocolate M&Ms. Their colors are bright and shells crunchy but the centers are strangely grainy. Not grainy in the sense of the sugar is not completely dissolved, they’re grainy like someone left some ground up oyster shells in them. They’re slightly less sweet than the regular plain M&Ms and do have a bit more complex, chocolatey flavor. But they somehow lack the punch of a regular M&M. I wouldn’t mind them trying this chocolate on the Almond M&Ms, but I don’t really think they work in this format. Maybe the Peanut ones are better (Writers & Artists Snacking at Work liked them). There’s little benefit here either for Vegans or those with nut allergies as it’s not a suitable candy for either. I also resent dark chocolate being represented as evil. I mean, as candy goes, it’s more pure.
For the record, the colors are: Dooku Blue, Grievous Silver, Emperor Red, Vader Black & Maul Purple.
Monday, January 30, 2006
Here I go again with the KitKats. But this time I thought I’d give you a domestic comparison. It’s not exactly a head-to-head post, just two reviews in one.
There are whole groups of folks devoted to the various iterations of KitKats and I have to admit I’ve fallen under the spell, too. I picked up the KitKat Strawberry a few weeks ago. It’s a very pretty bar, the Japanese version of KitKats are sold in a box that holds two individually wrapped minibars of two fingers each. They’re also quite a bit pricier. I don’t know how much they sell for in Japan, but $1.89 for a rather ordinary candy bar is kind of extreme.
Everything about this bar screams strawberry. The pink wrapper, the smell and the appearance of the bar. It smells like strawberry waffles or ice cream. The crisp is really good and has its own wheaty flavor. The cream between the cookie layers is also strawberry and the strawberry coating is very smooth. There is no cocoa butter in this concoction though.
I’m not usually a big fan of White Chocolate. I like misty mints, but generally white chocolate is just too sweet and bland for me. This bar has an overwhelmingly berry smell along with plenty of sweet notes and a touch of fake vanilla. I like it. I was really surprised, because I’ve been ignoring this bar for months, but I actually liked it. Once I started writing this and tasting it as I went along, I ate the whole thing.
The berry particles were actually there and give the white chocolate a definitely pink cast with little red bits. They weren’t as big as the berry bits in the KitKat though. They provided a little tart respite from the otherwise sweet and slightly tangy chocolate. It also reminded me of strawberry yogurt or maybe strawberry ice cream. But most Hershey’s chocolate reminds me of yogurt. The strawberry bits also include seeds. So you get fiber with your bar! (They don’t mention any fiber on the nutrition info but they do say that it has 10% of my daily calcium!)
On the whole the bars had a very definite berry taste that eased the usual sickly sweetness of white chocolate that I’ve never enjoyed. I also have a Hershey’s Raspberries ‘n’ Creme bar that I’ll review in a few days. Canada also has a Milkshake (Malt) version of KitKat I need to get a hold of.
Other reviews: Candy Is Awesome - Hersey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme had some disgusting children and Candy Addict has positive feelings - Strawberry & White Maple. I haven’t even scratched the surface with my reviews here of KitKats, check out Wikipedia.
Friday, January 27, 2006
Razzles are an oddity. They seem to be the jack-of-all trades of the candy world. Billed, “First it’s Candy ... Then It’s Gum!” I have to admit it doesn’t do either particularly well.
The package for these Razzles is particularly attractive, and that’s often enough to get me to buy something. That’s the wonder of candy, even if you’re disappointed, you’re rarely out more than a dollar.
The package, of course, makes the Razzles look better than they actually are. They’re not the sassy looking, colorful pieces on the package. Theyr’e rather grainy looking and kind of crumbly. Chewing them gives a burst of sweetness followed by some tart. I chose three orange ones for my first Razzles in probably 20 years. They were disappointingly bland, but did turn into gum more faithfully than I remember when I was a kid. The gum has a nice lingering essence, but little sugar to jazz it up. This is not bubble gum either, in case you were going to make some attempts.
Orange: bland and lacking in any zesty punch. Lemon: Solid, good mix of essence and tart. Grape: not as chemical as some others, had an odd sort of ginseng/root flavor to it. Blueberry: pretty good, kind of grapey and kind of like raspberry. Raspberry: nice and flowery tasting with some good tart bite to it and a little hint of cotton candy but it doesn’t wear well, the flavor is gone before the sugar is.
The color when it becomes gum is far more vibrant - the lemon became a lusturous saffron yellow and the dirty looking grape became, um, inky and the blueberry was positively turquoise.
These had a pretty powerful smell of chemicals. And they are SOUR. This package had more defects in it - three of the candies were noticeably darker than the others and just didn’t seem “right” so I didn’t eat them.
Lime: puckeringly sour with a good hint of lime essence. The sour stays with the gum well after the rest of the flavor is gone. Blue Raspberry pretty much like the regular raspberry but intensely sour with a rather salty taste to it as well (I know there’s no sodium in there). Orange: straight up sour with some nice fruity flavors. Lemon: I figured this one was going to be really sour after those lime ones and I wasn’t disappointed. Much better than the regular Razzle, if you could just buy these, I think they’d do very well. I didn’t get any Cherry ones in this batch for some reason, so I can’t comment on that flavor.
I don’t think Razzles have won me over. They’re a nice novelty and the gum part isn’t bad, but the candy part is pretty awful. It’s not smooth and the flavors are uneven. The appearance is also kind of off-putting. I wonder if they’ve ever considered candy coating them like a Spree or Chicklet.
UPDATE: for even more confusing “candy/gum” see CandyAddict’s recent review of Japanese Wata Gum
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.