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June 27, 2010

Quick Hits: Pretzel M&M's

The last few years have seen some interesting experiments within the M&M's brand and they've generally been good with the odd exception along the way. The latest of these experiments is the Pretzel M&M. Simple concept - an M&M with a pretzel in the middle - like the Peanut M&M only different. Pretzels and chocolate go together like two things that go really well together so this really seems like a slam dunk.

The concept is a good one, but the proof is, as they say, in the pudding. So how does the Pretzel M&M deliver? Pretty good actually. The crunch is nice and the pretzel tastes like, well, pretzel which is, I suppose, exactly what one would hope. I'm not sure I like the pretzel crunch after the candy crunch on the outside, though. It's a little different than the crunch of the peanut in the Peanut M&M's and I guess I'm just unfairly comparing the two. The Peanut M&M's are near perfect so I'm biased toward them. But all that aside it's a nice combo in terms of taste. The little pretzel nuggets have a nice bit of salt to them which gives that wonderful sweet and salty combo that just hits the spot so well.

A simple concept combining two great tastes into one little bundle of candy-coated goodness. I'm actually curious as to why it took them so long to do this. It really seems to be a natural extension of the brand to me while some of the other ideas they've tried (PB&J anybody?) have been a bit of a stretch. Score-wise I'm going to have to give these a 8.75 out of 10 as they are pretty darn yummy. They make a nice alternative to the classic Peanut M&M's and are quite a nice addition to the brand.

Oh, and there are NO yellow Pretzel M&M's. What's up with that?

July 27, 2009

Chocolate Everywhere

Well. It seems that I've started eating chocolate again. Not sure what flipped the switch, but I've tried a half dozen different things these last two weeks and it's nice.

The first thing I have to address is that the Coconut M&M's that I love so much have finally found their way to stores in Columbus (at least the stores I go to). Even better than their general availability is that they are every bit as good as I remember them being. Very lovely. I even got some more people to try them and they were very positive about them as well. I'm not sure how many bags I'm going to stockpile, but given it's Limited Edition nature I think I had better get some to slowly devour over an extended period of time. I'm digging these way more than I was digging the Dark Chocolate Peanut M&M's back in their Limited Edition days (I remember them as much better than they seem to be when I eat them now - so sad) so I want to make sure I have some to hold onto until they wise up and release these as a normal product (fingers crossed and all that).

But that's not the only thing I've run across in the stores lately, oh no. I found Dark Chocolate Reese's Peanut Butter Cups! I've been eager to get a big fat batch of them to try and was pleased to grab a bag at the store today when I was picking up my lunch. The short version is that there is something there that reminds me of something else and I don't know what. Until I get that weird deja vu taken care of I'm not in love. I really do love the original because I like the balance between the chocolate and the grainy peanut butter (not too sweet - the magic trick to working with peanut butter and chocolate). The peanut butter is the same, of course, but the chocolate is ringing a bell somewhere in my mind and as it's really cluttered in there it sometimes takes a bit to zero in on things.

I've been getting a little chocolate action with my beer lately, as well. I've decided that my favorite style of beer is the Impreial Stout and it's one of those styles of beer that have some lovely stray flavors going on. They quite often have a nice bit of chocolate and coffee as part of the natural flavor makeup and a number of them go that extra step and slip a little (or a lot) of chocolate into the mix. There have been a great number of chocolate stouts released in the past year and I've been enjoying the heck out of them. As one who loves stouts in the first place adding some extra chocolate to the mix just makes me a ridiculously happy camper. My most recent chocolate beer was a Chocolate Cherry Porter that they were serving up this past Friday at Barley's Smokehouse, my local favorite for beer and one of my top picks for BBQ as well. They gain bonus points in my book for recently having had Southern Tier Mokah on tap (so good).

What else? I know I've been eating chocolate like it's going out of style. Oh, yes. Amano. I was lucky enough to have a box of chocolaty love show up on my porch with a nice mix of the Limited Edition (oh, dear, am I going to capitalize that phrase all the time?) Montanya bar and a pair of milk chocolate bars of the Jembrana and Ocumare varieties. I've only taken one hit of the Montanya so far and I don't remember what my impressions were, but the milk chocolate bars? Well, I generally avoid milk chocolate because I've been exposed to so much bad milk chocolate, but this, I must say, is not in that category. These are some fabulously tasty bars. I've yet to sit down and think about them overly much, I've really just been happily chewing away at them. They are some darn fine stuff and a great addition to their line of bars. If they don't disappear before I manage to actually collect my thoughts on them I will try to do a review.

I've also been snacking a little on my Amedei stash. So far I'm prepared to state that I love all of the goodies I've got (Toscano Black, 9, and Porcelana). Beyond that I've got to say that while Porcelana is really exceptional and everything, but I prefer 9 to it and to their Chuao as well. Of course between the three you really are dealing with some of the best bars of chocolate in the world so it's all just degrees of awesome. I would like to do a review, but I want to do a full roundup of the three big dogs and I only have two right now so that will have to wait.

And speaking of awesome world-class chocolate I've been gnawing away at a couple of bars from Michel Cluizel. I may not be able to go to the amazing little store they had in New York any more (and my soul cries in agony at the loss), but I can still enjoy a bar of their chocolate. The bars I've been snacking on are the Hacienda Los Ancones and Vila Gracienda and they are both really excellent. I'm particularly in love with the Los Ancones. With the way I'm eating them (irresponsibly given the cost - they ain't cheap) I figure I should probably post a review at some point.

So that's what's going on in my little world o' chocolate. I'm eating chocolate again and am enjoying a nice variety of stuff ranging from candy to the finest bars of chocolate in the world. I'm still working on my thoughts on chocolate and wine and once I have that put together I want to take a look at what's going on in the chocolate world (like that low calorie non-melting Vulcano that Callebaut has in the works). And I hope to throw a review or three up as I go.

July 9, 2009

Thoughts: Snickers Nougabot

Heading into All Candy Expo I had already been looking for the M&M’s Mars limited edition products from their cross-promotion with the new Transformers movie, but while I was there I only managed to lay my hands on one of the two products. I came home with a bag of the Strawberried Peanut Butter M&M’s, but I hadn’t seen any hint of the Snickers Nougabot bar. It wasn’t long after the show that I found the M&M’s locally, but I was still having little luck finding the Snickers. The week before the movie came out there were bags of mini bars at the Kroger’s near work, but still no singles that I could find. Then, finally, the Monday after the movie was released I found a bounty of singles in the promo aisle. One went into my bag and came home with me. My curiosity would allow no less.

And what was there to be curious about? Well, the Snickers Nougabot isn’t quite the experiment that the Strawberried M&M’s are. It’s essentially a Snickers bar with the nougat colored to try and match the Autobot Bumblebee and some Transformers graphics on the wrapper. Not the most creative of limited editions, but I’ve seen worse so I’m not going to go off slagging it for not trying. But my mind just wasn’t liking the idea and was conjuring images of day-glow nougat that left me feeling more worried and less excited. Sadly, that’s just how my mind works. But whatever troubling thoughts I might have I was willing to let it go until I got to try the bar for myself before passing judgment.

So, now that I’ve tried it, just what is the official verdict? Well, it tastes just like a normal Snickers bar. I’ll be happy to give it that much. But the horrible visions of scary bright yellow nougat that haunted me? I hacked the bar in two with a knife so I could get a nice clean cut and a good look at the nougat. I found my fears well founded.


Is that cheese?

It looks like a layer of cheese in there! Excuse me while I quail in revulsion. Ewww! It looks so unnatural. I showed it around work just to make sure I wasn’t the only one that felt that it looked wrong and people were backing me up. It just looked bad, wrong and scary. But I’m not one to turn my nose up at something that looks unappetizing as long as it tastes good. If they sell any bars at all on the curiosity factor then it’s a win. They don’t taste a bit different from the normal ones that I can tell so it shouldn’t disappoint any Snickers fans on the taste front. I’m not scoring it or anything. Aside from the added dose of yellow coloring it’s a Snickers bar.

Now excuse me while I close my eyes and pretend I'm eating a normal non-yellow Snickers.

June 10, 2009

Review: Milk Chocolate Fling

I've been toying with a few things of late, trying to find something worth writing about. And I've found things worth writing about, but I just don't know what the heck to say about them. One of those items that I should probably talk about is the Americanized Fling Chocolate. But what to say? I can go on about the ill-conceived marketing campaign, but I don't want to go there. My opinion of it would drag my little blog places I just don't want to take it. I'd rather focus on the candy, no matter what the marketing is like. I've only got the milk chocolate variety (apparently there are dark chocolate and hazelnut as well) so that's what I'm going to hit tonight. And, since I totally forgot when first posting this, I should say that I got it for free at the All Candy Expo.

And, you know, I like to focus on packaging because it catches the eye and builds some anticipation for what's to come and all that, but this is just a bit pink for my taste. But that's all part of the master plan (whatever the heck it might be) of the Mars marketing people. Inside you get two fingers (real industry term) of Fling which have a truffle layer on top of a crispy meringue style crunch layer all wrapped in "shimmering" chocolate. And they mean that shimmering thing quite literally. The pink on the package carries over to the bar with pink sparklies all over the thing. On the top of the bar it's subtle and you almost have to look for it. On the bottom it's super pink sparkle town or something. I had to start searching the web to make sure it was supposed to look like that and was safe to eat. I've seen similar, but this was a weird shimmery thing and it kind of worried me. From what I could find it's safe to eat so I took a bite. The crunch is nice, but not entirely what I had been expecting not knowing it was a meringue thing going on. But it's got a nice milky milk chocolate thing going on with a nice crunch and a nice bit of malt as well. It's not a bad combo. I'm not a fan of a whole ton of malt in my chocolate, but this gives enough to enjoy and is balanced by the milk chocolate. Overall it's a nice combo, but I'm not in love with the texture of the crunch. But that's just me being picky.

So we've got a decent crunch, a little malt, and some decent milk chocolate. It works well together so I'm going to give it a 7.75 out of 10. It's good, but not something I'll be going back for a whole lot. I don't care how pink and girly they want their product to be (I'm not about to turn my nose up at chocolate just because it's targeted toward women), I just want a different crunch in my chocolate. Same reason I don't do Twix - I don't dig the cookie in my chocolate and with Fling I just don't dig the meringue. But even if it ain't my cup of tea it still delivers some decent taste and crunch.

June 2, 2009

Review: Coconut M&M's

Going into All Candy Expo I already knew about the Strawberried Peanut Butter M&M's and was hoping to get my hands on them there. It took all of one minute of the opening session to shift my focus away from them and firmly onto the Coconut M&M's that they announced (coming later this summer - got mine in the swag bag at the Mars press conference). I'm a fan of coconut and love the texture (and miss the heck out of the Bounty bar). During a stop at the Mars booth I asked about them what they were like and the frightening answer was that they had no coconut texture. Just smooth milk chocolate and the characteristic candy crunch. So I was left to wonder: without the texture I love would I still dig the coconut action?

In a word YES! This could have ended up being a distressingly short review because I just want to say how much I love them, but we're going to go ahead and try and focus in and say something constructive about them. The basic idea is a slightly larger than normal M&M with dose of coconut flavor. Simple enough, right? And the concept is exactly what they delivered. It's an M&M chock full of great coconut flavor. And the really weird thing is this - it is dead on perfect coconut flavor with no nasty aftertaste, but nowhere in the ingredients do you find anything even close to coconut, not even natural flavor! They have a perfect artificial coconut flavor going on here! I was forced to share them around the office to make sure that I wasn't imagining things and everybody confirmed it. It tastes real. More than that, everybody liked them. People who hate the texture of coconut found them great. People who normally don't like coconut liked them (wha?). People who love the texture and taste of coconut like I do also loved them. It's a great implementation of a simple idea.

So, how great are they? Well, I'm tempted to give them a 10 just because I love the heck out of them. I consider Peanut M&M's a 9 and I like these better! So I'm going to give it a big ol' 9.5 out of 10 and call it nearly perfect. Why isn't it perfect? Because it's a limited edition. How unfair of me is that? I'm terrible. Anyway, I'm hoping that people love this is much as it deserves and it gets granted a position in the normal lineup. As far as I'm concerned this is a true winner. And all the people I've asked agree with me. Whether it is eventually adopted full-time or not, I have to give it to Mars. Bravo, people. Bravo.

June 1, 2009

Review: Strawberried Peanut Butter M&M's

I love to hunt for candy. Love to. I've been to more than a dozen places looking for the M&M's and Snickers limited edition Transformers tie-ins and after weeks of searching I have finally found the Strawberried Peanut Butter M&M's in a store. Of course I got some at the All Candy Expo a couple of weeks back, but after all of the searching I had to keep trying to find it in store. It was a point of pride or some such stupidity. Not to mention as I look for it I'm also looking for the Snickers Nougabot which I still have not found anywhere. But frustrations aside, tonight I'm going to address the M&M's.

I have to admit that when I first read about the Strawberried Peanut Butter M&M's my immediate reaction was a little confusion and horror. Strawberry and Peanut Butter? Seriously? It took a moment for it to click in my mind - it's peanut butter and jelly! I felt kind of stupid after that, but most people I've presented it to have the same mental block so I'm not the only person who can't see the obvious. Confusion aside, lets take a look at what we've got here. It's a peanut butter M&M with a hit of strawberry flavor to go along with the chocolate and peanut butter (yeah, I sort of failed to even mention the chocolate originally - oops!). It's a simple enough concept so it all comes down to execution and this is where it shines. I expected the peanut butter to taste like peanut butter, but wasn't sure what the strawberry would taste like. Strangely, it tastes like strawberry! With the odd exception the flavor is more peanut butter than strawberry and I'm really wanting just a little more strawberry than I'm getting, but the flavors are good and go well together. It tastes good.

So while it's a flavor combination I really didn't see coming, it's one that works on a very traditional level and one that they pull off very well. It isn't the ideal balance of flavors in my eyes, but I'm really one of those people who likes a little peanut butter with their jelly so I can forgive them. At the end of the day it's still good and different and a fun limited edition and as such I'm going to give it an 8 out of 10. I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Get 'em while you can or hit the bargain stores in a few months or look for it back in stores when the DVD hits.

May 27, 2009

Review: Cranberry Raisinets

I've been at a total loss as to where to begin with the pile of goodies I've brought back from the All Candy Expo. There is such a wealth of chocolates that it's hard to pick any single one. So I tossed a few different ones into my bag to take to work with me. When I needed a snack I would pick one of them and run with it. The winner today was Nestlé Cranberry Raisinets. The classic Raisinets remixed with the mighty cranberry instead of the humble raisin. I saw a number of cranberry products on the floor, but this is the only one with the power of the Raisinets brand behind it. I like cranberries so I was excited to give them a try.

The Cranberry Raisinets I have come in a 100 calorie pouch, which is nice for those who want to watch the caloric intake. Opening the pouch it feels like it isn't all that much. The individual pieces are pretty big, but there aren't a whole ton of them (one of the drawbacks of the 100 calorie pouch in general is that you sometimes feel shorted and want more which may lead to opening a second pouch to fill the craving). So how do the little cran bombs taste? The chocolate is nothing remarkable - decent, but it seems a sideshow to the cranberries which take over on the taste front pretty quickly. As soon as the cran flavor kicked in I had to reach for the bag to check the ingredients. I know cran and it's tart. I was hoping for some mouth-twisting tartness (the old sour candy junky in me as well as somebody who actually likes unsweetened cranberries) and what I found was a pleasant sweet tartness. So they've done the standard "make cranberry palatable for the average consumer" move of sweetening it. Well, as much as I do love the sour and tart flavor of a cranberry the sweetened cranberries are quite tasty and will certainly be more to the tastes of most people than unsweetened ones might be. So they deliver a little chocolate and a nice bit of cranberry in a reasonable serving size. I may be crazy, but that seems to be just what they were aiming for.

It's a decent new product in my opinion, but it's lacking a little something at the same time. It's one of those things where I quickly forgot the chocolate. It's like it wasn't able to stand up to the cranberries. But that might just be me and it's not like I didn't like them either. I'm giving it a 7.5 out of 10 - they're good, have some lovely health benefits via the cranberry (albeit with a dose of sat fat along for the ride), but they do have some room for improvement. Quibbles aside, they're good and tasty and I like them enough that I'll give them another shot down the road. Right now I'm a trifle overwhelmed candy-wise.

Coming Up: All Candy Expo: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. It's sort of a jumble of observations and mistakes made and lessons learned. The idea of a whole huge narrative of my time at the show just started feeling boring on the quick so I'm going to go for the Reader's Digest condensed version.

May 6, 2009

Mini-Review: Peeps Chocolate Mousse Bunnies

I love Peeps (LINK WARNING: JOLLY MUSIC). It’s a sickness. And when I got the announcement about the Chocolate Mousse flavored Peeps I set out to find me some. It took a few trips to find what I was after, but my favorite place for Easter candy, The Andersons (fabulous source for good food, beer, and wine), did not let me down. And I eagerly sampled my hard won Peepage. The long and short of it is this: if you don’t like Peeps you can stop reading here. I don’t have any gory pictures of melted Peeps this time around, just a brief description of the snackage. If you do like Peeps feel free to read on.

There isn’t a lot to say about them that I didn’t say when I reviewed and tormented the Peeps Cocoa Cats. They have a nice cocoa aroma and a nice cocoa + marshmallow taste thing going on. It’s simple, but that’s not to say it isn’t tasty and welcome. If I’m doing the Peeps Brulée thing then I really prefer the Chocolate Mousse/Cocoa version of the Peeps. Good and tasty if you like Peeps (and everybody has their stance on Peeps – some to a near religious fervor). But they hit the spot with me and I’m giving them a nice solid score of… hey, I never scored the Cocoa Cats. I just made messy Brulée with them and didn’t bother with a score. Oh, well. I’ll call them both a good 8.5 out of 10 (9.25 if they’re toasted/Bruléed). If you like Peeps they're worth a try.

On a related note I finished my last normal Peep of the Easter season just tonight and I’m trying to figure out when I’m going to be able to get my next fix. Maybe the closeout store will have some.

Also: what is with the colors? There are orange and green Peeps now and they bother me. It just feels wrong. It may be my childhood talking, but them ain't no proper colors for no Peeps. At least in my opinion. And my opinion probably doesn't count for much.

March 8, 2009

Review: See's Chocolate Candy

Some times, when you’ve sort of come to accept something as a fact of life you tend to maybe take it for granted. And when I say “you” I of course mean me. There are some chocolate companies that are such a part of life that they’ve sort of faded into the background and now and then I start feeling guilty about it. Locally there is Anthony-Thomas Chocolates. A little further afield (except during the holidays when they set up in the malls), but no less a neglected fact of life, is See’s Chocolate Candy. We don’t have a See’s location locally, but I’ve seen them in the malls around the holidays and just sort of been blinded to them as a background piece of holiday tradition and it's been years since I had any (like pre-blog). Luckily I received an offer to give some of their chocolate a try. Feeling guilty (and curious) I couldn’t help but accept.

A few days later a box arrived with an assortment of milk and dark chocolates and a few bars of dark chocolate. When I get an assortment it’s time to get the people I work with involved with the review process so I packed them up and took them into the office. I didn’t get too much into them before I disappeared for vacation, but the consensus on what I did manage to share was very positive. And I liked the rest quite well. The bars were considered not too sweet, nicely creamy, and not to bitter - a good tasty balance. The assortment had a variety of pieces and everything in it was good. I tend to judge an assortment by how many pieces are in it that people are indifferent or negative on and nobody could say anything bad about what they tried (though there was some coconut action and I know a couple of people who don’t like coconut in their chocolate).

And now that the basics are out of the way I need to address one specific piece (of which there were three? I think it was three): the mighty Molasses Chip. It’s a crunchy strip of molasses covered in chocolate. And it is a wonderful and lovely thing. I need more. Tasty!

So I suppose its time for a score. If I were reviewing just the Molasses Chips I'd give them a 9.5 out of 10. They are some darn tasty little treats. And the rest of the box and the bars were all really good as well. I'll call it a nice big 8.75 all around. Lovely snackage all around.

Coming up: watch in amazement as I post something else in less than a week! Been on vacation and had a little chocolate along the way (funny how I don't post until the last night of the vacation) and I've gotta talk about it a bit. Found some fun stuff.

G'night!

January 17, 2009

Good News, Everyone!

So I'm digging through a weeks worth of email that I had let pile up and what do I find lurking in the mess? Fabulous good product news regarding the 3 Musketeers bar. First, they're bringing a limited flavor back for Valentine's Day - Cherry! With dark chocolate even! I think I missed it last year, but it sounds like it could be a winner. And speaking of winners one of the best limited edition bars I've ever tried is coming back for Easter - Raspberry 3 Musketeers! Woo! I kept a bag of the Raspberry minis around for a long time so I could savor them even after they had disappeared from stores and now I at last have a chance to get more. This is good news of a yummy nature. Thank you Mars!

August 18, 2008

Review: M&M's Premiums

Sometimes a product comes along that just leaves me unsure how to rate it. The latest of these products are the M&M's Premiums which I got to try recently. They're premium because they have special fancy flavor, special fancy paint jobs (they look amazingly cool), and none of that pedestrian candy shell (the thing that defines an M&M in my opinion). Oh, and they have a premium price attached to them as well. Really premium. How premium? We'll get to that later.

First I want to talk about the products themselves. I picked up two varieties when I was in the store: Triple Chocolate and Raspberry Almond (the other three in release are Chocolate Almond, Mocha, and Mint Chocolate). They come in curvy vertical cardboard boxes with resealable bags of candy within. The cartons are attractive and have a neat shape, but the resealable bags are the big win on the packaging front. I have a tendency to open a bag of something, eat some of it, and then transfer the rest to a zipper bag so being able to just reseal the bag they come in really works for me.

Triple Chocolate: The triple chocolate has white, milk, and dark chocolate in a swirly purple color scheme. The pieces are a bit bigger than a regular M&M much like a Peanut M&M and look really neat. They're really good on the taste front, too. It doesn't taste too cheap and the whole thing has a nice interplay of flavors. I do have one issue with it, but it's a personal preference/mental block sort of problem. There is no candy shell so there is no crunch and the entire M&M experience is missing. Without the shell it just doesn't feel like an M&M to me. Personal bugaboo sort of thing, but it's the defining characteristic of the classic as far as I'm concerned.

Raspberry Almond: The Raspberry Almond has white chocolate, a little dark chocolate, raspberry flavor, and an almond. As expected from a raspberry confection they went with a red color scheme on these and they're very cool looking. And they taste good, too. I don't know what is different between the raspberry flavor they use in these and the flavor they used in the Razzberry M&M's they did a while back (chock full of extreme Z's), but it tastes a lot better. The chocolate is good and having an almond in it gives it that crunch that I was missing so bad in the Triple Chocolate version. And I am currently addicted to these in a bad way. I won't say they're perfect or anything, but they hit the spot when I want a little treat.

Now we come to the ratings. I don't want to under-review the Triple Chocolate because it's lacking in the crunch I expect from an M&M. I don't want to over-review the Raspberry Almond either since my general addiction level isn't an indication of how good they are. I get addicted to less than perfect stuff all the time (Chewy SweeTart Minis). And then there is the issue of price. They retail for $3.99 for 6oz and that's a trifle pricey. This past weekend I found them for $4.49 at Giant Eagle and was floored. That's pretty steep for snooty M&M's. Is it worth it? That's a personal call. I'm not buying them unless I find them on sale. They look more premium than they taste and they cost more premium than they look. Ignoring the price I'll go as far as a 7.75 out of 10 for the Triple Chocolate and a 8.25 for the Raspberry Almond. Subtract for the premium price as you see fit.

At it's full retail I'm not rushing to buy more. At the inflated price Giant Eagle is selling them at you can forget me ever buying more. Hopefully they're still on sale at Kroger. I'll probably be there for lunch tomorrow and can check then. This might be one of those lucky product launches like the Starbucks Chocolate where the stores end up with way too much and put it on clearance. I'd love to pick these up for a buck a pack. Here's hoping!

July 27, 2008

Review: York Peppermint Wafer Bars

Ok, more mystery health fun. Still bothering me on and off, but I'm tired of it being such a distraction. So it's review time!

This won't be a huge review because there isn't a whole ton to say. The York Peppermint Wafer Bars (in the 100 calorie packaging) are really simple little critters. There is a layer of York stuff between chocolate sugar wafery type wafers and the whole thing is covered in chocolate. There are two reasonable sized sticks per 100 calorie packet and seven packets to the box. They've been on sale at $2.50 per box since I've started buying them so that works out to about $.36 per serving which is pretty good if you look at a KitKat which is twice as much candy for somewhere in the neighborhood of twice the price.

So that's all well and good, but none of it matters if the product isn't great. Luckily these are just excellent. The wafer has that nice sugar wafer crunch and the mint stuff is properly Yorky and the chocolate is, well, candy-grade chocolate (Hershey's - can't have everything I guess). And it all comes together just beautifully. I'm really pretty in love with these. The mint is a little subdued compared to your normal York Pattie, but that's to be expected given there is more here than just York stuff and chocolate.

So, I'm sure you can guess I'm going to score this pretty high. It keeps me from shoving an absurd amount of candy into my face and what I do shove in is just lovely. They aren't fine cuisine or anything and they certainly represent little more than empty calories and fat, but they're tasty and a lot fewer empty calories than grabbing a candy bar from the vending machine. And the pricing doesn't seem too terrible (while it's on sale - not that I won't buy these when they're not on sale). I hate to give a "candy" product a really high score, but these are great enough that I'm going to give it a full 8.75 out of 10. I love 'em. I've bought three boxes so far and I'm sure there are more to come. They're my after lunch snacky item of choice for the moment.

Oh, and sorry there's no pic. I don't have any of them here at home and just wanted to get the review together. I might update tomorrow or something.

June 15, 2008

Review: Starbucks Chocolate Multiple Choice

Ok, I'm finally going to address these Starbuck's chocolates that I have yet to do and since there are five different items to cover I'm going to do a short little blurby bits for each one. That way I can (try and fail to ) keep from rambling and being at this all night and ignoring the rabbit (she gets fussy when I pay more attention to the computer than her). First up are the Chocolate and Tea Tasting Squares.

Chai Milk Chocolate: A combination of Tazo Chai tea and milk chocolate (as if the name didn't give it away). Chai sometimes turns me off when in chocolate because it can overwhelm the chocolate and leave you with nothing but the chai. In this case it turns out to work well. The whole thing smells lightly spicy and the taste delivers on the smell's promise. It's a nice comfortable spicy and balances with the chocolate nicely and the tea lends it a little texture (not quite grainy and not quite crunchy). This is by far my favorite piece out of today's items. 8.5 out of 10. Tasty.

Passion Dark Chocolate: While the Chai was my favorite, the Passion is my least favorite. I complain about what I perceive to be out of balance a lot and this - while I do like it - is way out of balance. The Passion tea is based around hibiscus with citrus, rose hips, mango, and passion fruit. I find the whole thing to be like flowers and strange fruit (I don't eat a lot of mango or passion fruit so to me it's all strange). The aroma is about half and half floral and citrus and the flavor is mostly floral with a little of the fruity twang around the edges and little explosions of fruit in the cruncy little bits in it. And talk about grainy. You'll note that I've yet to mention the chocolate. The chocolate is easy to miss in the whole overwhelming assault of flowers and fruit. I want to like it. I like the flavors. I don't mind the grain (I like different textures in my chocolate). I just think that the tea should be toned WAY back. It completely overpowers the chocolate. I can't go much above a 4.5 on this one. It's too one sided.

Citron Dark Chocolate: This is more like it. The Citron tea is based around ceylon leaves with lemon oil and pairs well with chocolate. The aroma is mostly a hint of lemon and not much else. The flavor is nice with the tea, lemon, and chocolate playing well together. The thing that had me scratching me head (and running to other blogs for confirmation) was the weird nature of the lemon flavor. It tastes like lemon, but with no twang. It's like a non-citrus lemon. I know they're doing the whole name brand thing here, but they would be better served to pair ceylong tea leaves and lemon zest in the chocolate (though that would probably limit shelf life in a big way compared to what you want in a mass market product moving primarily in the drug and grocery stores). Honestly, I'd rather see a ceylon and lemon zest truffle, but I'm just the consumer here. As might be expected there is a grain to this one as well, leaving me trying to lick my teeth clean afterward. It's not a terrible grain or anything, but it's a trifle annoying. Still, the piece does more right than wrong and I enjoy it to the tune of a 7.5 out of 10.

It's kind of funny. I was really up on these after first trying them and when I go back to actually evaluate them I find that I loved one, liked one, and was really disappointed with one, but it was the one I liked that made the lasting impression. Strange. Well, it's certainly worth a taste if you are so inclined, though the price might be a little high for 2.64oz of chocolate. I can't give it a wholehearted recommendation, but I think it's interesting. If you really like the idea of tea and chocolate then I have a couple of recommendations I'll make in the near future.

Now, on to the truffles!

Chai Truffles: Well, here we are again with the Tazo Chai, this time in a truffle. Well, given how much I liked the tasting square it seems like a foregone conclusion that I would be all about this. Well, I do like it a lot, but I really prefer the tasting square to the truffle. I think it's to do with the filling. It's a non-chocolate filling which, in theory, isn't necessarily a bad thing (I have a bugaboo about calling anything a truffle if it doesn't have a ganache filling), but in this case I just don't like it as much as I do with just the tea and chocolate. It's still pretty good, though. I'll call it a 7.5 out of 10. Good, and something I'm likely to try again (especially if I find it on overstock clearance again).

Caffè Mocha Truffles: These are pretty straightforward. The truffle itself is designed with a couple of raised bean shaped bits on it which is cute and even in the wrap I can tell from the aroma there is some coffee action going on it it. Flavor-wise, well, it's tastes like your standard café mocha confection. It's tasty. It could stand a little more punch to the flavor, but it's pretty good. I generally avoid coffee (caffeine issues and a general avoidance of hot beverages in anything but the coldest months), but when I indulge I want some serious flavor. This comes close. I like it enough to call it a 7 out of 10.

So I've gone through a number of the Starbucks pieces now and the trend is generally positive. I think that the choice to go with something more than just the straight-up Hershey's chocolate was a good one (the read-between-the-lines answer to the chocolate is that it's Scharffen Berger). I think that a number of these pieces would fall flat with the normal Hershey's and Special Dark (which I hate). So Starbuck's first excursion into the world of chocolate seems to be working to varying degrees. Of course it all comes down to personal taste and whether one is willing to support both Starbucks and Hershey's, but if you don't mind the source then you just might find something to you liking.

May 17, 2008

Review: Snickers Adventure Bar

I never really know quite what to do when it comes time to review something that I dislike. It doesn't happen a lot. I'm disappointed and unimpressed on a regular basis, but for me to try something chocolate and just plain dislike it is rare. It always takes me by surprise and the reaction I have in real life is far from what I feel I can allow myself to post. If it isn't offensive then it generally channels something from one of my terrible and oft geeky loves. This reaction did amuse me, though. I can sum up my impression of the bar just as I did the first time: "Wicked nasty Snickers!" I'm not saying it's awful, I just don't want it in my mouth again. Ever.

So what is this bar to offend my delicate palate so? Simply put, it's a Snickers bar with some coconut flavor and supposedly some exotic spice. It's a limited edition affair put together as a tie in for the upcoming new Indiana Jones And The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The bar looks normal enough, but I could smell a whiff of coconut about it as soon as I cracked the wrap. The coconut took a moment or two to actually show up in the taste, though. And those exotic spices? I'm still waiting for them to show up and it's been a few days since I washed the taste of this thing out of my mouth.

So what's my problem with it? It's just a Snickers with a little coconut flavor along for the ride. What could be wrong with that? Well, call me an insane purist, but to me EVERYTHING is wrong with the concept. I do not want coconut in my Snickers. It has no place there thank you ever so much. I like chocolate and coconut together and even chocolate, caramel, and coconut together (as in those evil Samoa cookies the Girl Scouts are trying to kill me with), but I just can't reconcile nougat and coconut. It feels wrong. Taste-wise it isn't terrible or anything, it just isn't my bag. I like normal Snickers and the coconut, to me, ruins a good thing. I can't say it's bad, it just isn't an improvement or even as good as the normal one. It's a moderately interesting variant, but it does nothing for me.

So, falling back on the concept that this entire blog is a work of opinion, I present the score as I see it - how it rates on my personal scale. I consider a normal Snickers to be a good 7.5 out of 10. This isn't as good. I'm calling it a 5 out of 10. That's not to say that you won't like it. If you like the idea of coconut in your Snickers then it's a good bet you'll like it. Me, I'm just not liking it and am going to give away my remaining bar.

Tomorrow I'm going to discuss the Vosges Calindia bar in all it's cardamomiful glory (it's like a cardamomarama). After that I'm going to discuss my irrational love for the Starbucks Chocolate Chocolate And Tea Tasting Squares. Then maybe I'll hae some sort of coherent thoughts on the subject of beer and chocolate as opposed to just a couple of pairing that I like.

G'night!

May 10, 2008

Quick Hits: Mint Crisp M&M's

Hey, I finally found some of the Mint Crisp M&M's action (more candy - real chocolate will be posted this week - I promise)! Packaging feels kind of busy with a background of some ruins and the logo and Green and Indy. For those who haven't had a chance to try them yet what you have is a batch of slightly larger than normal green and white M&M's with a single big rice crisp in the middle of each. Oh, and they're minty (like you couldn't guess). They have a nice minty aroma lurking about them and a nice mint flavor. There isn't a ton to say about them beyond they're being crispedy crunchedy M&M's with a nice hit of mint. Not mint like the York Sensation or anything, but a nice quality mintiness. My only gripe is that the chocolate is kind of backseat on this ride and when you go to the effort of trying to notice it it just doesn't seem all that remarkable. Still, not bad. And overall they're a nice snackedy snack kind of deal so I'm giving some decently high marks. Solid 8 out of 10. Tasty.

Coming up: More Indiana Jones promo limited edition chocolate! And then a little cardamom (and I'm having a tiny bit of trouble coming up with a good adjective to describe having the flavor or aroma of cardamom - cardamommy don't work - caramomacious? cardamomiful?).

April 3, 2008

Review: Wildly Cherry M&M's

Ok, so I had been planning on writing up a formal review of the Wildly Cherry M&M's and had, on multiple occasions, promised that it was forthcoming. And then I sat down to write it and realized that I really didn't have a lot to say. There really isn't a lot to say about them.

So, tearing into the bag you are met by a slight cherry aroma. Not bad and not overpowering. The M&M's themselves are of both varying size and varying shades of red. Some are no bigger than a normal M&M and some are monstrous huge. Most are well above average size and most tend away from the really dark red. The darkest ones seem to be the biggest ones and I guess that was by design. Anyway, they are big so you get that much more chocolate in each one and that's a nice little bonus. The taste is really nice. The cherry flavor isn't super-strong, but more of a background flavor. And since it isn't quite so front-and-center you don't get any sense of it being overly fake. It doesn't come across as overly genuine either, but it doesn't scream FAKE at you and that's a good thing. And finally the aftertaste. The Razzberry M&M's had an aftertaste that I just couldn't stand. With these the only aftertaste I'm getting is of milk chocolate. The cherry fades and all that is left is a little hint of milk chocolate.

So they don't have any of the weaknesses that I found in the Razzberry M&M's and are quite enjoyable. Overally I'd be forced to call that a win. I don't really like to have more than a few at a time, but I do enjoy them. As they are a nice step up from the annoyance of the Razzberry I'm going to give them a 7.5 out of 10. They aren't perfect and are far from "fine chocolates", but they do the job and do it nicely.

Now I'm looking forward to trying the Mint Crisp M&M's that they are releasing in a Indiana Jones cross-promotion. Seems to me it's time to start hitting the drug stores again. I do love to hunt for chocolate.

March 25, 2008

What the heck?

So I'm at the grocery store last night picking up some green leafy stuff for the rabbit and I happen to wander by the promotional aisle where all of the Easter stuff is. Well, I figured it was worth a look to see if there weren't some good post-Easter deals to be had. The deals weren't bad, but what I really got excited about was finally finding the Wildly Cherry M&M's! I didn't have the highest of hopes for them, but figured what the hey, they're new so I might as well try them, right? Imagine my horror when I found myself liking them! I need to go back for a second try, but I'm afraid that I actually like these. For some reason the Razzberry M&M's didn't click that well with me so I sort of expected these to miss as well. But I'm afraid that I might just like these. I'll put up a full review later this week, but right now it's looking pretty positive (not that it isn't subject to change).

March 13, 2008

Review: 3 Musketeers Raspberry with Dark Chocolate

I've made a number of passes through the Easter candy aisle at the grocery store lately and I've generally come up with little or nothing to show for my efforts (aside from a few Peeps). This last trip to the store I finally noticed something different about one of the items that I had previously managed to ignore. One of those items I assumed was simply a holiday re-packaging job turned out to be a little bit more. It seems that they managed to sneak out another Limited Edition Three Musketeers and it had been right in front of my nose for weeks (maybe). Last time it was the Mint Three Musketeers which, frankly, didn't do much for me. This time they go the Raspberry Route which I, for some odd reason, had high hopes for. So into the basket it went (along with a mixed bag for the candy bowl at my desk at work).

Sadly, I can’t think of too much to say about these. They’re moderately unremarkable and that, I guess, is their biggest strength. The texture of the Mint Three Musketeers really bothered me. If the whippy fluff stuff isn’t properly whippy and fluffy then it shouldn’t say Three Musketeers on the package. The Mint was like that. The texture just felt wrong. It didn’t help that I didn’t find them that tasty either. These little Raspberry critters have a much better texture and the flavor isn’t bad either. There isn’t a whole lot of chocolate flavor to it, but that isn’t much of a surprise when you consider that there is a lot more of the fluff than there is chocolate. The raspberry fluff is really pretty decent. It does taste sort of artificial, but not to the point of being bad. The hint of chocolate and not-offensively-artificial raspberry flavor work together nicely.

So this turned out to click with me a lot better than the Mint variety did last year. It isn’t as good as a normal Three Musketeers, but better than the mint so I’m giving it a 7.5 out of 10, a score that sits it right between the two reference bars. It’s really not bad at all, but it’s also really not amazing. If you like raspberry candy these might go over well and I would say they’re worth a try, but I haven’t seen anything but Minis in this flavor and I know that I’m going to have to work to give away the rest of the bag I bought unless I find somebody who really likes them a lot.

March 3, 2008

Review: Hershey's Vanilla Creme Kisses

A lot of what I've been eating lately, in terms of chocolate at least, has been the stuff I was finding at the grocery store. Whatever bars they happened to have (more often than not it was just the Lindt Excellence bars) and whenever I saw something in the candy aisle that caught my eye I would make sure to take it along with me as well. And I really haven't eaten a lot at all.

But recently I was motivated and excited to dig through the Easter selection at the grocery store. I ended up rather disappointed. There was a lot of the sort of items that change their general shape and wrapping for each holiday and the same old stuff in a different wrap just isn't all that exciting to me. I did find one thing I was interested in, though. They had Hershey's Vanilla Creme Kisses and that seemed like something I couldn't pass up.

So the kisses come sitting flat in this triangular sleeve package which is a nice design. The kisses themselves are larger than the kisses I'm familiar with, but since they're filled this is a good thing. You get a better balance between the amount of chocolate shell and flavored stuff. The shell is standard Hershey's Kiss. Nothing all that special. It's the stuff inside that had me interested. The vanilla creme is thick stuff but softer than the shell. I suppose I expected it to be sweeter than I found it to be and was pleasantly surprised. The vanilla creme isn't overly sweet or overly strong and is a nice companion to the chocolate. They are good and don't have that aftertaste that I disliked so much with the Cherry Cordial Kisses (and it started so well, too).

So while I think that the kisses look a little strange compared to the normal ones, I do find them to be a tasty diversion. Not the sort of thing I'm going after on a normal basis (being more into the dark chocolate and less into the candy and milk chocolate), but it's pretty good stuff. I'm going to call it a 7.5 out of 10. It's some tasty snacky stuff.

November 26, 2007

Safari Report Part Three

Two long posts and I still have things I need to address. Here goes.

First, in the first part of the show report I mentioned the artist doing collages who I couldn’t figure out who was. Finally got it! She is Christina Stahr and her chocolate work is called (ready for this) Chocolate Obsession Collages! I love the name (of course). But I love the idea and it's well executed too. So glad I actually looked at the program for the show or I'd never have figured it out. Couldn't remember the Chocolate Obsession connection. I'm bad.

Movin’ on!

I was glad to see Dagoba had a booth and I was especially glad to see that they had a number of bars that I had read about but never had a chance to try yet. So I took a stack of bars home with me (the classic Xocolatl, Lemon Ginger, Seeds, Superfruit, and Prima Materia with 100% cacao content!). I was tempted by the Xocolatl Nibs, but will try them later (I can’t get everything all at once).

Another company in attendance that I was familiar with was Theo Chocolate. I’d only had one of their bars before and they had a pack of their five Origin bars so I grabbed one to give it a shot (I was going to buy just a couple of bars until they realized that with the price they had posted it was cheaper to buy the bars individually – glad the mistake was caught and I was able to get more for less). As I said, I haven’t tried a lot of their chocolate, so I’m interested in how these bars are.

Bits and pieces….

Picked up a Nocturne bar from E. Guittard which I don't think I had never seen before. 91% cacao content on this one so it should be interesting.

Got to pick up one of Amano’s new limited edition Cuyagua bars. I love the small batch producers because they have the ability to take a small batch of really special beans and make a small run bar. There may be variance between individual bars and individual batches, but that’s one of the charms of the small batch. Each bar is an adventure.

Oliver Kita had some really great looking chocolate Buddhas. Very cool. And sadly that’s about all I remember from that booth.

Coppeneur had a really nice booth and I swear that they were talking up a brand new NYC location but I can’t seem to find any evidence of it. This bothers me. Anyway, I tried a bar with ginger and banana and it was pretty darn tasty.

After researching Coppeneur I find myself wanting to visit Fog City News in San Francisco.

Capital One? You can’t go anywhere these days without somebody trying to get you to accept a credit card. And Marriot Vacation Club. Why? I realize that they’re paying for space, but can we focus please? This is the New York CHOCOLATE Show.

Mad Mac! Macarons and Madeleins by the box. The looked lovely and I need to look into them in the future. I like macarons. They is yummy. And the Mad Mac ones looked very pretty and very tasty.

The chocolates from Anna Shea Chocolates were beautiful. I should have bought some.

Chocolate Bar NYC. I was planning on visiting so I just sort of looked at the pretty bars and shirts and stuff and moved on. I never got to the store/café so it’s on my list of things left undone (to be handled on my next trip to the city).

Cosmic Chocolate had some very attractive chocolate hearts (hand painted) and I grabbed some since I had never heard of them and would likely never have another shot to try them before Chocolate Show 2008. Their other big deal item was a small set with celebrity faces on them. A uber-gimmicky product like that makes me worry for the quality of the hearts, but they get the benefit of the doubt for now.

Mars had Java Twix samples, but they weren’t passing them out while I was in the area and the show got to be too crowded for me to be happy there any more so I went without.

There are a number of places I don’t even remember seeing (and some I know I saw and just can't remember) and I’ve got to get some of their chocolates at some point. No rush, I suppose, but I feel like I may have missed out on something somewhere.

Ok, I think that will do for now. Next up is a quick rundown of my quick tour of the city's chocolatiers. The ones I managed to hit.

November 1, 2007

Post-Halloween Chocolate

Halloween is the one chocolate holiday that I don’t really need to go shopping after (though that won't likely stop me). In general I’ll have bought a bag or two of candy on the off chance that somebody shows up at my door on beggar’s night and in general I’ll still have that same bag or two of chocolate the morning of November 1st. What can you do? I don’t want to be that guy who has kids show up at the door and has nothing to offer them. So it’s the day after Halloween and here I am with my expected two bags of leftover chocolate. There aren’t a lot of kids in the neighborhood (there are more dogs than kids so they had trick or treat for the dogs which I thought was nice), but there are neighborhoods that butt up against mine that do have kids so I figured I'd better be prepared. The total count for the evening: three dogs, no children. Ah, well. Such is life. Now I have candy for my candy bowl at work.

The nice thing about having all this leftover candy is that when I grabbed my candy I picked up some things that I had never tried (in miniature form, of course). In the mix were Milky Way Midnight (the dark chocolate vanilla nougat Milky Way) and Dark Chocolate Snickers. The Dark Chocolate Snickers didn’t strike me as too much different than the normal one. Snickers tends to be about the nougat, caramel, and peanuts (which, they assure us, it is “packed with”) and the chocolate is just along for the ride. The dark chocolate adds a little something extra, but it's still got all the things that make Snickers great. Good stuff. The Milky Way Midnight I can’t comment on as far as differences are concerned. I’m not a big Milky Way eater (I tend to grab a 3 Musketeers instead for some reason – not sure why because I do love the Milky Way action) so I can’t say if it’s all that different from the base model. I can say I really liked the Midnight. It was quite tasty and all of the remaining ones have been added to my personal candy stash rather than the candy bowl.

I know I haven’t been posting a whole ton, but I have been eating other chocolate. I’m slowly nibbling my way through my Godiva spoils (and just got another card in the mail for more free chocolate – they’re out of control!) and have had a few interesting items at work one of which provided a painful learning experience. If you have an office or cube with a southern-exposed window (in the northern hemisphere) then your chocolate may be at risk. I have black cabinets in my cube and I had a whole bag of Harry and David truffles in it and after returning from the weekend I found them to have merged into one monstrous truffle beast. An entire bag of truffles I won’t be able to share (and will be forced to eat myself – naturally). I’ve got to figure out where and how to store my chocolate for the weekends so this doesn’t happen again.

As for the other things I’ve been eating, well, they’re going to get a separate post of their own rather than bulk this one up further.

And if you’re into the bargain chocolate thing I suggest you act fast! They need to clear shelf space for the Christmas chocolate so the remaining Halloween goodies are probably going to disappear very quickly. I know at the store I go to for lunch they already have Christmas chocolate on an end-cap so I’m betting that they’ll have the whole Halloween aisle cleared out sometime today and fully replaced with Christmas swag. Good luck shopping!

September 18, 2007

Review: Razzberry M&M's

Here we go again. Another limited edition candy. This time it’s the new Razzberry M&M’s. I finally got tired of fooling around looking for them at the grocery and drug stores so after securing my lunch one day I went to the gas station to try and get my candy on. And, of course, it was there in great numbers in a not so obvious place (back with the hot dog rollers if I recall right). So I grabbed a pack of Elvis Reese’s Cups to share at work and a couple of bags of M&M’s and headed back to the office.

Tearing into the bag one is met with a strong raspberry aroma with a little milk chocolate around the edges. Looking in the bag the first time I thought I had made a mistake: nearly all the M&M’s are significantly larger than normal ones. And they’re kind of pink in color. Not a neon pink, but something darker and deeper. Think Pepto Bismol only more to the red end of the spectrum than the pink. Not the prettiest color and when you’re dealing with candy colors are important. Taste is, of course, more important, so I should probably move on to that subject. The taste is… not bad, but not very chocolaty (in my opinion) and sort of artificially raspberry. I had some high hopes for these, but in the end I don’t think that they live up to the promise on either the chocolate or raspberry front. At the same time a co-worker of mine seemed to like them just fine. They seemed to get an even better reception from him than the Chocolate Pop Rocks did. So everything here is my opinion and your mileage may vary.

It’s not a bad attempt, but it’s not something I expect to see coming back after it’s limited edition runs out. It’s just not that great. I’m going to give it a generous 6 out of 10 because my friend liked it. I’d probably go with a 5 on my own. It’s not that they’re bad, it’s just that they aren’t that good.

September 10, 2007

Review: 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate

Well, there has once again been a longer period between posts than I would like. It seems that most of my posts start like this now, but sometimes you just have to deal with what normal life is throwing your way and let the online thing slide. The nice thing is that I’ve been turning to chocolate to help me deal with the real life things. As I mentioned in the last post I had a chance to try the 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate and, while I had been planning on doing both it and the Razzberry M&M’s in one post, I just haven’t found the M&M’s so it they'll have to wait for another day.

Before we go any further I have to say that I love the normal 3 Musketeers bar. The fluff stuff in it is just wonderful as far as I’m concerned. It isn’t too airy and it isn’t too dense. The way it just sort of dissolves on the tongue is something I love. It is my go-to bar when I want a little chocolate snack and I've only got the vending machine to lean on.

Moving on. The new 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate is an immediate departure from the classic in terms of form. The normal bar is big and has a really substantial feel to it. The Mint bar is separated into two separate mini-bars. The two of them combined are a good bit smaller than the normal bar, but they are a nice size. It works out to two nice small snack size servings or one nice big serving. I like the choice it imparts. I have a tendency to tear chocolate bars to pieces and eat them a little at a time and this bar with its two pieces allows me to hold one back for later and I like that.

Taking a whiff of the bar you can tell it’s got some mint going on. It has quite a nice aroma with a little chocolate and a little mint hinting at good things to come. Tearing into it (I normally just break an end off in my mouth, but I wanted a look at it first) you find the center to be white as opposed to the normal light brown. The center is soft like the normal one, but it doesn’t feel quite the same in the mouth. Close, but not quite. But the important thing is taste, right? And on this point it definitely delivers. The mint flavor is light and nice. I tend to favor a stronger mint flavor, but this is really quite nice as it is. The chocolate isn’t as strong as I would like it, but that’s forgivable. What may not be forgivable is the slight saltiness it has. Having read Cybele’s review where she encountered the salty edge I was looking for it. It might not be as noticeable if you aren’t expecting it (I didn't the first time I tried it), but it was there (when I was looking for it) and it might turn some off of the bar.

So in the end we have a pretty good bar that honors the original and brings a nice soft hit of mint to the party. I didn’t like the texture quite as much, but it was still pretty close to the fluffiness I’m so fond of. On my standard 10 point scale I would give the normal 3 Musketeers bar a solid 8 out of 10. The 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate scores a respectable 7 out of 10.

As a final note I keep finding them on sale so it’s nice and cheap to give them a try (always a good thing).

Beyond this bar I’m very happy to say we are heading rapidly for Halloween so there is some more candy on the horizon and Christmas not far behind. Chocolate season is almost upon us again and I could not be happier.

August 19, 2007

The Not-So-Chocolate Life

It's kind of hard to write about chocolate when I'm not eating much of it. But there are things worth discussing here and there. I'm currently taking a bar of chocolate to work with me and eating a little after lunch each day. It means I'm getting some chocolate in me, but not a whole lot. This past week it's been the E. Guittard Quevedo bar I've been munching on and while it isn't as deep an experience as some of their other bars it is a great bar for snacking on. It's simple and good and doesn't do anything wrong. I've also snuck a Edy's Slow Churned Nestle Crunch Ice Cream Bar in (it's summer - ice cream is a necessity). It's nice and tasty and not too big a serving.

What I really want to try this week is the new Limited Edition Razzberry M&Ms (I'm really interested in seeing if they use real raspberry flavor). What I find interesting about it is that I usually see raspberry paired with dark chocolate and these are the normal milk chocolate M&Ms with raspberry flavor.

And while on the subject of M&Ms.... I'm used to the cartoony Red, Yellow, and Green M&Ms from the commercials. I'm used to the fact that an M&M only has eyebrows, not actual hair. And now there's all these M&Ms with hair running around on the commercials and it don't sit well with me. It just doesn't seem right. Looks wrong. Unnatural. It's probably just me, but I don't like it. Nope.

Ok, enough M&M angst.

The big news of the past week or two is that Campbell's is possibly looking to unload Godiva. It's going to be interesting to see who goes after them. I've seen all sorts of speculation flow through my inbox about who might and might not be interested. There have been mentions of Lindt, Nestle, Wrigley, and (of course) Hershey (who are turning into the Microsoft of chocolate - they're buying everybody). I kind of think that if the hints I've found on the internet are right and Godiva gets their chocolate from Barry Callebaut then that might be a really good fit if they can afford the expected $1Billion pricetag. It could be seen as a problem, though, as they would suddenly be in direct competition with other chocolatiers that they supply. Anyway, it should be interesting to see who wants to pony up the cash if Campbell's actually goes through with it.

One of the great things about getting newsfeeds about chocolate in my inbox is the great sounding recipes that show up (amidst all of the stupid chocolate cellphone news - so glad it's dying off) all the time. One of them that caught my eye recently was Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts over at Epicurious. I love banana bread and the only way I know to make it better is to add nuts and/or chocolate. Mmmm....

That's about all I have for now. I'm not sure what bar I'm eating this week, but if it isn't something I've previously covered I'll try and write up a review. Good night all!

June 13, 2007

Review: Nestlé Crunch Crisp

I had to go to the grocery yesterday to look just in case there was a slip up and the Elvis Reese's Cups had made their appearance early (it's happened before) and while I did not find the prize I was after I did leave with a Nestlé Crunch Crisp bar which promises crispy wafers and chocolate crème. I figured it was new, I wanted chocolate (when do I not?), why not give it a shot? So it went back to work with me for an after-lunch snack (and, as I had no camera with me, I was unable to take a picture of it to share).

I hate to harp on ingredients, but I don't know if there is anything here that qualifies as chocolate. There is sugar, oil, cocoa, milk, lecithin, and fake vanilla, but no cocoa butter. Just lots of oil. A regular Crunch lists milk chocolate as it's number one ingredient (and includes cocoa butter in the sub-ingredients). But no chocolate on this label. Don't know what to make of that. Moving on.

The bar, in theory, is the horrific love child of a Nestlé Crunch and Kit Kat. In structure we have rice crispies on top of wafers layered with chocolate crème. It smells moderately chocolaty in the sweet candy bar kind of way. Kind of like a Kit Kat. It smells chocolaty, but not like chocolate. Texture wise it is all crunch all the time with this bar. The crunch is nicely satisfying, but the taste isn't anything amazing. It's not bad, mind you; it's just not as good as I had hoped. It doesn't have any real chocolate kick to it, just sort of a vague chocolate flavor.

Bottom line? Not bad, but I'll take a regular Kit Kat or Crunch bar over this just about any day. I'll call it a 5 out of 10. The catch is that while it's all new and exciting they've got them on sale for a quarter a pop at Kroger (don't know if this carries over to all of the other million and a half grocery chains that Kroger owns - Ralph’s, Fry’s, Smith’s, Fred Meyer, etc.- or if the "Plus Card" that we Krogerites are saddled with was required or not). At $.67 I'm not about to go buying another one any time soon. At $.25.... well, that's a price point I might roll over for.

January 9, 2007

Review: Bubble Chocolate

Bubble ChocolateOne of the great things about the chocolate market right now is that there is a lot of new and interesting product finding it’s way onto store shelves. One of those products is Bubble Chocolate, an new line of aerated chocolate bars which helps to catch us in the US up with our friends in other parts of the world. They’ve had Aero for a long time but we in the States were left without aerated chocolate until now (at least I haven't found any). Bubble chocolate is bringing us the aerated love in three varieties: Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, and Coffee Milk Chocolate. Tonight I’m going to tear into some samples I got in the mail and see just how they stack up.

Aerated Chocolate
So just what is the deal here? The simplest way I can think of to describe aerated chocolate is to say that it’s bubbly. You take a mass of tiny chocolate bubbles and somehow make them into a bar (and oh, how I would LOVE to see how they do it – I love seeing how things are made and this just has me curious). It’s sort of like pumice. Full of tiny little holes. As such it has a really interesting texture to it. It sort of collapses under your teeth and on your tongue. It’s quite nice.

Dark Chocolate

Once glance inside the wrapper and it’s clear that this is, indeed, dark chocolate. It’s a pretty dark chocolate color and smells nice. Flavor-wise it isn’t terribly complex. It is light and sweet for a dark chocolate with a light bright note to it but what really stands out is how creamy it is for a dark chocolate (Cybele noticed the same thing so I’m not imagining things here). Given its sweetness and the fact that it isn’t overly bitter or sour it is a very accessible dark chocolate and in spite of my tending away from those sorts of things I found myself really enjoying it. It’s a solid 8.25 out of 10 as far as I’m concerned.

Milk Chocolate

As one might expect this one is a fair bit sweeter than the dark chocolate bar and has a safely non-sour, milk chocolate flavor. It’s quite creamy and extremely smooth. I snuck a bite of an Aero for comparison and I think I like this better. As far as milk chocolate goes I like this a lot and, of course, it has the whole texture thing going for it. I’ll call it an 8 out of 10 and something I certainly wouldn’t turn my nose up at in the future.

Coffee Milk Chocolate
Now I have a love/hate relationship with coffee chocolates. They all sound so good to me but a lot of them are just too strong for me (which is strange since I adore chocolate covered espresso beans). This, however, is just right for me. The aroma is light, but all coffee. Taste-wise it has a really nice balance between a reasonably sweet and creamy milk chocolate and a nice mellow coffee and the combination is really nice. Very yummy stuff worth a nice 8.25 out of 10.

So what we have is a product that has not only a nice gimmick but some good chocolate as well. Bubble Chocolate is available nationwide, though I can say I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in a store. Anyway, it’s a neat texture and the chocolate is tasty stuff and it’s cheap to boot so if you run into it it’s definitely worth giving it a shot.

Cybele at Candy Blog Reviewed these back in July and you can read her review here.

November 27, 2006

M&M's Pirate Pearls Revisited

mmspiratespearls.jpgThis past May M&M's, in a cross-brand promotion with Disney, introduced their first ever white chocolate product in the form of M&M's Pirate Pearls. The entire thing was wrapped up in piratey imagery to help promote the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. They seemed to be everywhere for a while but have since all but disappeared from stores leaving a lot of people wondering just how they can get their hands on some of these precious morsels. Today I'm sharing my thoughts on the continuing existence of the white chocolate M&M, where and when you can get your hands on more, and what to do to make sure that they don't disappear for good. I should warn you, though, that a lot of speculation follows.

Continue reading "M&M's Pirate Pearls Revisited" »

November 6, 2006

Review: York Limited Edition Vanilla Mint Patties

One of my all time favorite candies is the venerable York Peppermint Pattie. It’s one of those special candies that have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and I could honestly eat an entire bag if I let myself. So whenever I see a new limited edition variety I feel the need to grab a bag and give them a try. Today I ran into a new one: the York Limited Edition Vanilla Mint Patties.

The first thing the new edition brings to the table is new packaging! The bag itself is nice in a vanilla way but the individual patties are in neat little sealed wraps as opposed to the normal fold/crumple style wrapper we’ve come to know (and love). They look quite nice. The patties themselves look pretty much like they normally do and they really don’t smell much different from normal, at least to my nose. But the taste, ah, there’s where things get changed up. It doesn’t take long for the vanilla to assert itself in the flavor. It gives the whole thing kind of a mint chocolate chip ice cream kind of flavor, only not terribly minty.

And that is where things went wrong (for me at least). The traditional “sensation” just isn’t there. York are characterized by that strong intense mint flavor and these just don’t have it. I’m not saying they’re bad, because they’re not. They just don't quite live up to the York name. I really like these, but if I’m offered the choice I’ll go with the original. If, however, there are none of the original about then I’ll be more than happy to eat a few of these. Not perfect, but still pretty tasty. I’ll give it a 7 out of 10. If it sounds interesting they’ll probably be here at least through New Year’s but beyond that might be a bit iffy.

July 24, 2006

Review: Kit Kat Editions Golden Caramel

I like to try new and different things so I love to see all of the special edition candy bars that they have been flooding the market with. Mostly I won’t try them. There are only a few of them that really interest me enough to come home with me. Now and then, though, something truly special comes along. This time it’s an import – the Kit Kat Editions Golden Caramel bar.

It looks like a giant Kit Kat stick. Smells just like one too. But over the wafer there is a small reservoir of caramel. And it really is small. I was kind of disappointed at first, having expected a lot more caramel than I was finding. But then I took the time to taste what I was about to complain about and my mind was quickly changed. The caramel, as little as there was, added just enough to the taste and experience of the bar to elevate it above the norm (not that normal Kit Kats aren’t normally excellent).

I love Kit Kats and I love caramel so I wasn’t surprised to find myself liking this bar a lot. The caramel adds that little something extra that makes the bar special. If you have access to this (which is a UK import and is also supposed to be just like the Kit Kat Chunky Caramel which was released in Canada and the UK according to the mighty Wikipedia) and like Kit Kat and caramel then it’s worth a try. I’m giving it a 8.5 out of 10 and I’m hoping I can get another before they disappear.

July 6, 2006

Review: Ritter Sport Cornflakes and Crème de Cacao

So I’ve seen these little Ritter Sport critters running around the Trader Joe’s and have been curious as to whether they’re worth my time and money. Running low on other chocolates I haven’t tried I figured it was time I grabbed some. So I did! I ran with the Cornflakes and Crème de cacao varieties. How could I say no to something as unusual as Cornflakes?

At a glance they really don’t look like much – a smallish square - but they are really pretty substantial. They are pretty thick so you end up with a lot of chocolate. The chocolate, while not amazing or complex, is quite nice. It’s a good creamy milk chocolate.

But, as nice as the chocolate is, these bars are all about the goodness hidden within. First up is the Crème de cacao/Chocolate Crème variety. I can’t help but describe this in terms of a 3 Musketeers bar. It is more chocolaty to start but the taste quickly becomes familiar. The big difference is in the chocolate crème. In a 3 Musketeers you get whippy aerated chocolate nougat fluffage. The chocolate crème in this Ritter critter is thick stuff. It has an almost ganache consistency. So, what you have is something like a very high quality 3 Musketeers bar – and this is a good thing. I love 3 Musketeers and this has everything I love about it with a different texture and feel.

Moving on to the cornflakes! How many chocolate products have crispy rice in them? More than I’d care to count. How many have cornflakes? This is the only one I know of. And I really have to wonder why nobody else is doing it. Both are breakfast cereal staples and they’re staples because they have that spectacular crunch. The only real difference between the two is that there is so little flavor to crispy rice and with corn flakes you get good solid corn flavor. And it really shines through in this chocolate. It’s got that familiar cereal crunch but the taste is something utterly new to my experience. It’s really nice. Hmmm…. I seem to say that a lot. But it’s true!

So my first round of Ritter Sport turned out to be some really nice stuff. I figure that the Crème de cacao gets a good solid 8 of 10 and the Cornflakes bar gets an 8.5. I’ll probably try something else before I go back for the Crème de cacao but it will eventually get some repeat action. The Cornflakes bar is likely to get some frequent repeat action.

June 7, 2006

Review: Hershey's Sweet & Salty Granola Bar

On the Trail of the Sweet and salty that I've been jonesing for lately I picked up this Hershey's Sweet & Salty Granola Bar thing. It says it has pretzels on the label and that's usually enough to get me interested so I grabbed it. I was on safari and like to get a couple of more candy-ish products to go along with the finer chocolate and this was filling that role in my cart. Plus I was curious as to when and why Hershey's decided that it needed to start making granola bars. I can see selling their chocolate and or name to an established company and getting some co-branding but to take the plunge and do it on their own is an interesting move.

On to the product. I love the Take 5 bar so I figured that this would be good stuff as well. First stop: ingredients! Is it a bad sign that the first ingredient in a chocolate and granola bar is high maltose corn syrup? I'm not sure I've even heard of high maltose corn syrup. Another interesting item is PGPR which I'm pretty sure I've never heard of. There are a number of interesting items in there: vanillin, PGPR, soy lecithin, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, high maltose corn syrup, and two vegetable oils. A little on the frightening side of things, but I'll try just about anything once.

Moving on, it smells pretty nice - sweet with a hint of chocolate. The granola has a sugar-gloss shine to it (no surprise given the slurry of corn syrups) and there is a small layer of chocolate underneath it all. The taste isn't quite what I expected. It isn't nearly as sweet as I thought a "Sweet and Salty" bar would be. And I can barely taste the chocolate which for a product with the name "Hershey's" on the label is a bit of a puzzler. The granola - a mix of peanuts, oats, crisped rice, and pretzel bits - has a nice texture to it but is more salty than I would like. It's not a very strong saltiness, it's just sort of everywhere. It's pervasive ($5 word!). The whole "salt everywhere" thing doesn't bother me in other products (like a Payday) but here it just isn't really offset by anything and leaves me with a sting in my throat and the corners of my mouth. And I was disappointed that while they show a lovely pretzel on the packaging you get itty bitty smashed up pretzel bits mixed in it as opposed to the more satisfying crunch of a whole pretzel.

The bar, which was brimming with potential, left me a bit cold. It wasn't quite the sweet and salty that I was hoping for. To be honest I threw half of it away. I just didn't want any more of it. Some may like it with it's salty approach to things, but it isn't working for me. Not at all. 4 out of 10 stars. Bleah.

May 24, 2006

m&m's Limited Edition My Flavors

mnmsmyflavors.jpgThe m&m's online store offers a number of interesting products allowing the user to get some customization in terms of color and printing. Today they announce that they're adding something new to the mix: 8 new, limited edition, online-only flavors. The new flavors feature some interesting combinations of chocolate and flavored shell.
The new flavors are:


  • All That Razz - White and milk chocolate in a raspberry shell
  • Eat, Drink & Be Cherry - White and milk chocolate in a black cherry shell
  • A Day At The Peach - White and milk chocolate in a peach shell
  • Orange-You-Glad - White and milk chocolate in a orange shell
  • AlmonDee-licious - White chocolate and an almond in a normal shell
  • Mint Condition - White and milk chocolate in a mint shell
  • Nut What You Think - White chocolate and a peanut in a normal shell
  • Cookie Minister - Dark chocolate with a crispy center in a speckled mint shell

They are available in a custom tin or in a big collectible tin (pictured here). I can't find a way to order smaller amounts than a tin and the tin runs a painful $60.

I find it interesting that there is so much white chocolate in the mix. Most of them have white and milk chocolate but only one of the bunch has dark chocolate and none are only milk chocolate. Of the bunch I think that the Cookie Minister interests me the most, though the orange, cherry, peach, and raspberry ones all sound like they might be good as well.

These limited edition products will be the death of me both physically and financially. As befits a chump chocolate blogger like myself I'm ordering the sampler. My curiosity is getting the better of me on this one.

Check it out.

May 4, 2006

Mini Review: Truffle Pig Milk Chocolate Bar

Didn't expect to see this when I stopped in at Wild Oats this past weekend. I like to go there just in case something new and interesting has shown up on the shelf and - lucky me - they got Hagensborg Chocolate Truffle Pig bars! I grabbed the milk chocolate bar which is a nice thick ganache log coated in milk chocolate. That much I was able to figure out from the name. What I didn't expect was the bar's appearance. It's got pigs on!

I'm as big a sucker for gimmicky products as I am for chocolate and chocolate with a gimmick is just great! The pigs are cute (and hard to photograph) and the chocolate is good. It's not the ganache you get in a fresh, high end truffle, but it is nice and tasty. It certainly didn't last long. It didn't leave much more impression with me than the fact that it was good and cute. I prefer dark chocolate most of the time, but this was good enough that I'm going to give another Truffle Pig a try. A solid 7.5 out of 10 (and I'm resisting the temptation to give bonus piggy points).

May 2, 2006

White Chocolate M&M's

mmspiratespearls.jpgM&M's are going pirate! In one of those massive promotional deals M&M's is going to be offering pirate themed M&M products in conjunction with the forthcoming Disney release Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Now that's news in itself, if only because it means that those Star Wars M&M's might finally disappear from stores (they're still there - I saw 'em this weekend) but the thing that is new and interesting is the introduction of a first in the M&M world: white chocolate M&M's. The variety pictured here (hopefully to be replaced with a better pic) is the White Chocolate Pirate Pearls. You'd think with that name they'd all be white (or at least pearl) but there are a few different light colors of them. They also have little piratey symbols on them that, naturally, incorporate the letter "M" so they don't stray too far from their established branding. In addition to the Pirate Pearls they will also be releasing Captain's Gold - Peanut M&M's in gold hues - and Jack's Gems - Milk Chocolate M&M's in "gemstone colors" (red, blue, green, and purple). There is also a M&M Minis Shipwreck Treasure Mix that changes color in your mouth from green to gold.

Star Wars brought us Dark Chocolate M&M's (the Peanut Dark Chocolate M&M's being one of my favorite things in life) and now Pirates of the Caribbean brings us White Chocolate. I'm not sure I really like the sound of them (I'm not really a white chocolate person) but I'll be sure to get a bag or two and give them a shot.

The new pirate-style M&M's will be available in stores May 12th. The M&M's Pirates website is up and is very nice. Some of the content is yet to come, but there are already games and good info to be found so check it out.

Press Release
Official Website

February 17, 2006

Bite the (chocolate) Bullet

I like the idea of chocolate being a social food, much like coffee. You sit down with friends and enjoy some chocolate (and maybe some coffee while you're at it). Today Candy Addict posted up a lovely new product that brings a smile to my face (I ran into it at boingboing.net but Brian had it first). It certainly brings a social aspect to chocolate but more like a drinking game then sitting around nibbling and chatting. It is Chocolate Roulette. It is a set of 12 chocolate bullets 11 of which contain a nice creamy center. The twelfth, well, that's where the fun comes in. Lurking inside number twelve is a hot pepper. So you get all the fun (?) of Russian Roulette and nobody gets hurt too badly and you get to enjoy some chocolate at the same time! I just wonder how good the chocolate is (uh oh, signs of chocolate snobbery). I have to worry about a site that also carries Chocolate Covered Queen Leafcutter Ants.

Article Link
Product Link

February 16, 2006

Post Valentines Day Sales

News.jpgI've been so preoccupied with other matters (life is messy like that) that I entirely missed the fact that yesterday was Candy Sale Day! While most people track the normal holidays like Christmas, Easter, and Valentines I tend to focus on the aftermath. It was a sort of tradition. If I got to visit my Grandma for Easter we would head over to the Ben Franklins store and hit the leftovers. I was thrilled with the idea of buying twice as much candy with the same amount of money. Now, with my tastes running toward more expensive treats, the post-holiday sales are a Godsend. So, with Valentines Day behind us we can celebrate consumerism with half-price chocolates galore. Keep your eyes open for beautiful bargains, I know I will.

February 5, 2006

Review: Nestlé Toll House Rich Brownie Candy Bar

I love brownies. I love cake-like brownies. I love dense moist brownies. I just plain love brownies. I could go on about brownies all day. Really, I could. Brownies just take me way back. They are one of those wonder-foods that always seems to be good no matter who made it or how and they always make a day better. And the smell of a fresh pan of brownies coming out of the oven? Mmmmm.... If you ever see me passing up a brownie you can be assured that I am sick or dying. Or maybe brainwashed.

So, with my love of brownies in mind, it should be no surprise that when I saw the Nestlé Toll House Rich Brownie Candy Bar (another long name) with it's label touting (deep breath) "Rich, Chewy Brownies, Caramel & Morsels Covered in Creamy Nestlé Chocolate" I had to try it. How could it be anything but good? Brownies smothered in Nestlé! It's not Valrhona or anything, but I don't really expect to find Valrhona in a mini-mart. Brownies! And chocolate!

In the package are two nuggets of brownie covered in chocolate. Tearing one in two reveals a thin layer of caramel on top of the brownie. Upon tasting the bar I found it to be a mixed bag. I like the chocolate and the caramel. They give it a nice candy bar flair. The morsels are kind of lost in the brownie which, honestly, I did not like. The brownie has a texture that makes me think of the worst things about some of the energy bars I've been unfortunate enough to have tried. It brings to mind things like sawdust and glue. In this case the glue is some horrible mix of something sugary and something chocolatey. I've had convenient store brownies that are actually quite tasty for being all of $1.00 (Little Debbie comes to mind) but this is not even in their class. The brownie was just not good. I can't give this bar more than a 6 our of 10. The brownie was supposed to be the star of the show and it was not star quality. The potential was there for something really good, but they just did not deliver. Odds are I will not repeat.

November 18, 2005

New Hershey's Product Announcement

hersheys.gifThe Hershey Company announced yesterday that they will be bringing to market a new variation on their ever-popular Hershey's Kisses: Hershey's Kissables. The Kissables are miniature, candy-coated versions of the familiar Kisses we all know and love. The candies - colored in blue, red, yellow, green, and orange - will be available in single serving packages though there is no mention as of yet as to when they will be available.
Would I be wrong in assuming that these are aimed to directly compete with M&Ms?
Link

*UPDATE*
They have a picture up over at Junk Food Blog (another site I love)

November 15, 2005

Dark Chocolate M&Ms Return!

darkside.jpgWhen Star Wars: Episode III came out earlier this year M&Ms had a little promotion where they slapped Star Wars all over every product they made. But they did something else. They made dark chocolate M&Ms. And oh, were they good. The problem was that you couldn't find the darn things anywhere to save your life. I managed to find a store that had a big box and kept going back for more until they finally disappeared. Disappointed, I thought that the love was gone and I would never again enjoy my dark chocolate peanut M&Ms (they are like crack I tell you).

I was wrong. They're back! Revenge of the Sith indeed. I was under the impression that they were bringing them back for the holiday's but it's the same packaging as before so I guess it's all for the big Episode III dvd.

Whatever the reason, I'm just glad they're back.