Thursday, June 28, 2007

Disappointment at Trader Joe's

The last couple of times I've been to Trader Joe's, I've noticed they've really scaled back on the samples. Can't say I blame them; people get all wacky when they see free stuff. TJ's was probably losing money hand over fist by giving out mini cups of coffee and cookies. Some samples, however, would've stopped me from making my last two purchases that bombed. The first was a box of pretzel nuggets covered in chocolate and topped with white nonpareils. They looked so good, but unfortunately, the pretzels had a kind of stale taste to them. They didn't have that fresh "snap." But my niece Sarah enjoyed them when we went to see Pirates of the Caribbean. Of course, that movie was so darn long she probably would've eaten chocolate covered cat food just to fend off the hunger.
Today I bought the second bomb: dark chocolate covered pistachios. I love dark chocolate. I love pistachios. But together, oh no, they do not work well. Pistachios just don't have a substantial enough texture to hold up to the chocolate, and their smoky undertones don't jive with the bitterness of the chocolate. (In fact, I can almost see comparing them to the Vosges Mo's Bacon Bar-- smoke and chocolate don't mix, in my book). I know TJ's has a policy where you can return anything you don't like, but I'm not that type of person. I'll just pass along the rejects to the next unsuspecting guests.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Great Mentos Experiment

Being hopelessly behind the times, I was so psyched to read about the reaction that takes place if you pop a mint Mentos ("the freshmaker!") into a bottle of Diet Coke. Kaboom! It explodes into a great frothy fountain. Well, maybe "explodes" is a bit hyperbolic. It foams? That doesn't sound as exciting.

Anyway, I put my nieces up to the task. We sauntered down to the local general store and got two bottles of Diet Coke and a roll of Mentos. Here's the exciting result.

Now, of course, the next logical question is, what happens if you eat a Mentos and drink a Diet Coke? I tried to get my brother-in-law to give it a whirl, but he was feeling pretty humorless at the time. Or maybe he was just being a wuss.

Maine: A Candy Wonderland

I went to Maine this weekend to visit family and it turned out to be a candy fantasyland (as the scale will now attest). Where to begin? Brian and I took advantage of the plethora of babysitters and went to check out Augusta where we found Kennebec Chocolates. I got some assorted pieces including a chocolate cheesecake, orange jelly, coconut cups, cashew turtles and, the most unusual and best of all, a blueberry cream. I'm really starting to dig blueberries. Traditionally I've only liked them in muffins, but I'm finding that I really like the flavor and it does go well with dark chocolate. My poor sister-in-law: we all scarfed down the chocolates before she had a chance to try them. (Same thing with the Nestle Crunch Crisp-- that puppy got devoured before she even got a bite. I think I owe her some candy now.)

The next day we all took a ride to the Maine State Prison Store where you can find all sorts of hand-carved wooden items made by, you guessed it, prisoners. Fun! I bought a cedar hanger and two cedar boxes to put in my closets. (Closets! Yes, I finally have closets!) On the way back, I spied a sign that said "Sauerkraut: 8 miles." Well, c'mon, how can you resist that?! So we made the trek and found ourselves at Morse's Sauerkraut, a little German store and restaurant. I nearly hyperventilated when we walked in and I saw row upon row of German candy. It was so overwhelming that I only bought a few things including a chocolate bar (which again, was devoured before I even had time to take a picture), and a box of Happy Hippos. These are made by the Kinder company that also makes Kinder Bueno and Kinder Eggs, some truly lovely confections. The hippos were made from wafers and inside was a creamy chocolate and milky-white-chocolate filling. They were a big hit.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Random Candy Wisdom

Taylor says:
"If you ever need a straw and you don't have one, bite the ends off a Twizzler and stick it in your drink."
Isn't it amazing how some candy experiences are so universal?

Bar None is back! (And other candy news)

Well, not really. But the new Nestle Crunch Crisp is pretty damn close to the Bar None of my memory. I first heard about this new bar from William at Chocolate Obsession, where he described it as the "horrific love child of a Nestle Crunch and Kit Kat." Love that! So I had to try it. Oh YUM! It was crispy wafers and chocolatey cream and crunchy stuff. It's not crunchy enough to "feel" like a Nestle Crunch and the chocolate cream pushes aside any Kit Kat references. I really dig this bar. I will admit, though, that I tried it after a few glasses of champagne, so it could be that I'm totally off-base. Guess I'll just have to try it again to be sure.
In other candy news, apparently Dum Dums are having a contest where you can enter to have a lollipop flavor named after you (or your kid). I can't think of any "H" flavors to go with Henri, though.
And this is pretty exciting, although it's not candy-related: the banana Twinkie is back! Apparently this is the summer of banana. I thought Twinkies were going to be discontinued for some reason, but I guess not. I haven't kept up on the news. But I have a vague recollection of banana Twinkies from when I was a kid, although naturally I always preferred a Chocodile, which was a Twinkie-like cake covered in chocolate.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Soda Pop Shoppe Jelly Bellys

Despite the fact that I suddenly have enough candy in the house to last me a good long time-- a weekend at least-- I decided to pick up a box of Jelly Belly Soda Pop Shoppe jelly beans. The flavors are: Orange Crush, A&W Rootbeer, Dr Pepper, 7Up, A&W Cream Soda and Grape Crush. I was particularly interested in the Dr Pepper and 7Up, since I've spent so much time taste-testing the actual soda for my job at Cadbury. Like all the other Jelly Belly flavors, these were pretty spot-on. The 7Up seemed a little bit more furniture-polish-lemon than the soda, but that may be because of the missing carbonation. The Dr Pepper tasted like the soda, only with maybe a hint more violet. The Orange Crush had that distinct orangey Life Saver flavor.
My only complaint about them is that they come in a big box, but inside there's just a little packet of beans. Wasteful packaging and misleading to the consumer. But hey, whatever.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

This moment in history

Here it is, folks ... my little man chomping on his very first piece of candy! I was working in the kitchen when I looked over into the play room and there was Henri, diving onto a Twizzler. He loved it, of course, but as he's still getting used to his new teeth, I thought it best if he didn't really eat the licorice. He got a good taste of it though.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Stop the Insanity!

It's time for me to take a stand. This isn't going to be pleasant, but I feel like I have no choice in the matter. I must assert myself and say: Enough with the fancy chocolate!
As I mentioned in a previous post, my sister Betsy received a Vosges Haut Chocolat Mo's Bacon Bar. Apparently she was working on a project involving healthy habits and a co-worker thought this would be a funny gift, along with a couple of other bars. This weekend I had the opportunity to sample them all. (That's my brother-n-law Jeff there, showing off the goods.)
According to the Vosges website, the idea for bacon and chocolate was inspired by chocolate chip pancakes and bacon. Well, who could argue with that? That's yummy. But bacon in a candy bar is not. It's not yummy and it's not funny. It's a waste of good chocolate. It tasted like salty salad bar bacon bits covered with chocolate. I tried to be open minded, I assure you, but the concensus was: gross! So then we moved onto the next one, "Calindia," which is Indian green cardamom, organic California walnuts and dried plums in dark chocolate. I actually thought I'd like this one. I mean, what's not to like? It's dried fruit and nuts. But whoa, man, that cardamom was just overwhelming. Waaaay too strong.
Lastly we tried the "Naga," sweet Indian curry powder, coconut flakes and milk chocolate. Again, I thought I'd enjoy this one, but holy moly, it was nasty.
"It smells like Indian take out," I said.
"It tastes like the spice cabinet," Betsy said.
The worst part about the experience was that I felt like I was eating joke candy bars from Spencer Gifts, even though I know these are supposed to be sophisticated. I mean, this is quality chocolate to be sure. And I'm all for extreme sensory challenges, but this just doesn't work. My question is: does anyone truly eat these? Do fancy city-folk (as opposed to me, a hick suburbanite) really say, "Lovey, I'm craving a curry candy bar. Could you fetch me one on the way home?" Seriously. If any of you actually dig this stuff, let me know because I'm honestly curious.
Which leads me to say, there are certain flavors that are acceptable with chocolate, and others that I am banning from my candy canon. So here is the official (but not yet comprehensive) list of

Acceptable and Not Acceptable Candy Yum Yum combinations:

Chocolate and ...

Peanut butter: yay
Mustard: nay

Raspberry: yay
Beets: nay

Cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla: yay
Black pepper, basil, oregano, thyme, lavender and/or dill: nay

Marshmallow: yay
Mayonnaise: nay

Nuts: yay
Beans: nay (except, of course, cocoa beans and coffee beans)

Cheese: yay
Chalk: nay

Potato chips: yay
Wood chips: nay

Friday, June 15, 2007

Licorice Mix

I've always been a black licorice kind of girl. The cool kids-- the ones who liked caramel-- seemed to prefer red licorice, but that just never jazzed me. I always thought the red variety had a sort of Play Doh taste to it. Not that I'd ever turn it down, of course. When my friend Susan gets Twizzlers at the movie theater, I'll certainly have one or two. But I'd never buy it for myself. The other Sue in my life, the kick-ass firefighter garden guru, said she never liked red licorice. She felt like she was eating plastic.

I'm not that well-versed in the realm of red licorice, and until about college or so, I called it "lick-wish." Now that I'm older and wiser, I pronounce it the sophisticated way, "lick-o-rish." It seems there are two schools of thought in the red realm: Red Vines and Twizzlers. I didn't even know about Red Vines until about three years ago when I "met" my Australian candy pal, Debbie. She's a food writer, too, and we exchanged boxes of candy. She requested Red Vines, which I had never even heard of. She had developed a taste for them a few years back when she was living in California.

Anyhow, licorice seems to be playing a part in my life lately. I was at Trader Joe's the other day and I saw this guy in a business suit, standing in a long line, with only one item in his hands: a box of licorice Scotties. Now that's passion, I tell you. He was willing to wait in line in the middle of the day for his licorice fix.

This past weekend, I received a big ol' 5-lb. box of "Fresh From the Factory" red Twizzlers. These are all about texture. One of my dislikes of red licorice is that it can sometimes be way too hard to chew, but these fresh ones were so soft and pliable that they were actually pretty addicting. I can see a red licorice-lover plowing through a bin of these in no time. I, however, decided to share my bounty with the electrician who's been doing some work on my new casa.

"Help yourself to some candy," I said.

"Oh yeah, thanks. I already had some Twisters. I saw them and thought, 'Wow! Twisters! I haven't had those in years.'"

Um. Okay. I can see how you'd call them Twisters. But dude, they're Twizzlers! With two Zs! Ay-yi-yi.

But lest my tastebuds get too accommodated to the red variety, a bucket of Good & Plenty showed up just in time. This is the latest in the "Fresh From the Factory" line from Hershey's. I have to be totally honest here: the fresh idea was great with Reese's and Twizzlers. But for Good & Plenty? Eh, not so much. The appeal of G&P is the contrast of textures: crunchy candy shell, chewy licorice center. But in the fresh ones, the shell isn't crunchy enough. I almost want to take the lid off and expose them to the air for a while.
That's about all my licorice musings for today. I'd love to take an informal poll, though. Which is your favorite: red or black?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A very special Candy Yum Yum!

My in-laws were here a couple of months ago. It was a nice visit, but for not-so-good reasons: they both have cancer, so they were here to go to Sloan Kettering for some check ups. They're both doing well, though, and Judy brought my attention to something that's really helped her. Guess what? It's candy.

She gave me a little hard candy called a "Gin Gin."

Let me just say, I've traditionally stayed away from ginger. Ever since I od'ed on gingerbread when I was five and spent Christmas Eve with a major tummy ache, I've pretty much walked the other way whenever I saw a ginger snap or candied ginger. (Although I do love ginger ale, except Polar brand, which is vile, but I digress.) But I must say, the Gin Gin was pretty darn tasty. It had a nice honey flavor to it and the ginger was strong but not overpowering. Judy said they really help settle her stomach and I would imagine these would be great for morning sickness or sea sickness.

The candies are made by the Ginger People and they also make all sorts of other ginger products. They make a line of ginger chews that are seriously chewy, including a spicy apple that is SPICY. We're talking hot, hot, hot. If you like fireballs and apple pie, this is the candy for you. You can buy their stuff online or at natural food and specialty stores.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

I'm all shook up!

When I first heard about the Elvis Peanut Butter and Banana Reese's about six months (maybe a year?) ago, I immediately spazzed out without doing my homework first. I looked everywhere for one, not realizing that they hadn't been released yet. When my search proved unfruitful, I called my mother-in-law, who lives in Memphis, and sent her off on a wild goose chase. She looked all over the place: the gift shop at Graceland, the airport, everywhere. Then I realized the error of my ways. Oops.

So when I got an email on Friday saying that a sneak preview of the Elvis Big Cup was coming my way, I just about jumped up and swiveled my hips. Sure enough, a package arrived at my door and let me tell you, I didn't waste a second. I muttered a quiet, "Please keep sleeping! Please keep sleeping!" up towards Henri's room and ripped into the box.

The wrapper says "Peanut Butter & Banana Creme," so I instantly got nervous. First of all, banana is a tricky flavor. It can be too banana-ey, too artificial. The word "creme" brought to mind an ooey-gooey concoction that I wasn't sure would be successful. But as it turned out, the "creme" was more of a ... what? Not chewy like a nougat. Not as solid as a white chocolate. Almost kind of like the texture of a York Peppermint Pattie, but not as sticky. I guess that's why they called it a creme, because there doesn't seem to be another suitable word.

The banana flavor wasn't overwhelming, and in fact, was very subtle. It almost disappears into the peanut butter flavor, but then you get a hit of it.

This isn't candy for the wimpy: it's definitely a big ol' hunk o' sweet -n- sugary. I gave one to my brother to try. (Admittedly, he doesn't have the most discerning palate.) He shoved a whole cup into his gaping maw and proclaimed, "Don't give this to a diabetic!" Words to the wise.

I really dig the Elvis cups, but I have to admit that I feel like there's something missing. Maybe it's because I have the idea of a pb & banana sandwich in my head. I almost feel like the cups should be grilled between two slices of bread. YUMMY! And I can definitely see the miniatures being baked into brownies. I may have to try that today.

So get ready. The Reese's Elvis Cups will be coming to a store near you on July 6. Whoa Mama!

Happy (belated) Birthday, Candy Yum Yum!

Can you believe it's been FOUR YEARS since I first started this blog? I can't! Wow, time flies. I hope you all will help me celebrate by raising your candy bars in a toast to another year of yummity yum yum!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Guest Review!

Well thank goodness someone is on the ball. Alexandra stumbled upon the British section at the grocery store and had to give the KitKat Chunky a try. Here's here review:
Looks just like the smaller bar, inside & out! (But will it taste as yummy? Let's find out!) Looks can be deceiving -- sometimes good things come in small packages, sometimes not. The idea of having one large KitKat to enjoy enrobed in lots of milk chocolate seemed like such a good idea. After giving this KitKat its photo op, I took a bite, and another. Yes, it tasted just like the smaller ones, but there was something about it... there was more chocolate covering the wafers - could this be a bad thing? The wafers seemed okay, but was there an extra layer or 2 in there? Too bad I didn't have a small bar to compare with! As much as I enjoy a yummy KitKat every now and then, I couldn't even finish this one! It was almost too chocolately and the wafers lost their "airyness" in such a large size. I think I'll stick to the small package with the 4 break-away bars.

I totally agree, Alex! There's just something inherently "KitKat" about the fine balance between chocolate and wafers. KitKats are one of those bars that just shouldn't be messed with. A fresh KK is probably my favorite candy bar.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Mmmmm, bacon and chocolate

Hooray, I'm back! Well, the boxes are slowly disappearing and we're getting settled in. The other night I went to my secret candy stash and was appalled to find that it's pretty much empty. A few straggly chocolate samples, but nothing to speak of, so it's time to restock!

In the meantime, Betsy sent me an email saying a colleague sent her a Vosges Mo's Bacon Bar. Yes, you read that right: chocolate and bacon. Here's the description from the website:

Crisp, buttery, compulsively irresistible bacon and milk chocolate combination has long been a favorite of mine. I started playing with this combination at the tender age of six while eating chocolate chip pancakes drenched in maple syrup. Beside my chocolate-laden cakes laid three strips of fried bacon, just barely touching a sweet pool of maple syrup. Just a bite of the bacon was too salty and yearned for the sweet kiss of chocolate syrup. In retrospect, perhaps this was a turning point, for on that plate something magical happened: the beginnings of a combination so ethereal and delicious that it would haunt my thoughts until I found the medium to express it--chocolate

Well, when you compare it to bacon with chocolate chip pancakes, you can almost see how this would be yummy. No word yet from Betsy on how it tasted. I'll certainly keep you posted.