My friend Cassie, of being-overwhelmed-in-Ikea fame, was wonderful enough to buy me an early birthday gift (by the way, my birthday is Sept. 20, if any of y’all want to shower me with presents when the time comes…). Wanna guess what I got?
I had read about the Vosges Bacon Bar (photo from Vosges website) at various candy review websites and had been dying to try it for myself. I mean, chocolate and bacon? How could that possibly taste good? I asked my friend Katie, who lives in Chicago, if she’d be willing to visit a Vosges chocolate boutique and pick me up a bar. The $7 price tag was certainly steep, but my curiosity needed to be sated.
A couple of weeks later, I visited Austin’s downtown Whole Foods flagship store – a ginormous tribute to all things wholesome and organic and hipster/crunchy/granola – with my friends Cassie and Mahta. They have an amazing chocolate bar (as in a bar that serves chocolate) which I shall write about later; this review’s focus is on the chocolate bar aisle, or as I like to call it, ZOMG, Candy! heaven.
Several of the unique chocolates that I’d read about (Lake Champlain, Theo 3400 Phinney, Chocolove, Endangered Species, Green + Black, Fran’s, etc.) and more that I’d never heard of were in that magical aisle. This was definitely not the type of chocolate you’d get trick or treating. And, of course, they had a huge selection of Vosges bars.
I called Katie and shared my chocolate discovery joy with her. Fortunately, she had been planning to go to Vosges the very next day, so I was able to release her from her favor and save her the trip, just in time. I picked up the Vosges bacon bar. Then I put it back down and swapped it for a less out-there flavor of Vosges. $7 is a lot to spend on a single bar. You could buy about a dozen mass marketed bars for that price. I knew the more conventional Vosges flavors were sure to be delicious, and I didn’t want to waste my Vosges splurge on something that could be nasty. But then again, could I bear passing up this tasting adventure?
I picked the bacon bar back up again and dawdled in the aisle some more. Just then, a Whole Foods employee walked by. “Oh, you’re going to get the bacon bar?” he asked. I told him that I’d read about it and wanted to try it but was unsure about the expense. “I’ve had it before,” he said. “It’s pretty good. Do you want to try a piece?”
With that, he led me over to another Whole Foods employee behind a counter, asked him if we could crack open the bar for a taste, opened the bar, and offered me a piece before grabbing one himself. My friends, some other Whole Foods employees, and another shopper all got tastes. Hooray for generous free samples!
What to make of the bar? The bacon taste is subtle, but it’s definitely there. The bacon is embedded in the chocolate in little crunchy pieces that carry just a hint of bacon flavor, like the most delicious bacon bits ever made. The bar tastes and smells like a smokehouse, like walking past a true Texas barbecue. I’d say that the smokiness is the most noticeable taste; the other shopper that was offered a taste didn’t realize the chocolate was bacon flavored until we told her so.
Cassie said she would’ve liked the bar better if it were made of dark chocolate (like me, she prefers dark to milk), but I think the sweetness of the milk chocolate is needed to counter the salt and smoke. A dark chocolate version would probably be overwhelmed.
This isn’t a bar to be eaten often or in large quantities, but it’s certainly delicious. I chose to tag it as novelty because that’s what initially drew me to the bar, but it can definitely hold its own as a piece of fine chocolate. When I’m no longer a poor college student, I will be sure to buy more Vosges bars and try their whole repertoire.
SweeTarts are one of my favorite candies, and Nestle/Wonka has added to the SweeTarts line (BUY) with Chewy SweeTarts (giant and mini), Sour SweeTarts, Giant Color Changing SweeTarts, SweeTarts Gummy Bugs, SweeTarts Rope, and finally, SweeTarts Squeez in Green Apple and Wild Cherry. Phew! Way to brand ’em, Mr. Wonka.
I’d seen the SweeTarts Squeez near the cash registers in grocery stores before, but I’d never dared to purchase them. When my friend Cassie saw them offered as prizes at Dave & Buster’s, she “bought” a tube out of curiosity and was generous enough to give it to me after she had a taste. And by generous, I mean she realized that SweeTarts Squeez gel is like delicious sugared crack and threw me to the addiction sharks in order to save herself.
As far as candy goes, this stuff is neither complex nor refined. It’s just pure sugar in gel form with a sweet, tangy, and tart green apple aftertaste that, surprisingly enough, tastes just like a green SweeTart. The gel is fairly fluid (slightly runnier than toothpaste) and is chock full of sugar grains.
This stuff is addictively good. I’ve been eating it slowly by squeezing tiny dabs onto my fingertip instead of just squeezing it straight onto my tongue. It’s good enough to buy again, but too dangerous to buy often.
I bought a 4-pack of Toffifay (BUY) from the newstand on Chapel Street near school. They were terribly stale, as they had probably been sitting on the shelf for ages, but they were still tasty, a testament to this terrific trio of flavors. More recently, I saw these at Wal-Mart in a pack of 15 and jumped at the chance to taste the not-stale version. I was not disappointed.
As the inelegant copy on the box notes, a Toffifay is “a whole hazelnut in chewy caramel with chocolate hazelnut filling and chocolate.” I’m no ad writer, but really, that was the best they could do? The candies themselves are much more creative. The Toffifay is a thin caramel cup that contains a whole hazelnut embedded in a chocolate/hazelnut (think Nutella) filling with a little circle of chocolate on top.
The caramel is stiff and chewy, while the chocolate/hazelnut filling is smooth and creamy. Try turning them upside down so that the chocolate disc hits your tongue first. The candy is a little on the sweet side but manages to avoid being cloying. I think the whole hazelnut helps mitigate the sweetness of the caramel and chocolate.
These cute candies would look great on a desert tray alongside petit fours, and their unique design is eye-catching. They’re made by Storck (BUY), the company that makes Werther’s Originals and Riesens, and apparently, they’ve been around since 1973.
I am Asian, so you will be reading about a lot of Asian candy. Consider this part I of an open-ended series.
This gum tasted like weak coffee with too much sugar and cream. The flavor didn’t last very long, and once it was gone, the gum took on an unpleasant taste and texture. I was not a fan, but my mother, who likes her coffee weak with lots of sugar and cream, loved it. Go figure.
Meiji Apollo strawberry/chocolate thingies BUY
These little cones are adorable and delicious. It may be hard to tell from the picture, but they’re about the size of a peanut, sans shell. The pink top is strawberry (I think it may be flavored white chocolate), while the brown bottom is milk chocolate. The texture is wonderfully creamy, and the sweet strawberries ‘n’ cream smell is incredible. I’m a dark chocolate lover and usually find milk and white chocolate to be too sweet for my taste. These candies are on the sweet side, but I don’t find them offensive or cloying at all. Interestingly enough, they may be named after NASA’s Apollo command module.
Ramune Soda Fizzy Candy BUY
I polished these guys off at the restaurant, so I apologize for the poor photo from Amazon.com. The candies are snow white in color and look kind of like pills. Size-wise, they’re like fat Tart N Tinys. Taste-wise, they taste like Ramune soda, which can be found at any Asian grocery store. Ramune soda bottles have a very distinct shape. The bottles are stoppered with marbles. To open the soda, you break the seal and push the marble into the bottle’s uniquely shaped neck, where it rattles around while you drink the soda. The fizzy candy makers have tried to emulate the bottle’s shape with their plastic container, a design note that I appreciate.
Ramune soda (and, by correlation, ramune soda candy) is supposed to be lemonade flavored. I find the taste to be more of a generically crisp citrus flavor, which is quite enjoyable, if unremarkable. The fizzy part of the candies is far less noticeable than that of the Jones Soda candies, but the Ramunes taste much better and have no lingering aftertaste. The citrus flavor isn’t that strong, but it doesn’t have to compete with an overpoweringly sweet sugar flavor, so the citrus really comes through. The compressed sugar Ramunes are also slightly softer than the Jones candies, somewhere between a Sweet Tart and a Smartie.
I would definitely buy the Apollo candies again, and the Ramune candies are maybe worth another taste in the future. As for the coffee gum, I’ve given the rest of the pack to my mother. Good riddance.
Edit 09/05: The Apollo strawberry candies are worth a ZOMG!, the Ramune candies an OM, and the gum just an O.
I like Jolly Ranchers because I’m neurotic and impatient – I crunch up my hard candies instead of waiting for them to dissolve, so they don’t last very long. Fortunately, Jolly Ranchers don’t crunch very well, so I’m forced to savor them. And Bold Fruit Smoothie flavored Jolly Ranchers are, for the most part, worth savoring.
I picked these up at my local mall’s Dollar Tree. Unfortunately, it looks like Hershey’s is no longer making them, as their Jolly Rancher website no longer lists them as a flavor. Apparently, they were introduced way back in 2004, but no clear word on if they’re still being made. At any rate, the code on my bag tells me that they’re good until August 2008, so no worries there (Cybele at Candy Blog has the key to deciphering Hershey’s codes).
To me, the name Bold Fruit Smoothies seems a bit oxymoronic. I associate smoothies with muted fruit flavors because of the yogurt dilution effect, but these candies are actually boldly flavorful, and yummy to boot.
Jolly Rancher Bold Fruit Smoothie flavors:
The Bold Fruit Smoothie flavors are peach smoothie, orange smoothie, strawberry smoothie, watermelon smoothie, and mixed berry smoothie. They taste initially of Original Flavored peach, orange, strawberry, watermelon, and raspberry Jolly Ranchers, respectively, followed by a mellow vanilla yogurt or cream flavor. The flavors are surprisingly strong and persist until the entire candy is dissolved.
The orange smoothie flavor is my favorite, as the “smoothie factor” is especially prominent. It tastes like an orange creamsicle in hard candy form. The “smoothie factor” was also quite apparent in the strawberry smoothie but was fairly muted in the peach, watermelon, and mixed berry smoothie flavors. I hate raspberry Jolly Ranchers, and I hated the mixed berry smoothie as well. It’s that olfactory raspberry kick that I can’t stand. Try eating a raspberry Jolly Rancher and pinch your nose, and you’ll notice the taste difference immediately. Incidentally, that’s also a fun trick to try while eating Jelly Belly beans.
I wish I’d thought to buy a bag of original Jolly Ranchers for comparative purposes. I think the texture of the Smoothies are creamier than regular Jolly Ranchers, and they certainly look creamier, but I’m not sure if it’s just my imagination. At any rate, if you can find a bag, I’d recommend them picking them up, if only for the novelty factor.
I came across a package of Candicraft edible ink and paper at my local Dollar Tree. It was the last one (that I could find, at least), so of course I had to snatch it up. I didn’t expect it to taste great, but it looked like it would be lots of fun.
The Candicraft website is a little psychedelic and rather spazzy. My favorite part is the voice that goes “a-MAY-zing” when you mouse over the logo in the top left corner, and make sure to check out the commercial. Their child actors are quite talented, as they managed to take bites of the candy paper without making faces.
The paper looks and feels like thick rice paper (according to the ingredients, it’s mostly potato starch) and smells faintly sweet and fruity. It tastes kind of like cardboard but with a faint SweetTart undertone.
My candy pen was lemon flavored (it also comes in apple, strawberry, and blueberry). The ink reminded me of the oozy lemon curd part of a lemon meringue pie. It had the same gel-like consistency and tasted pretty nice too – bright and lemony without being too sweet. When eaten along with the paper, it managed to mask the cardboard taste.
The paper is all about novelty, not taste, but the ink was surprisingly good. The pens would be nice for cupcake or cookie decorating. It would be fun to buy these for a kid’s birthday party. They’d probably be especially impressed by the edible paper, and once the novelty wears off, the pens can be used to decorate treats as a party activity.
An O for the gel, though the paper is a —.
According to Larabar’s website, these bars used to be called Maya bars. They’ve replaced the cocoa nibs in Maya bars with ground cocoa beans for a smoother texture and renamed the result. The Jocalat name sounds swankier (because we’re not sure how to pronounce it), and it lets Larabar use an accent breve (it’s amazing what I still remember from my high school French classes) to create a fancier looking logo.
Jocalat bars (BUY) are made with organic and fair trade certified ingredients, usually some combination of organic dates, organic nuts, organic cocoa mass, organic cocoa powder, and organic flavoring. They’re gluten free, dairy free, soy free, kosher, vegan, and with no added sugar. Unlike regular Larabars, these are made from only 90% raw ingredients because the cocoa beans must be roasted, but that’s still impressive.
The bars come in chocolate, chocolate mint, chocolate orange, and chocolate coffee. As an energy bar or meal replacement bar, they’re pretty good. I personaly prefer the texture of Clif Bars to Jocalat, but I do find the Jocalat bars much more palatable than Powerbars and Odwalla bars.
Chocolate – This bar is nuttier than the others, containing walnuts, almonds, and cashews in addition to dates. That’s according to the label, as I couldn’t distinguish between the different nuts as I was eating the bar. It smells deliciously of rich chocolate with a sweet and sour fruity overtone. While the Larabar website claims it to be as indulgent as a fudge brownie, I find that claim a stretch. Real fudge brownies are much better, but real fudge brownies are also full of sugar and butter and bad for you things. The Jocalat bars are fairly chocolate-y but not cloyingly sweet. Unfortunately, the Jocalat bar also has a bit of a sour aftertaste, possibly due to the dates. It’s not terribly unpleasant, but I could do without it.
Chocolate orange – The bar contains only dates and almonds and smells of a freshly peeled orange, and the taste of orange is definitely there. The sour aftertaste is less objectionable here, I think because orange is supposed to be sour.
Chocolate mint – This date and almond filled bar has a strong smell of peppermint, but it doesn’t taste as minty as it smells. The mint taste lingers a bit after the bar is swallowed, and it serves to completely hide the sour taste I found in the chocolate.
Chocolate coffee – According to the website, this bar has significantly more caffeine than the others. It smells sweetly of chocolate covered espresso beans. Tastewise, however, the coffee flavor is only barely detectable as a light aftertaste. In fact, if not for the coffee smell, it find it nearly indistinguishable from the regular chocolate bar. The chocolate coffee is also sweeter than the other bars, and that slight sour taste is pretty obvious.
Overall, I’m impressed that Larabar made something this tasty out of wholesome, mostly raw ingredients. I would recommend these if you’re on a vegan, raw food, gluten-free, or casein-free diet, and I know several parents of children with autism that may find these to be a valuable addition to the pantry and well worth the cost. As for me, I try to eat healthily, but I’m not health conscious to the point of spurning all processed foods. I’ll probably spend my money on deliciously bad for you candy bars instead.
Jones Soda Co. is probably most infamous for their Thanksgiving sodas that come in flavors like Turkey & Gravy, Cranberry, and Brussels Sprouts. I don’t know if I’m adventurous enough to try those, but when I saw Jones Soda Co. Carbonated Candy (BUY) while standing in line at the checkout aisle, I picked up a tin. It helped that the candy was Green Apple, not turkey, flavored.
First of all, I love the tin that these candies come in. It’s about the size of a big pack of gum (the 30-stick size), which makes it quite grip-able, and it can be opened by a flick of the thumb. When I finish off the candy, I plan on keeping the tin and stashing M&Ms or Jelly Bellies or something in there. Opening the lid reveals a customer-submitted fortune on the underside, just like the ones on the Jones Soda bottle caps. Mine reads, “‘jeans, the human napkin.’ -Merrilee, from Boise.” Utterly useless, but kind of cute, I guess. At least the sayings serve to drive customer participation, which promotes loyalty to the brand.
The candies themselves are about the size of an aspirin and have a J imprinted on both sides. My green apple ones were the same speckled green of a Sweet Tart. Also like Sweet Tarts, Jones candies are made of compressed sugar and share the same crunchy texture. The Jones candies have the added bonus of tingling the tongue as they dissolve. The slight fizziness is pretty neat, and the extreme fizziness that comes from chewing up the candies creates an addictively bizarre sensation.
Taste-wise, these candies are only so-so. The apple taste is very mild, and if you eat too many of them like I did, they leave a sugary aftertaste behind that’s rather unpleasant. I would’ve preferred a much stronger apple taste.
I probably won’t buy these again. At $1.50 per 50-count tin, they’re a little on the pricey side for a snack I only enjoy for the fizzy taste. On the other hand, they also come in Fufu Berry and Berry Lemonade flavors, and Orange & Cream, Cream Soda, and M.F. Grape are supposed to come out this year. Perhaps one of those flavors would tempt my palate more.
I found these in a display case along with the Limited Edition Carnival Skittles (BUY) at the Dollar Tree. They were tucked away in a corner, so I nearly walked out without seeing them. The cashier probably wondered why I got went through the line twice, both times to buy just candy.
The packaging on the Retro Starbursts (BUY) is a nice tie-dye motif, and the individual wrappers are white with colored print instead of the other way around. The flavor names are cute and clever, if rather corny:
Hey Mango-rena! – The exclamation mark is key, of course. These didn’t taste like mango at all. I got more of a sweet cantaloupe/punch taste or something.
Optimus Lime – This was my favorite flavor. Unsurprising, since I love citrus flavored candies, and the Green Slushy was my favorite Carnival Skittle flavor. Not quite as complex as the Green Slushy Carnival Skittle, but still quite enjoyable. With a bright and tart lime taste, it reminded me of a lime Skittle, but better, maybe because it’s a bigger candy. And while we’re on the subject, check out this cool Optimus Prime cake.
Psychideli-melon – Quite faithful artificial watermelon candy flavor, like a watermelon Jolly Rancher.
Disco Berry : I guess they ran out of clever names when it came to this one. It tastes like a super intense version of a red berry candy, which makes sense, as this chew is a deep red that’s nearly maroon. I think the berry is cherry, since I think that’s what’s pictured on the wrapper.
Overall, I enjoyed these flavors, though I felt cheated by the Hey Mango-rena! Hey Mars, just making it mango-colored isn’t enough. You’re supposed to make it taste like mango too.