Happy Halloween!

The YPMB attack-banding Times Square after we marched in the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade last year.

Wednesday’s usual review to come tomorrow (on Thursday!). Go eat lots of candy!

Candy choices

According to a series in the Chicago Tribune, Smarties are better than Skittles, and candy corn is better than chocolate. Healthwise, that is.

Her reasoning makes sense. Smarties are pretty much pure sugar, so they’re fat free. Skittles, on the other hand, contain fat, including saturated fat (surprising, as most fruit flavored candies are fat free).¬† Sadly, like with many other foods, that added fat makes Skittles taste goooood. But Smarties are a tasty sugar treat as well.

I liked the reasoning behind the candy corn versus chocolate debate. You’ll get sick of candy corn faster than you’ll get sick of chocolate, which I find to be true. Whenever I eat candy corn, I am reminded that it really doesn’t taste that good. Still, I enjoy candy corn, if only because I associate it with Halloween.

Speaking of which, happy Halloween tomorrow! I wish I was still young enough to go trick-or-treating. Or that I had younger siblings to steal candy from. Are you going trick-or-treating? Do you raid your kids’/siblings’ candy buckets? Do you dress up?

In two days, I will hit up Walgreen’s and buys lots of on sale candy, and it will be glorious!

Ferrera Nougat

I haven’t had much nougat experience in my life. It’s not a candy you usually come across as a kid, and neither my parents nor my friends are nougat eaters, so no one introduced me to it later in life. I bought a couple of pieces at Economy Candy and found them to be quite enjoyable.

The Ferrera Nougat bars were more money than I was willing to pay for an unknown and possibly detestable candy. Fortunately, Economy Candy also sold smaller individual pieces, perfectly sized for the roaming candy reviewer. I picked up one each of the available flavors, lemon and orange (they come in many more flavors, but the mini versions were more limited).

The lemon nougat had a bright, lightly lemony flavor, like a squirt of lemon juice was added to the nougat right before serving. It’s a more natural lemon flavor, as opposed to the artificial lemon flavor (which I also love) of Starbursts and Skittles and such. The orange taste was more subtly citrusy, like a little bit of orange zest was added to the mix. Like the lemon, it was a natural fruit flavor.

The texture was excellent, soft and chewy without sticking in my teeth, and the large almond pieces brought some nice variety to the chew. The finish was slightly too sweet in the lemon, but definitely still bearable, and the candy was quite enjoyable. My only beef was with the extremely thin wafer that sandwiched the nougat. It was completely bland and tasteless (though barely noticeable because it was so thin) and reminded me of a Chinese dessert that I hate (I think it’s called a Fu Long Bing). An OM in my book, only because I don’t find nougat particularly inspiring.

Sweet Sweet Confections S’mores Bars

Is there anyone who doesn’t like s’mores? To me, there are few things better than this simple treat of gooey marshmallow, crunchy graham cracker, and sweet, melted chocolate. It’s oozy, it’s sticky, it’s messy, and it’s delicious.

Because I love s’mores, I was super excited to try Sweet Sweet Confectionss’mores bars that the company sent. Handmade graham crackers and marshmallows dipped in chocolate? What’s not to love?

While the idea is great, I’m afraid I found fault with Sweet Sweet Confections’ execution of their concept.

For starters, the packaging does not hold up well. While the bars look gorgeous on their website, they arrived all smushed together, even in their padded mailer. I should note that these bars were first mailed to a Well Fed editor, who then mailed them to me. However, Dom on Chocablog had the same issue, and Michelle on Candy Addict’s photo also looks nothing like the advertised version. I think these bars need something a little sturdier than a cellophane bag. When I tried to open it at the top, the whole bag split apart, like cellophane is wont to do, which was super annoying, as it meant I no longer had a bag to keep the bars in.

The bars themselves are slightly smaller than credit card-sized. Taste-wise, they were good but not great. I expected the graham cracker to be crunchy like, well, a graham cracker. Instead it was soft and crumbly, like a cookie or a really dense cake. While I prefer a more cinnamon/honey tinge to my graham crackers, I enjoyed the graham “cracker” layer. The chocolate coating was good and smelled incredibly chocolatey. It wasn’t high end chocolate or anything like that, but it was real chocolate, and it did it’s job. My biggest beef was with the marshmallow. Marshmallows should be either fluffy and soft or oozy and sticky, not dense and chewy. While eating this bar was far cleaner than eating a real s’more, the marshmallow’s texture just left something lacking.

I was impressed by the ingredients of the s’mores bar. With the exception of invertase as the final chocolate ingredient, I can pronounce and identify everything that went into these bars. I definitely believe that they’re handmade since the ingredient list is so preservative and additive free.

I found these bars to be good, but I wouldn’t pay $4 for the pouch of three. The different flavors and textures balanced well, but the bars were a little too sweet (though my tastes skew towards the dark chocolate end). A couple of my friends tried the bars and really liked them, but they also agreed that $4 for three bars was too much. If the bars were a little more high end – nicer packaging, nicer presentation, and better chocolate – they would be worth shelling out even more than $4 for because they could then be billed as a gourmet treat. In the state that the s’mores bars currently are in, I’d rather spend my $4 on a bag of marshmallows, a box of graham crackers, and a nice bar of dark chocolate and make my own s’mores. Only an O, I’m afraid.

Healthy Halloween

This year, NYC is running a Healthy Halloween campaign. “Working with schools and community groups, Healthy Halloween stresses the creative aspects of the holiday, expanding the vision of Trick or Treat beyond candy.”

I’m not sure what I think of this campaign, though I’m certain that their Healthy Halloween song really bites. I mean really, “We’re gonna focus less on candy… Doing things things that are creative/ and eating healthy/ to fight disease.”

I like the idea of incorporating fun, creative things into Halloween activities, sort of like turning Halloween into a big autumn festival type celebration. But all the fun and appeal of Trick-or-Treating is specifically getting to dress up and get free candy, and no amount of kitschy Healthy Halloween song will make kids want to Trick-or-Treat for fruits and vegetables.

I guess my issue with the campaign is that they seem to be trying too hard, with the song (I just can’t get over how bad it is!) as exhibit A. You can teach kids that candy is a treat to be eaten in moderation while still leaving the concept of Trick-or-Treating alone. Little kids will always think the house that hands out granola bars instead of Snickers bars is lame. And for heaven’s sake, if you’re going to try to trick them into eating less candy, don’t tell them that you’re going to do so. Then they’ll never fall for it.

Mentos Sours

They’re not sour! If you’re going to call your product Mentos Sours (BUY!), they should actually be, you know, sour. That being said, they were still pretty tasty, and I’m ashamed to admit that I polished off the entire roll in one sitting. For some reason, that always happens when I buy Mentos. Maybe because the roll packaging makes saving some for later harder? Or because when candy comes in rolls, the next candy is always right there, just begging to be eaten? Or it is because the Mentos texture of hard shell, chewy innards, and unique finish is addictively yummy? Hmm…

I was kind of annoyed at how wasteful the packaging was, especially since I ate these while I wrote the Blog Action Day post about environmentally friendly candy. The outer, completely unnecessary wrapper is printed entirely in English, while the inner wrapper has English and French on it. I guess Mentos made all the inner rolls in one place and changed the outer roll wrappings based on where they’d be sold.

The three Mentos Sours flavors are watermelon, green apple, and lemon. Or melon d’eau, pomme verte, et citron. The lemon (yellow) is nice and tangy, though I wish it were more tart and sour. The light green ones are green apple, which has a nice, slightly tart Granny Smith apple finish. The watermelon (dark green) has a sort of tart initial bite that quickly mellows out. I personally don’t think watermelon is a very good flavor to make sour and include in a sour mix that only has three flavors. I would have preferred another citrus fruit in this mix instead.

Overall, I’ll give the Mentos Sours an OM, mostly because I find Mentos to be frighteningly addictive. If they were actually bitingly sour, they may have been able to earn that extra G.

Madison Chocolates

I was in Madison, Connecticut a few weeks ago for a band event, and I had the chance to stop at Madison Chocolates, a local chocolate shop run by Chef Paul Staley, a C.I.A. (that’s the Culinary Institute of America, not the Central Intelligence Agency) grad and former high end pastry chef. His shop sells truffles, “magical confections”, chocolate bars, and molded chocolate “lollipops”.

My friends and I picked up two boxes of truffles at Madison Chocolates, one of 6 as a thank-you gift, and one of 4 as thank-you reward for ourselves. Because he was awesome, Chef Staley threw in 2 extras without telling us until he finished wrapped up our order, so we actually walked out with 12 truffles.

The truffles come in these gorgeous gold boxes tied with a ribbon that says Madison Chocolates, a wonderful touch.

Here’s the box we bought for other people:

Clockwise from top left, I believe it’s pistachio, Grand Marnier, passion fruit, Barbados rum, one I can’t remember, and either Hazelnut Frangelico or Amaretto. I wrote them down somewhere, but I was out of town and travelling, so who knows where that somewhere slip of paper ended up. I didn’t get to taste this box, but the people who got to eat them in front of me made pretty extreme, bordering on inappropriate yummy noises.

Here’s the box I got to taste:

Clockwise from top left, they’re coconut, Barbados rum (I think), passion fruit, Grand Marnier, Mayan-Aztec, and the same unidentifiable truffle that was in the last box. I had a hard time identifying the second and sixth one because we had our truffle tasting party a couple of weeks after we bought these (unideal, I know, but it was hard to coordinate busy college students’ schedules to find a mutually agreeable tasting time), so they were refrigerated, which probably dulled some of the fresh truffle taste, especially in the ganache fillings. They were, however, still deliciously decadent.

The coconut truffle was enrobed in a dark chocolate with light coconut flavors. The milk chocolate ganache inside was creamy and was so deep that I thought it was actually dark chocolate (the I got light caramel notes instead of coconut, but again, long term refrigeration issues, maybe.

The Barbados rum (I think; that flavor isn’t listed on the website or in the pamphlet I picked up, but I know there was a rum flavored truffle of some kind) didn’t taste like rum to me. That could be because it wasn’t the rum one after all. Still, the dark chocolate ganache was rich, creamy, and, like all the other Madison chocolate truffles, melted away beautifully in the mouth.

The passion fruit had a great dark chocolate coating and a wonderfully creamy white chocolate filling. I’ve had actual passion fruit in Brazil (maracuj√°), and I didn’t get any noticeable specifically passion fruit flavor, but it was lightly fruity and lovely.

The Grand Marnier was easy to identify visually because it was topped with candied orange rind. It was also identifiable because it smelled quite strongly of orange. I was nervous about the orange flavor veering into Terry’s Chocolate Orange territory, but no worries there. The orange flavoring in the dark chocolate ganache was subtle and just right.

The Mayan-Aztec was a chili truffle that definitely didn’t suffer from refrigeration. Unlike the others, this was rolled in bittersweet cocoa powder instead of being enrobed in more chocolate. It had the perfect slow chocolate chili burn that was noticeable without being painful. I liked this one better than the Mexican chili truffle I tried at Whole Foods. Chef Staley’s version packed a kick that grew, lingered for a few seconds, and faded beautifully.

Finally, the unidentified truffle was a white chocolate ganache coated with dark chocolate and topped with white chocolate shavings. It didn’t match any of the truffle descriptions on the web site or in the pamphlet, so I have no idea what it is. I usually don’t enjoy white chocolate much, but it was good in this truffle. I should also note that this truffle was the only one in which the ganache wasn’t perfectly smooth – it had a slight grain to it, but I probably noticed it only because I was tasting it very, very carefully in my ultimately futile attempt to figure out what flavor it was.

These truffles have earned my rave review of a ZOMG! designation. If I ever find myself in Madison again, I will be sure to pay homage to Chef Staley and his little chocolate shop. There are still several varieties of his truffles that I have yet to taste, and I still haven’t had any of his truffles fresh, the way they were meant to be enjoyed.

Twix PB

From my personal experience, Twix (BUY!) is not a polarizing candy bar. Few can find fault with its blend of creamy chocolate, crunchy cookie, and oozy caramel. Consequently, few can resist polishing off both bars in a pack of Twix.

With Twix PB, the balance of tastes and textures is off, and I had no problem stopping my Twix PB consumption after a bite or two. According to the Wikipedia article on Twix, Twix PB is a relatively new development. I’d thought it was the same as the Peanut Butter Twix, just with a different wrapper and supposedly trendier name (the packaging looks like it was designed to appeal to a teenaged candy consumer), but they’re actually different. The Twix PB has a chocolate cookie, while the Peanut Butter Twix had the butter cookie of the original.

The butter cookie is my favorite part of the original Twix. I find that it has just the right touch of sweetness and a wonderfully sandy texture. The chocolate cookie in the Twix PB was disappointing all around. The texture was off, somehow, and it didn’t taste like chocolate. In fact, it didn’t taste like much of anything. Cookies aren’t supposed to be bland!

The rest of the bar was okay. The chocolate was your standard Mars coating; not bad, but nothing to crow about. The peanut butter was good, and it’s saltiness paired nicely with the sweet chocolate. But that tasteless, mal-textured cookie just ruined the whole bar from me. That bite you see missing in the picture is the only bite I took. I shared the rest with my friends, and none of them liked it enough to want to finish the bar either. When people don’t want you even when you’re free, you deserve no more than an O.

After reading that Twix article on Wikipedia, I really want to try some of those other Twix flavors, especially the fudge and the dark chocolate. Cybele on Candy Blog got to try the soon-to-be released Java Twix. I can’t wait to get my hands on one of those when they finally come out.

My metabolism definitely says “chocolate lover”

A neat little piece on the science behind being a chocolate lover. Take it with a grain of salt, of course – I’ll start by pointing out that a sample size of 22 volunteers isn’t exactly scientifically rigorous – but also enjoy the quote that says, ” ‘Interestingly the chocolate preferring people had a better gut microbial metabolite profile than the people that don’t like chocs.’ ”

Also, really, there are people in the world who are “chocolate indifferent”?

By the way, do y’all like this new format, with MWF reviews and T/Th non-review candy updates/news items? Do the updates get in the way of the reviews?¬† Do you like having something new and candy-related to read about every day?