Retro Round-up

Here’s a round-up of several retro candies that don’t merit very long reviews on their own. But when you string them all together, I get a full review’s worth. Yay!

Ice Cube

According to Cybele, these guys used to be tasty. Now they’re not longer made with real chocolate, and I am not a fan of their current iteration. I found the Ice Cube to be soft, grainy, and super artificially sweet with a strange fruity tinge. Definitely not something I’d ever want to eat again. An O.

Squirrel Nut Zipper

Squirrel Nut Zippers remind me a little of Mary Janes in their size and wrapper coloring. They’re chews with a nutty (hence the squirrel reference I suppose), dusky, almost butterscotch flavor that’s lightly sweet. The chew is almost grainy and not at all sticky, so it was quite manageable. An OM.

Slo Poke

The Slo Poke was billed on its wrapper as a “delicious caramel,” even though it’s presented like a lollipop. I wouldn’t quite call it a caramel, as it was not at all sticky, and its chew was much softer and long lasting than that of caramel. My Slo Poke tasted like it was made a decade ago –  the finish had a strange staleness that was off-putting, though I may have just gotten an old Slo Poke. An O for Slo Poke the candy (while Slopoke the Pokemon gets an OMG).


The Topic is a UK bar comprised of “milk chocolate, hazelnuts, soft nougat, and smooth caramel centre.” Sounds good so far! The bar’s wrapper is rather simple and not at all modern looking, but it’s not quite retro. I like the kind of homey feel it gives.

The soft caramel of the bar strings out when bitten, like the cheese on a gooey slice of pizza. In case you can’t tell, that’s a good thing in my book. The nougat was sweet and soft and chock full of hazelnuts (according to the wrapper, they make up 15% of the bar) that made it marvelously nutty. As for the chocolate coating, it was real chocolate with lovely European milk chocolate dairy notes.

Overall, it was overly sweet – something I think would be unavoidable when combining chocolate and nougat and caramel – but still tasty. An OMG.

Ghirardelli Intense Dark Assortment

As I readied to write this post, I discovered that I’ve never formally reviewed any Ghirardelli chocolates on this blog, though I’ve eaten lots of Ghirardelli chocolates in my life. To remedy that, here’s a review of their Intense Dark Assortment.

First up, the Mint Bliss, a 60% cacao. It had a great snap and a creamy and smooth melt. There was just enough mint to make its presence known but not so much that it overwhelmed. And it was a nicely genuine mint flavor, not too toothpastey.  The mint did, however, mostly cover any nuance to the chocolate, but I was okay with that.

The other 60% in the collection was Espresso Escape, dark chocolate with finely ground espresso beans. So finely ground, in fact, that they didn’t affect the texture of the bar at all. I expected dark chocolate with a nice coffee finish. Instead, the chocolate was much more bitter than I thought it would be, and I loved it. It was like eating a dark chocolate espresso bean in smooth chocolate bar form.

Last but not least was a 72% pure chocolate billed as Twilight Delight. It had a dry but smooth melt without any creaminess with a lovely sweet finish.

Overall, I’d give this assortment an OMG, with the Mint and the Espresso as my favorites. Ghirardelli does a great job of making delicious chocolate at affordable prices. And Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco is fun if you ever have the chance to visit – their ice cream sundaes with Ghirardelli chocolate sauce are decadent and divine.

Blog Action Day and Fair Trade Month

Today is Blog Action Day, which is why you’re getting a news post on a Wednesday. To make up for it, tomorrow will be a review day. I participated in Blog Action Day last year, when the topic was the environment, by posting about organic and fair trade candy. This year’s topic is poverty, which is a bit more difficult and rather darker to address in relation to candy. I could go the lighthearted route and post about how we all need to buy generic brands or dollar store candy now that our economy is struggling, but I won’t. That belittles the plight of the many truly poor and hungry people in the world.

This semester, I’m taking a course entitled “The Psychology, Biology, and Politics of Food,” taught by the highly esteemed Kelly Brownell of Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. All of our lectures are being filmed and will eventually be available for all to watch through Open Yale Courses (probably next calendar year would be my guess). We recently had a lecture on hunger, so I thought I’d throw a few facts out there.

A person dies of hunger every 3.6 seconds.

75% of these are children.

That’s 16,000 children per day.

1 billion of the world’s 2.2 billion children live in poverty.

Even in today’s modern world, when America’s biggest problem is overnutrition, food insecurity, malnutrition, and hunger are serious issues to be mindful of.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN and the World Bank’s International Monetary Fund are two key organizations trying to end world hunger by attacking poverty, preventing disease, changing agriculture policy, and getting the world to care.

The goal of the UN’s Millennium Development Project is to get developed nations to donate 0.7% of their Gross National Income to help them eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. How are we doing on that so far? While Norway and Sweden are giving 0.93 and 0.92 percent of their GNI, respectively, the U.S. is giving a paltry 0.22%. Out of all of the nations on the UN’s chart, only Portugal gives less, at 0.21%.

Think about that in comparison to how much money we’re spending in Iraq or in Afghanistan or in bailing out Wall Street. And the next time you buy a candy bar, think about how lucky you are to be able to indulge in those excess calories. If you want to learn more or learn about how you can help, check out the resources on the Blog Action Day website.

On a related note, we’re now about halfway through Fair Trade Month (aka October). Fair Trade strives to pay people living wages for their work, purposefully above market value, which is a big help to those trying to make their livings in their developing nations. I’ve reviewed several Fair Trade products on the site, and I highly recommend that you try out one of them or another Fair Trade product.

Sorry today’s post was a downer. But I hope that, even if I made you sad, I also made you think.

Emily’s Chocolates Contest

From the folk’s at Emily’s Chocolates (who I’ve worked with before):

In honor of this year’s Cranky Coworker Day, Emily’s Chocolates wants to hear the best cranky coworker stories! The most outrageous, funny, original, or inspiring story will win $150 worth of Emily’s Chocolates. Bringing these goodies into the office is sure to bring a smile to even the biggest sourpuss.

All stories must be submitted to [email protected] by Monday, October 20th. The winning story will be posted on the Emily’s Chocolate website on October 23rd.  The winner will receive $150 worth of Emily’s Chocolates in time to celebrate Cranky Coworker Day on October 27th!

Who knew there was such a thing as Cranky Coworker Day? But hey, I’m all for free chocolate.

Russian Candies IV

More reviews from the ginormous box of Russian candy sent by my friend Leslie nearly a year ago. Don’t worry; the tasting was done back when they were more fresh out of the box (though I still have a few remnants of her box left).

Candy “Korovka”(Little Cow)

What I called “Cow Caramel,” this was caramel-flavored candy that tastes of mildly sweet caramel but has the texture of something completely different. It was grainy and broke up in my mouth, almost like a fudge, but not as creamy. The taste/texture disparity threw me a bit, and I found it overly sweet. An O.

“Ptich’ya slast” (Bird’s Enjoyment) and “Raiskaya Penka” (Heavenly Song)

This candy was WEIRD! It had a spongy marshmallow center surrounded by chocolate shell. The texture of marshmallow is terrible! The red version (left) had a weird aftertaste – definitely not of vanilla – that made me feel ill. Like nauseated ill. There were these weird sugar granules between chocolate and marshmallow that didn’t help matters. I don’t know if those were supposed to be there or if they were a product of the various temperature changes this candy went through.

The brown-checked version (right) was slightly better. The texture of the marshmallow was less spongy, but it still fell short of being pillowy. Thankfully, this had no weird aftertaste and no sugar grains, but I still didn’t enjoy it. Another O.

Mocha Hard Candies

These individually wrapped lovely hard candies had gorgeous light and dark brown swirls, like a Cream Saver. The coffee taste was strong and definitely present, but it wasn’t at all bitter. Also like a Cream Saver, the candy had a light, creamy finish. It cleaved cleanly, which of course meant I was chomping it to death. I’m not a big fan of coffee flavored candy, but my mother is, and she’d love this. An OM.

Ferran Adria!

Bonus weekend bragging post – My friend Jenny and I got tickets to what I think is the best event at the NYC Wine and Food Festival: Ferran Adria and Anthony Bourdain talking food with Eric Asimov. There won’t be any actual food or candy there (unlike at other festival events), but I couldn’t afford tickets for those events anyway.

But gosh, it would be cool to rub elbows with all those brilliant culinary minds.

Still, I’m a gonna get to see Ferran Adria and Anthony Bourdain in the flesh! I hope I remember to pack my glasses, and I hope the venue isn’t too big and impersonal. Eep!

Flowers Kiss Candy

Another Asian treat sent as a free review sample by Asian Food Grocer. I was given free reign to pick what I wanted. In addition to pineapple Hi-Chew, I asked for Flower’s Kiss Candy because I was intrigued by the name. Would the Flower’s Kiss Candy taste like flowers? Thankfully, nope.

flowers kiss candy - flower kiss candy

What does Flowers Kiss Candy taste like then?

The Flower’s Kiss Candy turned out to be a sweet, fruity hard candy. Though it comes in a large assortment of prettily decorated wrappers, they’re all the same – a bumpy pink/red hard candy. It dissolved smoothly but also crunched up nicely and cleaved cleanly, a plus for me since I’m impatient and chomp on my hard candies.

flowers kiss candy - flower kiss candy

Flavorwise, the Flower’s Kiss Candies reminded me of the Asian Juice candy I’ve previously reviewed. It’s lightly sweet and fruit-punchy, with an almost floral peach high note to its flavor. If it makes any sense, this particular candy’s peach flavor makes me think of fat pink Asian calligraphy peaches rather than the usual yellow/red peaches. An OM from me. I’m glad I asked for these from Asian Food Grocer; I’d seen it on the shelves of Asian grocery stores before but had never dared buy it in case it tasted like flowers. Yay for free samples!

Intense Caramel Apples

Last fall, my residential college (the best residential college at Yale, of course) had caramel apple makings set out in the dining hall one night – crockpots simmering with melted caramel, nuts and sprinkles for decorating, craft sticks for that authentic caramel apple look, and, of course, lots and lots of apples.


I don’t know if we’ll be able to do something like that again since our college is currently under renovation and our dining hall nonexistent, but I sure hope so! And I’ve already fired off an email asking about it. If we do, I want to try these recipes from for Tricked Out Caramel Apples.

In fact, I may not wait until then. I’ve got band Go Away this weekend (because the band never retreats; we just go away), and we’re going apple picking on Sunday, so I’ll have lots of apples soon. What I won’t have, however, is time. Yay midterms…

Hi-Chew – strawberry, grape, green apple, and pineapple

In addition to a bag of Crunch Ball Crispy Candy, Nana and Justin also mailed me a nice assortment of Hi-Chew candies in strawberry, grape, and green apple. They were so good that when Asian Food Grocer, an online retailer of Asian food, snacks, and candies contacted me with an offer to send me my choice of their products to review, I asked for a pack of pineapple flavored Hi-Chew. In hindsight, I should’ve asked for Hi-Chew in every flavor they sold; they’re good, and Asian Food Grocer sells Hi-Chew in flavors that I haven’t seen at my local Asian grocery store. Missed opportunity, I guess. But I’m not too sad, as I got other Asian candy goodies, the reviews for which will post later.

Let’s start with the three Hi-Chew from Nana and Justin.  If you’ve never had them before, Hi-Chew are small rectangular chewy candies with wonderfully bright fruit flavors. They come in a stick of individually wrapped candies, and their chew is fairy non-sticky and almost bouncy. I think they’re like the Starburst of Asia, but better because their fruit flavors actually taste like fruit. For example, I usually don’t especially like strawberry flavored candy, but I enjoyed the strawberry Hi-Chew because it tasted so genuine – you could almost taste a tinge of strawberry seeds.

Similarly, grape Hi-Chews actually taste like grapes, without any whiff of cough syrup artificial grape flavor. They taste like sweet black grapes. The apple didn’t taste at all like an apple Jolly Rancher. Its flavor was more subtle, more Fuji/Braeburn sweet than Granny Smith tart.

My favorite of the Hi-Chews I had was the pineapple. I can’t express often enough how Hi-Chew taste so vibrantly of actual fruit. The pineapple Hi-Chews were bright, sweet, slighty tart, and carried just a hint of the slight bitter astringency of a real pineapple’s core. Pineapple flavored candies aren’t too common in the U.S. I wish they were more ubiquitous, and I wish they all tasted like a pineapple Hi-Chew.

The pineapple Hi-Chew gets an OMG; the other flavors get an OM. Hi-Chew in general are pretty easy to find near the checkout counters of Asian grocery stores, though flavor selection does vary.