Cranberry Raisinets

Nestle‘s Cranberry Raisinets have been making the rounds in the candy review blogosphere lately (check out Candy Blog and Candy Addict). A PR rep sent me some free samples, three 100-calorie packs, to be precise, along with an offer that I think you, dear readers, will appreciate. But we’ll get into that in a bit.

Calling them Cranberry Raisinets seems almost nonsensical, but I can think of linked two reasons why they’re named what they are. Calling them Craisinets would probably lead to all kinds of naming rights battles with Ocean Spray (makers of Craisins), and calling them anything else would lose the brand recognition that Raisinets brings.

That’s why we get so many variations on a theme in the candy world (and the marketing world, really); it’s far more difficult and expensive to launch a new product than it is to tag it onto an existing brand.

Still, I’m not sure exactly how much cachet the Raisinets name brings. I see Raisinets as kind of innocuous candy. Instead of being a love/hate thing, they’re more of a love/would rather eat something else thing.

I remember being a kid and trying to pick around the chocolate-covered raisins in bridge mix and feeling vaguely duped each time I mistook one for a chocolate covered peanut. For me, standard Rasinets are something I don’t buy for myself but that I don’t refuse when offered to me. I also feel the same way about raisins, by the way.

Each 100 calorie pack holds a respectably substantial amount of candy (i.e. much more than is shown in the above photo), and each Cranberry Raisinet has a relatively substantial layer of milk chocolate. It’s super thick and tongue coatingly heavy, which is pleasant, though the chocolate itself is rather one note. I thought it had a lightly sweet berry finish, but that may have been the cranberry rubbing off.

As for the cranberry inside, they were sweetly sour, which makes sense, as they’re sweetened dried cranberries. I would’ve preferred an unsweetened cranberry, as I bet a tarter tang would stand out against the heavy chocolate more (I had the same issue with Emily’s dark chocolate covered cranberries), but that would probably have less mass market appeal.

All in all, I find these an improvement on the Raisinet, thanks to their barely perceptible hint of sour. I prefer Emily’s because they use dark chocolate, but Emily’s is harder to find.

I’m torn whether to give these an O or an OM. While I wouldn’t buy them for candy savoring, I think these would really hit the spot at the movies as a decent, not too bad for you, munchable treat. But I never buy candy at the movies (too overpriced), so an O it is. But a good one!

And now, dear readers, the fun reward part for making it through the review. Nestle’s PR peeps have offered to run a giveaway through ZOMG, Candy! Five randomly selected winners will receive their own Cranberry Raisinet samples. To enter, leave a comment with a working email address and your thoughts on Raisinets or movie theater candy by noon EST on Wednesday, August 5th. U.S. readers only, please, as international shipping is pricey!

Good luck!

A Chocolate Lunch for Julie & Julia

Just the first sentence of this post from the Kitchn blog made me want to cry with jealousy:

“I went to a blogger’s chocolate lunch on Monday with Scharffen Berger chocolates that was tied into the release of the Julie & Julia film.”

As I read on, my jealousy only deepened. Jacques Pepin was there! I love him so much. He’s the French grandfather I always wish I had. And his memoir, by the way, is a wonderful read. The man has had a fascinating life.

John Scharffenberger was there too! Fun fact that I learned from my Scharffen Berger tour: they had to break his last name up into two words because Scharffenberger’s old company already had the rights to the one word version. Like Judy Logback, Mr. Scharffenberger went dark to light on his tasting, even though I’m pretty the Hershey’s run Scharffen Berger site instructs the opposite. Must try that next time.

I’ve been looking forward to Julie & Julia for quite some time now and will probably go see it on opening weekend. Another fun fact that’ll lead the remainder of this post in a decidedly non-candy direction (you’ve been warned!): I was an extra in a commencement band in It’s Complicated, then called the Untitled Nancy Myers Project, and spent an afternoon watching Meryl Streep work her movie magic next to Alec Baldwin and John Krasinski (who is tall and has a nice smile). I think she had a cold at the time.

The above photo shows two of my commencement robe-clad friends choosing to sleep instead of gawk at Meryl Streep. Because movie shoots are pretty boring. Even when Gerard Butler and his giant biceps are running past you, so close that you could reach out and give his upper arm a squeeze (I was also a instrument-wielding extra in The Bounty. Gerard Butler played my friend Jae’s trombone between takes. Jae’s the one sleeping on the left).

Choco Roll Taro

One of my dad’s specialty, cranks-it-out-for-dinner-parties dishes is taro root with chicken. He poaches chicken, uses the resulting stock to cook sliced taro root for hours until it’s buttery and meltingly soft, and mixes in the poached chicken (pulled into thin slivers that disappear into the “melted” taro) along with some chopped scallions. It’s delicious.

So, taro + chicken =  delicious. Taro + chocolate? We’ll see. I bought this box of Choco Roll Taro solely because it was so weird! If you’ve never had it, taro is a root vegetable that’s sort of like an extra starchy, slightly sweet and nutty, purple potato.

Ever thought, “Gee, I like mashed potatoes, but I bet they’d be better with chocolate instead of gravy”? Well, some Asian person thought the equivalent for the taro. From the looks of the purple frosting and cherry covered thing on the box, the Choco Roll Taro might be based off of some pre-existing dessert concoction.

Each individually wrapped Choco Roll Taro is a pink and purple speckled taro root center inside a round wafer roll, all covered in a yellow-y white chocolate. Don’t worry – the purple center isn’t nearly as bright as it looks on the box. In fact, the mottled pink/red flecked center is rather pretty.

The taro center tastes like pasty, extra-starchy mashed potato with a hint of nuttiness and lots of added sweetness. The extra sweet comes through in the finish and ends on a rather fruity note.

The wafer layer is unremarkable: airy, bland, and crisp. It serves its textural and structural purpose well, at least. Finally, the white chocolate outside is kind of greasy and pretty bland. I’m not a white chocolate fan, so I have little experience in picking out flavor notes in white chocolate. It just tasted like regular old sweet white chocolate to me.

All in all, I think I’ll continue to take my taro with chicken rather than chocolate. The flavor combination is just too strange for me to appreciate, and that strangeness overrides any ooh factor that the interplay of paste and crunch and melt could have brought.

I ate half of a roll to taste; the rest of the box disappeared when I moved. I may have given it away back in New Haven, or it could be buried in my candy stash somewhere. Either way, a taste is plenty Choco Roll Taro for me. It gets a no lettered for being harmlessly not tasty.

Skittles Crazy Cores

Crazy Core Skittles are the latest flavor addition to the Skittles line up. My package wasn’t marked as a limited edition, so I think they’re around for good.

They come in five flavors:

Mango Peach is pastel orange on the outside and pink on the inside. It tastes of a floral artificial peachiness with a slight seedy mango bite to the finish.

Cherry Lemonade is red on the outside and yellow inside. It starts out tasting like artificial cherry, then mellows into a sweet lemonade flavor. And I do mean lemonade – it tastes of lemons but without any citrus bite.

Strawberry Watermelon is green on the outside and pink on the inside. Melon Berry is the opposite: pink on the outside and green inside. I don’t quite get the distinction between the flavor names. I guess Melon Berry is more generic? Both taste like watermelon Jolly Ranchers, with the Melon Berry having a stronger candy watermelon flavor.

Finally, Blue Raspberry Lemon is blue on the outside and yellow on the inside. It opens with an artificial berry bite that dominates the lemon part, as I couldn’t taste any lemon. It does veer towards sweet and sour, which was the main contribution of the lemon part.

I think the concept was good, but the execution needed work. The different flavors in each individual Skittle didn’t really come through. I tried letting the shells dissolve but didn’t get flavors from them. While these aren’t bad, plain old original fruit Skittles are still my go to, as long as I can find someone to eat all the red and purple ones (I’m a citrus Skittles gal). An O.

Gummy Choco Fruits Mix

I’ve wanted to try Meiji Gummy Chocos ever since Cybele from Candy Blog gave them a rave review. I had looked for them every time I went into an Asian grocery store and finally, FINALLY! found them last month in Austin, TX. They came in single flavor and fruit mix tubes; I went with the fruits mix, which contains strawberry, muscat, and orange.

Each Gummy Choco is about the size of a chocolate covered peanut, only they’re chocolate covered gummies. To be more specific, they’re dyed white chocolate around a millimeter thin layer of real chocolate around a gummi center. The chocolate layer is just thick enough to be noticeable while not warring with the sproingy gummis inside.

I like to eat these by chipping off the outside chocolate layer and letting it melt in my mouth before I chomp up the gummi. The coating only tastes faintly of cocoa, since it’s mostly white chocolate, but it’s pleasantly sweet. I think a greater proportion of real chocolate would have overwhelmed the gummi center anyway.

Strawberry is a pastel lavender color. I guess they were shooting for pink? The gummi is bright and fruity and does an admiral job of balancing out the sweet, milky coating. When this one is chomped all together, a strawberry finish lingers.

Orange is a pinkish orange color. This gummi is only mildly citrusy, with a zesty finish that comes through after the chocolate is all gone.

Muscat is a pale yellow green. The inside gummi tastes lightly of white grape, which is quite a different flavor from most purple grape gummis. It’s mild and floral and almost peachy.

I didn’t love these as much as Cybele did, but I did enjoy them and would buy them again for candy snacking. The sweet coatings get to be a bit much after a while, but they’re manageable a palmful at a time. An OM.

Now that I’m in upstate New York, I’ll have to begin my search for these again. I may just have to ask my mother to buy and mail me more. I especially want to try the peach only tube.


I don’t especially love eating Peeps, though I will buy a pack or two if they’re on sale after Easter. I do, however, love the creativity that Peeps can unleash in people, as exemplified by the Washington Post’s Peeps Diorama contest. I made the following Peeps futball game to celebrate the Yale Concert Band’s then upcoming Brazil tour.

Now, via Serious Eats, comes reports of a flagship Peeps store of sorts that’ll soon open in Maryland. I bet they’ll have awesome window displays!

Sunbelt Sweet & Salty Granola Bar

When I was contacted about getting samples of Sunbelt’s Sweet & Salty granola bars to review on ZOMG, Candy!, I told their PR contact that granola bars were outside the domain of this blog. I did, however, offer to review them on Sugar Savvy, which I also write for. Soon, a generous shipment of 3 boxes (8 bars each) arrived via UPS.

Unfortunately, Sugar Savvy is currently under reconstruction, so I’m bending my rules and publishing the review here after all. I promised them a review, and I won’t renege on that.

Let’s check out the bars’ press release, shall we?

“Each bar combines whole-grain oats and roasted peanuts, with a chocolate coating on the bottom and a stripe on top.”

Compare that with what’s on the box and the bars’ wrappers: “Chewy Peanut Sweet & Salty Granola Bars.”

Notice the difference? The latter never mentions the chocolate (though it does proclaim the bar to be “fudge dipped”). That’s because there are food labeling laws that require a product to contain cocoa butter (in other words, actual chocolate) in order for it to be called chocolate. A quick glance on the Sweet & Salty bars’ ingredients reveals a total lack of any cocoa product. The “chocolate” on the bar is actually made from palm and soybean oil.

Funny how the labeling law doesn’t seem to apply to press releases. Or to putting photos of chocolate on the box, if not the word “chocolate.”

The bar is on the thin side for a chewy granola bar (compared to Quaker or Nature Valley bars), at about 1 cm tall, but is otherwise normally sized at about 4 cm by 9 cm.

The granola part is mostly whole grain oats mixed with crisped rice and the occasional peanut. The texture of the bar is soft and squishy, and it has a soft bite that gives easily. It’s a bit slipperier (yes that’s the correct form; I looked it up) than I expected from a granola bar, but not exactly greasy.

It tastes mostly of salty peanuts against the oaty nuttiness of whole oats. The bar is a good amount of honeyed sweet – enough to be noticeable, but not so much that it’s cloying or feels like you’re eating a candy bar. The non-chocolate sort of comes through as a light chocolatey finish, but just barely, and it tastes too weak, with no cocoa notes to bolster it.

All in all, the bar tastes pretty decent for a granola bar. It’s not revelatory or anything, but I’ve yet to find a granola bar that blows my palate away. But the complete lack of real chocolate is a letdown, and the nutrition stats are pretty rough. Each bar is 190 calories, 9 grams of fat (14% of your recommended daily intake) and 4.5 grams of saturated fat (a whopping 23% of your recommended daily intake). With those numbers, you might as well have a candy bar.

Sorry, Sunbelt. If you’d used real chocolate instead of all that palm oil and soybean oil, the bar would’ve tasted better, and I daresay it may have been healthier as well. With your current formula, however, you get a null score of .

Encore Chocolates: Minuet and Almond Cluster

Now that I’m all moved in and more or less settled into my new home, I’m back. Hooray! I thought it would be fun to re-kick things off with a review of a local chocolatier: Encore Chocolates in Rochester, NY.

In my first week in Rochester, I got a bit lost trying to find the DMV to get my NY license. Fortunately, getting lost included stumbling upon this little locally owned and operated chocolate shop.

While they had a wide selection of truffles, candy, and molded chocolates, only a few of their truffles were made on site. I picked out one of their musically named Virtuoso Chocolates, the Minuet, and a dark chocolate almond cluster. I would’ve bought more, but it was a hot day, and I didn’t want them to melt.

The Minuet is “dark chocolate ganache infused with blackberry, enrobed in dark chocolate, with a zest of blueberry infused white chocolate.”

The sweet ganache has a slight grain to it, so much so that it’s almost chewy. The fruit infusion of the blackberry definitely comes through. In fact, it’s a bit too much. I found it overly sweet with not enough cocoa flavor, though I did appreciate the berriness. An okay O.

The dark almond cluster was a much better balance of flavors. Mine had one whole almond, plus a bunch of little bits of almond. It was a good contrast of flavors with the salty and sweet, and the mix of smooth chocolate with crunchy almond was nice as well. The dark chocolate was good: strongly flavored and deep, completely lacking fruitiness. A basic treat, but well executed. An OM.

So, I won’t go out of my way to revisit Encore Chocolates again, but if I happen to drive past it again, I’d pop in to try a different Virtuoso.