Not Just Cereal

Not Just Cereal is “the first chocolate-coated cereal snack…that combines the flavor and crunch of your favorite cereal covered with a smooth, milk chocolate layer.” They’re currently available at Walmart; I got mine as free samples from their PR people.

They come in four flavors: Fruity O’s, Honey Toasted O’s, Toasted Rice, and Cinnamon Crunch.

The Fruity O’s are off-brand Froot Loops covered in a mix of milk chocolate and mockolate (the ingredients list both milk chocolate and milk chocolate flavored coating). I didn’t think I’d like them, as I’m usually pretty picky about my fruit and chocolate combinations.

The coating was shiny and soft and tasted like a mix of cocoa and artificial sweetness. Surprisingly enough, the fake Froot Loops worked well with the chocolate/mockolate combination.

The cereal brought a nice crunch and an artificial fruitiness that conveniently masked the slightly not-quite-right-ness of the chocolate coating.

Since the Fruity O’s were good, I figured the Honey Toasted O’s would be even better. These are off brand Honey Nut Cheerios coated in the same chocolate-ish coating.

I don’t know if I got an off box or what, but mine tasted slightly stale. I didn’t particularly care for the vague corniness of the cereal, or its fake honey tinge.

The Toasted Rice was off brand Rice Chex. The blandly crispy rice worked well with the chocolate/mockolate coating by tempering the chocolate’s over-sweetness.

I really enjoyed flattening the little cereal pillows against the roof of my mouth with my tongue. After a few too many, however, the chocolate got cloying.

I should point out, though, that this is the first of the Not Just Cereals that I enjoyed enough to eat so much that I got that cloying feeling.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch is one of my favorite snacking cereals, so I was excited about the milk chocolate flavored Cinnamon Crunch. It wasn’t as airy as the Toasted Rice, but it still brought a nice crunch.

I loved the combination of the crunchy, chocolatey, cinnamony cereal (how’s that for alliteration?). But for some reason, there was an odd, faint mintiness to the finish. It wasn’t off-putting, exactly, but I could’ve done without it.

Still, the Cinnamon Crunch were my favorite of the bunch, and I managed to eventually eat the whole box, so they get an OM. They’re followed by the Toasted Rice and the Fruity O’s (Os), and finally the Honey Toasted O’s ().

I might buy the Cinnamon Crunch again (hence the OM), but I think I’d prefer to make my own, where I could control the quality of the chocolate. Realistically, though I may just stick with making puppy chow.

Albanese Gummi Butterflies

These gummi butterflies from Albanese are a relatively new addition to the bulk bins of my local Wegmans. They’re beautifully translucent and look like those gel window sticker things.

They came in six colors/flavors and were generously sized. Tip to tip, I’d say the wingspan was about the length of my index finger.

The texture was a joy. They were soft with the perfect balance of stiffness and bounce, so they were easy to tear with my teeth. They were also smooth and had a pleasant mouthfeel when I had the patience to let them melt in my mouth.

Dark red was cherry. It tasted deeply dark with nicely complex red fruit notes.

Lime green was supposed to be apple. I found it sweet with a vague tinge of citrus.

Orange was one of my favorites. It was vibrantly sweet and citrusy. A nice orange zestiness develops across the gummi’s flavor profile and shines through.

Based on just taste, I couldn’t figure out what flavor aqua was. Based on the website, I think it’s supposed to be blue raspberry. It was my least favorite because it carried an inexplicable plasticky, petrol note.

I thought pink was strawberry, but the website says that it’s watermelon. I thought it had a nicely floral finish with strawberry highlights.

Finally, purple was grape. It was well-balanced and managed to avoid that medicinal grape nastiness.

With the exception of the aqua, I found these to be a pleasure to play with and eat (I was enjoying biting them in half and making hybrid butterflies). Aqua gets a ; the rest gets OMs.

Japanese Kit Kat – Ginger Ale

Leave it to the Japanese to decide that Ginger Ale would make a good Kit Kat flavor. I’d read reviews of Ginger Ale Kit Kats on other sites, but it sounded so weird that I still really wanted to try one for myself. Lucky for me, there was one in my free sample box from

The Kit Kat was a yellow-ish white chocolate. It smelled exactly like soda, though I thought the scent was more citrusy than gingery. I’d say more like Sprite or Fresca than ginger ale.

The bars’ outer white chocolate coating was super soft and melted in my fingers. It tasted of overly sweet white chocolate with a hint of citrus.

Most of the “ginger ale” flavor lay in the cream filling sandwiched between the crisp wafers. It tasted weirdly sour and effervescent. Every once in a while, there was a sharply piquant crystal of sour lime flavor.

I wasn’t a fan of the combination of white chocolate and citrus and effervescence. The whole thing had an awful finish that I found off-putting.

Flavor-wise, I thought it merits a . But I am glad I got to try it. It’s definitely a taste experience!

Haribo Pico-Balla

I got really excited when I saw this bag of Haribo Pico-Balla at the dollar store. They looked like my beloved European licorice pencils that have yet to catch on in the U.S. Could it be that they were hiding in the dollar store of the mall all along?

They certainly looked the part – colored fruit licorice wrapped around fondant fillings. The fillings were even extra fancy, with two colors!

Alas, while they were similar to my licorice pencils, they weren’t quite right.

For starters, the texture of the Pico-Balla was a bit too stiff and plasticy. Licorice pencils should have some bite to them, but these guys involved too much gnawing.

As for the flavors, they were weird and just didn’t mesh for me. Turquoise stuck out because its fondant filling was yellow and purple, while the other three had blue and orange.

The turquoise fruit licorice portion tasted like fruit punch, while the sweet fondant had a light anise and minty finish. It was simultaneously sweet and creamy and herbal.

The yellow coating tasted sweet with a light citrus tinge. Green tasted like the yellow, sans the citrus tinge, and maybe had a light apple finish, but maybe I was imagining it? And red just tasted like generic artificial red candy.

The orange and blue fondant fillings tasted of sherbet. I couldn’t pick out a particular flavor; they were just sweet and creamy and fruity.

I’m not sure why, but to me, the fruit licorice texture and flavors were just completely incompatible with the sherbet-y fondant fillings.

In the end, I found the Pico-Balla flavors and textures to be off-putting. They’re not awful, but they are rather blech, so a .

Boozy Lindt Capsules

I bought a trio of booze-filled Lindt bars two summers ago in Cambridge, England. Whisky is pictured below; the other two were Irish Coffee and Cointreau. While I tasted the chocolates soon after I bought them, it took me until now to get around to writing about them.

Why the wait? Because every single one of the three bars that I had just shelled out quite a bit of dough for turned out to be all dried up when I opened them! I sent Lindt an email to complain, and while I waited for the response that never came, I forgot about them.

When I opened them, the chocolates appeared to be pristine. They looked like a pill-pack of chocolate, and each Lindt-stamped capsule looked unblemished and, I imagined, full of the promised “liquid filling.”

This was the summer of 2008, and the bars were marked as being good until April and May 2009. But when I chomped into the capsules, the insides were all dried up and crystallized. Boo.

I’m not sure if they were supposed to be like that, or if the posh (and pricey!) shop that I bought them from stored them incorrectly, or if Lindt was overly optimistic with their sell-by dates, but I was sorely disappointed. They promised liquid fillings. Of booze!

Maybe now’s a good time to add the aside that I was 20 this summer and earnestly learning about the cultural differences between the U.S. and the U.K. No open container laws; cheap and plentiful beers, ales, and ciders; and I never once got carded.

Anyway, the decidedly non-liquid fillings had lost their flavor along with their moisture. Cointreau was maybe tinged with orange, and Whisky had a nearly imperceptible alcoholic finish, but they otherwise just tasted like milk chocolate that was maybe a tad sweeter than usual.

In the state that I got these, they deserve a . And Lindt gets the same for their (lack of) customer service. As far as I know, they’re not available in the U.S., but they seem to still be sold in the U.K., and with a few more flavors on offer.

Foosh Energy Mints

I’ve been off caffeine for several years. Nowadays, if I have a glass of caffeinated soda in the afternoon, it’ll keep me up all night! Thus, I’m probably not Foosh Energy Mints’s target consumer. But when their maker, Vroom Foods, offered to send me free samples, I decided to try them for your sakes, readers.

Each mint contains 100 mg of caffeine, the equivalent of a cup of coffee. They wanted me to keep in mind that such a high caffeine content gives them a unique texture.

The texture definitely stood out as being different. The mints melted with little bumpy grains all over them. It was unusual but not off-putting. What was off-putting, however, was the taste. Or rather, the aftertaste.

They tasted strongly of strong peppermint, which was great and breath-freshening. But they also had a horrid under/aftertaste of artificial sweetener.

Such an aftertaste is bearable when it lasts just a few seconds after you swallow your Diet Coke. In the mints, unfortunately, it lasted the entire time the mint was melting in my mouth. About halfway through, I just couldn’t stand that undertone of fake saccharine-ness and had to spit the thing out.

I didn’t like the taste of these, and I have no need for its caffeine content, so they weren’t for me and get a solely based on taste. But my caffeine addict friend loved them. To each his or her own, I suppose.

Kiwifruit Bliss Bar

Review number two from my box of New Zealand chocolates, courtesy of Saskia (review one was on Monday), is a Kiwifruit Bliss Bar hand made by Bliss Chocolates (note: video plays upon loading Bliss Chocolates’ main page).

I’m pretty sure Saskia purposefully picked a kiwi-filled bar to be representative of New Zealand candy. Sadly, I was not a fan of this bar – though I did enjoy the cheerful green of the wrapper and the translucent green of the inside goop.

The first three ingredients in the “dark compound choc” were sugar, vegetable oil, and cocoa powder. Not a good thing when vegetable oil shows up so high (or at all) in an ingredients list for chocolate. Also not a good thing when cocoa butter never makes an appearance.

It reminded me of Palmer‘s chocolate – poor quality, overly sweet with unpleasant tastes and aftertastes, and just not what I consider to be real chocolate. The green kiwi goop was super sweet and fruity, but I couldn’t get a clear read on it because the chocolate was just so overpoweringly blech.

My apologies go out to Saskia. It’s weird to publicly post negative opinions of gifts people give you. I feel like I sound horribly ungrateful. In fact, I value all tasting experiences as learning experiences, even when I don’t like what I’m tasting.

And I did not like this. The Kiwifruit Bliss Bar gets a sound for its mockolate foul.

Reminder: check out Cybele’s Candy Swap forum if you want to set up your own candy swap!

Brach’s Jelly Nougats

I love bulk bins because they let you buy exactly how much you want. I especially love them for candy because they let me buy just enough to taste for a review. The last time I was at a Wegman’s with bulk bins (my neighborhood one is too small to have a bulk bin section, but that’s a good thing, as it prevents me from gorging on malted milk balls and Albanese 12-flavor gummi bears on a too-regular basis), I picked out four Jelly Nougats by Brach’s.

Thank goodness I only spent about 50 cents on them.

I was naive enough to think that, because they had nougat in the name and because they were white in color, they would taste like actual nougat. And they were so colorful and artsy looking to boot!

Alas, they just tasted like blech. The jelly bits look like they should be fruity, and they kind of are, but not really. They mostly tasted of sproingy sweetness.

The nougat had a persistent chew that was soft and not at all sticky. It tasted a bit floral and fruity, but mostly it was just sugar overload like whoa. I don’t think it was the sweetness factor alone that made this a spit-out candy for me – rather, I think it was that the sugar lacked any other substantial flavor to back it. Sweet and fruity is okay. Sweet and more sweet is not. One of my roommates called it old people candy.

My roommates enjoyed it, though they agreed with me that it was cloying. I could smell the candies as they were eating them from several feet away, and the smell was lovely, bright, and fruity. Why couldn’t they taste like that too?

For me, it’s a . Save your pennies for something else!

TCHO Chocolates

TCHO chocolates have long been on my radar. I finally got to try them when my roommates were kind enough to bring me a variety pack from California. The variety pack contained 2 each of their fruity, chocolatey, nutty, and citrus flavors.

All of the squares were about 5 centimeters across the diagonal and quite thin, just half a centimeter. All were comprised of 70% cacao.

“Fruity” was made with organic and fair trade beans from Peru. It had a sharp snap with a very dry mouthfeel. There was a definite red fruit fruitiness to it, but the overall flavor was dominated by the stale taste of paper/cardboard.

At first I thought I just had an off square – I had unwrapped it to take photos and then rewrapped it for later –  but that cardboard taste pervaded the other, not-unwrapped-until-tasting-time squares.

“Chocolatey” (beans from Ghana) smelled duskier and featured strong cocoa notes and an almost savory tinge. Its mouthfeel is also dry, but it’s a bit smoother/creamier once it starts melting. The paper/cardboard taste is present in the finish.

“Nutty”, made from organic and fair trade beans from Peru, was the softest and creamiest of the bunch, and it did carry a distinctly nutty favor. But that paper tinge is still there.

Finally, “Citrus” (organic beans from Madagascar) smells sweet and has a very dry and crumbly melt. It tastes a bit chalky with a sweet bright finish, and again that infuriating, ruinous tinge of paper/cardboard taste.

I think TCHO needs to rethink their packaging on these bars, as they all took on an unpleasant, papery overtone that ruined the taste experience. I’ve had them sitting around for a few months, but bars should keep for at least that long, especially when you’re selling them in 90-day supplies.

I’m torn on how to rate these. The paper taste warrants a , but that doesn’t seem quite fair, as TCHO didn’t mean for them to taste of paper. Then again, they did choose the packaging and neglected to put a “best by” date on the package or any storage guidelines (that I could find) on their website. So the stands, with the caveat that my supply was off.