Sunday, January 31, 2010

Beech's Violet Creams

Since the Epic Fail that was Beech's Rose Creams, I have had these Violet Creams buried in my stash and could not bring myself try them. I found that bothersome. So, I finally decided that I was just going to break down and review them, and not have a chocolate covered, Barney-colored candy haunting me. After all, they can't strike out twice in a row, right?

Much like the Rose Creams, each little patty is about the size of a U.S. half dollar coin. But while the color of the cream center was subtle in the Rose version, in this version it is screaming "LOOK AT ME!" If nothing else, it is a very pretty candy, between the dark chocolate and the vivid purple filling.

The aroma was also pleasant. Mostly it's the chocolate that stands out, but hovering just in the background is a little flash of floral perfume from the violet. So far, so good.

The chocolate coating is the same as with the rose version -- super sweet, waxy, with a lumpy melt. Not very good at all.

It's the filling that stands out. If you have ever tried C. Howard's Violet Mints, it tastes much like those, only on steroids. If you've never had a violet flavored product, I am not sure I can fully describe it, but I will try. It's very floral and perfumy -- which probably sounds bad, but I find it refreshing. It makes me think that maybe I just chewed on a fresh sprig of something. The aftertaste lingers for a long time -- but again, I liked it because it was crisp.

If you don't like strong, floral flavors -- I warn you right now that this is not the candy for you. But if you do like them, or if you're game to try something new, this is a good one. Yes, the chocolate is pretty lame, but the filling makes up for it.

The British Emporium (Upland, California)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Slim-Fast Peanut Butter Crunch Time Snack Bar

I would like to tell you that, like yesterday's review of the Milky Way Simply Caramel bar, this was an envy review on my part based upon all the Slim-Fast reviews that Jim has been doing lately. But no, I am really doing it because I got it for free at my local supermarket.

I have actually used the Slim-Fast line from time to time. I can't say that I've ever lost weight this way, but there was a time when for medical reasons I was stuck with liquids only, and I used the Slim-Fast shakes as meal replacement.

I have had some of their snack line before as well. I didn't love it, but for the most part it's not awful. This bar is part of their new "3-2-1 plan." Honestly, I could have done more research on it...but, I won't be going on it personally, and you all know how to Google.

Peanut Butter Crunch Time is a slim small mockolate-covered bar that has a tightly compressed peanut butter wafer-type center. The whole thing comes in at only 100 calories.

But how does it taste?

Surprisingly, not bad!

The mockolate is just that: mockolate. Yeah, it's sort of chocolate-like. It's a very thin layer, and I think that works to the bar's advantage. There isn't enough of it to really dislike much. I will also give it points for not being oily or throat-burningly sweet.

The peanut butter wafer center's taste and texture were damn near identical to a the center of one of those candy bars Bart Simpson chomps down while reading the latest Radioactive Man. But it's neither as sweet nor as thick. It's nutty and there's sort of a toffeelike butter flavor. It's also a little salty, and I always like salt with my peanut butter.

I was honestly surprised at how good these were. Yes, for the same hundred calories you could have a "Fun Size" version of "the real thing." But I have to say that if you must eat mockolate (Really? Must you?), I preferred Slim-Fast's version. The center was close enough that, apart from the lesser thickness, you may not notice much difference between this bar and a full fat candy bar.


Albertsons Supermarket

Friday, January 29, 2010

Milky Way: Simply Caramel

This is one of those reviews born out of review envy. When I saw Cybele's review here, I knew it was one of those things I was going to have to track down for myself. And it took me a few days, but I did indeed score one.

Admittedly, it was Cybele's food-porn-worthy pictures that really sealed it for me. Truth be told, my favorite part of a Milky Way bar is actually the nougat (which is why I like 3 Musketeers bars slightly more).

The Milky Way Simply Caramel is -- as the name tells you -- simply caramel and chocolate. And it is a nice thick slab of caramel. The caramel is soft but not runny. If you bite or pull at it (as we did for the sake of Food Porn), it strings nicely without becoming a gooey mess. If you've ever had a standard Milky Way bar, then you know what the caramel tastes like -- it's exactly the same in this one; there's just way more of it. It's not the most complex caramel ever. If I had to pin a flavor to it, I would say buttery. Not real butter, mind you, more like some lactose intolerant chemist's vision of what butter might taste like. If you are looking for deep, burnt sugar flavor, you are in the wrong place.

The milk chocolate shell is classic Mars milk chocolate. It's smooth, it's milky, it's sweet. There is a touch of throat burn from the sugar.

Honestly, this is a pretty lowbrow bar. It's mass market, and it shows. The caramel is just bordering on not being worth the tooth decay, and the chocolate is a little too sweet. But even with all that said, I still liked the bar. Maybe it's just one of those things that are so average and so unspecial that they turn out to be good (like the odd Lady Gaga song).


Albertsons Supermarket

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Stride Eternal Melon Gum

Stride rings in 2010 with another new flavor.

If the last new flavor -- Mega Mystery -- made me think about Scooby Doo, then Eternal Melon made me think of teenage girls circa 1985. I am not sure why. It just sounds like something a crimped haired, neon legginged, Madonna listening (you know, before she started drinking the blood of virgins to stay "young"), Facts Of Life watching, Lisa Frank loving girl would chew while fantasizing about waking up in Molly Ringwald's body à la one of those zany "switch" movies that were so popular in that era...

Not that I ever did any of those things, mind you. I am far cooler than that and always have been. Just so we're clear on this, understand?

Wrapped in bright lime green paper lies an equally green stick of gum. The gum smells like a cross between powdered fruit punch and one those canned car air fresheners that have names like "California Sunset."

But how does it taste?

You know those little blocks of sawdust-looking stuff inside of those cans of air freshener? I've never felt the need to lick one, but I can't help wondering how close the taste would be to this. True to the name, there is a melon flavor -- but it's vague and hard to identify. If I had to guess, I'd say it's kind of like a cantaloupe. But I am only guessing. There is another flavor there that I couldn't identify at all. I want to say pineapple, but I am nowhere near sure of it.

It's also a little tart at first. I am not going to lie to you: it starts out tasting pretty nasty, but as the flavor wanes ever so slightly, it seems to get sweeter and better tasting. It's a Stride gum, so the flavor lasts a ridiculously long amount of takes a good ten or fifteen minutes to mellow out. If you can ride out the weird flavor it opens with, it actually does end up tasting all right. And therein lies the problem with this gum -- the strangeness of the initial taste. If it actually started the way it ends up, it would have gotten a much higher rating.

Now if you don't mind, I have to go switch sides on my Debbie Gibson tape.


Stater Brothers supermarket

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Trader Joe's Apple Blossoms

I haven't tried a Trader Joe's dessert in a while, and I love anything similar to apple pie. Apple blossoms -- sometimes called apple purses -- seem to have become all the rage last year at places like Starbucks and certain chain restaurants (TGI McFunsters, anyone?) and I have been known to order them.

Trader Joe's Apple Blossom is a pie dough pastry pouch stuffed with apple filling and topped with cinnamon crumble. They can be microwaved or baked. I opted to bake.

Each little blossom is slightly smaller in diameter than your average coffee mug. The dough has a glossy sheen, and the cinnamon glaze melted into a gooey lake while baking. The dough is good -- soft, and just a little crusty. You won't mistake it for homemade, but it is damned good for frozen.

The apple filling is generous -- it's not bursting out of the crust, but there is not exactly extra room for more. The apples are perfectly cooked, but still have a little tooth to them. It is a sweet filling, and the cinnamon, while not enough to really heat things up, adds just the right amount of spice.

This is one of the best frozen baked desserts out there. As stated, I don't think you could pass them off as home made, but they're so good I doubt anyone would care.

Trader Joe's

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jammie Dodgers

Yes, I know it seems like we just finished Brit Week. But I've got a ton of products to work through still (I could have easily done Brit Month), and I could not resist doing this pack of biscuits (aka cookies) called Jammie Dodgers.

Part of it is my inner 13-year-old boy coming out again. I can't help but admit that the name "Jammie Dodgers" almost sounds like some sort of soft porn masterpiece that said boy might try to sneak a peek (peep?) at on late-night Skinemax while the parental units aren't paying attention. The tiny, more mature side of me just likes the thought of shortbread biscuits spread with jam.

Jammie Dodgers are -- you guessed it -- shortbread treats that have a raspberry-flavored plum jam sandwiched in between two biscuits. I'd think as a rule that these biscuits are probably quite cute. Unfortunately, my packet had seen some better days, as you can see from the pictures. But remember that the biscuits did have to get from the U.K. to Atlanta, and then from Atlanta to me here in California. All things considered, they could have been far worse for the wear.

The shortbread was pretty light in color. It was surprisingly flaky and airy. The texture was great. Sadly, though, it has almost no flavor at all. It's neither buttery nor salty. It's sort of like the universe's blandest pie crust.

The raspberry-flavored plum jelly was really good. I still don't get the point of using raspberry flavored jam, rather than just using actual raspberry jam. (Jim's suggestion was that perhaps it is used because Brits tend to prefer a seedless texture.) In any event, it is sweet and tastes exactly like German Raspberries. What a shame that it was sandwiched between those two disks of utterly flavorless shortbread.

I realize that I'm trashing a beloved U.K. snack here...and for that I do apologize to my friends across the pond. If the shortbread had only been something closer to, let's say, Walkers -- these would have been outstanding. As is, they're far too insipid to be worth the calories for me.


Gift from my mother

Monday, January 25, 2010

Redstones's Jalapeño Bar

I was walking through the Continental Terminal E at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, and tucked in among all the little shops was a candy store called Coco Mako. (Which, it seems, is part of a chain of cafe/chocolate stores.) In any event, they had a pretty darn good assortment of interesting candy, and but for lack of carry-on space (I just didn't plan that one out at all), I could have done some damage.

Amidst all the bars was this one, sold by a local Texas company -- I would like to tell you it was my desire to support small business that inspired me to buy it -- but no, it was really only one word on the wrapper that it did it. And that word was "jalapeño." I didn't even bother to read the rest of the bar's info; the pepper alone did it for me. OK, yeah, it also has peanuts. (I need to start reading. I am one of those weird people who likes both chocolate and peanuts, but not together, other than in peanut butter form)

Without reading, I had been hoping that this bar would actually have bits of jalapeño embedded into the chocolate. When I actually read the ingredients, it turned out that the bar uses jalapeño pepper powder. Now, that could still make it good -- it's just that I'd wanted jalapeño chunks. The bar also has the aforementioned peanuts (salted, by the way), and it's milk chocolate.

The bar is the size and shape of the standard Hershey bar. As you can see from the pictures, my bar had started to bloom -- but I am a trooper, and I took one for the team.

The chocolate bar looks and smells a hell of a lot like the Astor Chocolate bar made for the gift shop in the Empire State Building. I have to wonder if Astor didn't make this bar as well, because damned if the chocolate didn't also taste the same.

The chocolate is a little too sweet. It's smooth enough and there are some nice deep cocoa notes, but the sugar is just too much. Fortunately, the salt from the nuts balances things a bit. The peanuts in the bar are in the form of small but plentiful chips. They are crunchy and salty -- and the salt is the best part of the bar.

As for the jalapeño powder: The bar does have a teeny-tiny bit of heat, but if I'd had to guess what it was without prior knowledge that it was jalapeño, I wouldn't have thought of it.

This bar had a lot of potential, and while it's not horrid, it doesn't even make it to the level of "average." I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to get another.


Coco Mako (George Bush Intercontinental Airport: Houston, Texas)
Price: $3.99
Calories: 220 (serving size considered to be half a bar)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

O.N.E. Coconut Water with Mango

It's a cool, overcast day as I write this. Yes, we have them even here in sunny Southern California. However, I am kinda wishing that I was sitting on a sunny beach with a girly, fruity drink in my hand (the kind I normally do not drink).

Since I (sadly) will not be doing that anytime soon, I'm going to pretend that I am on a white sand beach while drinking this mango flavored coconut water. And yes, those of you who pay attention to my ramblings probably are well aware that I am on record as hating coconut. And I do. But I don't mind coconut flavor -- it's mostly the texture I dislike.

I reviewed the Guava flavored O.N.E. about a month ago, and was surprised at how refreshing I found it. It also passed the taste test of my best friend -- who shall officially be known as Mr. X, simply because he thinks it sounds cool who grew up in the islands. (It's a long story; just read the first review.) So once again, I made him my guinea pig...I mean guest reviewer.

Mr. X, incidentally, can always pick the most perfectly ripe mango in the bin. I couldn't pick one if my life depended on it, but he can walk to an enormous display of mangoes and pick up a perfect one on the first try. And he loves mango everything, so I thought this drink might be the drink of his dreams.

Inside the spiffy grownup juice box looking Tetra-Pak lurks a bright orange/yellow juice/water. It smells like mango puree -- and I mean that in a good way.

The first sip is a little on the salty side. The mango tastes strong but muted at the same time...weird and contradictory description, I know. It reminded more of mango leather than, say, freshly sliced mango. It doesn't taste artificial in any way, but it doesn't have that brightness that a really good cheek of cold, ripe mango has. (Yes, mango slices are called "cheeks." Like butt cheeks, OK?)

The coconut water itself doesn't really come through as much as it seemed to in the guava version. It's hiding in the background and you can only faintly taste it.

Mr. X's opinion and mine happened to mesh completely (as they often do) on this one. While he adds the extra praise that O.N.E. has once again provided the best packaged coconut water he has ever tasted, we both wish the mango flavor had been less dominant and that the coconut flavor had been stronger. But we'll give it a pass because it has electrolytes, and that's what plants crave!



Albertsons Supermarket

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Empire State Building Milk Chocolate Bar

As you are reading this, I am either in New York City...or stuck at an airport trying to get to New York city.

Last time I was in the city I went to the Empire State Building. My friends Net, Kris & Joe and I decided to spend the day doing cheesy touristy things, and going to the top of the Empire State building definitely fits that bill. (To be fair we only went up to the 86th floor. You can go up to the 102nd floor, but as far as we were concerned 86 floors was high enough.)

Here's a picture I took:

Yes, it is pretty cool up there. The views are spectacular. And the people-watching opportunities are pretty cool. You can always tell the people who met on matchmaking web sites and thought it would be romantic to meet for the first time on the observation deck, just like Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in "Sleepless In Seattle." And it's always funny when the reality that she is no Meg Ryan and he is no Tom Hanks set in. Yeah, I shouldn't laugh, but I did. And if it makes them feel any better, I once went on a horrendously bad blind date with a guy who swore he looked just like John Travolta (actually not a selling point for me, for the record). Let me tell you guys, I look more like John Travolta than he did. (And the rest of the date went so far downhill, so quickly, that I called it off after an hour.)

Anyway, in the gift shop where you can buy anything Empire State Building related that you can possibly imagine, they also have chocolate bars. Did you guys really think I could skip that?

The bars are actually made by Astor Chocolate, whose website tells me that they do all sorts of private label products for various companies.

This bar is roughly the same size and weight as a classic Hershey bar. Unwrapped, it pretty much looks like a Hershey bar as well. The chocolate is glossy and nicely molded.

Taste: It's's really sweet. The ingredients list purports to have real vanilla, but it has that fake aftertaste. There is a very nice cocoa powder taste to it, but it's not very milky. In terms of flavor it reminded me of hot cocoa mix straight from the packet. The texture is smooth, if not a bit waxy. The melt is lumpy.

There are tons of great gifts you can bring home from New York. Do yourself a flavor and don't make this one of them.

Tourist chocolate. I should have known better.

The Empire State Building gift shop

Friday, January 22, 2010

Stride Mega Mystery Gum

Something about this gum gives me a very strong Scooby Doo vibe.

Maybe it's the word "mystery" in the name. Maybe it's the groovy tie-dye colors on the wrapper. Maybe it's the slightly fruity smell. (I am just saying there's no way that Fred was actually into Daphne...wear your ascot with fabulous pride, Fred!)

Each stick of gum is packaged in the standard Stride chewing portion. They have individual wrappers that remind me of bad casino carpeting, circa 1968. And once you actually smell the gum up close, you notice that it is still fruity -- but there's also a little citrus/sugar thing going on. It actually reminds me of the smell of Kraft FunMallows (which are a sort of fruit flavored, pastel colored marshmallow).

But how did it taste?

I think I would rather chew a Scooby Snack. The taste is sort of like orange powered fiber drink mix meets random citric acid meets peach meets I-drank-too-much-last-night-and-this-is-my-offering-to-my-porcelain-god aftertaste. And that's being diplomatic. Additionally, thanks to Stride's incredible flavor longevity, it fails to wane after even half an hour.

I still don't know what it was supposed to taste like, and I don't care to find out. This can remain a Mega Mystery, because above all else it's a Mega Fail.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Peeps: Strawberry Creme Hearts

I suppose it was predictable: Christmas was over for all of five seconds before the Valentines Day candy hit the shelves like a sugary tsunami. Since I'd decided I was going to try more of the Peeps flavors this year, these Strawberry Creme flavored hearts jumped out at me -- and how could they not? They look like the dream candy of an 11-year-old girl. All they need is a Justin Bieber shape, and they'd have that market in the bag. (I'll leave it to others in cyberspace to invent new and nightmarish things to do to these hypothetical Justin Bieber Peeps.)

That said, each heart is sort of cute on its own, and has a nice coating of bright red sugar. The marshmallow itself is a pale shade of pink. Aesthetically, it is actually a pretty candy.

The smell, however, is like the post-midnight love session stank of an orgy between kids' vitamins and powdered strawberry milk flavoring...only worse.

Fortunately, the taste is better than the smell. The strawberry is by no means a natural berry flavor, but it's so frighteningly fake that it's actually kinda good. There is a vague milky taste -- I don't want to call it vanilla because I didn't taste that -- it's just a generic sort of sweet cream flavor. There is also an aftertaste that is best described as bubble gum. Think of classic pink bubble gum, like Bazooka. Flavorwise, these will never be my favorite, but I was surprised that I liked them as much as I did.

I have to say I think this was the freshest package of Peeps I have had in my life. While my feet are firmly planted in the Stale Peeps Fan Club, there is something to be said for a pack of super-fresh Peeps. The marshmallow was so soft and fluffy it was almost spreadable.

Also, I could not resist doing the flame test. During my last Peeps review -- December 16th's Chocolate Mousse Reindeer -- I tried "toasting" the Peep, and I really liked it. And I was wondering how that would work with the Strawberry Creme Hearts.

So how did it go?

First, I must warn you not to try this at home -- at least not near anything flammable.

As you may recall, the Chocolate Mousse Peeps were damn near flame retardant. I really had to work even to get them to toast. And no matter how long I held the flame directly to the reindeer's eyes, I couldn't get them to so much as bead from the heat, let alone toast in any acceptable manner.

The Strawberry Creme Hearts, however, not only toasted -- they actually caught fire! They sputtered! They fizzed! They went up with a blustery whoooomf just like Spinal Tap's original drummer!

(Note: The below photo has NOT been retouched. How scary is that?)

Yeah, I was kind of impressed. Science never disappoints, does it?

Now I happen to love marshmallows that have been burnt to the point that they look like lava rocks, so I of course still ate it. But I am not basing the rating on this little experiment. And that is a good thing, because as I discovered, Strawberry Creme Peeps are pretty vile toasted. Really, just skip the toasting/burning...unless you truly love pyrotechnics and your backyard has a large, empty concrete apron where you can do it safely. After all, fire has a tendency to get out of hand and burn things and people. (But it does look cool, I gotta admit!)

Nowhere near the best junk food I've ever tried, but definitely awesome as fireworks. Maybe they should market these for the Fourth of July instead.


Albertsons Supermarket