Friday, February 25, 2011

Haagen-Dazs Five: Caramel Ice Cream

I was trolling the ice cream selection at the old mega mart on my last shopping trip and noticed that Haagen-Dazs had added a caramel flavor to the Five lineup. That said, my local store is actually really slow on getting the new Haagen-Dazs flavors -- so I'm not exactly sure how long ago Caramel was tossed into the mix.

I do love caramel ice cream though, and since the "death" of the heavenly Fleur De Sel Caramel (the only way that could have been better was if I got to lick it off Gerard Butler), Ben & Jerry's Dulce Delish (which, although I have eaten way more pints of than I care to admit, I have somehow managed to not review to this day) has picked up the title of current favorite. (Note to my friends at B&J -- if you would like to arrange for me to lick Dulce Delish off Gerard Butler I am perfectly willing to take one for the team. Just sayin'...) Anyway, for a full-fat ice cream that's still in the Haagen-Dazs lineup, they also have the now-classic Dulce de Leche, which is also pretty darned yummy.

I have to admit I always sort of eye the Five line with suspicion. It seems when a flavor is good it's really good, but when it's bad it's enough to make me seriously regret the lactose issues I'll be stuck with for the next few hours. And I am still a little bitter that the Brown Sugar flavor got discontinued (though to be fair, I think I may have been the only person on the planet who liked it).

What I like about the Five line is that in terms of ingredients, it is as simple and close to homemade as you can get, with each flavor containing only -- you guessed it -- five ingredients. It's also slighter lower in fat and calories than the rest of the Haagen-Dazs line. Admittedly, I would rather simply have less of something with higher fat because I prefer the mouth feel and texture -- and since I'll to have to deal with dairy issues anyway, I'd at least like to enjoy it to the max before the inevitable happens. But for people who are just watching the numbers, it's a great option to have.

So how did it scoop up?

Flavor-wise really, really well. It is completely on par with the classic Dulce de Leche. It's sweet of course, but not overly sickly sweet. The caramel is heavily on the milky side, but sadly there is no caramel swirl (which was one of the best parts of Dulce de Leche). It's not a complex caramel but it is still tasty. I wish that there was a little salt kick to add some zazz, but then I guess that would make it six ingredients rather than five, and that would kinda defeat the purpose. The flavor also wanes quickly -- as in under five minutes. I will grant you that eating anything cold tends to dull the tongue, but even bringing it close to room temperature gave the same results...along with melted ice cream.

Texture-wise, like all of the Five line, it's on the soft and fluffy side. It's funny how that works for some flavors and not so well for others. Fortunately, this is one of the flavors that it does work for. It has a silky smooth mouth feel, and when it melts it glides down your throat in a happy puddle. Also like the rest of its Five siblings, it doesn't have the rich, fatty mouth feel of its bigger cousins -- but for a lighter calorie, lighter fat option, it really is top notch.

Best Five flavor since my beloved Brown Sugar.

Albertsons Supermarket



240 Calories per 1/2 cup serving


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Temptations by Jell-O: French Silk Pie

There are many three-word phrases that get me excited. Examples include:

New Droid Phone
New York City
Gerard Butler Naked


French Silk Pie.

In an ideal world I could have all of those things simultaneously. In this one, sometimes you have to settle for whatever is doled out one at a time. And somewhere along the line in the last couple years, I have started to like pie a lot more than I used to. As a rule I prefer fruit pies to cream pies, but I have always had a soft spot for French Silk Pie.

Need I thus explain how happy I was when the generous folks at Jell-O sent me a package of their French Silk Pie Temptations to review? I didn't think so!

To keep calories down -- as with their Lemon Meringue Pie entry -- there is no pie crust to be found here. But that's OK, because the pudding (or filling, if you will) is so good that you won't miss it. (Though I can't say that the addition of a chocolate cookie crust wouldn't have been worth the extra naughtiness.)

The main portion of the cup is a dense, rich chocolate. I loved the texture. In fact, I liked it more than I did any of the actual French Silk Pies I have ever had. The reason is that actual pie filling tends to be a little too runny for my liking. But the Jell-O Temptations were thicker than standard pudding, and at the same time seemed to have a slightly whipped, mousse quality to it. It just held up really well and gave you the best of both worlds.

The flavor reminded me a lot of an actual slice of French Silk Pie. The large bottom layer is a really rich chocolate. It's like classic Jell-O pudding, but with a stronger cocoa flavor.

It is also topped with a smooth creamy layer, which was terrific. The texture holds its own, and is silky smooth with a slightly sweet, chocolate/vanilla flavor.

I loved this cup! It's up there with either of the chocolate Mousse Temptations for me.

Sample from company.


MSRP is $2.89.


140 calories per 1 cup serving (3.9 oz)


Friday, February 18, 2011

Temptations by Jell-O: Lemon Meringue Pie

If you have read even a handful of my reviews, you probably know that if something is made with lemon -- in even the most remote sense -- then that is something I will line up to try. Well, Jell-O has added a new line of low-calorie treats based on different desserts, and they were nice enough to send out samples of all six of them to me!

And naturally, I had to start with Lemon Meringue pie.

Jell-O's Temptations products come in sleek packages of three individual cups (rather than the six cups that come in the various pudding packs), but they are a slightly larger serving size than the pudding cups (size varies depending on flavor). The Lemon Meringue Pie features a larger lemon base layer, and is then topped off by the meringue.

So how is this cup of wonderful?

First, I like the texture of the lemon base -- it is actually pretty close to lemon curd. Not quite as smooth, though. It reminded me almost of the whipped texture of the Jell-O Mousse line, only not quite as "moussy." The flavor is tangy but still sweet, and -- if you don't think about it for too long -- it does strongly resemble an actual lemon meringue pie. Unfortunately, it has a very chemical aftertaste. It's not a terribly strong aftertaste, and it doesn't last long, but it is undeniably there.

The meringue layer's texture is exactly like the texture of the Jell-O Mousse cups. It has the slightly sweet, vanilla-like taste of real meringue down pat. It was really good. I could have eaten an entire cup of just this layer alone.

All in all, not bad. Even with the aftertaste I would still eat more of them (though mostly to get at the meringue layer). I wish there had been at least a little bit of pie crust...but then again, crust adds calories. So I guess it's a trade-off. Oh well.

Sample from company.


MSRP is $2.89.


100 calories per 1 cup serving (3.9 oz)


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Tree Chocolate Granola Bar

I have liked New Tree chocolate since the very first bar I found on a visit to Zabar's in New York City. The first one I tried was the Tranquility bar, which is milk chocolate and lavender (new and improved review to come soon -- but for now, my rather lame first review can be read here). I love unusual flavors and New Tree has no shortage of those. Since I started trying New Tree's chocolates, they have changed their packaging from the old heavy cardstock and rather simple drawings of the theme ingredient to a glossy, sleek photo-style envelope. And it looks like chocolate bar itself has been re-molded as well...which is yet another reason for me to redo my older reviews.

The bar I'm reviewing now is part of New Tree's expansion into healthier options that take another step into more unconventional flavor combinations. This bar, for example, boasts having antioxidants and three times the fiber (along with 30% less sugar) than its similar counterparts. And if that's not a good reason to eat chocolate, then I am just going to call it a day permanently. Other than raw fruit and veggies, that's about as close to health food as I really feel the need to get.

Anyway, New Tree's Granola bar is a 31% milk chocolate that not only features little bits of granola, but is flavored with lime and green tea as well. I love green tea with lime as a drink, but will they play well together with chocolate? I am looking forward to finding out.

I do, however, have one complaint prior to actually tasting anything. It is a minor complaint, but it irks me. While New Tree has indeed changed the exterior packaging to a more modern look -- which I really like -- the new package illustration also shows a change to the molding of the bars themselves. That's all well and good...except that the bars actually are still molded just as they were when I first tried them almost four years ago. As you can see below, the bar is broken up into smaller square tiles rather than the brand-name embossed bar portions with the jaunty little tree designs that you see on the label. I realize that's not a big deal in the grand scheme of life -- but it's not truly representative of what you're getting. It's like a chocolate version of that hot girl you meet with the seemingly titanic rack: it looks great pushing out against her shirt, until you remove said shirt and find out you got duped by a push-up bra. Yes, I know the chocolate still tastes just as good (and the girl probably does too, but that's not within the scope of this review), yet it's still a disappointment. I guess the lesson here is that, much like many other aspects of life, it is the inside and not the outside that should count. It's just that sometimes the inside has to work a little harder to win you over once the outside has let you down.

So, after all that dime-store philosophizing, how did the inside work out?

Pretty well, actually. Regardless of its molding, the little squares have a great aroma. It's zesty and floral with a nice creamy finish. And the taste is even better.

The first thing you taste is the lime. It's bright and tangy but not sour or overpowering.

I am not sure that if I didn't know this bar had green tea in it that I would have guessed exactly what I was tasting. Actually, on first taste, it reminded me of mild pepper rather than tea. Then again, it is tea extract, and I can't say I have ever tasted that before. Maybe tea extract is just peppery? (Anyone out there have information on that?) Peppery or not, though, it was quite good.

The little clumps of granola are toasty and oaty and perfectly crunchy, which adds a nice contrast to the smooth texture of the chocolate. And, speaking of the chocolate: even three-years-plus after trying it for the first time, I am still in love with it. New Tree is a Belgian company, and -- yes, I have said it before -- those people can give the Swiss a run for their money any day when it comes to making chocolate. (But neither the Belgians nor the Swiss should get too complacent, because there are plenty of other countries who want a piece of the high-end chocolate action, and some of those efforts might surprise you. For instance, I've reviewed an Icelandic chocolate that was absolutely delicious, which you can read about here. I've also reviewed a very nice assortment box from Bolivia, which you'll find here.)

The chocolate is just strong enough that the lime and the tea flavors don't run it over. There is a really rich, milky taste to it. It's definitely on the sweeter side, but I think that with the tart lime, that's for the best. I can see where the lime might be too aggressive otherwise.

It has a reasonably smooth melt -- but remember, there are the bits of granola to melt around. It's a pleasant contrast.

Bottom line: As someone who loves citrus and chocolate together, this bar was an easy winner for me. I really think lime needs to be paired with chocolate (and not white chocolate!) more often. If you should see this bar, by all means get it. You won't be sorry.


Sample from company.


170 calories per 100 grams.


Allergen info not listed.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentines Day

Yeah, George and Stephanie are still undecided on how they feel about each other...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Jelly Belly Chocolate Dips

First of all, I feel the need to apologize to the nice people at Jelly Belly. They actually sent this box out to me just prior to Christmas, and due to snowballing events (a good majority of which included the six inches of snow that pretty much shut down Atlanta), I have not actually gotten around to doing the review until now...and really I hate being so tardy. Mea culpa.

I actually was really excited to try these beans after reading Candy Blog's review in early December, when Cybele got her hands on a box.

I have long loved Jelly Belly's beans, and oddly enough, as much as I dislike coconut, that is my favorite flavor jelly bean. I was sent the five flavor gift box. The official Jelly Belly website also offers a rather impressive selection of ways to get the dipped beans besides the gift boxes. Inside the box, in little bean-shaped wells, the dipped beans sit clearly marked so you don't have to guess which kind you're getting. The five flavors are Very Cherry, Orange, Raspberry, Coconut, and Strawberry. And since that's the way they're placed in the box, I am going to review them in that order.

As far as the chocolate coating goes, each bean is completely enrobed in a layer of glossy chocolate. But as Cybele points out in her review, the size of the bean is identical to its non-dipped siblings. This is because the chocolate replaces the normal sugary shell that would cover the bean's center. Knowing that kind of disappointed me prior to tasting, because I am one of those people who like the slightly crunchy texture that you get biting into a normal jelly bean. But hey, we have chocolate! So maybe I shouldn't be preemptively whining.

The chocolate is simply identified as Dark Chocolate, but I could not tell you the cocoa percentage. When you open the box, the aroma is vaguely chocolatey and sort of fruity. The beans, of course, are sealed by the chocolate; so I was not expecting a strong fruit smell.

Very Cherry:

This was the flavor I was least looking forward to. I am not a fan of cherry candy as a rule, but I was glad it was first, because I figured it would be all uphill from here.

The chocolate is a thin layer that dissolves quickly (if you're the kind who lets your beans melt in your mouth rather than chewing it). It tastes OK. It's not the best chocolate, but it certainly is not the worst. It is a very mild dark -- enough that in the case of the cherry, it provided some nice contrast to the sweetness of the bean. I have to say my fears about the texture were wasted. I really liked how it was basically a nice soft jelly. It reminded me of the chocolate covered jelly sticks I like.

The cherry itself is strong. They have always reminded me exactly of a Luden's cough drop. It will never be my favorite flavor but I give it points for not having a bitter aftertaste.


Orange and dark chocolate are always a winning combination and this bean is no exception. It's a nice zesty orange. I really liked the fact that Jelly Belly didn't hold back on the flavor; this is a seriously strong orange. I think the chocolate helped sweeten it up a little, and that may help those of you who prefer your orange a little tame. I like the boldness and think this is one of the best orange-chocolate combos ever.


Like the orange, this is pretty much a classic chocolate and jelly flavor combination. The raspberry has a very floral quality to it. It reminded me of a raspberry liqueur (like Chambord). I really liked the fact that it was a very grown-up, realistic raspberry flavor instead of something artificial. Again, I think for a time tested chocolate/jelly candy it is on par with the best of the best.


Ok, I admit it: I was not really looking forward to this one. I love fresh strawberries, but strawberry-flavored items tend to have a nasty aftertaste for me. And unfortunately, this was no exception. Which was a bummer, because after the orange and raspberry beans being so outstanding, I'd gotten my hopes up. Sadly, this bean is just too darn sweet. It skirts the line between tasting like the actual berry, and every cheap strawberry flavored gum on the planet. I think I actually liked the Very Cherry more. And that, my friends, is saying something.

Finally, I saved the one I was most looking forward to for last. (OK, so I just messed up the order in which they're packaged. Shoot me, why doncha?) And that one would be...


Blame it on a young love of piña colada flavored items and the smell of certain sunscreens. Once again, while I hate actual coconut, the coconut bean has always been my favorite of the Jelly Bellys. I know that makes pretty much no sense, but that's the way it is. (OK, that and toasted marshmallow ones -- how great would that be chocolate coated?) I like the slight vanilla edge it has and the sweet tropical flavor. Incidentally, I have already announced I will not be sharing the remainder of these beans, so don't even ask -- y'all know who y'all are!

As a whole, I really liked the Chocolate Dips. I hope they expand the line to more flavors -- I am nominating the marshmallow and popcorn beans.

Since this is a gift box, I am going to give it an overall rating rather than rating the individual beans -- but remember that each bean is also available on its own. If I had rated them individually, I can tell you that the Orange, Raspberry, and Coconut would each be solid, orgasmic 11's...but the Very Cherry and the Strawberry dragged the average down. It's still a very nice gift box, though.

Sample from company


My box was a manufacturer's sample. It sells for $5.99 on the Jelly Belly website.


150 calories per 40 beans.


Box doesn't give any allergen information.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Hostess Strawberry Cupcakes

These new Hostess Strawberry Cupcakes represent the first new full-sized cupcake option Hostess has offered in several years. And I actually have to compliment them for not jumping on the red velvet train. Don't get me wrong -- I happen to really like red velvet cake (if it's well made), but it seems as if every new snack cake type product in the last five years has done red velvet. Usually badly, I might add.

Hostess has been doing a strawberry cupcake in their 100 Calorie Pack line for a couple of years now. (In fact, I reviewed them in a short and boring review you can read for yourself here.) That was the first, last, and only time I bought the cupcakes. And I honestly am working completely off of that review for memory of them.

This box is the first 8-pack of Hostess Cupcakes that I've bought in a long time. (I love the orange ones to an insane degree, and I never see large packs in my area.) Incidentally, is it just me, or has the serving size shrunk?...

Anyway, moving on... The pastel pink is a shade that I am sure little girls who love all things Princess and Barbie would be thrilled to have in their lunch boxes/snack boxes etc. I am not a fan of pink, but even I have to admit it was kind of a fun color for a snack. Like if Mattel made Hannibal Lecter dolls, his anatomically correct polystyrene snacks (fava beans and Chianti sold separately) would probably be this color. And that's pretty darned cool, doncha think?

The smell is all fake strawberry. And, to be lazy and steal from my own review, it does indeed still remind me of children's vitamins. The cake is moist, and while again it has that fake strawberry flavor going on, the taste is better than I remember the 100 calorie version to be.

The filling, not surprisingly, is the standard Hostess filling -- and as such it barely merits a mention. The fondant top was my favorite part. It's just so bad that it's...well, I dunno about good, but it's...well, maybe "interesting" is the right word.

I will admit that much like the first box of the 100 Calorie version, I can't say I will probably ever get another box. But there is something about them that is just so horrible that it's almost good.



Albertsons Supermarket




190 calories per cupcake


Contains eggs, milk, and soy


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wrigley's 5 Gum: Vortex

I really love it when a trip to the gas station ends with more than just the fear that I am going to have to sell my better-working kidney to get half a tank of gas. Well, this time I was pleasantly surprised to find a new flavor of Wrigley's 5 Gum while I was paying...and I of course snapped it up.

Vortex, the newest in the 5 lineup, is a sour green apple flavor. It also marks 5's return to a flavor that is simply gum with no gimmicks, no sizzling on the tongue, no reaction that makes you wonder which horrific corner of the Chernobyl sarcophagus it was dragged out of. Nope, just good old fashioned chewing gum. And ya know what? I can deal with that.

The first thing you notice when you pull off the cellophane is the fact that the smell of fake sour apples can be detected two states away. I guess it could be worse, though -- I would rather have fake sour apple than, say, feet (my father, I think, has actually been banned by the federal government from removing his shoes ever).

Each strip is a nice, civilized pastel green. Think of a pastel green indoor paint color Martha Stewart would approve of, and you've got it. The flavor starts off really strong and juicy...but it is a completely artificial green apple. I'm personally OK with that because let's face it: can you name a single green apple flavored item that tastes like the real thing? (Actually, for you consumers of alcoholic products, this gum tastes almost exactly like the better-living-through-chemistry liqueurs that are used to make appletinis.)

What's kind of odd about this flavor is that it wears off super fast. I'm talking about somewhere around the five minute mark, at best. As the fake apple wears down, the note that lingers is purely floral. Almost like a rose flavored gum, but not as strong (or as good). If you hold the gum in your mouth without chewing for a minute or so it does "recharge" just a bit, but it's not the same.

I dunno what else to say, really. I wanted to love this gum because the 5 line is a favorite of mine, and I like green apple regardless of whether it tastes natural or not...but somehow this gum just falls flat.

Kinda sad, really. Oh well.

Shell gas station




5 calories per stick.


Contains phenylalanine.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Natural Vines Licorice: Strawberry

I have actually had this package of Natural Vines Strawberry Licorice on deck for review since December. The company was nice enough to send samples my way, and unfortunately they arrived the very day I was leaving for Atlanta for the holidays. Then, after my month-long stay there, when I got home...well, things have happened, and I have sadly been slacking on doing reviews since. So my apologies all around. I am trying my best to get back on track.

And really -- what could possibly be better to start my reviews again with than licorice? We all know how much I love it (and if you don't, let's just say I would pick licorice over pretty much all other candy first).

Natural Vines are actually the healthier, more natural sibling of everyone's favorite movie theater licorice twist: the venerable and ever-popular Red Vine. Natural Vines contain no HFCS, soy, cholesterol, or trans-fats. They're suitable for vegans and they're even made at a tree nut-free facility. I highly suspect that they may even wear tiny Birkenstocks and listen to NPR.

This licorice comes in a soft, resealable pouch rather than the flat box of its movie-loving brother. And I like that for my licorice. (Although, to be honest, if I really like it, there's no way it'll last long enough to need resealing.)

Opening the pouch, there's not much in the way of scent. If anything, it smells vaguely like a strawberry candle. But the aroma is nowhere near as intense as that of a regular Red Vine.

Each of the little twists is about one inch long and is roughly a third of an inch in diameter. Unlike the standard Red Vine, which is a hollow tube, these are solid all the way through. The twists have a somewhat translucent red color. And I think Cybele said it best in her review when she said it reminds her (to paraphrase) of strawberry jam in solid form.

But how do they taste?

The strawberry is pleasantly tart -- which I appreciate, as I hate when strawberry flavored items are super-sweet (which is all too common, sadly). At the same time, it won't cause any puckering. In a lot of ways it actually does remind me of a solid version of strawberry jam. Wheat based licorice always has a distinct taste to me; I am unsure how to describe it other than "pasty," and that is definitely present. It's not a bad taste; it's just there.

The texture is chewy but not sticky. If you like to let the licorice dissolve on your tongue, you will get a satisfyingly long-lasting treat -- although it will eventually break up into smaller pieces on its own (but I kind of like that myself, so no complaints).

Oddly enough, I think my favorite part was the aftertaste. It's all semi-sweet strawberry, and it lingers for several minutes.

Truthfully, when it comes to fruit flavored licorice, my heart still belongs to another -- but this is solid entry in the field, and I am looking forward to trying the black licorice version.


Sample from company.


150 calories per 9 piece serving.


Contains wheat. Does not contain HFCS. Cholesterol free, soy free, vegan, made at a tree nut free facility, trans-fat free.