Archive for January, 2010

I’ve got a mint kick on. Continuing in that cool blue vein, I’ve come to Junior Mints – one of my favorite candies and the only reason I survived The Mummy Three: Rise of The Contents of My Stomach. Ironically, they were also the chief reason I consented to see the film in the first place. Love stinks, no? Such are the passions inspired by these delicate little rounds of pure joy.

A modest man, James O. Welch founded the James O. Welch Company of Cambridge Massachusetts in 1927, piddling away his days with brother Robert (who would later go on to found the John Birch Society of Notable Nutjobs) making fudge, trifle, treacle and tarts*. In 1949, James and Co. got the bright idea of basing a new mint confection around the then popular film (and book and radio series) “Junior Miss.”  “Junior Mints” would be sold in theaters, taking advantage not only of the homophonic relationship between the name of the film and the confection itself, but also of the closely integrated “vend and watch” sales approach of movie houses. Really, we didn’t have a chance.

Still, a lousy product wouldn’t have survived more than half a century, right? God?

Indubitably, Junior Mints are the Shrimp on the Bar-B. Sure, they’re softer than a frog in a warm plate of water–  a far cry from York Peppermint Patties and a distinction that confection prides itself upon— but I’ve always felt that reaching into a box of Junior Mints and pulling out a giant flotilla, mortared together by the focused gleam of cinema lights on the candy counter, is all part of the charm. Anyway, this phenomenon doesn’t affect the taste. Semi-sweet chocolate (is there any better? We all know what you do with those bags of chocolate chips when you’re not in the mood for cookies) and gooey, thick peppermint crème is one flavor combination that’ll always put a smile on my face no matter how much self-loathing I accrue sitting through your average Hollywood slag-fest, knowing I shelled double digit dollars in it’s honor. I dare say, it might even all be worth it when those lights come down and I’m in the dark with Junior Mints.

*There is no official record of James O. Welch Co. ever having consorted with Trifle, Treacle or Tarts. However, compelling primary sources indicate its involvement here, here and here.

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in Candy, Chocolate, Reviews, Semi-Sweet Chocolate

15 Jan

Play it Cool. Real Cool. 0

York Peppermint Patties dropped quietly out of Henry C. Kessler’s Cone Factory in York Pennsylvania in 1940 and soon began the often thankless but truly essential work of soberly refreshing breath one frosty bite at a time.

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Granted, there were other mint chocolates on the market, but York boasted an attribute that soon saw it snapping the top spot on the peppermint pyramid. Where contenders melted, gooed, and crumbled, York Peppermint Patties hung tough and together, hardly ever succumbing to the soupifying effects of sun, pockets, or pleather automobile interiors. Though I love and respect the likes of Junior Mints, we all know they have a tendency to turn to putty in our hands. Not so with The Patty, whose bite is always clean and whose cleave is always crisp (unless you sit on it. But c’mon, that’s your fault).

peppermintpatty

Though admirable, the Patty’s constitution alone isn’t enough to make it a great confection. Fortunately, it also offers a refreshingly mature and balanced combination of flavors. The chocolate shell is dark, bitter and complex with just enough earthy, coffee hints to provide a perfect foil to the bright, sweet, peppermint crème that fills out the bulk of each patty. With the unique soft, yet snappy texture, York Peppermint Patties are a remarkably refined example of candy construction, available all across the globe and of course, for your convenience at Candy.com.

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in Candy, Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, Reviews

13 Jan

Fit for Mr. Ed 0

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Twix has been giving people in the good old US of A a moment to chew things over for over 30 years now which, according to the laws of decision dynamics, means more than enough time for all parties venerable and candy-conscious to have come down firmly on one side of the “I likes it” fence or the other. It’s younger sibling, Peanut Butter Twix popped out of Mars inc. in 1983, and while it never seemed to see the same massive exposure as its caramel-coated forbear, it’s graced enough mouths to safely assume that the collective jury’s long since been called back. The verdict? Apparently Twix Peanut Butter didn’t quite cut the mustard since the bar was retired in 1997. Three long years of dimly lit basements, high priced e-bay lots, and neighbors against brothers may or may not have ensued before Peanut Butter Twix enthusiasts were overjoyed to learn that Mars hadn’t forsaken them. 2000 saw the release of a tricked out, generation NOW! Peanut Butter Twix redux known as “Twix PB.” Fans rejoiced, returned to the light and thanked whatever is in charge that one thing, at least, seemed right in the world.

man in praise

But was it?

If you’ve bitten into a Twix PB lately, perhaps looking for an opportunity to temporarily obfuscate some or other of your many wrong doings with a hastily concocted ploy, you’ve probably noticed that the wafer’s changed. Specifically, the wafer’s no longer plain, but rather chocolate. Sound good? To many it may– but while I don’t entirely disagree with the premise, I take issue with the execution.

MrEd

First, the chocolate wafer can’t hold a candle to the original. This has less to do with the wafer’s flavor and more to do with the wafer’s consistency, which is distinctly crumblier and lacks the crisp bite that makes the original Twix such an appealing blend of textures. This could perhaps be forgiven if the chocolate wafer had any real merit beyond filling up space– space, I might add, which crumbles away too fast for even glib Mars executives to think of a way to distract us.  While the milk chocolate coating and creamy subcutaneous peanut butter are without fault, they’re powerless against the forces of mediocrity that seem to have taken a particularly strong interest in this bar. Eating Twix PB is not unpleasant, but fans of the original will thank Mars (totally sarcastically) that, at least in this country, they’ve got a constitutionally protected right to horde Peanut Butter Twix in cool, dark places.

“Be[twixt] thought and expression, there lies a lifetime.”

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in Candy, Candy Tips, Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, Reviews

8 Jan

Investigating Mr. Goodbar 0

Exhibit A: The Way We Are

Exhibit A: The Way We Are

To me, it tasted good. I didn’t know about the lack of cocoa butter, the cheap oil substitutes, the novel inspired by Ms. Roseanne Quinn, or the subsequent film adaptation. What I did know was that Mr. Goodbar has been a revered member of HERSHEY’S (yes, they like their name capitalized, take it up with them) elite team of Bar-Like Chocolates since well before I was born, and as such, deserved my respectful attention.

When I review products for this blog, I tend to eat first and ask questions later. While this isn’t an advisable strategy in many other of life’s near-infinite contexts, in the case of this column, I believe it elicits the most honesty by ensuring none of my research comes between me and the important (albeit fallible) first-impressions. When it came to Mr. Goodbar, these were almost entirely positive.  Solid, sweet-but-not-brain-scrambling milk chocolate, peanuts chopped to a unique, ingratiatingly fine size creating a blend of flavors and textures that felt satisfyingly complete, but not overdone.

Then I started reading.

Exhibit B: The Way We Were

Exhibit B: The Way We Were

Apparently, while still technically a kind of chocolate, Mr. Goodbar hasn’t been made with cocoa butter (or at least not enough for the FDA to consider the stuff milk chocolate) since the early 1990’s. Instead, a cheaper oil-based stand-in is used, prompting HERSHEY to print the subtly ambiguous slogan “Made with Chocolate and Peanuts” on every Mr. Goodbar. Sounds kind of icky, and seems a bit disingenuous of HERSHEY to obscure the fact that its milk-chocolate tasting confection isn’t quite what it seems, but such are the vicissitudes of marketing. They’re not lying per se, since Mr. Goodbar undeniably contains chocolate, just sugar-coating a bit.

None of this news, of course, diminishes the fact that Mr. Goodbar ranks as a definite Good Bar on my list of Good Bars, but I do see it as part of my duty as a reviewer to bring these matters to the attention of readers, for whatever it might be worth. And I can’t help but wonder, since I really do enjoy the “compromised second draft,” what the original Mr. Goodbar was like. How about an anniversary classic recipe, back to basics revival, HERSHEY, for all those of us who never got to try the first generation or are still pining for the good old days? Or what about a concomitant increase in cocoa powder for that edgier taste so in vogue these days? Is there perhaps a Mrs. GoodBar? Just sayin…

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in Candy, Candy Tips, Chocolate, Reviews