Thursday, January 29, 2015

Toffee Treat KitKat

KitKats are probably one of my most reviewed categories - funny that I'm actually not a huge fan. It just so happens that the format of chocolate, light 'cream', and wafer really lends itself to having limited editions come out, no matter what country you're in. So much so, that this is actually one of two KitKat reviews I plan to do this week.

Maybe I'm more of a fan than I realized...I've covered Shinshu Apple KitKats, Golden Citrus Blend KitKats, Pumpkin KitKats, Matcha Green Tea KitKats, Wasabi KitKats (I'm shuddering inwardly), Baked KitKats, and in some of my earliest baby reviews, the UK Chunky Championships of 2013: Chocolate Fudge, Mint, and Coconut - wherein I crowned coconut to be champion of them all, only for it to fall on deaf ears, as the nation clamored for more, more, more mint & chocolate combinations! By the way, where is our Chunky Championship this year?..or last year, for that matter?

Well, perhaps it's been replaced by a healthy & regular series of limited editions who aren't required to battle, brother against brother, for supremacy. I can dig it.

I've tried the Double Caramel Chunky, and while it was totally nice it didn't inspire me to write a review - although that also was hindered by the fact that it was a "today sucks" treat on the train rather than one of my more ritualized snack sessions at home. Basically, it was good & I'm thankful it existed in that train station Boots.

When I caught wind of these Toffee Treat bars, I was excited - I'm a big fan of Caramac, the Gold bar, and their classy cousin, Valrhona Dulcey...the blonde chocolate. Those sweet, toasty-butterscotch notes are just heaven to me, and when reviews started coming in from the awesome Kev's Snack Reviews & Grocery Gems comparing it favorably to my much-loved Caramac, I was all in.

It's worth noting that the 4-finger packaging does make it a bit harder to notice any new varieties, as I probably walked past the single unit Toffee Treat KitKats a few times before I noticed them. The packaging always just faces upward, rather than outward, so you have to really be looking to see the phrase 'Toffee Treat' and the slightly altered color scheme.

Once discovered, I grabbed one to have with a cup of tea. Really, that's the only way to enjoy chocolate that was gearing up to be this sweet.

The smell is just like a Caramac, which is very sugary & toffee-like. I consider toffee flavored things in the UK to go two ways: sometimes they taste like slightly burnt caramel, and sometimes they taste like what we in America call butterscotch. Just a tiny bit less sweet than plain caramel, and more buttery, vanilla, kind of toasted, and very round if that makes sense. Caramel in America is very one-note, it's just liquefied sugar and I think it's rarely left to brown for long in industrial kitchens. Butterscotch is the more interesting choice as it's rich like brown sugar (versus white sugar) or toffee. That's why I like English toffee things as much as I do - because it's not caramel as I know it.

So, long toffee aside...aside, this was totally delicious with tea. Without tea, yeah, it was a bit too sweet. When you add in the slightly savoury hit of a PG Tips dunk, however, it's ambrosial. I'd go so far as to say that when dipped in tea, this reminded me of the Valrhona Dulcey. Cheap way to get that sweet, toasty, buttery & rich flavor with the cirspitty crunch of a KitKat.

Shame this one will be limited edition, because it's a really nice addition to the 4-finger style KitKat.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Muller De Luxe Corner, Cherry Kirsch

I've been a fan of this deluxe version of Crunch Corners since the beginning. I think they're up to about 6 or 7 varieties, and my favorite was the Marc de Champagne variety. It had a strawberry compote, champagne flavored yogurt, and cocoa-dusted biscuit balls. I think fruity flavors really go best with yogurt, since the natural tang of plain yogurt goes well with the natural tang of fruity flavors. Most of the other flavors out are more 'dessert-like', so coconut, praline, chocolate, and vanilla. While these are nice, with yogurts like that I can't help but think, "Gee, this would be better as a pie or something." Fruit & yogurt are more of a natural match than traditional dessert flavors & yogurt.

So I was excited to see this new Cherry Kirsch variety, which seems to accompany another new flavor that isn't yet available at my local shop - Raspberry Parfait - which looks amazing.

The whipped cream cherry kirsch yogurt is thick & so creamy - the whipped cream takes off some of the tang, which makes this easier on the palate as a dessert. It's got a very slight pink hue. It's not a strong or artificial flavor, but it is not exactly natural either. The sweetness reminds me of amerena cherries, which stands to reason as I think those cherries are marinated in syrup. Not like a candied maraschino, but no real sourness like in a fresh cherry.

 The chocolate syrup at the bottom is just slightly thinner than the yogurt with a dark & tiny-bit-bitter taste. So far, so good - I'm a big fan of chocolate covered cherries and this approximates the taste well.

The only place this one falls down a bit is with the 'corner' aspect, which is meant to be dark chocolate covered cherry infused digestive bits. The coating seems cheap & artificial with no pleasant melt. Just sort of flakes off in my mouth rather than melts in a creamy way. Some of that might be a symptom of being refrigerated, but either way it seems more like a dark chocolate flavored 'candy melt' rather than actual dark chocolate. The digestive biscuit 'bits' are crispy & tasteless all but for the sugar by themselves. As for the cherry infusion, yeah, it's there - but it's not very strong at all.

There were plenty of them, but they just sort of loomed over the smooth & lovely taste of the yogurt and didn't mesh that well. Honestly, I'd rather have had this without any of the corner pretenses. Save some calories & maybe make it a bit cheaper?

I'm not sure why the corner didn't work well, because in the marc de champagne variety they're the best part. They're both meant to be biscuit bits, but one is coated in dark chocolate infused with cherry, and the other is cocoa powder dusted. The issue does really seem to stem from the coating. It's a shame it's such a let down!

If I had to make a guess for the next flavor (and yeah...kind of a wish too) I'm thinking a Jaffa-style chocolate & orange version could do really nicely.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Banana Split Oreos

It's been a few months since my last review of American cookies, and so I'm not sure if these are even still available in the USA. Thanks Granddad! :)

I never used to be a fan of banana, both natural or artificial - but living here in the UK it became such a rare flavor option that it's a bit more tempting. I've also became a fan of actual banana, but that's just because I try to compensate for my lack of nutrition by eating the occasional real fruit.

So these Oreos are comprised of the basic elements of a banana split: banana & strawberry split creme center, and one Golden Oreo (vanilla) and one classic chocolate Oreo. So, lots of different flavors at play here. Do they all mesh well like a fine Banana Split, or are they a disjointed mess like a peppermint, marshmallow & pretzel sundae? I'm fine either way - they both sound nice. As my family knows, I'll eat any ice cream concoction.

These, however, could be enjoyed by even the most traditional of ice cream flavor enthusiasts! I will admit, the flavor balance isn't perfect - the banana flavor is the strongest by far, followed by the chocolate. I'd say for a true banana split it's vanilla first and foremost, than banana, than strawberry, than chocolate. It's just a bit off here, but still very tasty. It's very artificial banana, so if you're unaccepting of that than you should definitely look elsewhere. Maybe mash a banana & replace the filling of a Heads or Tails Oreo for a more natural taste?

The strawberry definitely gets lost - it's also more sweet than I prefer, as I like artificial-yet-tangy strawberry. I can see how that wouldn't go as nicely with chocolate.

One option is that they could've removed the chocolate Oreo biscuit from the equation, because then that would allow the less dominant flavors like strawberry & vanilla to shine a bit more. Personally, when I think banana split I think vanilla, banana, nuts, and most importantly - tons of whipped cream. I don't consider the drizzle of chocolate sauce to really play much into it other than presentation, and until I Googled an image of an actual banana split I didn't even really realize it was meant to have strawberry ice cream as well. I was more of a Turtle or Brownie Sundae fan, myself.

I didn't try these topped with whipped cream, however I did consider it. Now, crumbled up over a real banana split? Great idea - however, we're trying to save a bit of money & eat healthier, so adding up chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream and strawberry ice cream...suddenly I'm doing neither of those things, even worse than I'm already doing neither of those things.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Grape Soda Collon

What you're reading is not the results of my latest physical. It's a biscuit from Japan.

Lots of people know Collon already, it's made the rounds for a few years online due to it's funny name, much like Calpis. The weirdest thing about Collon is not only is the name strange, it's kind of an accurate word given the shape and style of the biscuit. It's a cylinder filled with...filling. Let's just say, don't think about it too much while you're eating one. Or line them all up end to end to explain the digestive system to your children.

They look sort of like sweet Combos (which now apparently exist in America?) and I really like Combos. Will that translate through to the Japanese Collon? Or will it be yet another hilarious translation error?

It was weird - real weird. The pastry shell was thin & quite tasteless, and it cleaved apart in sort of a cheap, unpleasant way. It would've benefited from a sugar dusting, or to just be thinner. As it was, the tasteless & dry non-flavor really wasn't nice. Maybe if the filling had been a bit nicer?

Unfortunately, it wasn't.

The promise of grape soda is a tough one to actually fulfill, especially when the medium you're working in is fake pastry with a sugar-cream filling. The fine folks at Glico did a bang-up job: the filling did taste like grape soda. "What's the problem, then? Why are you so picky? All Glico wanted to do was stuff your fat American mouth with soda pop & pastry shells, and you got a beef? Get outta here, Creamy Steaks. Cram it!" you are saying - by the way, how dare you - to which I respond, "Nobody asked for tiny, fake grape soda pies."

Yeah, as you probably expected grape soda is best as a soda pop, a hard candy, or a gummy. The slightly foamy, gritty, and thick filling of a Collon is probably decent when it's chocolate or vanilla, or something that might naturally give you a 'thick' mouthfeel. The fizzy bits were cute, and did work - there were noticeable little pockets of fizz as I ate. It didn't help the strange sensation of thick grape soda clogging up my throat, though.

It was a weird experience, and one I'd prefer not to repeat - but I know if I saw a cola, lemonade, or melon soda version of these I'd buy them too. I'm a glutton for candy experimentation.

If you are similarly be-glutton'd, check out Blippo - never used them, but I've heard they're fine - inexplicably this variety of Collon is sold out almost everywhere else Japanese snacks are sold online.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Russell Stover Wedding Cake Big Bite

Yet another Russell Stover review! After being so impressed by the Pumpkin Pie Big Bite, I was looking forward to this wedding cake flavor in a big way. Not that I've really had much wedding cake in my life - as a matter of fact, I think I've had it just once. At my own wedding we didn't have a formal 'cake', really. We had a very small wedding & for lots of reasons I'm glad we did that - but I really missed being able to pick out a cake, haha. Maybe someday! The wedding cake I once had was when I was probably in the single digits, so I don't recall it except for that it was probably sweet & I probably liked it.

So, this is my first really cognizant experience with wedding cake. Thanks Russell, but if this is a proposal I'm afraid I'm already taken. However, if you keep it up with these novelty cake chocolates...

Classy packaging for a drugstore chocolate in the USA, goldish foil. I wonder if anyone has actually used these as wedding favors? The big bite is a very substantial chocolate, as you may guess by the name. This one being white chocolate based runs the risk of being overly sweet, but let's see...

It smells like just solid sugar - like when you've just made up a bowl of royal icing. Not bad, but didn't inspire much feeling in me. I like sugar as much as the next candy blogger, but I also like a little flavor with my sugar.

As I feared, it's mostly just sweet. To be fair though, it does taste like fondant. Like a creamy, ganache version of a fondant. It could've done with a bit of something more, or if the chocolate coating itself was a fattier, less sweet version of white chocolate - or perhaps even dark chocolate. However, that would sort of defeat the purpose because most wedding cakes are white-on-white. One thing they could've done though, maybe use an almond filling instead of just 'white cake'. I think there are lots of wedding cakes that use marzipan, it would've been nicer & still on theme.

There was a subtle hint of tang that can either be flour from an unbaked cake mix, or cream cheese frosting. I'm glad I split this one, because eating an entire wedding cake big bite might result in a very unladylike show of vomitousness. Or at the very least prompt a high school Homer Simpson impression.

 It's very sweet, and that means something coming from me. I can't say I recommend this one, but there are a few varieties that sound nicer: carrot cake, birthday cake (milk chocolate covered) and the pumpkin pie was definitely good. Go with one of those, and you could probably manage it all by yourself. The Russell Stover Big Bite is a nice line, and I'd happily try more. I hope they continue to experiment with flavors of cake, pie, and dough.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Russell Stover Pumpkin Pie Big Bite

Happy 2015, everyone! The last half of 2014 was quite dead for my blog, and that stinks. So one of my resolutions is to update a bit more regularly. I enjoy getting my thoughts out about subjects like...snacks & restaurants, but I'm thinking I'l try & expand a bit this year. I'm considering sharing/documenting some recipes I make. Could be fun, huh? My other resolution is to be a bit more healthy & smart about what I eat. Ha, yeah, they're kind of in opposition. I also want to start blogging about food news across the world - my old occasional series, 'Food I'd Like to Eat' - I should bring that back. It was a fun way to highlight food from around the world, without me having to actually eat it! We'll see what 2015 brings - hopefully a good balance between fun blog posts & healthy eating.

We'll start with something fun.

Russell Stover is a brand I've written about a few times on the blog, their brand never used to catch my eye in the USA but they've really expanded their lines & started doing more interesting combinations: things like Red Velvet filled Santas & Caramel Apple Big Bites. Luckily the patriot snack-suppliers of American Sweets stock a great selection of Russell Stover holiday offerings & general catalog chocolates. Let your sweet flag fly & choco-buy. 2015 is going to contain a lot more awkward wordplay. Get used to it.

Pumpkin pie is one of my favorite desserts, but it can be a bit overly spiced - especially when the components of it don't actually contain pumpkin. If it's just pumpkin pie flavored stuff, there is a good chance it will be overly cinnamon-y.

The bar is super heavy, being a part of the 'big bite' series it's kind of a giant version of a chocolate box chocolate, visually. It's a nice look, and something different from just a bar or an egg. It's a way to sell big fat seasonal items kind of year round - now red velvet doesn't have to involve Santa - nor does coconut cream have to be held down by Easter's egg monopoly. You can just have a big hunk of chocolate filled with coconut cream - all the fun of filled chocolates filling-to-chocolate ratio (high filling, low chocolate), but secular!

The chocolate was surprisingly high quality for Russell Stover - I say that every time I review them now, but maybe it's time I acknowledge that they've actually improved upon this base recipe quite a bit since say, 2010. It wasn't really dark, but it wasn't very milky or sweet. Maybe most similar to an American semi-sweet chocolate chip, in terms of taste. Your classic Tollhouse.

The filling was lovely. Smooth and very sweet - with just a bit of warming spice as you would expect in a pumpkin pie. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and maybe a tiny hint of ginger. I think the part I liked best about the filling was the thick and kinda 'gungy' nature of it - a lot like true pumpkin pie filling. Excellent texture & a sweet, spicy taste! Went really well with a cup of tea.

When I bought this bar on American Sweets I didn't notice that had a graham cracker attached to it - but man, am I ever glad it did. The graham cracker added some legitimate pie-feelings & a good bit of salty crunch to break up the gungy sweetness of the filling. Even though it had came a bit loose in transit, it had held up remarkably well for something that came all the way across the Atlantic ocean!

I'd happily order this bar again & I'm looking forward to more of the Big Bite line...perhaps only just once in awhile this year, though. D'oh!