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REVIEW: Milk Chocolate Gingerbread M&M’s

Written by | December 2, 2013

Topics: 6 Rating, Candy, M&M's

Milk Chocolate Gingerbread M&M's

Hansel and Gretel is your favorite book. You have plans to visit, construct, and/or consume the entire gingerbread village in Bergen, Norway. You are still upset that Conrad Vernon did not win an Oscar for his work as Gingy in Shrek.

If any of the above describes you, you may be a connoisseur of zingiber officinale, or, in lazier, un-Latin terms, a Gingerbread Fiend. As a fanatic of this spicy rhizome, you’ve likely fallen prey to gingerbread’s warm spice, it’s slight zing, it’s common appearance as a tasty anthropomorphized cookie. Fortunately for Fiends, winter is primetime for gingerbread fury, and as a tribute to all gingery goods, M&M’s seem to have gotten their holiday jingle on and smooshed up some gingerbread into a bulbous, lentil-y speckle.

Milk Chocolate Gingerbread M&M's Spilling out into the wild

Right off the bat, these little chocolate bites exude character. Mars traditionally forms their beady, M-stamped confections in one of three sizes: the smaller milk chocolate M, the medium “Filled with something” M, or the increasingly popular “We have a holiday and/or special occasion, so we’ll make them HUGE” M. All forms have their benefits and downfalls, so it was much to my delight/surprise/befuddlement to uncover that this bag seemed to house in all three sizes.

Milk Chocolate Gingerbread M&M's Gingerbread Death Star

Some M’s are small and thin, some medium, some completely overstuffed, the size of a miniature Death Star. All of this variation in spherical shape promises great texture, but there is still one question left unanswered: are they filled? Are cookies involved?! Could they perhaps hold the crunchity limb of a former gingerbread man inside?!?!

Milk Chocolate Gingerbread M&M's Where are the gingerbread cookies?!

No.

It came without cookies. It came without cakey innards. It came without crispity fillings or baked goodies in any form.

Somewhere, the Pillsbury doughboy weeps.

But all is not lost for gingerbread lovers of the world. While the whole “bread” portion is notably absent, the shadow of ginger spice remains. The chocolate starts off with the familiar sweet, sugary grit that accompanies the common M&M experience, then leans into a slight zing of ginger, and ends with a cinnamon/nutmeg warmth that could sooth an angry South Appalachian Grizzly.

But where these M’s really shine is when paired with other goods. Spicy, crunchy, chocolatey bits get even better when coupled with crispity and/or creamy bits. Put ‘em on ice cream, sprinkle them on your cereal, leave a trail of them outside your door and watch as small children gather. If you encounter an unnecessarily angry suburban shopper during a Black Friday Sale, dump these in with some Muddy Buddies and give them to him/her. Your recipient will be happy. Sugar-crazed and happy.

Milk Chocolate Gingerbread M&M's At the end of the Gingerbread journey

At the end of the journey, I am of two minds on these little nibbles of confection. They are munchable, sweet, and spiced just enough to add some dimension to the regular M&M experience. They come in all sorts of sizes and make a mean trail mix that could knock the wig off my grandmother faster than an Arizona dust storm. However, they have no gingerbread cake, biscuit, or cookie of any sort inside, and, really, what’s gingerbread without the “bread”?

Some may call it, “Gingerbread spice.” Others may call it, “Gingerbread Identity Crisis.” I call it lying, and I certainly wouldn’t risk lying this time of the year, Mars. Santa’s watching…

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 oz or 1/4 cup – 210 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 30 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 27 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Milk Chocolate Gingerbread M&M’s
Purchased Price: $2.88
Size: 9.9 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Variations in size. Some M’s are the size of miniature Death Stars. Sugary zing. Spices add some depth. Reasons to consume limbs of anthropomorphized cookies. Could sooth an angry South Appalachian Grizzly.
Cons: Cookies not included. Absence of filling of any sort. Gingerbread identity crisis. Unnecessarily angry suburban mothers. Conrad Vernon did not win an Oscar for his work as Gingy.

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REVIEW: Gingerbread Twix Cookie Bars

Written by | November 6, 2013

Topics: 9 Rating, Candy, Twix

Gingerbread Twix

I have mixed feelings when it comes to holiday food items. On one hand, I detest peppermint with the kind of passion Buffalo Bills fans usually reserve for anything New York Jets related. By the same token, I can’t get behind this trend of covering everything in chocolate and somehow proclaiming it to have something to do with Plymouth Rock, Santa Claus, the Baby Jesus, a dreidel, or even some damn Festivus pole. Yes, Santa is fat, and eating everything covered in chocolate will probably make you fat, but if that’s the only connection you’re making, then you’ve lost me.

On the other hand, the months of November and December mean gingerbread. Warm and slightly spicy, with a distinctive honey-molasses flavor and usually a smiling face that gets bitten off first, gingerbread people make peppermint and fruitcake and all that other trite holiday crap I usually feed to my uncle’s dog completely worth it.

But what happens when simple, traditional, and thank-God-it-never-changes gingerbread is suddenly subjected to one of my biggest pet peeves of holiday food merchandising and covered in milk chocolate? That was the question at stake when I beheld the Limited Edition Gingerbread Twix on the shelves of Walmart.

At first, I was offended. How could I not be? It struck me as a bastardization of a candy I had only fond memories of as a child. Vague and clouded as those memories are from what surely was a sugar-induced Halloween experience, Twix always made it into my “keeper” pile. Dare I say, I think an 11-year-old Adam, dressed up in a horribly oversized Admiral Ackbar mask, may have actually proclaimed Twix to be the most underrated candy of all time.

However, recent samplings of leftover Halloween candy from the office candy bowl do not corroborate these memories. Don’t get me wrong, Twix is far from offensive, but as one of the 74.3%* of candy bars that combine caramel, chocolate, and something crunchy, it hardly stands out. So you might say I passed from offended to intrigued, and having no self-discipline whatsoever, bought a bag of Gingerbread Twix.

*Completely unscientific number based on RFG (Random Fucking Guess) sampling. Should you actually try to confirm this number, I believe you’d come remarkably close.

Gingerbread Twix 2

An initial crunch of the fun size wafer reveals everything good about the classic Twix and more. With a sturdy cookie base and some really excellent Stretch Armstrong action from the above caramel, it’s crunchy in a way that doesn’t fragment into a zillion tiny candy pieces. The initial flavor is milk chocolate—-and not, mind you, Hershey’s cheap kind of milk chocolate—-with sweet caramel, and a hint of buttery sugar cookie.

After the initial taste of chocolate and caramel, there emerges a certain je ne sais quoi flavor element. Like a symphony, it increases gradually in its volume and intensity. A slightly spicy-sweet note that tastes just like a gingerbread cookie serves as this candy’s crescendo. There’s also a s’mores element, and, as odd as it sounds, it makes sense given the notes of cinnamon and honey that both graham crackers and gingerbread share (at least, any of the graham crackers worth eating if you ask me.)

After carefully extracting the chocolate, cookie, and caramel elements and sampling them independently, it tastes as if the gingerbread flavor rests within the chocolate coating, and not, as the package indicates, in the caramel. Not overpowering, the gingerbread flavor nevertheless is the defining taste of the singular bite, and for some strange reason it just works wonderfully with the chocolate.

Gingerbread Twix 3

What I like about the use of gingerbread in Twix as opposed to other candy bars is that there’s a default contrast in textures offered from the crunchy and moist interplay of the cookie and caramel elements, respectively. Seeing as though gingerbread is sometimes served as a moist cake or cookie and other times served as a harder biscuit-like cookie, this appeal to both kinds of textures is optimal. As for why gingerbread suddenly seems to work with the combination of chocolate and caramel, you’ve got me. Perhaps it’s that Christmas magic that powers Santa’s sleigh and allows reindeer to fly, or maybe it’s just that Twix was always very good and just needed a little extra oomph, but this candy bar is what I like to call sneaky awesome.

Frankly, it’s good enough to make me admit I might need to rethink this chocolate-covered everything holiday boycott I’ve had going on. Just don’t make me try anything peppermint flavored, because that’s one holiday food aversion I’m never going to give up.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cookie – 80 calories, 35 calories from fat, 4 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 11 grams of carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 8 grams of sugars, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Gingerbread Twix Cookie Bars
Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 10 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Actually tastes like a gingerbread cookie. Covered in real milk chocolate. And it works! Textural contrast. Gives the usual Twix flavor the kind of oomph that also makes reindeer fly and Santa fit down chimneys. No remorse or guilt for decapitating gingerbread people with one swift bite. Portion control.
Cons: Rethinking holiday food aversions. Buying Christmas candy before Halloween. No royal icing. Not getting to decapitate a gingerbread person in some misguided Godzilla-type fantasy.

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REVIEW: Hershey’s Rally Bar (2013)

Written by | October 24, 2013

Topics: 7 Rating, Candy, Hershey's

Rally Bar

Having witnessed multiple variations of time travel in movies, I’ve learned that some methods of journeying into the past are more dangerous than others. For example:

  • I might get sucked in a black hole (Star Trek)
  • I might have to become a hyper-intelligent wizard in a near-death situation (Harry Potter)
  • I might have to drive 88 miles per hour on a suburban street (Back to the Future), which would encourage speeding tickets from my local law enforcement

Because I know that Hollywood is fact-checking all its sources, one can only conclude that time travel can be painful, high-maintenance, and/or involve unnecessary trips to traffic court. Nonetheless, I often dream of going back and snagging a taste of some of those rare products that disappeared before my time. Thankfully, Hershey’s is sparing me the toil of arranging time travel transportation by resurrecting their Rally Bar from its 1970s grave and stashing it at Walgreens all over the land.

Taking inspiration from its longstanding confectionary kin, the Rally bar compresses the caramel-peanut combo of a Pay Day with the lumpy, bumpy look of a Baby Ruth, resulting in a chocolate covered, peanut-coated caramel log that may or may not be a geographically correct interpretation of the Austrian Mountains.

Rally Bar The hills are alive! With the sound of music!

“The hills are alive with the sound of music!”

Diving right in, the chocolate is quick to melt, sweet, and fudgy. This is trademark Hershey’s chocolate: the kind that gets gooey on s’mores and calls forth multiple washes of your jeans after it melts in your pocket in 80-degree weather. Its palm-oil-y layer is sugary with a hint of cocoa to remind you it’s chocolate. On its own, the coating hangs off the cliff of getting too sweet. Thankfully, the peanuts and caramel nougat are there to back it up.

The structural support beam of the bar comes in the form of the nougat, which has a bit of an identity crisis. Is it caramel? Is it vanilla? At times it’s both, and I’m okay with that because it’s surrounded by a stringy, Twix-like caramel. This spin on the sticky sweet stuff gives its taste headline to the dextrose while a buttery-nut chaser comes in at the end, and anything with a chaser makes things better.

Rally Bar Gooey innards

The peanuts are outright impressive. These aren’t those puny little nubbins you might get on your discount $49 plane ride you booked on that questionable discount travel site. These are huge, fresh specimens, lightly toasted without a trace of bitterness. Mr. Peanut would approve.

Room temperature, the Rally is pleasant, but, when given a 3-7 second nuke in the microwave, every element heightens to a new form. The caramel gets goopier, the chocolate more fudgy, and the peanuts ride this chocolate slip-and-slide with ease, and all because of seven seconds in my radiation-grade mini-oven. While attempting to maneuver this goopy, malleable mass of chocolate from the 600-watt microwave into my mouth, all I could think was, “Man, this would be great in my morning oatmeal.” And it was. It was also quite good topped with potato chips. No matter how you eat it, eat it while it’s hot.*

*The unofficial title of my debut rap album.

This Rally resurrection reinforces the hypothesis that, when one combines chocolate, caramel, and peanuts in the right ratios, Goodness results. The bar itself is nothing groundbreaking, but just because it isn’t unique doesn’t make it un-delicious. It’s got a funky shape, a sugary coating, and peanuts that tide me over till the next meal/mini meal/snack/pre-dinner chomp/midnight craving strikes, so welcome back, Rally. It’s good to have you.

(Nutrition Facts – 230 calories, 110 calories from fat, 13 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 24 grams of sugars, and 4 grams of protein..)

Item: Hershey’s Rally Bar
Purchased Price: 97 cents
Size: 1.66 oz
Purchased at: Walgreens
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Fudgy. Stringy, sweet caramel. Fresh, chunky peanuts. Similar to a chocolate covered Pay Day. Even better when microwaved. Slip-and-slides made of fudge. Underdogs. Time Travel.
Cons: Chocolate flavor stunted by palm oil. Caramel may be too dextrose-forward for some. Only available at Walgreens. Washing chocolate out of your jeans. Getting sucked in a black hole. Speeding tickets.

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QUICK REVIEW: Lindt Hello My Name is Cookies & Cream Bar

Written by | September 17, 2013

Topics: 9 Rating, Candy, Lindt

Lindt Hello My Name is Cookies & Cream

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 3.5 oz.
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: It did make my tummy yummy. Smooth and sweet milk chocolate. Almost makes me forget about my beloved, but discontinued Cookies & Cream Twix. Big bar. Stuffed with cookies and cream filling. Small cookie bits give the bar light, but satisfying crunch. Uses “cream” instead of “creme” in its name.
Cons: Fifty percent of your daily recommended saturated fat in one serving (4 pieces). So good that it makes me want to eat more than one serving in one sitting. Sweet cream filling might make the bar cloying for some. Cookie bits aren’t really noticeable in terms of flavor; they get lost in the milk chocolate.

Lindt Hello My Name is Cookies & Cream Closeup

Nutrition Facts: 4 pieces – 220 calories, 130 calories from fat, 15 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 20 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein.

Other reviews: Grocery Gems, Lot-o-Choc, Chocolate Mission

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REVIEW: Pumpkin Spice M&M’s

Written by | September 3, 2013

Topics: 4 Rating, Candy, M&M's

M&M's Pumpkin Spice

I originally planned to take a picture of the new Pumpkin Spice M&M’s in a seasonal and traditional setting laced with a backdrop of Indian corn, scarecrows, and autumnal delicacies. Heck, I would have even settled for an NFL tailgate. But since these new chocolate candies started hitting stores before kids went back to school and because my garden is filled with nothing but basil, feel free to use your imagination when looking at the photos throughout this review.

Not that I’m complaining about the arrival of anything pumpkin related. I was the guy who hoarded Pumpkin Pie Spice Pringles last year. But pumpkin means fall is here (or around the corner) which means exchanging humid summer days for watching football during breezy fall afternoons.

I’m sure the usual pumpkin spice-flavored suspects will be out in force again this year — Pumpkin Pie Pop-Tarts, McDonald’s Pumpkin Pie, and my personal favorite, Edy’s Pumpkin Ice Cream – but joining the pumpkin patch for the first time are these lovable M&M’s. Lovable because seriously, how can you not love a talking chocolate candy guy with a pumpkin on his head?

M&M's Pumpkin Spice Comparison

Pumpkin Spice M&M’s are bigger than your standard M&M’s (shown here in white) but not quite as oblong or imposing as Peanut of Almond M&M’s. I’m guessing the shell color choices of orange, green, and brown were meant to correspond to a pumpkin’s color. Beyond each colored shell is a sweet milk chocolate.

M&M's Pumpkin Spice Super Closeup

Now I know what you’re thinking. “Whoa there, why not white chocolate? That buttery, frosting-like taste was such a winning flavor with the Carrot Cake M&M’s, and would go pa-pa-perfectly with the pumpkin spice!” Well all I can say is hey, I feel you. While I don’t think anyone but the Nazis have opposed classic Milk Chocolate M&M’s, the simple truth is that they’re kind of plain on their own.

And Pumpkin Spice M&M’s aren’t much different. As I crunched down on a single candy, all I initially tasted was chocolate. True, it’s better than tasting raw pumpkin, but I was expected something a little more scrumptious. Then, almost as an aftertaste, a hint of cinnamon emerged. Here’s the thing though; it’s not that traditional vanilla and cinnamon warmth that one usually associates with pumpkin. Instead, it’s kind of a wimpy version of Cinnamon Red Hots. Cool and vaguely spicy, it’s more of a sensation than a flavor, and it’s not something that goes with the milk chocolate flavor. To use a gardening analogy, it’s like a pumpkin in a field of basil.

M&M's Pumpkin Spice Closeup

I may lack the discernible taste receptors to differentiate on the minute differences between cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, and whatever else might go into the ubiquitous “pumpkin spice,” but having tasted the flavor in a variety of products, I’m pretty sure at least a few of those spices were left out of the party. While the taste of cinnamon resonates weakly in the aftertaste, the truth is you’ve got to eat these one at a time and slowly to really take advantage.

Yeah, like anyone actually does that with M&M’s.

If you’ve been one of the few people who’ve secretly got their candy fix by chugging both Milk Chocolate M&M’s and Cinnamon Red Hots, well, these Pumpkin Spice M&M’s are going to make you happy. Otherwise, you’ll just want to stick with your standard favorite M&M’s variety.

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 oz. – 210 calories, 80 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 30 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of dietary fiber, 27 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Pumpkin Spice M&M’s
Purchased Price: $3.00
Size: 9.9 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Forcing autumn. Bigger than standard M&M’s. Tastes took much like regular M&Ms. Doesn’t melt in your hands. Using candy to help defeat the Nazis.
Cons: Weird cinnamon aftertaste doesn’t go with chocolate. Not really pumpkin spicy. No actual pumpkin involved, despite oddly noted gram of fiber. Bigger than standard M&M’s, which could mean eating about 75 grams of sugar without realizing it.

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