Friday, August 27, 2010

Annie's Homegrown Cheddar Bunnies

Annie's Cheddar Bunnies

In my teenage years, I did my share of babysitting, and undoubtedly at some point during the day, the kids and I would get hungry for snacks. Almost every parent said “help yourself to anything in the kitchen,” but it meant more in some houses than in others. I will never forget the all natural “animal crackers” I had at the home of a particularly earth-conscientious family – the things tasted like cardboard.

All natural food has come a long way. This box of Annie’s Homegrown Cheddar Bunnies came from Target for $1.99 US. I was immediately drawn in by the plentiful cute bunnies, including Bernie, the mascot. These baked bunnies are all-natural, but they fall into the same product category as Cheez-Its and Goldfish crackers, and they are made without additives or preservatives.

Annie's Cheddar Bunnies

They smelled mildly of cheddar, and had a good crunch. The cheddar cheese flavor was mild throughout, probably to appeal to children, and the level of saltiness was about right for me. There was no oily residue or bad aftertaste, which I attribute (possibly incorrectly) to the lack of preservatives.

Overall, I enjoyed these crackers about as much as I can enjoy a cheese cracker (not my usual snacking choice). I loved the clean feeling and the cute shape, but I wish the cheddar cheese taste was sharper. It’s been a while since I’ve had other cheese crackers, but Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies definitely stand up to the competition, and in my opinion, the non-oily aftertaste gives Annie’s the edge.


Annie's Homegrown website

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Oral Fixation Mojito Mints

Oral Fixation Mojito Mints

The other night, my husband was making beer chili, and when he was almost done adding the ingredients, we realized that we didn't have any beer. I dashed out to the little local grocery store, but even though I only needed one thing, I got a little distracted in the candy aisle just before checking out.

I was vaguely aware of the gourmet chocolate and candy selection at this particular store, but I hadn't looked in a while. The sexy, elegant packaging of Oral Fixation sugar free mints ($1.99 US) called out to me, and I knew I had to try them. I went with Mojito, but there were at least 4 other flavors available. For the record, I also took home some Tazo Mexican chocolate and a Lake Champlain chocolate bar, but I'll review those later.


Each mint had a star on one side and the word "FIX" on the other. They were about the same size and shape as Altoids, but Oral Fix mints were uniform. Each mint was easy to get at once the stylish but slightly annoying wax paper insert was pushed out of the way. Immediately, I noticed was how nice and smooth the mints felt on my tongue. I haven't had too many actual mojitos, so it was hard to judge the authenticity of the flavor.

The lime flavor was mild just a bit tangy on the tongue happy to take a backseat to the very cool, slightly sweet mint. The mints did a pretty good job of freshening my breath without feeling sever or painful. The Oral Fixation brand name was quite appropriate, because it was tough for me to eat just one mint. I was popping 3 to 4 in a row, sometimes 2 at a time. I'd love to try other flavors, especially since I'll be out of the Mojito very soon. Tip: when you're done, the tin makes a great business car holder!


Oral Fixation website

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Morinaga Pretty Cure Mixed Fruit Chew

Morinaga Hi-chew-ish Candy
Press Sample

This product is well aware of its audience. I am not a part of that audience, but I probably would have been drawn to this packaging when I was in elementary school. This Morinaga chew, provided by, features characters from an animated show called Futari wa Pretty Cure, which falls into the same genre as Sailor Moon.

I was a big fan of Sailor Moon when I was in middle school, and to be honest, I'm still a fan of prismatic packaging. This Pretty Cure candy even comes with a prismatic sticker. Still, despite my love of all things cute (especially Hello Kitty), this packaging doesn't really appeal to me. I should mention that this candy comes from China.

Morinaga Hi-chew-ish Candy
She's a scientist, just like me!

Before I looked up what the Chinese characters for the flavor meant, I popped one of the candies into my mouth and tried to guess. Banana? Orange? Star fruit? Sugar? I was completely at a loss. It turns out that all my guesses were correct - the characters meant mixed fruit. The chews were almost scentless and had a very mild tropical fruit flavor.

As I mentioned, this is a Morinaga product, and the texture was similar to that of Hi-chew, but these were firmer and not as bouncy (and therefore less satisfying). Overall, I was underwhelmed. They were edible, but there was nothing that made me want to eat more than necessary to write this review. I'm sure these would please children, who tend not to be picky when it comes to candy, but they just didn't work for me.


Morinaga website

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hageland Pear & Almonds

Hageland Pear and Almonds

Up until now, I've only tried Hageland's limited origin bars, but the last time I was in the candy aisle at Wal-Mart, the Pear & Almonds bar called out to me. Pear is one of those fruits that I love as a fruit but not as a flavoring, but based on my history with Hageland, I convinced myself that this time would be different.

According to the back of the box, the Hageland County in Belgium is famous for growing pears. The natural pear flavor joins almonds, 57% dark chocolate, and an unexpected emulsifier: soy lecithin (non-GMO, less than 0.5%). Right away, I noticed the bar was softer than other dark chocolate Hageland bars.

Hageland Pear and Almonds

The bar smells of roasted almonds and bitter cocoa, but the first taste is all pear. It's so strong that it reminds me of banana, and that's not a good thing. Luckily, the pear taste fades very quickly, leaving behind only almond and dark chocolate. The chocolate is of the quality I've come to expect from Hageland, and the almond flavor has melded with the chocolate for a lovely mixture.

The snap of the chocolate must be affected by the other ingredients, as the bar was softer than expected. The slivered almonds and pear granules are so crunchy that it almost seemed like the nuts were candied. The texture was certainly pleasant and aside from the first hit of pear, the flavor was pretty good, but I much prefer Hageland's standalone bars. I think it all comes down to how you feel about pears in chocolate.


Hageland Website

Friday, August 13, 2010

Magic Spice Soup Curry Caramel

Magic Spice Soup Curry Caramels

Finally, it's part 3 of my Japanese caramel mini-series. I've saved the strangest for last -- these are Hokkaido limited soup curry caramels. I was never a particularly picky eater, but I find that as I get older, there are fewer and fewer foods I don't like. For a long time, asparagus was the devil, but it's become one of my favorite vegetables. Although I'm no Andrew Zimmern, there aren't too many foods that gross me out, either.

And yet, for some reason, I was afraid these particular caramels. It was pretty irrational, since I love almost every kind of curry I've ever tried. The idea isn't particularly gross either, since curry flavored sweets aren't unheard of. Still, they taunted me, and it took a little courage to pop one into my mouth.


The pieces were about 1.5 cm long and smelled just like curry udon. The spice was very bold at first, like the caramel had simply been dipped in curry powder. The spice was a little hot, too, giving a slight burn at the back of my throat just a bit stronger than cinnamon.

Sweetness was completely an afterthought, but under that strong curry flavor, the buttery caramel was there. The combination worked much better than I thought it would, and the chew was quite pleasant, despite a bit of graininess right at the finish. To my surprise, I enjoyed these, and would happily eat them again. They're also great to share, since they're bound to catch people off guard.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Meiji Yogurt Caramels

Yogurt Caramels

Welcome to part 2 of my caramel mini-series. You could say it's an unconventional caramel series, because part 1 was matcha, and today is yogurt. As for part 3, all I can say right now is that the flavor is even weirder. To be honest, I'm still a little scared of them.

Although Meiji is a dairy company, I had never heard of Meiji caramels when I purchased these at Mitsuwa marketplace (near Chicago). The size and shape of the packaging, while not identical, is very similar to Morinaga's, and I'm sure it's no accident. In addition, even though there's no mention of Calpis on the package, the blue polka dots look a little familiar...

Yogurt Caramels

Meiji's caramels are just barely smaller than Morinaga's, and were wrapped in wax paper (complete with cute face) instead of foil. The yogurt caramels didn't have a strong scent, but the taste jumped right out at me. Surprisingly, they tasted a lot like classic bubble gum at first, but as I chewed, the flavor become more what I expected.

They tasted a lot like Calpis and a bit like Yakult (a Japanese yogurt drink) - slightly milky with a yogurt and citrus tang. The texture got a little grainy as I chewed, and just a bit like plastic (just the texture, not the taste), but I did like how they weren't too sticky. I liked these, but they didn't have that addiction factor.


Meiji website

Monday, August 9, 2010

Morinaga Matcha Caramels

Matcha Caramels

As the first part of a Japanese caramel mini-series, I've got some Morinaga matcha caramels. These were provided by, but I'm a longtime fan of Morinaga's caramels. Unlike some other products I remember liking, these held up to my review scrutiny. On a side note, is it just me, or does the cupid logo on the box look like a scary clown at first glance?

Morinaga makes a large variety of caramels, and along with the standard milk caramel and black sugar caramels, I believe matcha is a permanent flavor. I've also seen azuki (red bean), black sesame, strawberry, and other limited edition flavors. Morinaga also makes Hi-chew, so they seem to have cornered the market for chewy candies in Japan.

Matcha Caramels

The caramels are just under 2 cm long, and they smell like butter and tea leaves. The matcha flavor is moderately strong and more grassy than milky. As I chewed, it seemed to alternate between richness and bitterness.

In terms of texture, the caramels don't get too gritty, but they do become quite sticky and soften quickly. They aren't overly sweet (the bitterness keeps it in check), and they do knock out my matcha cravings. My only issue is with the stickiness (which is why I don't usually go for caramels in general), but I keep coming back for the great flavor. Those not keen on green tea may find them too strong.


Morinaga website

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Divine Crunchy Milk Chocolate and 70% Dark Chocolate

Divine bars

Dedicated health food stores aren't places I normally frequent, but walking home with my husband after a tasty meal at a Mexican restaurant, we were compelled to stop in and check out what the local health store had to offer. Along with some handmade soaps, we picked up two Divine chocolate bars: Crunchy Milk and 70% Dark Chocolate.

I had seen Divine products before and had always been drawn to the elegantly whimsical packaging, but this was my first time purchasing. The chocolate is fair trade certified and the whole story of the company's origin is printed on the inside of the paper wrapper of the dark bar.

Divine Crunchy

Crunchy Milk Chocolate was sticky, sweet, and slightly sour milk chocolate. My husband thought it tasted like Hershey's. There wasn't enough rice and what was there was all clustered toward the bottom, so it didn't break up the sweetness at all. Overall, it wasn't as bland as a Crunch bar, but it wasn't as good as I expected. I just can't get past the stickiness that some milk chocolates have - it just feels unpleasant in my mouth. C

Divine 70% Dark Chocolate

The 70% Dark Chocolate bar smelled strongly of bitter cocoa, and chocolate had a good snap to it (although my bar was quite banged up around the edges). My first impression of the taste was that it was very bitter but not at all acidic. It reminded me a bit of charcoal, but not in a bad way at all. As it began to melt (smoothly, I might add), the bitterness gave way to lovely cherry notes. It was a thoroughly enjoyable bar with a fairly clean finish. A

Divine Website

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ishiya Shiroi Koibito

Shiroi Koibito

Two years ago, some friends of mine moved to Hokkaido (the northernmost island of Japan) to teach English (kind of like Jen of Jen Ken's KitKat Blog fame). Last week, they came back to America for a visit, their first since leaving, and I got to try something I've always wanted to taste: Shiroi Koibito (White Lover). Basically, it's a white chocolate sandwich cookie.

Many a blog (and probably some real books and articles) has been written about the importance of regional foods and snacks in Japan, so I won't go on about it, but even as regional snacks go, Shiroi Koibito is extra famous. Hokkaido is known for dairy products and snow, so it certainly fits the image. The name translates a little weird, but I think that's why it's always in my mind.

Shiroi Koibito

For a Japanese snack, the box sure was loaded with French (as many Japanese baked good packages are). The type of cookies used in Shiroi Koibito are called Langue du Chat (cat's tongue), and they had a buttery scent.

The cookie part had a delicate and airy crunch, easily crumbling in my mouth. Despite being fairly thick, the white chocolate was quick to oblige this crumble, as it was soft, like a cream spread on the inner cookie surface. The whole sandwich was sweet, but not to the point of bothering me. The mild flavor (slightly reminiscent of cheese) and light crunch made me feel quite prim, proper, and in the mood for a cup of Earl Grey tea.


Ishiya website

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hageland Peru 64% Dark Chocolate


By now, I've come to trust that any Hageland bar I try is going to be pretty good at least. From the very light (not my favorite) to the very dark (too dark for daily enjoyment), they've all been pretty tasty.

The Peru bar lands somewhere in the middle at 64% cocoa. Unlike the other bars, there was no information on the type of cocoa beans used, other than that they were grown in Peru. The ingredients, as I've come to expect from Hageland, are just the essentials - no fillers or artificial/superfluous flavors.


The bar smelled nutty and a bit like a campfire. It had a great snap, and at first, I was hit with fruitiness, and even a hint of a flavor that reminded me of graham crackers. As it melted on my tongue, it was slightly cool, a little sweet, and rich with a fairly clean finish.

This might be my favorite Hageland bar yet. The sweetness from the lower cocoa percentage was a perfect mate for the still slight bitter flavor, and I loved the complexity. It had plenty of sweetness without the sticky, cloying feeling milk chocolate gives me. Hageland's Peru bar just might become a chocolate staple in my house.


Hageland Website

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Orbit Lime Melon Gum

Orbit Lime Melon

About 3 years ago, I went through a melon phase. I worked at a Bath and Body Works at the time, so I bought every melon product we sold - watermelon lipgloss, honeydew lotion, cucumber melon shower gel...well, we didn't carry very many melon products. Melon soda was my favorite soft drink (despite being so hard to find in America), Midori was my favorite liquor for cocktails, and I was all about melon candy.

Those days are gone, and though I still have a fondness for the flavor, it tends to be a little too sweet for me now. Still, when I tried Orbit Melon Lime a few months ago, I remembered really liking it. Unfortunately, when I set out to review it last week, the memory just didn't hold up.

Orbit Lime Melon

The gum smelled mostly limey and a bit like melon, in a soapy way. The pieces were quite hard at first, and the early flavor was dominated by a very floral melon(honeydew, if I had to guess). As I chewed, the lime flavor emerged, but overall, the flavor was mild and slightly soapy.

The gum was cool without being minty, and the gum softened quickly while still retaining some bounce. The "good, clean feeling" that Orbit advertises was manifested in the squeakiness of the gum against my teeth. The flavor combination didn't work that well, and the gum was only okay. A bolder lime might have suited me better.


Orbit Website