Due to popular demand and the fact that we love trying weird foods and candies, The A.V. Club regularly features Taste Tests. Feel free to suggest disgusting and/or delicious new edibles for future installments: E-mail us at email@example.com.
Ever since there was chocolate, there were things covered in chocolate. Some paired naturally (strawberries, pretzels, nuts), some not so much (insects, french fries), but the world has long since discovered and exploited chocolate’s surprising versatility on a mass and micro scale.
This week’s Taste Test delves into those ends of the spectrum. Representing the big boys: Mars’ new Pretzel M&M’s, the latest whored-up incarnation of what began as the world’s simplest, most virginal candy. Particularly in the past decade, Mars has habitually tinkered with the M&M’s brand, often successfully (crispy M&M’s and premium M&M’s kinda rule) and occasionally not so much (orange, cherry).
On the smaller end of the spectrum, we have Esther Price’s chocolate-covered Mike-Sell’s potato chips, a regional favorite in the Dayton, Ohio, area, and Komforte Chocklates’ ramen noodle bar—because, hey, fuck it, let’s put some dry pasta noodles in chocolate!
The taste: Chocolate overwhelmed both the chips and the ramen bar. Sure, a Mike-Sell’s potato chip lies at the center of Esther Price’s treats, but it’s swamped in a massive layer of milk chocolate. It’s a tasty, creamy chocolate for sure, but it doesn’t “satisfy both the sweet and salty cravings,” as the Esther Price website promises. There’s a vague crunch underneath the sweet stuff, but no salty bite. When we found a chip that was missing its bottom layer of chocolate, the taste still fell short. The potato flavor was much stronger, but it tasted like the chip wasn’t salted. Instead of a chocolate-covered potato chip, these taste more like slabs of milk chocolate with a minor potato-chip filling. That may sound like semantic hair-splitting, but we have sophisticated palates here, pal. (Just give us an excuse to use “mouthfeel”—we dare you.)
Maybe it’s the result of the Monsters Inside Me parasite-show marathon I saw on Discovery Health yesterday, but the Komforte Chockolate—what’s with the über-German-sounding name for a bar “carefully crafted in the United States Of America,” meine herren?—Ramen Noodle bar looked like a regular ol’ dark-chocolate bar infested with ringworms. You’d think a bar whose raison d’être was ramen noodles would have a bunch of them, but you’d be wrong: Small clusters of noodles lurked randomly around the bar, really enhancing the “Are those noodles, or are they horrible parasites?” vibe. (By the way, you should probably avoid watching Monsters Inside Me.) The 53 percent cacao chocolate had a satisfying darkness, but the noodles didn’t add anything but underwhelming crunch—and low-rent, mass-market candy bars like Crunch, Whatchamacallit, and Krackel do that better. (That said, Komforte’s Tortilla Lime & Salt and French Toast varieties look intriguing.)
Who would have guessed that a heartless multinational corporation like Mars would have the most success with its candy’s stated mission? Well, anyone who’s had M&M’s would have guessed it—although the flavors don’t always work, they’ve always delivered what the label promises. The Pretzel M&M’s encase pretzel balls in milk chocolate, finished with the brand’s trademark candy shell. They’re the roundest of the M&M varieties, and they have a strange, flavorless white dust that mutes the colors slightly. While advance reviews from a couple of staffers who tried the M&M’s earlier were middling, most of the people in the office seemed to like them. The pretzel variety delivers a flavor that every other variety of M&M’s lacks: a salty bite. If anything, the Pretzel M&M’s were almost too salty. But they offered a satisfying crunch (they recall the old Crispy M&M’s, which were discontinued a few years ago) and a good balance between the flavors of chocolate and pretzel.
Esther Price chocolate-covered Mike-Sell’s potato chips
- “This is a potato chip?”
- “I don’t taste any salt at all. This is just a huge hunk of bland milk chocolate with a very slight crunch in the middle.”
- “What chip? It’s all chocolate.”
- “The chip where the chocolate has fallen off looks pretty terrible—kind of grey and cardboardy. Like factory-floor sweepings they decided to hide in chocolate.”
- “Almost anything would taste good with this much chocolate. Lou Rawls, for example.”
- “I was really excited about this on first bite—the crunch-to-creamy-chocolate ratio is very pleasing—but as I kept eating, it got to be too much.”
- “The chip is unsalted, so there’s not enough salty to counteract the very sweet milk chocolate. It wasn’t bad, but not what I was hoping for.”
- “Positively scrumptious. What was in the center, though?”
- “In theory, the salty-sweet combination should be a winner—who hasn’t double-fisted potato chips and chocolate in their darkest snacking hour?—but the chocolate so overwhelms the chip that I’d be hard-pressed to say what the chocolate was covering if I didn’t know already.”
- “Great milk chocolate taste, then a random soggy chip flavor gets in. It reminds me of being a kid at my parents’ parties and stuffing food in my face before getting caught—you have random flavors thrown together.”
- “The chocolate was waxy and overly sweet—no discernible potato nor salty flavor. They looked like hockey pucks. I could in no way eat more than one.”
- “The chocolate-covered potato chips have good intentions, but the chip loses its substance in too much milk chocolate. Perfect shape and portions for snacking on, though.”
Komforte Chockolates Ramen Noodle bar
- “This highly suggests that you could enrobe anything in dark chocolate—sawdust, staples, toenail cuttings, dandruff flakes—and it’d be pretty good. And ‘gourmet,’ and expensive.”
- “As far as I’m concerned, this is good chocolate with okay crunchy things in the middle. I like the texture of the ramen. It doesn’t have much taste, but it isn’t as dry as I expected.”
- “Well, this is pointless. Just a so-so chocolate bar with some random crunchies. Like a malnourished Crunch bar.”
- “The noodle center is hard. Basically, you’re eating raw pasta. The dark-chocolate exterior is dense and a little bitter, just like most Japanese people.” (It’s not racist if the speaker is of said race, right?)
- “The chocolate ramen bar might as well just be a chocolate bar. The pieces of ramen were too small to notice even any texture.”
- “I had no idea there was ramen in the ramen-chocolate.”
- “Given that ramen noodles don’t have any inherent flavor, I’m not sure what the point of this is. The alternative, though, is beef- or shrimp-flavored ramen, so I think being dull and inoffensive is the preferable choice.”
- “Chef’s Chocolate Salty Balls have arrived!”
- “Interesting. Interesting.”
- ”This is pretty basic: salt, chocolate, candy shell. They would have had to work pretty damn hard to screw this up. Of course, they also could have worked hard to make them better or more interesting. Still, nobody should be bitching too much about M&M’s being M&M’s.”
- “They’re trying really hard to be a Take 5—too salty and not the right chocolate/pretzel ratio.”
- “If you’ve had a chocolate-covered pretzel, and can imagine it with an M&M shell, you’ve already had these and just don’t realize it.”
- “It doesn’t taste or feel like pretzel at all. It’s sort of a breakfast cereal with salt on—not a bad taste, just doesn’t taste like pretzel.”
- “These are really overdosed in salt, but I still enjoyed them a lot. These have given me a new food fantasy, though: a peanut-butter-filled pretzel M&M. Let’s do this, Mars Inc! I am ready for snack nirvana.”
- “Good, but doesn’t taste any different than the inside of a Kit Kat, aside from a tinge of salt. I would never have guessed it was a pretzel.”
- “I feel like those would be really good if they weren’t so salty.”
- “Easily the winner. Perfect sweet/salty ratio, and not at all sawdusty, as I feared.”
- “They taste basically exactly like Flipz, which I could eat a bag of in one sitting, so don’t expect these to last long.”
- “These remind me of Mars’ limited-run crunchy M&M’s, which I loved back in the day. I feel the same way about these.”
- “I tend to be a zealot for peanut M&Ms, so I treat any non-nut pretender to the throne with suspicion. But these at least delivered the right balance of salty and sweet, with a nice crunchy pretzel competing well with the candy shell. If that’s the taste combination you’re looking for, I don’t see you complaining about these. I’ll still stick the peanut, though.”
Where to get them: Pretzel M&M’s are in stores now. Komforte Chockolates have a very limited distribution; your best bet is Amazon. Esther Price’s chocolate-covered potato chips are supposedly only available October through March around Dayton and at estherprice.com, but the online store still seemed to be selling them.