Friday, July 29, 2005
Yes, on Monday I’ll launch my first head-to-head review. I’ll take on the original gummi bears, Trolli and Haribo. I’ll tell you what flavor each color actually is and give you my assessment of which bear is best.
I’m old enough to remember Pop Rocks when they were first introduced (then made by General Foods which later dropped them). And I liked them then. I also liked to experiment with them. You know, what happens if you put them in soda? In milk? Will the dog eat them? What if you dry your tongue out by holding it in front of a fan for twenty minutes and then put the pop rocks on it? The variety as a child was endless. (I guess my mother never stressed that whole, “don’t play with your food thing.”)
This new iteration of Pop Rocks solves one of the issues of dispensing Pop Rocks for consumption. Before you’d either have to pour it into your mouth or out onto you hand and it’d invariably get sticky there. This packet of Pop Rocks includes a little rocket shaped lollipop (of the same flavor) for wetting in your mouth and dipping into the foil pack. The lolly itself is pretty good, not terribly sour or flavorful, but a good delivery device.
Pop Rocks themselves are interesting, probably a candy to be enjoyed in a group. Tart and crunchy with a good fizz. When I was a kid, I think the only flavors they came in were orange and grape. I liked the orange best. The rocks themselves are more like flakes (I’m not sure, but I thought they looked like little crisped rice kernels when I was a kid, but who knows).
If I have one tip for the packaging is to put the lolly in a separate package and make the Pop Rocks envelope a little smaller. It’s damn hard to get the little lolly into that big bag where the Pop Rocks only cover the bottom of it. Also, it’s been damn humid here lately, so if you open the package and don’t eat it right away, be sure to close it tightly, mine ended up being one big pop rock.
Good fun. Additional Info - How Do Pop Rocks Work?, Mikey from the Life Cereal Commercials and Pop Rocks, Super 70s Website and the unofficial Pop Rocks website.
Rating - 6 out of 10 (I might buy it again if they made orange)
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Name: Junior Caramels
What took the Junior line so long to expand? Apparently they’ve been around for a while, but not everywhere (I guess they’re sold in Canada?).
Junior is currently owned by Tootsie Roll. Junior Mints have long been a favorite of mine. For the record, I like them equally as well as peppermint patties - their fillings are rather different with the only similarities being they’re both white and mint flavored.
Junior Caramels are just soft caramel balls about the size of a garbanzo bean in chocolate. What’s good about them is that the caramel is actually soft and chewy, unlike Milk Duds, which I think must be subsidized by the dental care industry because they’re probably designed for pulling out fillings. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Milk Duds ... especially since they started using real milk chocolate on them, but Milk Duds don’t love me.)
You can pop more than one in your mouth at a time. But they’re kind of fun to bite in half, too.
The caramel in the Junior Caramel doesn’t have that good burnt sugar/toffee taste that Milk Duds do, but they’re still a good chew. They’re sweet and need a little something to counter that. I’ve been eating this huge box with some raw almonds and pretzels, I’ve found it’s a good combo. I haven’t tried them yet at the movies, but I’d think that they’re the perfect movie candy because each one takes a while to chew and actually goes well with popcorn.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Other resources - find a rerun of this episode of Unwrapped to see them made!
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
One of the best things about this blog is finding out about completely new varieties of candies I’d never heard of. One of these is Japanese Black Sugar Candy. Known as kuro sato, black sugar is basically brown sugar/molasses.
True brown sugar is basically sugar made from the whole boiled cane instead of just the cane juice that keeps the molasses. Molasses and black sugar is high in potassium as well as traces of iron, calcium and even a little salt. The taste of black sugar is similar to muscovado and has a salty, smokey taste to it. In the States, most brown sugar that you buy in the grocery store is just white sugar that has a bit of molasses added back into it.
Some Japanese just eat nuggets of black sugar as a treat (similar to maple sugar candies or Mexican panela). In fact, I used to eat brown sugar right out of the box as a kid. I loved the flavor of it. Many doctors and pharmacists have for years used muscovado-type sugars for medicinal use, either as a base for cough remedies or added to make medicinal syrups.
The Japanese use the bold taste of kuro sato to full effect in a lot of candies. Most are hard candies which are either for eating or for use as cough drops (often with the addition of honey or menthol).
Here are a few I found:
Name: Kuro Ame
from JBox - “A wonderful traditional Japanese hard candy, this is “Kuro-Ame” (Black Candy), a famous Japanese treat loved by everyone since the 1860’s. With a long history and a unique brown-sugar taste, this is a classical Japanese treat. One bag includes 22+ individual wrapped candies.”
Name: Pocket Black Sugar Throat Treatment Candy
In the tradition of a cough drop (similar to Ludens), this black sugar candy is packaged to carry easily in your pocket. Each piece is individually wrapped and has the distinctive taste of black sugar mellowed with a tinge of honey and menthol.
Name: Kasugai Honey & Black Sugar Candy
Shaped like little gems, these black sugar hard candies are individually sealed and packed with a little silica gel pack to keep them dry. They have a very smooth, sweet taste because of the honey. Not as smokey tasting as the Kuro Ame made by the same company, these are probably a great one to carry as a little pick me up and throat soother. Of the three products I bought, this is the one that is already gone.
Ratings - Kuro Ame - 6 out of 10
Also - see previous review of Asahi Drops (I didn’t know what Japanese black sugar was when I reviewed them)
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Name: Starburst Sours
I love sour stuff, though I must admit that as I get older, I’m not really into the tortuous super-sours that I pursued as a kid. So, basically what I look for in a sour is something that gets my salivary glands to tingle, but also delivers flavor and hopefully doesn’t trash my tongue too bad.
The issue I run into with many of the more modern sours is that they’ve gone off and created rather chemical tasting candies. I’m kind of a fan of citrus sours, but the new sour flavors like green apple just taste like something I’d clean my windows with. The Starburst Sours are green apple, blue raspberry, cherry and watermelon. Now, I don’t think I’ve ever had a sour watermelon in my life, so that one was especially puzzling. But perhaps I should drop logic and reality from this review.
First flavor was watermelon. It’s got a nice sour bit to it without overwhelming the watermelon flavor. Green apple is chemical through and through. Very sour and creates (sorry to be gross) some pretty unpleasant burps for me. Blue Raspberry reminded me of blue highlighter pens (and a bit like those scented markers we also had as kids) - the flavor is just like what I’d expect for a red raspberry, but I think that’d be too many pink things in the package, so they made it blue. I think the most successful flavor in the package is the cherry one - though I’m not a big fan on the flavor cherry (mostly because I associate it with poison because the red dye #2 thing back in the 70s) but this has a lot of flavors within it. It’s got a good sour bite to it that goes on through the whole chew, a nice woodsy cherry flavor and then a sweet maraschino topnote.
On the whole, I think Starbursts are great. They were a great addition to the market when they first came out because they filled that hole - they’re chewy like taffy but not likely to pull out your fillings (or as a kid it seemed like I was always losing a tooth or a new one was growing in so taffy was pretty hard to eat). Starbursts have that great chew but are forgiving and not so rubbery as to pull on anything. Don’t get me wrong, they can get plenty stuck in your teeth, they’re just not taking your teeth out.
These are not a flavor pack that I’m likely to buy again (I really love the originals though and will continue to buy them or Skittles) but I appreciate the addition to the line for those that like artificial sours.
Rating - 7 out of 10
Monday, July 25, 2005
I’m as big a fan of novelty items as the next person, but what always disappoints me is that the actual product rarely matches the packaging. Here’s an exception. CandyWarehouse gifted me with these incredibly cute poker themed chocolates. There are playing card mint truffles and milk chocolate poker chips. Poker, as we know, is all the rage, with tourneys going on all over the country and of course those crazy celebrities getting in on it. If you’re like me, you’ve probably played for pretzel sticks at some point in your life. While playing with real food is dangerous (because you’re likely to eat your winnings), it’s also a bit more fun (at least to me) than playing for money.
These chocolate poker chips come in a clear plastic tray that you could actually use for racking real chips. Like chocolate coins, the disk of milk chocolate is held inside a foil top and bottom. The chocolates themselves have no embossing, so their value is lost once you unwrap them (or is it?). The milk chocolate is creamy and smooth, very sweet and would be a great complement for other card playing snacks like pretzels.
For folks who are seriously interested in using these as real chips, you’d better pick up the 5 lb version. The high-stakes chips are like the mint chocolate cards below.
These were seriously good and I’ve had to restrain myself. Think of a giant Andes Mints. Because of the dastardly heat wave here in SoCal, I’ve been keeping these in the fridge and they’re wonderful served that way (I don’t usually like chilled chocolate). The mint is very strong and the chocolate combo (two layers of semi-sweet chocolate with a minted white chocolate in the middle) is just right. It melts easily on the tongue and refreshes.
The face card theme is fun (but entirely unnecessary in my opinion). Forget poker with these, I’d prefer to play blackjack with them and keep having the dealer hit me.
If I were going with a Vegas themed party, I’d absolutely order some of these up because the chocolate was of good quality and the packaging was very well done.
Ratings - Poker Chips - 7 out of 10 (I think the mint chocolate chips would be 8s)
Saturday, July 23, 2005
Here it is, the neatest thing to hit candy since citric acid. That’s right, the ultra-cheap LED technology is now being applied to candy. Malibu Toys has created a whole line of light up candies, with the Finger Lites as the center of the line. They have other products, like clip ons and necklaces, but they’re based around the same center of a battery hooked up to an LED. Personally, of all the formats I prefer the ring, since I really don’t want a slobbery piece of hard candy hanging around my neck and getting lint stuck to it.
The ring comes sealed in a little plastic pouch. To activate the light, you pull out a little paper tab that allows the battery to make contact with the wiring for the LED. Then it starts flashing. And flashing. The package says it will stay lit for at least two hours. Mine is still flashing and it’s been a week since I pulled the tab and ate the lolly.
I picked an orange one, though they come in a large variety of colors/flavors and have themed shapes for different holidays (Easter means bunnies and duckies, Halloween means vampires and pumpkins). The orange one was a little bland, not terribly tart or flavorful, but then again, it’s a novelty.
Would I buy this again? Hell yes, I’m planning my next party around them. I think the cool thing to do is probably figure a way to hang up the eaten ones on a string or something (maybe I’ll do it for a Christmas party and hang them on the tree). Some convenience stores are refusing to carry Finger Lites because they think that kids will chew up the LED/Battery. I’m one of those people who can’t help but chew up my hard candy and had no trouble telling the difference between the candy and the hard plastic housing for the light. In fact, I don’t think I could break it with my teeth if I tried. I’m wondering if those convenience store people tried them.
I know, I know, it’s not a terribly eco-friendly product either. Forgive me, I usually make good choices when it comes to that stuff, but I couldn’t help myself.
This candy gets points mostly for novelty, not taste, but it’s still a winner in my book.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Friday, July 22, 2005
It’s a like a dream come true. Someone’s combined one of my favorite candies with one of my favorite flavors.
Well, it’s the thought that counts.
Ginger Bears are gummi bears with real ginger in them. That’s why they’re kind of cloudy looking. I’m not sure if that expains why they smell like photoprocessing chemicals. Not the bears themselves, just when you smell them in the bag. I know that ginger in and of itself doesn’t have a great scent, kind of like wet earth. But this was more of a chemical smell and might be from the bag itself. I took a few out and let them air out on the desk, they seemed fine after that.
These bears are a bit larger than the ones we’re used to from Trolli or Haribo. They’re also not quite a gummi, think Swedish fish, really. But, they’re very spicy, not too sweet and are decently priced.
What I like about them is that they’re not sticky. While I like the Ginger People’s and Chimes’ Ginger Chews, they are very sticky and might one day yet pull out some of my fillings. These are soft, chewy but with a good consistency and not the slightest bit sticky. They could use a little work on the appearance but other than that, they’re a solid recommend as long as you keep your nose out of the bag.
Rating - 7 out of 10
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.