Monday, July 31, 2006
I went on vacation last week. All the posts from last week were “prewritten” so there’d be no interruption in reviews here at Candy Blog. It was an interesting experiment to see what I’d eat when I didn’t have the blog as an excuse and it turns out that I probably a little bit less candy (but had more desserts and far more cheese than normal). But now that I’m back home I thought I’d do a little digest about the new things that I tried that I probably won’t make full posts about:
Scharffen Berger Nibby Bar - I picked up this little 1 ounce bar in Healdsburg, CA at a Scharffen Berger store in the town plaza on my way north. Though I’ve said before I’m not a huge fan of Scharffen Berger for munching, this bar had a lot to offer. The nibs were crunchy and packed a powerfully chocolatey crunch and the chocolate was smooth and complex. It didn’t have the unpleasant acidic note that I complain about most of the time.
While we were there, they also gave us a taste of the new Kumasi Sambirano bar, which was really nice. It was much more fruity, it had some grassy and floral notes with a strong raisin taste to it, which balanced the normally sour taste of their chocolate. I also got a taste of the chocolate covered ginger pieces as well, which I was really looking forward to, but found that the acidic notes and the ginger spice really blended too well for me to have both the chocolatey experience and the slight burn mix in a satisfying way. I’m still curious about how the dipped figs would taste.
Almond Joy Toasted Coconut (Limited Edition) - I figured I should pick up the limited edition bars while I could and when I saw this at the market it seemed like the perfect bar for taking out on a hike. The inside is a dark and and creamy beige color instead of white and has a slight caramelized note reminiscent of toasted marshmallows. I’m not usually one for the Almond Joy, though I love almonds, because I find the milk chocolate a little too sweet for the coconut, but this was a nice change of pace.
Cashew Cookie Lara Bar - not technically candy, this is just a bar of mashed up dates and cashews. It’s sweet, a little creamy and kid of dry but wholly satisfying. I ate three of these during the week.
Almond M&Ms - I bought a “medium” sized bag of these for the trip, which is 11 ounces (sound pretty large to me!). They’re wonderfully crunchy with the crisp shell and fresh almonds combined with the super-sweet milk chocolate. The perfect snack.
Swedish Fish - these are great driving candies. We logged about 1,800 miles in the car, so a little pick me up to combat the hypnosis of I-5 was welcome. We ate them two different ways, chilled out of the cooler and then later heated from sitting in the car. I like them practically molten inside. But chilled gives them a nice chewy snap.
Pink Grapefruit Mentos - How could I resist taking a roll of these on the road with me?
Green Apple Mentos - these were rather different from the Sour Apple ones I had a couple of months ago and I prefer them. The Green Apple Mentos taste a lot more like apples than any other apple candy I’ve ever had - almost like apple juice. They’re nicely floral and tart. I’m not wild about them, but I’d finished the Swedish Fish already.
Citrus Hard Candies - I have no idea who made these, but there was a complementary jar of them in our room at the Hotel Rex and they looked like little slices of fruit. Lemon, Orange, Grapefruit and Lime. I pretty much emptied the jar. They were pretty and tasty and just the little pick-me-up I needed before all the walking around town!
It doesn’t seem like I ate much candy last week but there were desserts though, which I don’t always have. In Trinidad, CA I indulged in one of my all-time favorite desserts - a chocolate pecan pie with hot rum sauce at Larrupin’ Cafe. My husband had a lemon cheesecake that was also pretty darn good.
In Olema, CA we had a fantastic bread pudding with currants and a caramel sauce (that they added cardamom ice cream to for us instead of whipped cream) at the Olema Inn.
In San Francisco at Rue de Jacques in the Nob Hill area I also expanded my dessert horizons and tried a soft meringue in a strawberry soup that sounded good. In reality it was a piece of fluffed egg white on top of a too-sweet strawberry syrup. I would have preferred a more home-styled strawberry puree. But on the plus side, I can’t imagine that there were many calories for such a small portion and of course no fat. My husband had a warm chocolate cake that was practically flourless and not sweet at all but super-rich.
Of course the best dessert had to be the one that had the best ambiance (not that the rest of the places weren’t great!) were the cookies and brownies we had from the Bovine Bakery (Pt. Reyes Station, CA) that were served to us by our kayak guide on a small sand spit in Tomales Bay after we kayaked about two miles. We had some hot coffee and sat watching the waning light and low clouds as we waited for dark when we would see the natural bioluminescent bloom of the warmer side of the bay.
Tomorrow I’ll return a little more rested with the usual reviews and a rundown of a candy store I found in Windsor, CA (thanks to several reader’s tips) called Powell’s and a visit to San Francisco’s Ferry Terminal.
Overall, I give this vacation a 10 out of 10.
Friday, July 28, 2006
There was nothing else like a Jolly Rancher when they first came out. Back then green apple and watermelon were radical flavors ... actually, when I was a kid, the slang term “radical” wasn’t even in use yet.
I really wanted these to be good ... like a gummi bear version of a Jolly Rancher, only in Jolly Rancher flavors.
They come in four flavors - Watermelon, Apple, Orange and Cherry. They’re a little tart jelly candy with a sugar sand coating on them. They’re not gummis at all, there’s not even any gelatin or pectin in the ingredients list, it’s sugar, corn syrup and corn starch plus a little flavor, tartness and color. They’re kind of small morsels too, about the same size around as a nickel.
Cherry - not quite a black cherry flavor, this was like a sour cherry and definitely a chemical flavor. This one differed most from the hard candies I was used to.
Watermelon - oh, it’s like summer distilled into a strange pink chemical. Sweet, tart and floral all at once but not really much like the real stuff. But still good.
Apple - tart and appley with that distinct artificial taste, but completely faithful to the Jolly Rancher flavor.
Orange - as usual, my favorite. Tart and with a good citrus essence mixed with a completely middle-of-the-road Tang flavor. Satisfying.
The package warns that mouth irritation may result from the high “sour level” but I didn’t find them that sour at all. The flavors actually blended pretty well - you can pop an apple and watermelon in your mouth together or an orange and cherry and find a pleasant surprise. But they weren’t “Screamingly” sour in the slightest.
My biggest quarrel with these is that they go sticky very quickly. I don’t know if it was the insane heat of Los Angeles or that they just do that after the package has been opened. It doesn’t seem to have effected the flavor, except maybe they’ve bled together a smidge. But really, there’s nothing really compelling here. It’s not a true chew like a Starburst or a gummi or a jelly ... they’re just kind of soft and certainly not sour enough to warrant being called anything more than tangy jellies.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
There’s this rumor going around that you can find European flavors of Mentos in the States if you look hard enough (instigated by the comments section here at Candy Blog, I might add) ... at places like the 99 Cent Only store!
While my last visit did not result in a cache of the coveted Pink Grapefruit Mentos, I did find Licorice ones.
They weren’t quite the transcendent experience I’d hoped for. Don’t get me wrong, they’re nice and all. But they’re no Pampelmousse!
They’re white with a slight grey cast to them. They don’t really smell like anything and at first bite they’re slightly minty but then when you get past the crunchy shell there’s a slightly salty, slightly warm and creamy taste of licorice. It’s not a molassesy bite, just an herbal quality. It’s a bit like the licorice Altoids (but of course chewy and not quite as strong).
I don’t see myself picking these up too often, but they make a nice change from the Mint ones. I’m enjoying the second roll much more than the first, so perhaps they grow on you.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Come on, half the fun of this candy is the packaging! They’re eensy-weensy liquor bottles made out of chocolate! They’re even smaller than those little bottles you find in the honor bar or on airplanes.
After those awesome martini cordials I had from K Chocolatier that were so freakishly expensive, I was hoping to find something similar at a fraction of the price. While these don’t quite measure up, they’re still pretty good. The unique selling proposition here is that they don’t have that sugar shell inside like the K Chocolatier Martinis did.
I didn’t eat all of them, but I did try quite a few. The first one I started with was the Drambuie. I’m not that fond of Drambuie, I find it a tad sweet and so was this.
The second one I tried was the one I was most curious about - Ricard, which is an anise flavored liquor. I’ve never had straight Ricard, so again, it’s hard to judge. What I found was that it was rather sweet and not at all anisey. It’s definitely alcoholic, but not as strong as I’d expect for a liquer.
Next was the Stoli Oranj, but unfortunately this one ruptured somewhere along the way and there was a little bit of sugary crust at the bottom of the bottle and a smidge of the liquid missing. I ate it anyway. It was okay. The chocolate was fine, but the alcoholic bite was pretty much gone.
The Stoli Vanil was also very nice, without much of a flavorful bite, but the chocolate shines through effectively. The last one I had was Cointreau, which I think was my favorite. A little touch of orange, not quite as sweet as the others and still with a subtle alcoholic bite.
They’re very nice and certainly far cheaper (and probably more widely available) than other real alcohol filled chocolates. The filling was a little syrupy, but I’m guessing you can’t put true alcohol without some sugar stabilizer in there or else they’ll dissolve the chocolate.
It’s kind of hard to peel the little bottles sometimes and of course if you hold them in your hand for any length of time you risk softening the chocolate to the point of an accident when unwrapping.
So if the liqueur chocolates are an evening things, maybe the coffee chocolates should be considered a morning one.
These flavored coffees are cloaked in the same dark chocolate and again, have no sugar crust in them. This is a big difference over the Pocket Coffee that I reviewed before.
I tasted a few of the varieties, though I think there are more. You can only buy them in the assortments, so there’s no point in wishing you could buy only one kind.
Cappuccino - a nice sweet coffee inside chocolate, but it didn’t seem to have much of a dairy component to it, no milkiness at all.
Toffee Macchiato - this one confused me, but I have to admit that I’ve never had a macchiato. It tasted like coconut and coffee, which is not a bad thing, but it certainly doesn’t seem at all like toffee.
Espresso - this is the money shot. Very much like the Pocket Coffee, not as sweet as the others. It was a bit tangy and rich.
Vanilla Frappe - that’s the one pictured unwrapped and tipped out ... so you can see I didn’t get to taste it completely. Sometimes I have to sacrifice for the art.
Irish Cream Coffee - this one was sweet as well and had a pretty mellow minty quality, but very little coffee flavor in the mix.
I’ve never seen these at the store, but I’m sure they’ll be more prevalent as the holidays get closer. They’re a pretty nice hostess gift for the right person and if CandyWarehouse’s price is any indication, they’re not even that expensive.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
If you’ve ever been in a Trader Joe’s, you’ve probably found the candy overwhelming. You may also have found that they have a lot of house-branded products. Luckily they’re inexpensive enough for you to shrug and throw it in the cart and give it a whirl. I’ve had a few bad experiences, but most are pretty darn good.
I’ve resisted these lilac foiled bars for a long time. They looked a little dowdy to me, and I’m all about the hot new candies. They come in a three pack - each bar is a single portion, so it’s easy to stockpile them, but also to have an immediate fix.
The Dark Chocolate bar is smooth and shiny and smells a little smoky and sweet. It has a nice melt, but a smidge of grain/chalkiness. It’s not too sweet and has a slight dry bite to it.
Overall, it’s a good deal and the size of the bars (1.75 ounces) makes it easier to tuck them in your bag for later indulgence instead of a larger 3.5 ounce ones that you often see. Still, if I were looking for fully satisfying indulgence I’d still go for a Chocovic and I also enjoy the Trader Joe’s Organic Dark Chocolate with Pecans and Raisins.
Monday, July 24, 2006
If you like Haribo’s Happy Cola gummis but wish they were more like real soda and gave you burps and such, wish no more. Fizzy Cola not only has a the nice spicy cola bite, it also has a sugary/tart sanding that gives it a sassy, fizzy feeling.
I always thought that the Haribo Happy Cola bottles were a little tame. Sure, they tasted like cola, but they also tasted a little ‘flat.’ These little gummi bottles are the best candy I’ve had that capture the soda experience.
That said, I’m not really that big a fan of soda.
Since they are a little gassy, I can’t gorge myself on them without negative feedback. So in that respect they’re good for helping me to monitor my intake. I doubt that other people have the same issues I do with them so I’m still giving them a good rating because they are quite different from other candies and cola is an underutilized flavor in the candy world.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Everything’s better when it’s big!
These are big Smarties. Yeah, there are two rolls of Smarties there in the picture. One is a regular sized roll and the other are the new gigantor Smarties.
Each Mega Smartie is the same diameter as a quarter and tastes suspiciously like a regular Smartie. (Yes, those are Mega Smarties with regular Smarties on top to show scale ... Mega Smarties do not come with hats.)
Really, there’s very little difference except that for the first time I was able to taste the actual vague flavor of each of the Smarties colors. Not that there’s a lot of it. Not that I want a lot of flavor in my Smarties. They’re plesantly sweet and tart and dissolve quickly on the tongue. If I have any complaint with the Mega Smarties, it’s that they’re not quite as crumbly. There’s something so light and chalky about the demi-Smarties that allows them to enter the bloodstream instantly.
If there’s one thing to recommend Mega Smarties, it’s because they’re now in a single-serving package, you should be able to find them with other candy bars instead of in with the bulk and fun sized bags. I usually only pick up Smarties at Halloween, because that’s the easiest time to find them in the large bags ... see how clever they are!
(The weird thing is that I didn’t know what to call these. The label just refers to them as Smarties with no reference to the size. The Smarties.com website doesn’t say anything about Mega Smarties even existing.)
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Aji Ichiban is a chain of stores that sells dried and cured fruits as well as candy by the pound.
I went to the location in Chinatown in New York City while I was there. The store was kind of small and the woman behind the counter barked at me when I took some photos. This one was taken from the street. I actually think they’re doing their customers a disservice when they can’t take photos, because that’s the only reason I know what some of the candy is. It’s marked in the bins, but not on the wrappers.
They have a large selection of bins that contains individually wrapped candies or salted fruits or nuts and rice snacks. There are even samples of the fruits by the bins, but I made the mistake of taking what I thought was dried ginger and it turned out to be a salted plum. Quite a shock and made me parched instantly.
It’s not a huge store, but then again, they don’t have large tubs of everything. A third of the display space is for snacks and dried fruit, the rest is candy. Most of the candy is a mix & match by the pound, but some of it you could buy prepacked.
I liked just about everything in this mix. I chose carefully, so this is a good sign about the way that the packages are marked. Some have English on them, most are just pictures and sometimes the bin they were in at the store had some clues about the contents. Items came from all over Asia, some marked from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Japan.
I got some super fizzy sours, something called Zour Bomb, which was a cross between a cola flavored hard candy and a Zotz. However, partway through it got a minty flavor to it that kind of turned me off. The outside was dusty looking and super sour, then a hard candy and then the inside had another reservoir of sour. It also came in Lemon which was excellent.
Another was a little orange packet called Sour + from Lot100. It had little orange faces on it making sour impressions. It was a gummi, soft and about the size of a gumdrop with a sugar sand on it. Whoo, it was sour to start, then the soft gummi had a nice orange flavor to it. I would definitely buy these again. I wonder if they come in pineapple. That’d be cool.
Lot100 also had a nice Cola hard candy. It looked a little odd in that it was a plain red hard candy. It tasted like cola but had a slight hint of cinnamon.
Not everything from Lot100 was a hit - I had a rather promising Mango gummi that just didn’t quite hit the right balance. The texture was fantastic, plump and moist with a nice tart note but the mango “flavor” was less “pine meets melon” and more “burnt rubber.” Too bad.
Kasugai had a good assortment of fruit gummis, which I’ve reviewed before. I picked up Litchi and Muscat this time. They’re called super juicy on the label and they are plenty soft, but the litchi was a little flavorless and almost like a Turkish Delight. Muscat smelled wonderful and had a bit more complex flavor, something like white grape and orange blossom.
There was also a line of Milk candies that had calcium in them that came in interesting flavors like chocolate, vanilla and also red bean. They had an odd, firm, fluffed latexy quality to them, kind of like Hi-CHEW. I have no idea how much calcium is actually in it, but they were super soft and very satisfying. The vanilla was a little bland and the chocolate was kind of like a bouncy Tootsie roll, but I really liked the red bean. I mean, I really liked it. I’m sorry they’re gone now.
I picked up a few tea flavored candies, one from Thailand called Didi Honey Lemon Tea Candy was particularly nice. Only slightly tart, there was a nice play between tea and honey in there. The other brand was Cister from Malaysia wasn’t as pleasant looking (brown) but had a much stronger tea flavor and some mint thrown in (which made it taste more like a Ricola drop).
Another assortment were called S’Creams and were just hard candies with a milky swirl to them, kind of like Lifesaver’s Creamsavers. They were pleasant enough, with a Werther’s-like crunch if you bit them but a good tangy hit too to keep them interesting and satisfying. I picked up Orange, Strawberry and Melon.
There were a few flavors of these, I picked up Pudding Marshmallow, Grape Marshmallow, Mango Marshmallow and then two that have no English text on them - one has purple on its wrapper and the other has pink.
Mango Marshmallow - shown above - sucked royally. I had two of them, I at that bite of one and I gave the other to Amy, who promptly spit it out in my trash can. Why is it bad? It just is ... don’t make me think about it.
Pudding Marshmallow - it looks suspiciously like Mango, but thankfully is quite nice. It’s a marshmallow with a little lump of creamy, dulce de leche tasting filling in the middle. Not quite fudge, not quite creme, but pleasant and a little artificially vanilla tasting but with a tasty hit of salt.
Chocolate Marshmallow - there was no indication what this was, just a pink wrapper. The chocolate was a cross between frosting and a Tootsie roll. Not as good as the pudding one, but I liked it.
Grape Marshmallow - hmm, it was okay, but the grape filling was like cheap jelly and it just didn’t appeal much to me.
Basically, Aji Ichiban is as much of an adventure as you want it to be. You can grab a pound of simple mixed candies that you know and love or you can push the boundaries of your taste experiences and just shovel them into your bag blindly and see what happens.
I think the candy is horribly expensive for pure sugar stuff - $10 a pound is way up there even for the fancy fruit candies from Italy that I see at Zabars or something. But the variety is pretty special and with no minimums and the ability to mix and match is a huge plus. You can also order online, but there’s a half-pound minimum with most candies and of course the selection is limited. They have stores in several large cities across the edges of the United States, but they don’t have the addresses on their site.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.