Sunday, September 17, 2006
Yesterday I went to Oakland, CA for a meeting. I got up early, hopped on a Southwest flight from Burbank where the security personnel questioned me about the bag of 15 USB memory stick pens I had with me (that I was donating to NaNoWriMo), and then they looked in my bag to make sure that my lip balm was actually solid.
On my flight back later in the evening I had some other stuff with me that actually caught more attention from the folks at the Oakland airport. They did a THOROUGH screening of my pack (a small backpack that I carry as my purse) and took out every item and even after finding the solid lip balm, he continued to look through my stuff.
At this point my bag contained these additional items:
5 loose pieces of Russian hard candies filled with a hazelnut paste with a white wrapper and red lobster on the paper wrapper.
1 Swedish candy bar called Brejk
2 loose pieces of Russian chocolate covered wafer candies with a blue wrapper and a little drawing of a family of bears in the woods.
1 Swedish candy bar called Pigall (I’ll definitely review that one soon!)
2 Heath bars
1 partially eaten Equal Exchange dark chocolate with cocoa nibs bar
1 package of Tic Tacs
1 piece of Teaberry gum
1 large box of candy known as белка (pronounced bee-ill-jhKHA)
The guy chuckled and said that I had a lot of candy. I said, yeah, that’s why I don’t like being searched. (Luckily their sarcasm detector was offline.)
Once inside the terminal I stopped at the See’s store and though I passed up the free sample (a walnut item), I bought a box of Awesome Nut & Chew bars and ate one while waiting at the gate.
I figured as long as the TSA now knows what I carry around with me, I figured you should, too.
Friday, September 15, 2006
If I’d planned it a little more, this week could have been Cola Flavor Theme Week. But here I am again with another cola flavored candy.
I got these cute little packets of Cherry Cola flavored Pop Rocks at the All Candy Expo. They come in a wee little lunchbox looking tin. The packets are a little larger than a packet of sugar or about a third of the size or a regular Pop Rocks package. I’m actually okay with a small packet, as Pop Rocks tend to get all sticky when exposed to humidity and I like to eat my Pop Rocks slowly.
The little grains are different colors, some pale yellow and some pink, I was guessing they were just a mix of rock flavors. They were very fizzy and popped really well, must better than my experience with the Sal y Limon ones. The cherry flavor was soft with only a slight tangy tone to it, but I completely missed the cola notes. Every once in a while there was a burst of caramelized sugar flavor, which was really nice, but didn’t ring as a cola flavor. Granted, I’ve never had Cherry Cola, but I’m guessing it tastes like cola in some way or another.
If you’re looking for stocking stuffers or party favors or a theme gift, these are an excellent choice. The packages are decorated in the style or a 50s diner or soda counter with bright red and black accents. The tins are limited edition, so they may come out with different varieties. This one was Series 1, Edition 2. (You can buy them online here at CandyFavorites and I think I’ve seen this or something similar at Cost Plus World Market.)
I wonder if they’ll ever make Root Beer Pop Rocks?
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Ramune is a Japanese flavor similar to Lemon-Lime but with something else in it that I can’t quite put my finger on, it might be kind of like tonic water. Ramune soda comes in a unique bottle, which has a bubble in the neck that holds a glass marble that seals the bottle when it’s upright and then as you tip the bottle it rolls out and allows you to drink. (The marble can’t get out of the little bubble it’s in, so you don’t have to worry about swallowing it.)
Just about every candy in Japan comes in a Ramune version. Hi-CHEW, Puccho, gum, Shigekix & gummis.
These little candies are also about the size and shape of a glass marble:
The Ramune hard candy is immediately tart and a little floral tasting and has a tingle and fizz that comes right after that. I think the fizz comes from a combination of baking soda and citric acid that’s activated by the saliva in your mouth. The fizz goes all the way through. It’s pleasant and not too tart, so you don’t have to worry about burning your tongue when you consume too many.
The Cola flavored ones came in little red packets, with different colored lettering on them. I suspect that some were lime cola, lemon cola and perhaps cherry cola, but I really couldn’t tell the difference. They were all cola and had the zippy fizz and spicy cola flavor combo. Of the two flavors, I think I preferred the Cola ones, but I’ve been on a kick for Cola flavor lately. This bag had a mix of flavors (you can also get solo flavor bags or tubs), so I could indulge whatever whim I had ... but at the end of the bag there were just Ramune left.
I’m a big fan of using hard candies on long car trips to keep you alert and your mouth moist. This is also good for planes, especially in these days where you can’t bring your own water. These are pretty cool because they’re so active in your mouth. I have to warn you though, this is no idle bubbly tingle, these will give you the burps just like real soda ... but no refrigeration needed!
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
The Japanese have some strange candies and these have to be right up there at the top. Puccho are pretty popular and with good reason, they deliver just about everything. They have variety in both the experience and the range of flavors, great packaging, they’re inexpensive and of course you can share them easily.
There was a wide variety of flavor combinations at the store and I was especially interested in the Cola one but wanted to stay away from the yogurt ones (I like yogurt, but not as a flavor).
The Cola (in the red package) was awesome. The little piece had white and brown stripes in the candy and every once in a while there was a little piece of cola flavored gummi or a nugget of sour foamy grains. The grains gave it a lemon-cola zap and the gummis gave the soft, Hi-CHEW-like taffy a little bump of longevity.
The second one is a bit more of a mystery. The English sticker on the label calls it Genki Drink, which didn’t really help me to narrow it down because I didn’t know what a Genki Drink is. A little time on Google and I knew EXACTLY what they are ... you’ve probably seen them before, those mysterious brown glass bottles by the checkout at the Asian markets and tea shops that claim to boost your mental acuity and, um, other things.
The saffron colored chews are similarly soft and have a tangy, lemon tea flavor to them but also a floral note that reminded me of violets. There are similar nuggets of white powder that release a little zap of fizz and tartness, but these seem to have a bitter bite to them. The little gummi bits linger and have a little fruity taste to them and help to scrub away any lingering taffy bits in the teeth (that’s how they’re described on the Puccho website).
I definitely found the Cola ones fun and practically addictive except for the later burps that the little fizzy bits seem to generate. The Genki, not so much, even though it probably has infusions of all sorts of healthy things (the only one I’m sure of is vitamin C). I’ll probably stick to my tried-and-true Hi-CHEW but the Cola ones are definitely compelling if I’m in a mood.
Interesting note: the motto for UHA Mikakuto is “Deliciousness is Gentleness”
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
The lovely folks at Endanged Species thought I should try more of their bars (well, so did the lovely Candy Blog readers in the comments section). They happily sent me a small selection to try, here are a couple of the milk chocolate bars.
Milk Chocolate with Peanut Brittle - there’s an elephant on the package! I’m guessing because elephants like peanuts. The base of this bar is a very dark, rich milk chocolate with 52% cocoa content. In fact, it’s so chocolatey that the sugar (made from water-filtered beet sugar) is third on the list of ingredients instead of first in most milk chocolates. That’s not to say that the chocolate isn’t sweet, but it also has an intense creaminess to it that I’ve found very rare in other milk chocolates. The dairy component is quite rich but it doesn’t feel sticky.
Sprinkled in there are peanut brittle chips. They have a nice salty bite and crispness and add a good peanut crunch. I’d argue that it isn’t really peanut brittle but toffee, since it’s so buttery, but I don’t feel that argument much matters.
This is a fantastic bar that may convert some folks who say they don’t like milk chocolate because it’s too homogeneous tasting but it still retains its munchability. I ate the whole bar in a matter of two days. 9 out of 10.
Milk Chocolate with Rice Crisp - this bar has a manatee on the front. I doubt manatees have a fondness for rice though as vegetarians I don’t imagine they’d be adverse to it. This bar contains the same dark 52% cocoa content milk chocolate. This bar has a slightly smokier taste to it, which I’m guessing is added by the crisped rice. The first third of the bar, I hated it. The crisped rice tasted bitter and burnt to me. But I thought maybe I just had a bad rice crisp or two. I waited a day and tried it again. The crisped rice still reminds me of those bits of barely popped popcorn that end up in the bottom of the bowl. Very toasted tasting and with a much denser crunch.
Though the second try was more successful, I just wasn’t keen on the rustic taste of the rice crisps. There weren’t enough of them to make it a really crunchy bar and the intense flavor they added didn’t thrill me. I’m a huge fan of grains and eat a lot of them (barley is my favorite, if you didn’t already know) but this just wasn’t my thing. 6 out of 10.
Endangered Species is now based in Indiana (they moved from Oregon last year) and the make ethically traded chocolate bars in a huge variety of flavor combinations. The cool part is that the commitment to the environment goes to all facets of the production and marketing. The packages are printed on recycled paper and with soy-based biodegradable inks. The 10% of all profits are donated to animal conservation causes. Each bar is branded with a different endangered animal and the inside of the wrapper has that animal’s story. There are often coupons as well and tips for making small changes in your life to lessen your impact on the environment.
Though the bars are all natural, these are not organic (though there are other bars in their repertoir that are). Some of the cocoa beans that they acquire are Fair Trade certified and others do not have the certification but are ethically traded. Their packaging and story helps them to appeal to kids moreso than other wholesome-branded chocolates.
Monday, September 11, 2006
They’re just chocolate covered malted milk balls, but for some reason they don’t call them that in the UK (then again, we call them Whoppers here as a rather generic term). The other UK malt balls I’ve had are Malteasers.
I picked them up at Mel & Rose’s and hoped they were the best malted milk balls ever made. (A lot of the time I buy stuff hoping it’ll be okay. Sometimes I really go to town and wind myself up that I’ve found the perfect candy to be stranded on an island with.)
Being a Cadbury product I expected some good chocolate. It was okay, the usual sweet and powdered milk tasting stuff but then again malted milk always tastes a bit like powdered milk anyway. The crispy centers were light and had a good hit of malt with a little bit of a dark salt note to it. The proportions were good, there was a nice amount of chocolate, but it wasn’t all about the chocolate, the shell was just there to protect the crispy center.
The chocolate wasn’t creamy enough for me, it had that shellac shell on it that just made it a little too waxy. If anyone’s keeping track, I think the best prepackaged malted milk balls I’ve tried so far are the Limited Edition Pop’ables ... other than that I like to pick up the bulk ones at the grocery store (Harmony brand).
These were manufactured in South Africa.
Friday, September 8, 2006
Coffee is one of my favorite flavors. I’ve been searching for the perfect coffee chocolate bar, so when Green & Black’s offered to send me some chocolate to try (including some bars I’d had trouble getting a hold of around here), I jumped at it.
Green & Black’s basically offers two different formats for their chocolate, the big 3.5 ounce bars and these boxes of 27 little tablets. I really like the boxes because I can have just a little chocolate and save it for later or share it. But it’s a lot of packaging, too, so I’m torn.
Unlike other coffee infused bars that use whole beans to flavor the chocolate, Green & Black’s doesn’t have discernible grounds in the chocolate. Here’s what the package says:
Thank goodness someone realized that I don’t want coffee grounds in my chocolate!
The overwhelming scent of these little pieces is coffee, strong black coffee. On the tongue the chocolate melts readily with no graininess but some bitter notes of espresso with flavors of licorice and sandalwood apparent as well. Just as advertised on the package the chocolate flavors emerge later as a support for the espresso, kind of like cream does in your coffee.
It’s not for the faint of heart, this is high octane stuff and I imagine there’s a good hit of caffeine in there, too. I’ve had to be careful not to eat them too late in the day lest they keep me up. I enjoyed it but the price for the box of tablets is a bit up there, for a better value grab the 3.5 ounce bar at Target (here in LA they’re selling them at Ralph’s now).
If you’re a reader from the UK, be sure to check their site for current competitions to win chocolate prizes.
UPDATE: I grabbed the retail price from Chocosphere, which as them at $13.99 a box. If you find it in stores it should be $8.99.
Thursday, September 7, 2006
There have been a few deaths in the news lately, and a couple of them are candy related.
First, Nathan Sloane of Charleston Chew died at the age of 97 last month. Though he didn’t invent the Charleston Chew, he bought the company in 1957 and developed the other versions of the bar, including chocolate-chocolate and strawberry. He later sold the company in 1990 to Nabisco.
And just yesterday Dorothy Harmsen who co-founded Jolly Rancher passed away at the age of 91. Hers is a charming tale of an accidental candy empire. She started making chocolates to offset the dip in ice cream sales in the cold Colorado winters. Their first breakout hit was the super-cinnamon Fire Stix. One of my favorites as a child. The family later sold the business to Hershey’s in 1996.
Rest in peace, Dorothy. Read full obituary at the New York Times.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.