Friday, March 30, 2007
After the review of Lifesavers Jelly Beans, I kept hearing that the SweeTart Jelly Beans were also very good. (Actually, readers have been telling me this for a year, but I was hoping to catch them on sale after Easter last year, but wasn’t so lucky.)
So I went out last night looking for them. Luckily they were on sale ($1.50 a bag instead of $2.29) at RiteAid. I carefully chose a bag that looked like it had lots of yellow ones in it (the others looked very pink).
Unlike the Lifesavers Jelly Beans that made up flavors to include in the bag, the SweeTart Jelly Beans stick to the regular SweeTart flavors: Grape, Cherry, Orange, Lemon, Green Apple and Blue Punch.
The colors are typical of an assortment of highlighter pens (well, the purple one just wasn’t photographing well, it’s much more lilac that the photo makes it appear). They’re matte and opaque. They’re also not terribly regular in size and shape, with the colors sometimes looking a little faded in spots and other little bloops of other colors in them.
These beans are different. They candy shell on them isn’t like any other jelly bean I’ve had. Instead of just being a flavored sugar shell, these feel different. They’re a little crumbly and a little cool on the tongue. The ingredients lists dextrose as one of the main ingredients. Dextrose is the same sugar used to make SweeTart and other compressed sugar candies.
It takes a little getting used to, because at first it feels like the bean is past its prime or something. But then I really started to enjoy cleaving off parts of the shell in my mouth before chewing the rest up. They’re kind of like Lemonheads in that respect, except not as sour. The jelly center isn’t really flavored, but does have a slight tang to it (yes, I managed to just nibble off the shell on a few of them). The jelly center is the same for all of them as far as I can tell (Jelly Belly uses specific flavored centers for their beans, which is one of the reasons they’re so flavorful).
I really liked the orange and lemon, but found the grape to be a huge disappointment. It was completely missing that “malic acid” flavor of the grape SweeTart. The green apple also seemed a little weird, just not quite complete. The blue punch was much better than I expected and of course the cherry was just bitter to me. Though all of them are a bit tart, they’re not really sour like a SweeTart is. I can say from experience here that there’s no tongue damage from eating a third of a bag for breakfast (which there definitely would be with the regular chalky SweeTart).
I’m not as fond of these as I’d hoped, so they’re not going to knock the Lifesavers Jelly Beans off the current favored spot for the special Easter jelly beans. Part of it is the lack of visual appeal, they just look old. I also wanted them to be more tart. But I have to give them props for making me eat my jelly beans in a different way. I still have another bag of the SweeTart Ducks, Chicks & Bunnies (I finally found them at Walgreen’s) ... it’s gonna take a big candy innovation for something else from SweeTart to knock them off the top spot.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
I found myself frustrated last year trying to put together a “Green Halloween”, and part of that is that at Halloween we’re buying candy for strangers (trick-or-treaters). For Easter we’re buying candy for our close friends and family, so taking that extra step to pick the most wholesome and ethically produced is perhaps a little easier on the wallet. So if you’re looking to put something together this year, take a look over those product reviews for Green Halloween as most are also available for Easter (and all year round). I’ll put together an updated list of green candy choices this weekend.
Endangered Species makes their little Bug Bites in a “Hoppy Treats” version, which I think are nice Easter basket options. Since I’ve already reviewed those, I thought I’d give a new Endangered Species item a review today!
Introduced late last year, Eco-Rounds are a set of three little dark chocolates with caramelized cacao nibs. They come in a single serving “bar” (a plastic package, instead of the usual foil & paper wrapper). The little disks of chocolate are attractive, rather thick and very shiny.
While the Endangered Species Bat Bar also has cacao nibs in it, these little morsels aren’t quite as dark. The chocolate here is 60% dark instead of the 75% dark in the Bat Bar. The chocolate is smooth and a little sweet. The disks have an excellent crunch from the abundant nibs. Unlike many bars with nibs in the, these are caramelized, so they have a little sweet toffee crunch taste to them.
Excellent stuff, if these were easier to find, this might be one of my favorite new nibby items. I was very disappointed when I finished them (seriously, they could put four in there very easily)!
I think Endangered Species should really consider wrapping these individually in foil (or those little sealed sleeves they use for Bug Bites) and selling them seasonally in larger bags. I’d love a bowl of pastel ones for the spring and some fall colors later this year. Or if you want to go the non-seasonal route, maybe some different patterned foils in animal prints. Some zebra stripes, leopard Spots, tortoise shell ... it could be sassy!
Note: this is not organic, but is all natural and ethically traded. Also note that they call this dark chocolate, but the wrapper says that it contains milk products, so is not suitable for vegans. (Drat!)
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
I’ve seen all the new Kisses, and while I’d love to review them all, I just can’t bring myself to keep buying 10 ounce bags of them. I don’t want that many Kisses that I’m not sure about! Why not a variety bag? Or ... how about a single serving package?
Okay, part of me is cheap, so when I saw that this was $1.09 at the 7-11, I thought, “For another dollar I can have a huge bag of them!” Then I remembered I don’t want a huge bag ... so I ponied up the buck and took home my FIVE Hershey’s Chocolate Truffle Kisses.
Well, color me surprised when I got them home and opened up the package.
Inside the mylar wrapper the Kisses were protected within a piece of folded waxed cardboard. The little triangular tube did a nice job of keeping them from getting smashed while traveling around in my bag. I pulled out the set and found that these guys are HUGE!
I dug around for a regular Kiss just to demonstrate this. They’re obviously a molded chocolate (as all the non-standard Kisses are) and have a substantial base (the classic extruded Kisses have a little curved bit at the base). The standard Kiss has a base diameter of .8125 inches and the Truffle Kiss has a base diameter of 1 inch.
The whole thing is rather milky looking. When I first cut open the Kiss for the photo, I couldn’t tell where the truffle filling was. You can kind of make out the little dome of it in this photo.
It smells rather sweet, a little milky, a little like vanilla. The center is soft and melts easily (courtesy, I’m sure, of all that modified palm oil). There’s a little salty hit to the center as well, just a smidge saltier than the milk chocolate shell. The whole thing is much creamier than the regular Kiss chocolate and lacks that tangy note that many Hershey’s chocolate products have. (I kind of like that flavor, but I know a few Europeans use this information against Americans.) Without that flavor, this doesn’t taste like much. It’s not terribly chocolatey, but reasonably smooth and creamy without being too sticky or sweet.
If you really want a Hershey’s Kiss that doesn’t taste like one, well, here’s your product.
I think I’ll pass on the bags of foil wrapped Truffle Kisses. The one that I am planning to buy in the full bag is the Coconut Creme. Maybe this weekend.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
So I’m reading Technology Marketing magazine last month (okay, not really, I just found the article because it was about candy and it came up on a Google News Alert) and there was an article about Topps and their new products. But what shocked me, seriously shocked me, was the first part of the opening paragraph:
Say what? The Baby Bottle Pop is that popular (I have no idea what holds the number 1 spot in the adults non-chocolate segment ... I’m guessing something from Jelly Belly)?
So why haven’t I had them? It appears that they were introduced in the late 90s, a bit after my candy experimentation stage. But I have a duty to Candy Blog to keep up with the kids, you know. First, I had to find them. This involved stooping down and looking at the bottom racks in the candy aisle at the drug stores and finally at 7-11 where I was able to find the “classic” version in a flavor combo that seemed good to me. I picked up Citrus Craze and Strawberry.
You may be wondering what a Baby Bottle is. It’s a little bottle, about the size of a small baby food jar, filled with a powdered candy topped with a hard candy nipple top. The top unscrews and has a “stem” that allows you to hold onto the top as you lick it to get it sticky and then dip it into the bottle to coat it with the sour, flavorful powder. The nipple pop has a plastic dome to keep it clean when you’re not eating.
I was expecting a grainy powder like Pixy Stix. Instead it’s much finer and more flavorful.
The Citrus Craze powder is quite tart and actually has a lot more flavor than I expected. Instead of just sour, it had some orangey flavors. It still tasted pretty much like Tang. It looks like Tang, too. The pop itself is rather bland and sweet, with a swirl of yellow and orange. The combo of the two is really good! The tangy powder seems more zesty because of the bland background of the sweet pop. Having the dipping pop made of hard candy makes far more sense than the Lik-a-Maid which had a compressed dextrose stick that got soggy pretty quickly.
As you eat the pop and there’s less powder, it gets harder and harder to coat the pop with it. I eventually just dumped the powder onto my tongue. Here’s a tip ... don’t inhale at the same time. Seriously, this is weapons-grade powder and the sour crust in your lungs is not a happy thing. Is there a disease called Pixe Stix Lung?
The Strawberry wasn’t quite as interesting to me, except that I have to say that the clear red nipple pop on top was pretty alluring. (Read into that whatever you like.)
In this version the pop is actually the flavorful sour part and the powder is just sweet and fruity. Not bad, but I preferred the tangy zap of the Citrus Craze. As a grown up I find eating this a little cumbersome but I’m pretty sure this would have been my favorite candy as a tween. As a treat for kids, yeah, it’s a mixed message, but it’s also rather labor intensive to eat and only 120 calories.
For the record, as a kid I didn’t buy Pixy Stix or Lik-a-Maid. I would buy cans of lemonade mix or boxes of Jell-O and just eat that by licking my finger and dipping it in there. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to use a lollipop.
Note: this product was made in Thailand.
Monday, March 26, 2007
I thought I was done with the series of Easter candy, but then I remembered that I had these organic treats that I picked up at Show West.
Surf Sweets is a line of organic candies made by Santa Cruz Nutritionals. No artificial colors, no artificial sweeteners, non-GMO and gluten free but they look and taste just like mass-consumer brands.
The treats I’m sampling are their Jelly Beans, Fruity Bears and Gummy Bears. Since their colors are natural, they look a little more muted than many other candies, but still very pleasant and sparkly. Surf Sweets are also fortified with vitamin C (though it takes half a package to get a full day’s supply).
The jelly beans started off with a bang when I picked up the light yellow one and found it to be a tasty grapefruit. The beans are about the size of Jelly Belly, but a little less regular in shape. The shell was a little more grainy than many other jelly beans I’ve had lately, but very fruity with a good balance of sweet and tart. The other flavors, as far as I could tell were: Lemon, Orange, Cherry (no bitter aftertaste!) and Strawberry.
These are marked Vegetarian on the package, using fruit pectin as the gelling agent. They do have beeswax on them so some vegans may find them objectionable.
The little sugar sanded bears are very cute. They seem to come in the same flavor set as the jelly beans: Grapefruit, Lemon, Orange, Cherry & Strawberry.
I liked these a lot. I liked them a lot more than the jelly beans because the flavor was in the jelly, not in the sugary coating. The citrus flavors were my favorite.
These are also marked vegetarian but contain beeswax.
The Gummy Bears honestly looked no different than any other gummi. The little bear shapes were rather like the Trolli with their well definted paws and eyes. The gummi texture was bouncy with excellent well rounded flavor - good sweetness, good fruit and good tart. The flavors themselves were a little muddier in their distinctiveness. There was a berry, lemon and orange. There may have been two berry flavors, the colors weren’t that different and neither were the flavors.
These were not vegetarian because of the presence of gelatin and not completely organic.
I found them online for $1.75 a bag, which is about $10 a pound ... a bit more than Jelly Bellies and other gourmet sugar candies. If you’re looking for a slightly more wholesome candy for your kids (especially for their Easter basket) that doesn’t look like a compromise to them (unless they’re reading the packages), this is a great option. The flavor and eating experience is exactly the same - so your kids won’t feel like they’re getting a compromise candy. Let’s face it, part of the appeal of candy to kids is the look of it, and these gummi bears, in the palm of your hand, look like gummi bears. They won’t miss the artificial colors.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.