Friday, June 22, 2007
After a recent writing session on a new play (for Script Frenzy) I stopped at the 7-11 near the coffee house where I was holed up to see what they had. I didn’t see much new, except for these gargantuan Tootsie Pops.
I picked up two, in my favorite flavors, Orange and Grape and thought I’d compare them to the classic sized ones.
The big ones are .85 ounces and regulars are .60 ounces.
I did try to compare the center of the Tootsie Pops, in case the hard candy proportion was the only difference. As far as I could tell, there was a slightly larger amount of Tootsie Roll at the center of the .85 ounce one but it was consistent with the larger amount of hard candy ... so they got the proportions right.
But here’s the thing ... there’s nothing wrong with the size of the regular Tootsie Pop. In fact, it’s darn near perfect. It actually fits inside my mouth. Not that the .85 ounce one doesn’t, but the problem is that I can’t put it between my cheek and my teeth. Maybe with some careful, long-term stretching, but then I’ll probably be left with Tootsie-Jowl. The other complaint is that the jumbo pops are wrapped in some sort of plasticized paper instead of the classic waxed paper. While this may provide a better seal on the candy (I think they hot melt it to the stick or something) this makes it frustrating to open and the wrapper simply cannot be used to wrap back around the partially eaten pop ... it just pops open unless you use some tape on it. (I usually save the wrapper to wrap up my stick that may be, well, sticky, and put it in my bag until I can dispose of it properly if need be.)
I love Tootsie Pops, they’re an ideal summer candy, as they have no melting issues but still offer a sightly chocolatey flavor.
My ranking of the current flavor offerings:
Your mileage may vary. I give the traditional Tootsie Pops a 9 out of 10 ... the new jumbo sized ones get a 7 out of 10 ... yeah, size matters. Tootsie Pops also come in miniatures, which look about the size of a Dum Dum pop. I’ve had them before, I tend to pull the stick out right away and crunch it up (rather like the old Tootsie Pop Drops). Read more about the history of the Tootsie Pop at their site and their TV spots.
Here’s the classic one:
Here’s the new one:
Which do you prefer?
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Sometimes I wonder if these energy bars are really better than plain old candy bars. Back in the depression candy bars were meal replacements. Many were packed with nuts and over two ounces, which made them a pretty cheap source of satisfying calories at a nickle.
Of course the object these days is not the maximum number of calories per ounce, but how good the nutrition profile is.
When I want a little lasting energy & snack, I usually reach for some sort of nutty bar, as they tend to have a good amount of protein. Payday bars are always dependable. But I’m also a fan of Lara Bars, which are basically mashed up almonds and dates with a few spices thrown in. At about twice the price though, I often grab the Payday ... and I don’t feel that bad about it.
This sounded familiar. In fact, it looked familiar ... very familiar. The Take 5 features pretzels, caramel, peanuts, peanut butter and milk chocolate. Wow, not much difference there ... even in the ordering of the elements.
Well, Twisted was $1.29 and a Take 5 is $.89 at the 7-11.
I’ve reviewed the Take 5 before and I stand by it. It’s a good bar with a lot of variety of texture in it, not too sweet and because it’s in two pieces, it’s easy to have a little now, have a little later.
The Twisted bar is merely a Tiger’s Milk bar covered in weak chocolate with a pretzel thrown in. It smells like baby formula. It seriously tasted like I was chomping on vitamin leather or something. I often enjoy things that are rather unpalatable, just because I’m fascinated by all the different flavors there are and maybe catty things I can say about it. I didn’t enjoy this, even for the prospect of reviewing it. Luckily the two piece format of the Take 5 meant that I had a palate cleansing second piece at hand.
So you might feel like you’re doing the right thing when you eat this lower calorie version of a Take 5, but you’re certainly not going to enjoy it.
I have to admit that it’s probably unfair to match a candy bar with an energy bar ... but hey, that’s the breaks. They started it by packaging it to look an awful lot like the Take 5.
For some other balanced reviews of snack bars, check out I Ate a Pie’s special roundup from earlier this year.
I’ve been a little remiss in posting the results of the polls, but here they are:
Fudge, Cotton Candy & Frozen Bananas topped the summer treats poll. I voted for frozen bananas, but I might change that if I ever try a deep fried candy bar.
I was really surprised that Junior Mints are so much more popular than other movie candy ... even more surprised because I don’t always see it as an option at the theater. While there were a few items on the Summer list that I don’t care much for, I’d pretty much eat any of these. (Yes, I voted for Junior Mints, too!)
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
They’re simply a little nibble of licorice covered in a thin sugar shell. Rather like a Jordan Almond, the shell is added in a process called panning, where a sugar syrup is added to the little licorice bites and tumbled and dried and then colored. Good & Plenty come in only two colors, pink and white. (Most other licorice pastilles come in pastels or bright colors, like the version made by Jelly Belly Confections.)
Most licorice pastilles are expensive, but Good & Plenty are surprisingly affordable, probably because they don’t have as much of a candy shell as some others.
The flavor of Good & Plenty is more complex, I think, than some of the European pastilles. First, the sugar coating doesn’t completely contain the licorice flavor so when you stick your nose into a movie-sized box of Good & Plenty and you get a woodsy whiff of anise. The sugar shell isn’t very crunchy, in fact, it’s a little grainy, but it works pretty well for Good & Plenty, letting the flavor permeate. The licorice itself has a high sweet overtone and then the molasses hits, dark and slightly burnt and with a light salty bite. After it’s gone there’s a lingering sweetness and clean licorice/anise flavor ... until you pop the next few in your mouth.
For this review I tried both the new Fresh from the Factory Good & Plenty and a rather fresh box from the convenience store near the office. There were a couple of differences. The molasses flavor seemed a little more pronounced in the FFTF&P and the sugar shell seemed a little softer. The still-fresh-in-the-box Good & Plenty had a mellower, more licorice-intense flavor and a slightly stronger shell. (It might have been my imagination, but the FFTF ones also looked a bit plump.)
While some of the other Fresh from the Factory offerings seem a bit steep in price, the Good & Plenty version, in a 4 pound tub is a bit better deal for $25 ($6.24 per pound). The window to order has closed at the moment (though I believe they’ll cycle through again). Good & Plenty in bulk on the internet is $3.90 a pound for 5 pounds ... or $3.24 a pound for 10 pounds, so it’s not like there aren’t deals out there.
I’ve found the sealed plastic peg bags sold at the grocery or drug stores are the freshest, the boxed Good & Plenty can be tough. But then again, I like mine tough, the candy shell is more crackly and of course it takes longer to eat. While I love Good & Plenty and it’s one of the few candies that I still purchase on a regular basis even with all the other stuff I have to get through, sometimes I prefer the crisper shell of the European varieties (but not the steep price).
Good & Plenty is one of America’s oldest continuously produced candy brands, here are a few moments in their corporate history:
1983 - Leaf and its brands is sold to Finnish company Huhtamaki Oy
Though the company has changed hands a few times and even moved factories (at least three different locations that I know of), the packaging has stayed pretty much the same. A little box with Good & Plenty candies pictured on the the outside and the name inside a circle ... when I was a kid it had a black background, now it’s a purple one. The black, pink & white color combination is often known as “good & plenty” in crafting and decorating circles. Somewhere along the way it dropped the more formal “and” in favor of an ampersand, probably when they became part of Hershey’s.
For many years Good & Plenty was also known for their cartoon mascot, Choo Choo Charlie. I found this video on YouTube of an old commercial:
These sorts of ads are probably not going to be around any longer, advertising candy to children is going away. Though candy offers empty calories, it does have some highlights. Candies like Good & Plenty make it easy for kids to share, learn portioning and resealable boxes reward self-restraint. Many boxes were also pretty versatile ... you could shake your box as a percussion instrument when it has candy in it and when empty, you can blow into it like a reed instrument. The current boxes don’t have the tucked tab design that do that ... the day they got rid of those was the day the music died.
Good & Plenty is made with wheat flour so is unsuitable for those with wheat allergies or gluten-intolerance. It’s also colored with Carmine derived from insects and therefore not suitable for vegans. Good & Plenty are certified Kosher.
Candy Addict’s Twizzler’s FFTF review (I totally agree with everything he said)
Good & Plenty is listed as one of the top arousing scents for women (yeah, if you’re looking for some lovin’ splurge for the super-scented Fresh from the Factory).
Sunday, June 17, 2007
I was interested in what the UK version of Skittles were like compared to the American Skittles for two reasons. The first is that they don’t use gelatin in them. This means that vegetarians are free to enjoy, but I wasn’t sure what difference it would make in the texture. The second is that UK Skittles aren’t fortified with vitamin C. Did you know that a pack of American Skittles has half our daily RDA?
My friends Bronwen & Jay just returned from Europe and brought this super-sized tub of Skittles for me.
So, how different are Euro-Skittles? First, remember that Skittles were first introduced in Europe, so if anything, we’ve corrupted them with our gelatin.
I got some American Skittles and did a side by side.
It was pretty obvious that the colors aren’t quite the same. The Euro-Skittles are bit dull in comparison, in color and shine. The American Skittles are on the left and the UK sourced ones on the right.
The flavors are the same until you get to purple, which is Black Currant in the UK, grape in the US.
The textures are different. American Skittles are firm, have a pretty crispy shell and long chew that’s a little grainy and then descends back into a grainy sugary mess before dissolving.
UK Skittles are soft and have what feels like a thinner shell. The flavor seems a bit brighter on the citrus ones, especially the lemon that tastes rather like fresh lemon juice.
I’ve never been overly fond of the American Grape Skittle, I eat it, but it’s way down there at the bottom, right after Lime. So I was intrigued by the Black Currant at first. If anything, the whole tub smells like Black Currant (whereas I find American Skittles smell like Strawberry). What I found out is this ... I don’t like Black Currant Skittles. In fact, I might not like Black Currant as a flavor much at all.
I did a little reading on Black Currant, because it seems like a rather traditional British flavor and found that it’s one of the few fruits grown in the UK with high levels of Vitamin C, during WWII it was the only reliable local source. On this side of the pond, Currant cultivation was banned because the plants were encouraging the spread of a disease of pine trees needed for the lumber industry. So as they fell out of the American diet, they were practically forced down the throats of the UK kiddies. (See Wikipedia.)
American Skittles…..................UK Skittles
My dislike of Black Currant Skittles certainly wouldn’t dissuade me from eating Skittles in England or anything. The differences between the two, besides that flavor, are marginal at best. The good thing is that I have a huge tub of them.
Even though they have no gelatin, they’re not Kosher or Hallal.
Friday, June 15, 2007
This has been going around for a few months, it’s the Charlie the Unicorn and the Candy Mountain animation from FilmCow.
My favorite part is that the Y in Candy is the lead singer in the musical number. There are a gazillion homages on YouTube as well, but you should probably see what my blogger-bud Sean Bonner and his friends did late one night.
I think of myself as a candy cheerleader in many ways, that’s why there are more good reviews here than bad ones. But I have to respect other people’s least favorite candies ... especially when they dramatize it so well. The fellows at Handsome Donkey created a video of the 5 Worst Candies of All Time. (Found via Robyn at Serious Eats.)
This one isn’t video and isn’t really very happy either. But poignant. It’s a photo essay of the old Brach’s candy factory in Chicago. It was closed and production was moved off to Mexico where sugar and production costs are cheaper.
Tom Regan who took the photos was kind enough to give me permission to post this little mosaic of them here, check out the rest of them on Flickr.
One of the things I like so much about some of the Japanese candies is that they’re incredibly flavorful. I couple of months ago I got an email from the fine folks at JBox telling me about a new UHA Shigekix product called Aha! Brain. It comes in a few different flavors, including “Energy Drink Flavor”, which puzzled me and scared me enough to prompt me to stick to the comfortably familiar flavor called Citrus Flavor.
I tried Shigekix a couple of years ago in the Cola flavor and found them kind of fun. This package doesn’t have the familiar schmoo character on the front, instead a PacMan type character with some sort of electrified brain.
The little gumdrop shaped candies are covered in a light and uneven candy shell. The shell is merely sweet and carries no flavor as far as I can tell. The gummi center, however, is jam packed with flavor. The gummi is much softer than the regular Shigekix, rather like a slightly stale Haribo Bear.
The citrus flavor is just bursting with complexity. It has the zesty notes of grapefruit and perhaps yuzu and lemon then the tart bite and a bit of sweet juiciness. I have no idea if my brain is more awake than before, but my salivary glands are working overtime here.
I probably wouldn’t go popping this to solve problems, but I could see it being a good treat for long car trips where I need to stay alert.
Shigegix Aha! Brain also comes in Muscat flavor.
Check out the JBox site where they feature four different ads from Japan for the product. I have no idea what’s going on (I believe the dancing woman in the yellow helmet is caused by eating Aha! Brain). Now I want that helmet (I rode my bike to work today and my plain white helmet just isn’t doing it for me ... well, except for protecting my now super-Aha’ed brain).
Thursday, June 14, 2007
I went to Toys r Us yesterday to pick up a booster seat in preparation for the arrival of my niece, nephew, brother and sister in law this weekend. Of course after completing the mundane safety-oriented task I browsed the candy aisle, which is conveniently the entire section in front of the registers. There were lots of novelty items, but the one that caught my eye was the Gummy Fishies, which looks like a purple sardine can and has a little key on the top and everything.
I was a little annoyed with the price, $1.29 for .67 ounces of what I figured were Swedish Fish. But I was already there and though the folks in the car seat section were super helpful, the two cashiers were strangely hung up (one registering someone for the birthday club and the other didn’t give the right change and had to call a manager to open the cash drawer). The longer I waited the more it meant that I had to make this trip more productive. So the Fishies were purchased.
The little plastic box is shaped like a tin of fish, right down to the little flutes on the side. The key is anchored at the top in a little holder, when inserted into the hole on the bottom side of the box, it meshes with the little grooves like a cog. Turning the key moves the lid of the box smoothly. The first time it needs to break the little perforations on the label, but that happened just like it should.
I think the Fishies are made by Albanese, they have an A on their sides, which is the same way Albanese brands their gummi bears (but the package says Made in China ... but they might be referring to the box). The first ingredient is not sugar, it’s pectin ... it also has gelatin in it, these are some seriously gummy fishes. Soft but super springy. The flavor of the red one was rather like raspberry, not like the strange Swedish-berry that’s so distinct. I have no clue what the green one was. It tasted fresh, but kind of like cucumber.
The price is stupid at Toys r Us, I know that you can get these at a better price elsewhere and for under a dollar I think it’s a fun little toy to give to a kid that also has candy. The good part is that the little box is really well made, so you can buy a big bag of Swedish fish or gummi bears or anything else you like and keep refilling it for your kid. Because it holds less than an ounce, that does mean controlled portions. (Or let them use it as a bank ... it’s got a KEY!) The key system actually works, I really couldn’t budge the lid without it unless I wanted to actually break it. (Of course it’s a universal key, so if you’ve given one to each of your kids they have keys to each other’s boxes.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.