Tuesday, September 25, 2007
A couple of years ago I tried a Ferrara Pan product called Narbles. I didn’t care much for it, mostly because it didn’t capitalize on the unique properties of a Lemonhead (though it didn’t actually promise any Lemonhead properties).
I don’t know if Ferrara Pan has been reading my blog (they might have, because I was suddenly able to get mixed bags called the Fruit Headline) but they have a couple of new products: Chewy Lemonheads (and Friends) and Chewy Atomic Fireballs which were introduced at the All Candy Expo last week.
Lemonheads have been one of my favorite candies since I was a kid. They were staggeringly affordable (the larger boxes used to be 10 cents), came in a shareable portion, looked really cool, packed lots of flavor and of course the box turned into a noisemaker. (Sadly they don’t use that kind of box any longer).
The candy balls are beautiful. Slightly translucent (if you like to put your candy on your new LED flashlight on your keychain), they feel as dense as the original hard-candy-centered version, but will yield to pressure when squeezed (just like real lemons!).
It took me a while to get used to them. When I eat a Lemonhead I usually “peel” off the candy shell with my teeth to get to the layer or super sour. Since these are soft on the inside, it took me a while to develop a technique ... but it only took one box.
The outside flavor is just the same as the old Heads, the inside is a rather flavorless jelly ball ... pretty much like actual jelly bean. Come to think of it, these are simply round jelly beans with a sour layer in there. I took a few of them apart to examine the innards (sorry, no gory photos of that). Each was color coded very lightly. I was surprised to find that they were actually lightly flavored. Not super zippy, just mildly fragrant to continue the experience all the way to the core.
Of the five flavors the Orange and Lemon remained my favorites, but the Grape was actually more pleasing than I expected. Cherry and Green Apple just weren’t floating my candy boat, but with 3/5 of the mix as standout winners, I can eat a few cherries. I give them a 7 out of 10.
The Chewy Atomic Fireballs were the big surprise for me. First of all, there was no announcement from Ferrara Pan before the show that they were introducing them (press releases? we don’t need no stinkin’ press releases!). So when I went by their booth I though they were just showing off one of their most successful brands in huge bins at the corner. But looking closely ... chewy!
I took three boxes and opened one. They’re dark red and not easily confused with the Cherryheads.
This is quite a different experience because the traditional Atomic Fireball is a panned cinnamon jawbreaker with alternating sweet and spicy layers. The chewy Lemonhead was an easy shift for my brain, simply a chewy center instead of a hard one. This new Atomic Fireball is more Firehead than Atomic Fireball ... or perhaps Chewy Red Hot.
The outer shell is lightly cinnamon and sweet. If you keep sucking on it gets hotter (but not unbearably) until the candy shell dissipates to reveal the spicy mantle over the chewy jelly core. The core is soft and chewy (perhaps a little sticky) and has it’s own level of background cinnamon-ness. So while it’s not quite the same as the jawbreaker’s layered experience, it’s still layered with a sort of alternating strong and mild spice to it.
They’re far stronger than Hot Tamales (though may be similar to the Hot Tamales Fire). I give them an 8 out of 10.
As a smaller portion, I really like the 25 cent, one ounce box (hey, it’s 100 calories folks!). The Chewy Atomic Fireball is a real winner, but be prepared as it does have a real burn and you can’t take it out of your mouth like a Fireball. The Chewy Lemonheads don’t quite thrill me, but part of that is that it’s so hard to top the lemony singularity that is the Lemonhead. I’ll probably give them a few more tries. I think I want a box of just the lemon ones for a pure experience. I hope they’ll sell them that way.
No word on when they’ll make an appearance in stores. Please post if you’ve seen them.
Mars has many new products in store for us in the coming months, most in the limited edition realm:
Name: Wildly Cherry M&Ms
Name: Twizzlers Pull n Peel Cinnamon Fire Candy
Name: Batman Reese’s Peanut Butter Bats in Dark Chocolate
Name: Indiana Jones Crispy Mint M&Ms
Name: Snickers Adventure Bar
(All photos courtesy of the respective companies’ press kits.)
Monday, September 24, 2007
In case you haven’t been following along at the new show launches at This Week in Tech, they’ve got a new one called Munchcast.
The show is about, well, munchies! It’s hosted by Cammy Blackstone and Leo Laporte.
I’m on this week’s episode, it’s only their eighth and I’m honored to be part of it. It’s all about the All Candy Expo and the new candies introduced there.
(I haven’t listened to it all yet as I’m hopping on a plane in a few minutes ... but I had a fun time recording it.)
The funny thing about fall is that I always see the Tootsie Roll products around a lot more starting at Back to School. The amusing part is that Tootsie Rolls and the Tootsie Fruit Rolls are so well suited to the summer because of their durability.
The Tootsie Roll has been around for a long time, first manufactured in 1896, the chocolate taffy was named after Leo Hirshfield’s (the founder of the candy company) daughter. The chocolate taffy was a good alternative to regular chocolates which didn’t keep very well in the years before widespread refrigeration and air conditioning. Though the Tootsie Roll is associated with the Chicago area (which is known as a center of candy production in the United States), the factory was originally located in New York City and then Hoboken, not making the shift to the Midwest until 1966. (Read more on the history of the Tootsie Roll here.)
Tootsie Rolls come in many sizes, from a large log of a bar down to the Midgies, which I think is probably the best format. They’re still wrapped in the same waxed paper (though the larger logs have shifted to the fully sealed plastic wrap).
Tootsie Roll had one of the most identifiable jingles of its era.
The Tootsie Roll itself is simply a very dense and smooth taffy with a good boost of chocolate in it. The chew is long and smooth, though sometimes hard to get going. The flavor is not necessarily creamy or complex, just sweet and often tasting more of musty cardboard than hot cocoa (depending on how fresh it is). I don’t usually have high expectations for Tootsie Rolls, so I’m never disappointed.
The good thing about the chew is that it’s not sticky like some taffy can be, it’s also not fluffy and not overly sweet. It’s lower in fat than regular chocolate bars (but still has about 3 grams per serving.)
The Fruit Rolls are a little harder to find on a regular basis. They come with five flavors: Orange, Cherry, Lemon, Lime and Vanilla.
Yes, that last one is Vanilla. Last time I checked that’s not a fruit flavor. The Vanilla are also available in a single-flavor bag as well. I’ve always called these Midgees, which I think is the smallest Tootsie Roll in the line. (Well, except for the Chocolate Covered Tootsie Rolls that came out last year.) But these weren’t called Midgees on the bag, go figure.
Hey, it’s a flavorless Tootsie Roll! That’s always how I viewed them. Like they were for Boys in Plastic Bubbles or those allergic to chocolate taffy or perhaps just exceptionally bland. The child that picked out the Vanilla Midgee first over all other candies in a bowl was suspect in my world. It just screamed “I lack adventure and imagination” and while that’s fine for them, it didn’t make me want to spend time with them.
The good thing about encountering such as child is the prospect of trading ... so there’s something to be said for being the kind of kid with such diverse friends, it meant that everyone always got what they wanted.
The Vanilla Midgee is sweet and smells strongly of fake vanilla and a bit like an ice cream parlor. The chew is stiff at first but softens up quickly in the mouth. Not too sticky, not too sweet. Not terribly flavorful.
The Lemon Tootsie Roll is really quite pleasant. The chew is soft and tangy and has a nice smooth quality to it. It’s just the slightest bit milky, in a yogurt kind of way.
The Cherry Tootsie Roll is like a chewable cough drop. Not terribly strong, but a well rounded cherry flavor with a long-lasting flavor in the chew. A little bitter bite for me, but I think that’s the coloring.
The Orange Tootsie Roll used to be my favorite. Probably a sad substitute for a Starburst, these don’t have any gelatin in them, so certainly more suitable for those on animal restricted diets. It tastes like a decent orange sherbet. A little tart, but mostly orange.
The Lime Tootsie Roll was best saved for last or left sitting in the candy bowl after Halloween to show my mother that I had some self restraint ... though eventually it’d end up in my tummy.
On the whole, I think the only Tootsie Roll I like much is the regular chocolate one. The rest are probably not a very good replacement for Starbursts (but if you’ve never had them, I suppose I can tell you that they’re EXACTLY the same and you’d never know the difference ... except that I wouldn’t steer you wrong like that). They’re definitely inexpensive and great traveling candy. Middle of the road fare, I’m glad they’re around and rather fun to look at but best covered in hard candy with a stick in them. (Why don’t they make vanilla centered orange Tootsie Pops? That’d be just like a Creamsicle!)
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Yes, I have way too much candy from the All Candy Expo, so I’m going to share some of the extra booty with you. I have a nice package set aside of some of the new product previews, including a package of Chocolate Mix Skittles, Mike and Ike Lemonade Stand Mix, TicTac Bold! Apple Sour, Junior Mints Deluxe, Chewy Lemonheads, Chewy Atomic Fireballs, Welch’s Fruit ‘n Yogurt Snacks as well as packs of your favorite existing products.
I’ll ship anywhere in North America. You may only enter once.
Entries will be accepted until September 30th, 2007 at 11 PM Pacific. I’ll notify the winner within 48 hours (if the winner does not respond within 48 hours after that, then I’ll draw again).
UPDATE: Entries are closed at this time. Keep reading, I’ll have more giveaways at some point.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Since I’m traveling right now, I thought I’d just leave you this weekend with a little tasty nugget. Last year I tried the Mentos Sour and thought they were pretty good, not the best Mentos I’d ever had, but a nice change of pace from the regular rather under-flavored fruity Mentos available here in the States.
It’s hard to believe that two packages that look so similar have such different contents. While at the All Candy Expo I cornered one of the Mentos people at the Perfetti Ven Melle booth and chatted with her about Mentos. (Okay, chatted is hardly the word, I think I overwhelmed her with questions and comments.) There are several things I wanted to know about, the major one is about the differences in flavors between the United States and everywhere else in the world (why do the Australians get the Citrus Mix? Why do the Japanese get Pineapple?). The other thing is whether or not their switch from gelatin (an animal derived product) to gellan gum (safe for vegans).
The Sour Mix Mentos from China (but available all over Asia) are a pretty good representation of all of the questions I have about the global brand.
Santos brought me some more Mentos a month or so ago and I was puzzled at first by the Mentos Sour Mix, but she quickly pointed to the reason she included it ... pineapple. The other two flavors in the roll are grape and green apple. In fact, green apple is the only flavor that’s in the American mix (which also has watermelon and lemon).
I liked the pineapple so much that I decided to order the “Pine Fresh” Mentos from JList in Japan. I’m hoping they’ll be at the house when I get home. Hopefully I’ll get some answers on the above questions soon too!
Thursday, September 20, 2007
I’ve been on quite a nougat roll this summer, mostly because it’s a very satisfying candy that does well in the heat. The funny thing is, before this year I don’t think I considered nougat a summer candy, I’ve always associated nougat with Christmas.
My husband picked up these two nougat bars at a deli in Santa Monica. (He’s always so considerate that way!) It’s always a good sign when the ingredients list for a nougat starts with nuts. In this case it’s pistachios. They were nicely sized and spread out in the bar and provided the chewy crunch that sets off the sweet nougat so well.
This pistachio bar was also flavored with pistachio, so it had that perfumed taste rather like green tea ice cream and violets along with the grassy notes of the nuts. The honey didn’t stand out much, as I often prefer in my nougat.
The flatness of this bar made it particularly easy to eat. The nougat was also pretty soft. The only weird thing about it was because there was a wafer on each side, biting it was sometimes a little difficult (maybe I need my teeth sharpened) and the nougat wanted to spread out the sides of the wafers. Also, because there was more wafer by proportion, there was more of a “cereal” taste to it.
Overall, it wasn’t my favorite nougat of all time, but certainly portable and a nice after dinner snack.
There was a slight grainy note to the nougat, like little sugar crystals. The chocolate flavor was more like cocoa than chocolate but exceptionally nutty - the ingredients list both toasted almonds and hazelnut paste. Think of a very high end Tootsie Roll with nuts, I know it sounds weird, but it was still very satisfying.
The nuts were just as abundant in this nougat as the Pistachio. I wanted a stronger honey note to it, but it wasn’t too sweet and had a light texture that was definitely just the kick I needed during the summer heat.
Nougat also travels particularly well, so keep that in mind when putting together your air travel survival kit.
While at the All Candy Expo I made a point to stop by the booth of the American importer of Ferrara products. The company also makes the La Florentine line of torrones, you know, the ones in the little boxes that come in orange, lemon and vanilla and have stately portraits of royalty on them. That was the brand I used to get those in my stocking at Christmas, so they’re one of the first nougats I’ve ever had and quite special to me.
The bars above, of course, are more meaty portions (and more economical packaging). I grabbed a traditional Ferrara nougat bar which I’m excited to try after the Pistachio as well as their chocolate covered plain nougat (it comes in a large box and they’re not individually wrapped). I think nougat is a wonderful hostess gift, though some might disagree. (But if I’m the hostess and you’re coming to my house, I’ll think you’re pretty special and invite you back often.)
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
My hit list is history. I plowed through the show floor today with my list of missions. Sadly there are many items that are not checked off, but a good number of them I can take care of through email or perhaps at the Fancy Food Show in January.
Jelly Belly has a couple of new products. The fun new one that you’ll seen in stores starting in the new year is called Bean Boozled. Lots of folks have been playing a game called Jelly Bean Roulette where you mix regular Jelly Belly and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans (you know, those Harry Potter themed beans that come in disgusting and uncommon flavors like sausage, pickle and earwax). The game is to eat a bean without looking at which one you take with the chance, eat it and not spit it out. This new twist in Bean Boozled is that the beans are in pairs that look exactly the same. You might pick a black one, it could be licorice but it could taste like skunk. Some of the pairs are less risky ... you might get berry blue but it might be toothpaste. Others are downright evil like the one that might be peach ... but it might be vomit. Fun times for car trips!
The last day of a trade show, especially All Candy Expo is particularly difficult. Many people leave early and of course the samples are sparse and those who are at their booths are as exhausted as those who have been trudging around for three days. There’s a free-for-all atmosphere that makes it hard to have a real conversation about products, trends, packaging, ingredients and availability because there are so many attendees who are just grabbing things (literally) away from you as you talk. I feel really bad for the candy companies sometimes. It’s this issue that made it hard for me to get the essential information that I needed. But then again, I need to remind myself that it’s really not about the press, it’s about getting their products into stores.
I tasted quite a few things today, some that I was very pleased with:
Aunt Sally’s Original Creamy Pralines are done in the New Orleans’ style. It’s a creamy, kind of fudgy sugar and cream base that melts in the mouth. I tried the Bananas Foster version and have some samples or their traditional.
Emily’s Chocolates - they have cute and spare design on their packaging, which lets me really focus on the chocolate. They make a nice line of panned nuts and dried fruits. Everyone’s doing a dried cranberry these days but I have to say that theirs may have been the best I tasted this week - juicy and bursting with flavor with a nice coating of good dark chocolate.
Michel Cluizel was showing some wonderful dark chocolate, as usual. They’re a bean to bar company that also makes bonbons and other confections. A rarity. I was pleased to taste their 99% cacao truffle. Seriously ... it’s all chocolate in the couveture (no soy lecithin either) and a ganache center has, of course, rich cream in it. I can’t tell you the experience. Unlike eating cacao nibs, which are, you know, 100% cacao, this was smooth, creamy without that dry, acrid feeling on the tongue. Intense! Jacques Dahan, of Cluizel also told me that Cocoa Bella is preparing their new “World’s Best Box” so maybe it will make the grade (if it doesn’t, I really want to see what surpasses that!).
I ate a LOT of licorice today. I’m working on pulling together a big roundup of the licorice scene. I tried Kookabura’s new chocolate dipped as well as Kopper’s ... both are great, but I really loved the darkness of the Koppers. I also stopped by one of the importers, Gerrit J. Verburg Co. Mr. Verburg was wonderfully patient with me as I tried about a dozen different kinds, a few were salmiak but most were traditional. I tried one Italian-style that has bay leaf in it that was indescribable but wholly wonderful (for licorice lovers, that is). I need to do a lot of work on my licorice tasting.
Albanese makes some wonderful Crunchy Bears that I reviewed before but I went for their panned sweets today. I tasted their chocolate covered pretzel poppers. They were little, smaller than a malted milk ball covered in really nice dark and milk chocolate. A winner in my book.
The big business news on the floor was a swirling rumor starting on Sunday night that Brachs (which is owned by Switzerland-based Barry Callebaut and has been “on the market” for a while) was purchased by Farley’s & Sathers. It’s definitely happening. Callebaut was looking to get out of the hard candy (I guess they tried to expand Brachs chocolate line, but didn’t make much of an impact on the crowded American market). I stopped by the Brachs booth, but we didn’t talk about that, I just picked up some of their new Soda Poppers, which are soda flavored hard candies that have real fruit juice in them.
I also ran into Katie Das of Das Caramels when I went to hang out at Chuao for a while (and beg for one their pretty little purse packages for their ChocoPods which were in the press room but disappeared by lunchtime the first day). She was so sweet, as I expected after our wonderful email exchanges, and was happy to tell me that they’ve changed the wrapper on the caramels to a thicker waxed paper that no longer sticks to the caramels (which was one of my, um, sticking points).
Other things I’ll tease you with right now that I picked up (forgive me if I don’t have the proper naming of the products as I’m going from memory):
Niederegger has a new Espresso in a long version instead of a bar. This new format is much like the loaf that they do, which promises a larger proportion of marzipan to chocolate. I’m looking forward to it. I gushed at the booth that Niederegger has changed my mind about marzipan. (I also had a great marzipan ball at Koppers ... I have no idea what I ate as a child that gave me such a bad impression!)
Pop Rocks has introduced a new Pop Rocks Chocolate Bar and I got my hands on one! I only got one, dangit, but I’m excited because they said that it’s premium chocolate ... something to look forward to.
I spent about a half an hour at the Koppers booth. Gorgeous candy, I love the inventiveness and personality of everything they make. The colors created a serious, giddy overload for me. I tried dark chocolate covered ginger, whiskey cordials, licorice pastilles, chocolate covered licorice, matcha dusted almonds, lavender savoury chocolate, rose savoury chocolate, mocha pastilles ... and probably lots of other things I can’t even remember. Leslye Alexander, who is the creator of the riot of confection, showed me some of the other colors that the Milkies come in, creating a beautiful palette with five colors ... four different greens and a brown that just make me want to get married all over again just so I can have a huge vase of those as a centerpiece at each table at the reception. (She also helped me to fill a bag of dextrose goodies at Concord Confections ... I know she thought I was nuts to want the little bones and fish shaped candies after her couture crafted confections, but I’ve been obsessed with actually grabbing a baggie of their stuff since coming to the show last year.)
Melville’s has been expanding their line of Honey Spoons, which I really need to write more about. They still carry the traditional clover and tupelo honey version and are branching out into pomegranate, lavender and then some other fun caramel flavors. Their traditional line of barley sugar pops remains one of my favorites, so I’ll have more on that as we get closer to the winter holidays.
I keep meaning to write about Gimbal’s Lava Balls, which are a hot cinnamon ball, rather like a jelly bean (after all, they make jelly beans). I got a full package of them, so look forward to that and some notes about their Licorice Scotty Dogs.
Bogdon’s, who make the lovely Reception Stick (a crisp peppermint stick dipped in dark chocolate) are now making Chocktail sticks, which are flavored for cocktails like Mojito and Cosmo. They were really nice, though I’m not sure I’d put them in my drink, it’s fun to have a little sassier candy center like a lime/mint or orange/cranberry like that.
Okay, that’s all I can write today! (Isn’t it enough?) I’m hopping on a plan shortly and I’ll have more later this week after I get some sleep and perhaps eat a decent meal. Thanks to everyone who has visited this week, I really wish I was able to write as much as I wanted, I was so torn, but I know that the priority had to be spending as much time at the All Candy Expo because I can always write later.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.