Saturday, October 06, 2007
Technically this happened last week, not this week, but bear with me. Last Friday I got to meet another one of my fellow candy bloggers (I have a set of three in-person meets so far!). Joanna from SugarSavvy.net was in town and we went out to lunch at the Farmers Market (because it was the densest candy location I could think of near my office). We had a little lunch with the incredible view of Littlejohn’s Toffee & Fudge. They were wrapping their slick and gorgeous caramel kisses (caramel covered marshmallows). Joanna bought some penuche, a pecan praline for a friend and I also got a praline and a piece of honeycomb (because it looked so good on Rosa’s post over at SugarSavvy ... but I ate it and can’t review it now). I probably jabbered on a lot about candy, but it’s pretty rare that I get to talk to anyone about candy except through the blog.
She also gave me a wonderful selection of four chocolates by Xocolatl de David. I’ve gobbled them up without taking their picture or reviewing them. (I’m sure I’ll have them again and do some coverage.) Mmmm ... dark and scorched fleur de sel caramels coated in rich chocolate. I definitely have to visit Portland one of these days.
As another update, the winner for the Ultimate Candy Expo Box was Kimberly. It was a little warm in both our locations last week, so I’m boxing up a list of her top requests and a bunch of other stuff to send off on Monday. There were 537 valid entries (a few doubles on the comment thread and a few that came in via email). I’m kind of 21st century in my drawing method. I export the entire list to an spreadsheet. Sort it (in this case by email address) and then have a random number generator tell me which entry won.
I’m thinking about running another giveaway, this time filled with Limited Edition items (some you may have loved, many you may have hated!). Any thoughts?
As a little follow up to another post earlier this week, Hershey’s has named Richard Lenny’s replacement. They’re promoting from within and have tapped David J. West (43) as the new President, CEO and Director. West’s current position is Chief Operating Officer, Exec. VP, Sr. VP and Pres of the North American Commercial Group (see, he’ll have a much shorter title!). Don’t worry about Lenny (55), he’s leaving with plenty of compensation for his hard work this year: a $1.1 million base salary and $10.25 million in long-term compensations ... that’s just this year. (He has some other yet unexercised options worth $23.5 million.) More about Lenny’s history with the company here. Of the 20 top executives in Hershey, West was the youngest in senior management.
Chew on That has their monthly roundup of answers from bloggers. October’s topic is “What is the one thing in your refrigerator or pantry that you cannot live without?” As I’m not the cook in my household, my answer isn’t an ingredient, just something I eat.
Monday: Reese’s Whipps (4 out of 10)
Tuesday: Java Twix (8 out of 10)
Wednesday: Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Kisses (5 out of 10)
Thursday: GudFud Stuffed Marshmallows (6 out of 10)
Friday: Chocolate Poppers (6 out of 10)
Healthy Friday Bonus: Welch’s Fruit ‘n Yogurt Snacks (6 out of 10)
Weekly average was 5.833 with 50% chocolate content.
Friday, October 05, 2007
After reading the publicity materials and nutrition label on these, I don’t think they can be called candy. But I have them and some folks expressed interest in the new Welch’s Fruit ‘n Yogurt Snacks, I thought I’d do a review.
The snacks come in five flavors: Blueberry, Strawberry, Cherry, Raspberry and Peach. They are little, firm jelly pieces made with real fruit puree covered in a yogurt confection coating.
The first ingredient on the label is Fruit Puree (depends on the flavor, which always includes real fruit of that kind), followed by Fruit Juice Concentrates ... then Sugar. Of course the next item is Partially Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil, but I’m guessing that’s so low on the proportions it explains why the fat content is only 3 grams per serving (approximately 1 ounce or half the bag) and it says 0 grams of trans fat.
Not all the flavors interest me much, so I’m not even going to open the Peach ones. Some lucky Trick-or-Treater will get that later this month. While getting my samples on the last day of All Candy Expo the guy at the Promotion in Motion booth (they folks who make these for Welch’s) apologized for not having any Cherry. I told him that was no big loss either for me.
Generally, the little bits are kind of crumbly. The yogurt confectionery coating isn’t like a white chocolate, it’s not buttery smooth. It’s kind of like a flaky frosting. It’s not bad, it’s not too sweet and adds a bit of a milky flavor to the whole thing, but also a little chalky texture ... I’m guessing this because so many of the ingredients are dairy powders (whey powder, yogurt powder). But the coating has something to offer - both calcium (10%) and vitamin D (25%) as well as active cultures of Lactobacillus acidophillus and Lactobacillus caseii. Oh, yeah, and 100% of the RDA of vitamin C and 25% of your RDA of vitamin A.
Raspberry: lovely light scent, sweet and tangy. The jelly center is firm, with a nice crumbly chew. It’s not sticky, it’s not at all like a gummi or a standard jelly candy like Dots or tough like a fruit leather. It doesn’t have that fine smoothness that jellies of all kinds have, but the texture is pretty nice. The yogurt coating is only okay, as mentioned above.
Strawberry: smells like light spring flowers and cotton candy (pretty much how fresh strawberries smell to me). There’s a slight tangy ice cream scent as well.
Blueberry: this really tastes like blueberries, though it doesn’t have the deep flavor profile that the two other berry flavors sport.
The yogurt coating fell off of the centers when I jostled the bags around a lot. I would have recommended throwing these into a snack mix of some sort - nuts, maybe some chocolate panned nuts, dried fruits and pretzels. But I don’t know if the could stand up to it.
The ones shown here are a two portion bag (perhaps for parents to share with their kids or kids to share with each other). They’re also available in “snack packs” which have less than 100 calories (and I’m guessing are a little under an ounce).
Are they candy? No, they’re too fortified.
Are they something you might be able to sell your kids on instead of candy? Possibly ... it’s more likely you’ll be able to get your kids to eat these as a healthier snack than just chips or perhaps a finicky kid who won’t eat fruit might sample them. (There’s no significant fiber in there though.) As snacks go, I still think that the Florida’s Naturals Sour Fruit Strings do the best job of feeling like “no compromise” on taste, but if your kids like these and think they’re candy, then by all means, let them indulge in this instead of something worse.
Late last year I did a head to head between Shoogy Boom and Pop Rocks, just to see if the original is actually the best. I actually prefer the Shoogy Boom brand, made by Hleks in Turkey.
While Pop Rocks were displaying their new Pop Rocks Milk Chocolate Bar at the All Candy Expo, Hleks was quietly showing their chocolate popping candies as well. I don’t know how long these have been on the market, the copyright on the back of the package says 2003 ... and also says that these are a product of Impact Confections (known for their Warheads line).
These little chocolate spheres are smaller than a malted milk ball but larger (or perhaps just more spherical) than a Peanut M&M. They look a little waxy, but smell pleasantly sweet. (I can figure that I beat them up pretty bad on the trip, because they were unmarred and glossy at the All Candy Expo booth.) Each sphere is milk chocolate mixed with unflavored carbonated hard candies.
With the popping candy mixed with chocolate, I find initially chewing them a bit to expose the carbonated bits helps to activate them. The chocolate isn’t stellar on these, but they’re just the transportation medium for the popping. They flavor is a little malty, with the popping bits adding only texture and sound with a little extra sweetness.
They can get kind of noisy inside my head and I was surprised at how well I could hear the popping inside other people’s heads when I passed them around last night when the neighbors came over.
I don’t know if I’d eat them often, but they’re kind of fun. I wish the chocolate as a bit better, but these might be fun to mix with other things in a “movie mix” (but maybe you wouldn’t be able to hear the movie?) like popcorn, SnoCaps and Junior Mints. I like the spherical design of them a bit better than the bar format of the Milk Chocolate Pop Rocks Bar. I shared most of them, which is the way candy should be!
Brad Kent has this wrapper on his excellent database, so I’m guessing these have been around for a while.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
The National Confectioners Association (the people who run the All Candy Expo) released a list of what they call America’s Top 10 Sweet Spots for Halloween.
Here are their cities with my notes:
1. Hershey, Pa. Yes, they mentioned the Hershey empire with the park and Chocolate World and the Spa at The Hotel Hershey. But what you may not know is that there are lots of other confections within an hour of Hershey. Don’t miss Lititz, PA, home of Wilbur Chocolate and a fantabulous outlet store (with far better prices than you’ll find at the Chocolate World mall). Also in Souderton, PA, Asher’s Chocolate, Wolfgang in York, PA.
2. New York, N.Y.—They mention M&Ms World & Hershey’s in Times Square, Jacques Torres and Dylan’s Candy Bar, but miss many of the other confectionery delights: MarieBelle, Kees, Vosges, Pierre Marcolini, Max Brenner and Economy Candy. (See my New York Guide.)
3. Orlando, Fla.—I’ve never been there. The highlight Disneyworld and other mass-produced candy meccas like Dylan’s Candy Bar & Ghirardelli stores.
4. San Francisco, Calif.—this is a huge confectionery town. Ghirardelli, Scharffen Berger, Jelly Belly (in Fairfield) as well as Joseph Schmidt, CocoaBella, the new Charles Chocolates cafe and factory as well as some really great candy shops and don’t forget the Ferry Terminal (Recchiuti & Miette). I’ll have more in December. (Here’s my current guide for the Bay Area.)
5. Chicago, Ill.—Home of Ethel’s, Blommer, Ferrara Pan, Tootsie and a bunch of other companies that don’t offer tours but you can snuggle down at one of the five Ethel’s Chocolate Lounges. Vosges calls Chicago home, as well.
6. Los Angeles, Calif.—This is where I live and I can tell you that the press release was talking about Anaheim in nearby Orange County. (I did a little bit on Disneyland here). No factory tours for you here, but plenty of chocolatiers like Boule, Compartes, Valerie Confections, Jin Patissiere and Artisan du Chocolat. (Here’s my local shopping guide.) Don’t forget about See’s ... if you don’t live on the West Coast, it’s a must stop that won’t break your budget.
7. Boston, Mass.—the one time I visited Boston, I don’t think I had ANY candy (but made a wonderful trip to Filene’s Basement back when it was actually in the basement.). They highlight Boston’s part in making Halloween the holiday that it has come to be (but I can’t eat history!)
8. New Orleans, La.—again, another one I’ve never visited, but any city that loves coffee, pecans and boiled sugar is going to be a favorite. They suggested Evans Creole CandyFactory, Laura’s Candy Shop and Aunt Sally’s Praline Shop (I got some of their pralines at the All Candy Expo).
9. Las Vegas, Nev.—There’s really nothing unique in Las Vegas, except for the sheer density of it all. There are many large branded stores and fine European chocolatiers that want you to sugar up with them. M&Ms World, Ethel’s Chocolate Lounge, & Vosges.
The Pacific Northwest is conspicuously absent from this list. Portland and Seattle are amazing chocolate, toffee and caramel towns ... not that I’ve toured them with that in mind ... yet. If anything, Los Angeles and Orlando don’t belong on that list.
If you don’t feel like going too far afield, I did a little map last year with the confectioners I’d tried so far ... maybe you can make a little vacation for yourself for the price of a box of chocolates.
I’ve seen them at Japanese grocers and Aji Ichiban before, but never packaged just for Americans. And certainly never in these sassy little three puff portions.
Enter GudFud. They’re here to bring us the Asian foamy sweets. They’re packaged to look like they’re Japanese (terribly cute and with Japanese characters on the label, what they say, I know not) but they’re actually made in China. I tried some before and wrote about them here.
I’ve never considered jelly and marshmallows “food”, but perhaps I can start thinking of them as “foood.”
The little individually wrapped Fruit Jelly Stuffed Marshmallows are a bit smashed when inside the package but fluff back up pretty quickly. There’s a lot of packaging, which I guess I didn’t notice at first because it’s mostly clear. The fruity ones were cute and once unwrapped, completely identical on the outside.
The jelly center is where things get different. The jelly is smooth and soft, not quite flowing, but not quite firm like an “orange slice” would be. Really, kind of like the jelly you’d spread on your toast. The flavor is mild, a little tangy, not terribly complex ... just, well nice.
The mix of fruit and marshmallow isn’t really great in my mind. So I tried toasting a package or two. They toasted nicely, though the center didn’t get that molten consistency that I’m used to with Jet or Kraft marshmallows. The marshmallow skin puffed well and browned (well, one caught on fire, but consider it a sacrifice to the marshmallow fire god). Still, the toasted flavor and jelly didn’t really grab me either.
So what about a Chocolate Stuffed Marshmallow. Though each of these are the same, the little packages still have a different little character on them. Each with a different reaction to getting a chocolate bar stuffed into their cranium.
The chocolate filling isn’t firm, it’s soft and easy to bite. It still doesn’t have a lot of chocolate oomph to it, more like a chocolate cream.
I like that the package has three marshmallows in it and you might be able to just pick them up where you buy candy bars. For those on calorie-restricted diets, a single package with three marshmallows is only 50 calories and practically no fat. I don’t know how satisfying they’d be, you might burn more calories opening all the wrappers than you’ll take in from the treats.
I expect they’ll start showing up in stores soon (they pretty much debuted at the All Candy Expo). If they came in large bags they could be fun Halloween treats. (You can buy a box of singles through their phone order system.)
Check out Sera’s review on Candy Addict.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Every once in a while I go through the search logs either on this site or the ones that refer people here from the search engines.
Sometimes I know that their questions aren’t actually answered when they arrive, so I’ll take a stab at it here!
Answer: Sour foods are acidic. Many very sour candies contain high levels of acids such as malic acid and citric acid. At higher levels this can irritate the tongue and tender mouth parts. Luckily the irritation is temporary for most people.
Malic acid is naturally occurring and usually found in apples, more highly concentrated in green (unripe) apples.
Citric acid is also occurs naturally and is found in citrus fruits such as lemons and limes and in lower concentrations in oranges.
Question: What flavor is the red Skittle?
Answer: Red Skittles are strawberry flavored when found in the classic Fruits mix.
Question: What’s the difference between Hershey’s Mounds and Almond Joy candy bar?
Answer: I think the jingle for the candy bars answers that best:
At All Candy Expo the Hershey’s booth was highlighting their international flair in one corner giving out all sorts of Asian Kisses (a candy, not a different version of French Kisses) and bars. It’s nice to feel so global and try them, but of course I wanted to know what we could get here in North America.
The Hot Cocoa Creme Kiss is the newest edition to the celebratory line of Limited Edition Kisses marking the 100th anniversary of the confection. I’m not sure if they’re coming out with 100 versions or not, they may be getting close.
These molded Kisses sport light gold wrappers with gold wigglies on them. The little flag says Hot Cocoa instead of Hershey’s Kisses.
I wasn’t really sure what they were and the young woman at the Hershey’s booth was really no help, but I snagged a cup of coffee and a few handfuls to take back to the Candy Blog labs to see if I could answer the questions myself.
Inside is a chocolate creme, not unlike the Chocolate Truffle Kiss (now a regular item) creme. Except this one was a little lighter in flavor, perhaps a touch of malt-taste and a little saltier. In fact, they are saltier than the Truffle Kiss, which has 45 mgs of salt per serving. The Hot Cocoa Kiss has 55 mgs of salt per serving. Just enough to be perceptible.
They don’t do much for me. I think they’re pretty, but I certainly wouldn’t buy them. These are available in stores now (I saw them in Walgreen’s over the weekend).
The ones that Sera and I were most excited about were the Matcha (Green Tea) Kisses that they had out for two days. They sport a green foil wrapper with darker green squiggly stripes.
I don’t know what they’re really called, as the little flag on them just said Hershey’s Kisses. They smell like jasmine. The chocolate is sweet as is the creme center. The creme is distinctly salty at first, then develops into a grassy, green tea melody. Then comes the harsh truth of matcha ... a strong bitter note at the end that’s barely cut by the sticky sweetness of the rest of the Kiss.
I found them interesting, again, a novelty that I don’t know that I’d want to eat regularly. If I’m going to have something Matcha, I’m probably going to go upscale.
The other Kiss they were offering samples of was a Strawberry Creme Kiss. Again, I’m not sure if it’s the right name as the little flag didn’t say. The pink foil wrapper already smelled of strawberry. Like strawberry ice cream. The chocolate is sweet and the creme center had a nice authentic taste of strawberries. This center was, as well, a bit on the salty side. I kind of liked how that helped to focus the strawberry flavor.
The strawberry wasn’t terribly strong and on some of them I missed it completely. It certainly tasted better than some of the other strawberry flavored efforts Hershey’s has put forth in the past (but I admit that I liked the white chocolate Raspberry bar they did). Since I was pretty fond of the strawberry and chocolate ice cream from the Neapolitan mixes, this felt familiar and friendly.
Other Limited Edition Kisses you might see around, these may not have shown up yet or may have come and gone. I doubt I’ll try them all, but feel free to pipe up in the comments if you think they’re worthy:
And if you want photographic evidence of many of these, visit Zoe’s Kiss Collection.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
The cookie and caramel covered in chocolate combination is pretty flexible and creating new versions of this doesn’t mess with the essential Twix-ness (just like there are many different cream and chocolate variations for the KitKat).
I’ve been searching for a good coffee flavored candy bar for years, for a country so obsessed with coffee it’s rather surprising that we don’t have one. (Yes, I’m aware of the Coffee Crisp and it just doesn’t do it for me.)
The bar is the standard construction: a chocolate cookie with a stripe of coffee-flavored caramel covered in milk chocolate.
It smells sweet and a bit like caramel and graham crackers but not much like coffee at first.
Once broken in half and the caramel revealed it has a pleasant roasted-coffee aroma. The caramel is a bit salty with an actual authentic-tasting coffee flavor to it (in addition to the natural and artificial flavors they list espresso ground coffee as an ingredient). The chocolate cookie is crumbly and crunchy with it’s own salty contribution. The milk chocolate on the outside is super sweet but pulls it together.
I didn’t like the bar much when I first tried it out on the floor (I split a package with Ginny). But I have to admit that it was day two and I’d really only been eating candy for 36 hours (except for an awesome pile of shrimp at a party the night before).
But with the clarity of a lone bar on my desk without the clutter of a gagillion other flavors in my mouth and a billion other conversations flitting by on the show floor ... I really like this bar. I think it’s the best Twix bar I’ve ever had. Yes, it’s still a little sweet for me, but in combination with some nearly black coffee, it’s growing on me.
You can expect these to start showing up later this year (reported release date is December 2007). In other news, if you were a fan of the Triple Chocolate Twix, it’s actually back in the miniature form. Mars released a few “autumn mixes” this year (that included the Vanilla, Strawberry & Mocha 3 Musketeers). The Twix one has regular Twix, Twix Dark Chocolate and Twix Triple Chocolate. I found them at RiteAid in the Halloween candy aisle.
I hope the Twix Java at least finds its way into a seasonal bag ... and in dark chocolate please!
UPDATE 9/29/2009: Mars has announced that TWIX Java will become part of their permanent line of candies. You can expect them in stores starting in April 2010.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.