Friday, April 4, 2008
The American Licorice Company was founded in 1914 in Chicago, IL and began making something known as Raspberry Vines in 1920. In 1952 they tweaked the flavoring and renamed them simply Red Vines.
I’ve opened the can of worms in the Red Vines Giveaway about the category of confection called red licorice. In their defense, the American Licorice Company has always skirted this by simply coming up with a new and trademarked name of Red Vines for their Original Red Twists.
Red Vines are so popular (apparently they’re Crazy Delicious when combined with Mr. Pibb) that they’re the number one non-chocolate candy in the western region of the United States. I don’t know what the number one non-chocolate candy is in the eastern region. As is the case with things like tissues being called Kleenex, all colas are called Coke or adhesive bandages being identified as Band Aids, Red Vines are simply the default for red licorice. (Though in other regions that’d be the same for Twizzlers.)
What are ya gonna call it otherwise? A twisted, wheat-based confection? A long, red chew?
The candies are sold in a variety of formats, some single vines and others in a pull apart bar or textured bites. They’re exceptionally durable and can withstand temperature variations within reason inside the sealed package without much deterioration or flavor or texture. The standard in the tray is about 8.5” long and is formed via an extrusion method with a twist (four complete twists per vine). They are hollow and have crimped ends. Each vine has about 35 calories. All carbs, no fat, a trace of protein.
They smell faintly like coconut, new flip flops and strawberry shortcake lip balm. (Mmm, the smells of summer.)
They’re soft and pliable, unless you left the package open or bought expired ones, then they’re stiff and hard. Either way, they’re only lightly flavored. They’re not terribly sweet, the first ingredient is corn syrup, but the second is wheat flour ... then citric acid, artificial flavor and Red 40. That’s it. Pretty simple really.
Though it may have been raspberry flavored at one time, I think the flavor is now simply red licorice. It tastes like red. It has only the lightest tangy bite to it (the citric acid) and doesn’t leave a funky aftertaste and is one of the few red candies that I don’t actually taste the red food coloring in.
The cool thing is that it’s cheap, easy to share and has that lowest common denominator factor that you’d be hard pressed to find someone who won’t join you when you offer it (and it’s usually because of allergens, not true dislike).
I don’t eat the stuff very often. It’s fine for movies or when I want to share with my husband (they actually make a pack of Bites which has a mix of the black and red which I’ve bought just for that purpose). I’m not saying it’s bad candy, but I’m happier to give it away than eat it. Red Vines just makes me want real licorice.
In recognition of this Red Vines contacted me a few weeks ago offering up some prize packages for Candy Blog readers. I’ll be giving FOUR (4) of these prizes away. (Rules below.)
Here’s what’s inside:
Plus you’ll also get a hat, tee shirt, sticker, water bottle and three temporary tattoos!
So, if you’re a Red Vines lover (or haven’t tried it before and would like to experience a representation of their line of products) just follow these simple directions:
If these odds aren’t good enough for you, Red Vines is also running a contest on their website, too for actual scholarship or travel money.
(Other fine print: Red Vines are made with wheat and are not suitable for those with wheat/gluten sensitivities. Above photo was provided by Red Vines, not taken by me.)
UPDATE: Four lucky winners were drawn and their packages shipped out this week. They should have them in their hot little hands right now. The winners were Tara, Shelley, Kim & Paul. Congratulations!
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Theo Chocolate, the only all Fair Trade and Organic chocolate company that makes their confections from bean to bar in the United States is growing. This year they added two new bars to their 3400 Phinney line, bringing the total to four milk chocolate bars and four dark chocolate bars.
They are all a standard format of two ounces in four sections and feature artwork on the wrapper by Kitten Chops.
I picked my full-sized samples of the new bars at the Natural Products Expo last month. The Fig, Fennel & Almond in 65% Dark was the one I was most looking forward to.
Let’s see, favorite things:
Figs? I never knew fig love until I had my own tree. Check!
Fennel? Love it in salads, prefer licorice in candy. Check!
Almonds? I eat them every day. Check!
65% Dark Chocolate? Not too dark, not too dry is the way I like it. Check!
Upon first bite this was too dark, too complex, kind of a mess. But like some Philip Glass piece, the spareness of each note eventually started making music.
It took about half the bar, but I started liking it more and more. The fennel stands out in the scent of the bar, a light and grassy licorice or anise note. Upon letting a bite melt it becomes a bit acidic, a little tangy and rather like raisins, but fresher. Not quite figgy but the seeds help. Later the little bits of crushed almonds pull it all back together.
The chocolate is dry and not quite as buttery as I’d like for a “candy bar” but for a chocolate bar, it has a nice bitter component that keeps the figs from feeling to sticky sweet. Still, it requires a bit too much effort for me to just eat the bar.
Rating: 6 out of 10
I had a very hard time with this bar ... I have a very hard time not eating it all before I finished writing this review.
It’s simply called Hazelnut Crunch Milk Chocolate.
It smells hazelnutty, and has little bits of crushed hazelnuts and a toffee crunch mixed into the creamy and rather dark milk chocolate.
The toffee bits are what makes this really fabulous. They’re very salty (in fact, there’s a lot of salt in this bar: 140 mgs) but man, each little milligram makes a little jolt of electrical energy delivering those flavors right to the pleasure centers of my brain.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Where I had trouble with the FF&A, the Hazelnut Crunch was one I couldn’t believe I ate the whole thing when it was gone. It’s a perfect afternoon bar, not too filling, not too sickly sweet and the little dose of nuts makes it feel very satisfying. In fact, I’d probably eat it anytime, anywhere ... but the Fig, Fennel & Almond would definitely need to be the kind of bar where I’d need to be in the mood.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
But more recently I was sick. A bad head cold and whatnot. You know how it is. Sometimes I don’t want a delicate chocolate that makes me pay careful attention to nuance. Sometimes I just want the texture burned off my tongue.
I’m a huge gummi fan, don’t get me wrong. But I’m very happy with the plain old traditional Haribo Bears. Sometimes I enjoy the Japanese gummis, especially when they’re covered in chocolate.
Opening the bag, it smelled like fruity shampoo.
The bag holds five flavors: Strawberry, Tangy Cherry, Watermelon, Black Raspberry & Tangerine.
Those who have been reading here for a while know which one puts me over the moon, Tangerine. (I used to love the single-flavor Tangerine Lifesavers that were once available and can now only be found in the Tropical Mix.)
They’re soft and pliable gummies, sanded with a tingly sour coating. They’re larger than the old hard Lifesavers, a little larger than a quarter.
The colors are a little hard to tell apart. The Orange, Red and Light Red all kinda look the same in incandescent lighting (years from now people won’t know what I’m talking about when incandescents are illegal and everyone has CF or LEDs).
Smelling them didn’t help, but believe me, it’s pretty easy to tell them apart by taste.
The Tangerine is wonderful. It’s tangy, it’s zesty, it’s fruity and just tastes like I should have some peels lying around when I’m done.
Tangy Cherry, is well, a light cherry. I don’t like it as much as the regular cherry Lifesavers Gummies, but it’s okay.
Strawberry is one of those odd flavors. I don’t want my strawberries to be sour. If you gave me sour strawberries I’d probably tell you to take them back to the grocery store and get your money back. These were also okay, but looked an awful lot like the tangerine, so I ate a few more than I wanted to by mistake.
Watermelon is rather like Strawberry, it should be sweet and fragrant. Sour is wrong. But here I am, and not only is it sour, but it’s also green. It tastes just horrible, but the good news is that my husband thought this was the best flavor and has no problems rummaging through the bag and getting rid of them.
Black Raspberry is also pretty intense. It has a nice jammy base, with some good tartness and then of course the wonderful floral raspberry flavor.
These aren’t so sour that they ruin your mouth. Pretty much like Sour Patch Kids, but with a gummi base instead of a jelly one.
By a strange coincidence I also tried the Lifesaver Gummies after another cold for similar reasons.
Unlike many other Lifesavers products these days, these are made in the USA.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
The first pair of Candie’s I had were a simple pair of white sneakers. I loved them because they were perfect with my candy striper uniform. (I kid you not, I was a candy striper at the hospital when I was 8th grade, I even got a commendation for completing 50 hours of volunteer work.)
My uniform really wasn’t much. It was just a smock that I’d wear over whatever else I had on, but as this was an era of clogs, I always made sure that I had “quiet shoes” on when I went to the hospital because my rounds were on the geriatric floor. Mostly I’d refill water pitchers, help patients open their mail and later when meals were served, I’d feed those who needed help or cleared their trays.
I’ve kind of been searching for those sneaks again, and prowling around on eBay in hopes that someone has some.
I found these, which are pretty close, but I’m not a size 5.5 (I’m a 7.5). Of course I probably was a size 5.5 in junior high.
But my point is, back then plain white shoes were pretty fashionable, and it was all about the fancy way you’d lace them. If only we’d had the internet to show us cool techniques like this!
UPDATE 6:00 PM: Yes, it was an April Fool’s joke. It was all my brother’s idea. (You can see how it looked here.)
The regular edible candy reviews will resume tomorrow.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.