Monday, July 21, 2008
I was cruising through the 99 Cent Store and noticed a new line of candies called All Gummies Gourmet. I recognized the actual candies as Albanese Candy Company (and this was confirmed in the small print on the back of the package). So finally Albanese are available at stores without going into the bulk candy aisle.
This bag of Fruity Fish caught my eye. Here was a half a pound of red fish for less than a dollar? Could they be any good? A little further down the aisle and there was the good old, reliable Swedish Fish (made by Cadbury Adams), so I decided to see if this designer impostor could fulfill a penny pinchers craving.
The packages are both attractive enough. The Swedish Fish is traditional, pretty much the same package I recognize from ten years ago - yellow with a little scale pattern on it. The All Gummies Gourmet packaging is rather generic - a vibrant blue and bronzy gold. The nice part is that the bottom of the package is clear cellophane and it’s easy to see the candies inside. And they do look fresh, moist and tasty!
The detail on both is nice, they look like fish. The scales, lips and eyes on the Fruity Fish is sharper, but I wouldn’t call one better than the other. So while I consider the appearance of both to be about equal, the comparable-ness ends there.
The fish themselves are about the same size. The Swedish Fish is a bit flatter and therefore weighs a bit less. The Swedish Fish are lighter in color and smell a little like raspberries and cotton candy. The Fruity Fish are a deep red and smell like, well, black cherry flavor with a touch of bitter amaretto. I wasn’t happy about this.
First, Fruity Fish are gummis. That’s right, they’re not jelly candies like the Swedish Fish, they’re full on gelatin-carrying gummis. (I can’t be upset, it does say All Gummies Gourmet right on the front.)
Second, they’re not any kind of berry flavor. Swedish Fish flavor is rather unique, I’ve always considered it lingonberry flavor, though it’s never been officially declared what flavor they are. The Fruity Fish are soft, chewy and have a good mix of tangy and sweet. But the flavor is black cherry, through and through.
So, these are no designer impostor as I suspected. They’re certainly a good deal, as the package heralds Big Value. But they are very jarring if you’re expecting the dulcet berry tones of Swedish Fish. Even though the Swedish Fish cost twice as much, I’ll stick with them ... but only because of the cherry flavor issue with Fruity Fish. They’re still a darn good candy.
Friday, July 18, 2008
After my stellar experience with the Look! bar last month, Christine suggested in the comments that it was like Charleston Chews.
Honestly, I’ve avoided Charleston Chews, mostly because they have the dreaded mockolate coating. I bought a bar once before and upon opening, it was apparent that it wasn’t fresh or maybe that’s the way they were supposed to look, so I opted not to review it.
However, at the Walgreen’s the other day they were having a sale on theater box candy. I really wanted some Good & Plenty, but the sale was 3 for $3.00 instead of $1.50 each, so I obviously bought three boxes of candy. (The other was Crows.)
Charleston Chews are named after the dance craze of the 20s. Introduced in 1922 by the Fox-Cross Candy Company they’ve changed hands a few times, manufactured by Warner-Lambert and then Nabisco before being picked up by the Tootsie company in the 90s. Tootsie understands a good taffy chew. The design of the box is classic, as are many Tootsie items. It conveys what to expect, some sort of small white bar of chew covered in a delicious chocolatey coating.
Though the box tells me that these are Vanilla, I know that the long bars come in other flavors including Chocolate and Strawberry. I’ve never seen those in the mini chew size. (Which is too bad, because I think it’d be fun to be able to buy a mixed box.)
This box was so much better than the first bar I had, so things were encouraging. First, it has a cellophane overwrap. Second, the Walgreen’s where I usually shop has pretty good control over their temperature. I’ve never been in there and found it to be sweltering (and there are plenty of other drug stores in Southern California that have that problem and I won’t buy chocolate candy there ... or even chocolatey candy.)
The mockolate coating is kind of chalky looking but I figured that was because of the friction of rattling around in the box. The coating is thin, but enough to usually contain the fluffed chew in the center.
They smell sweet, like vanilla candles. It’s soft enough to bite in half or simply chew up. It’s a smooth chew to the very end (not like Starbursts or Sugar Babies which both disintegrate into a grainy mess).
The flavor is pleasant, the fake chocolate contributes next to nothing here, not even a little cocoa pop. But the chew is enjoyable enough that I ate most of the box (but didn’t have access to much other candy as I’m traveling). As a movie treat, they’re easy to eat mindlessly.
However, having had the Look! bar, which is a chew covered in real chocolate, this is a silly waste of my time. But I still think I’ll try the Strawberry & Chocolate varieties at some point.
These contain egg whites (and oodles of milk products) so are not suitable for vegans. Kosher.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Earlier this year I teased a new line of Dots from Tootsie. The single flavor boxes of the [Aristotelian] Elements line are based on the four elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Each of these elements is assigned a flavor and a not-found-in-nature color. (There’s actually a fifth element in Aristotle’s list, Ether, which makes up the stars and celestial bodies.)
The idea behind these elements was that they were combinations of heat and moisture, or lack thereof. So Water is wet and cold, Fire is hot and dry, etc. We now have an exceptionally complex table of the elements which takes a completely different approach to what makes up the physical world.
The packages for Dots Elements are quite striking. Black and neon, they’re hard to miss at the store as they stand out from other theater-sized boxed candies. (This is the only size I know that these come in so far.)
I didn’t buy these, instead Sera who was visiting Los Angeles last week shared her bounty of huge boxes with me (so look for her perspective soon).
The color is hard to describe, it’s translucent and reminds me of the color that results when you mix water with absinthe. Milky green.
The scent is, well, like walking into a Bed, Bath & Beyond. A strange floral smell that I can’t quite put my finger on.
The nice thing was that these were exceptionally fresh. The smooth bite gives way to a rather delicate sweet flavor.
I tastes very little like green tea to me, which usually has a rather grassy flavor to it. They’re fresh but a little cloying. They remind me a lot of Turkish Delight.
This was the most predictable flavor of the new line. What’s more, there used to be Hot Dots (made from 2004-06, I stumbled across some very old boxes at the 99 Cent Store in Hollywood late last year).
The color is a bit light, but that’s okay with me, as I don’t need the bitter food coloring especially when there’s only one flavor in the box.
These don’t smell like much at all, but have a pleasant cinnamon bite to the. Not too sweet either, there are little pockets of sizzle now and then, they remind me of Spearmint Leaves.
I’d be pretty happy if these stuck around.
This color was freaky ocean blue ... unless you put them under florescent lights and then they were more green.
Like the cinnamon they don’t smell like much.
These seemed a bit firmer than the rest but still had a smooth chew to them.
The wintergreen flavor is pretty strong and brings to mind things like root beer (pleasant), teaberry gum (yum) and ben gay (ewww).
They feel fresh. But I’m always hesitant to eat wintergreen things because so many people have a visceral reaction to them. The good thing is that until you chew them up, no one knows what they are.
This is the only fruit flavor among the group and it makes sense that it represents the earth. The pomegranate was actually cultivated in Aristotle’s time and had great cultural significance.
As daring as I thought the green tea flavor was, I think pomegranate is pretty high up there. I love pomegranates though I don’t eat them as much as I used to. Real pomegranates are intense with a combination of tart berry flavors, a dark drying quality in the mouth and of course a deep syrupy sweetness. Oh, and they’re very pretty both on the tree (they look like huge rose hips) and taken apart in a bowl.
Instead of being a garnet-colored drop these are purple, which I guess is what color pomegranate juice is. This is the only Dot in this group that has a touch of tanginess to it. The flavor doesn’t really feel like pomegranate. If someone gave these to me I’d just say that they’re cherry-berry.
On the whole, I actually think they’re a good effort. They’re different, the hook of the elements had me more than interested and of course they’re dirt cheap. It’s a bit different for Dots to have just one flavor in a box, so you’d really better like it. I finished the cinnamon first, then the green tea, then the wintergreen and I still have some pomegranate left.
Dots are a starch-thickened candy, so there’s no gelatin in there. These are suitable for vegetarians and even vegans.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
About a year ago reader Charlene suggested I try Katjes sour gummis. I couldn’t find those, so I ended up trying Katjes Yoghurt Gums and Tropical Gummis. Though they weren’t my favorite candies ever, I still thought that a different set of flavors would suit me. I was also impressed that they used all natural colors and flavors.
Finally at another visit to Cost Plus World Market I stumbled across Saure Ananas, which are sour pineapple gummis.
The package says (in German) that it’s New! and that it has real pineapple juice in it (reading the ingredients it’s actually 10% pineapple juice, not just a splash of some grape or pear concentrate). Oh, and the obligatory, fat free!
When I was a teen one of my favorite snacks was canned pineapple and cream cheese. Throw some rings of pineapple on a plate, throw little cubes of cream cheese about the size of the hole in the ring and eat a little cream cheese with each bite of pineapple. Simple, delicious. Sometimes I’d spruce it up by rolling the cream cheese in crushed nuts but that seemed like a lot of trouble most of the time.
Now I like to get fresh pineapple and eat it until my tongue is fully tenderized. (Though the new low acid ones mean I can eat more pineapple with less tongue damage.)
So I was especially pleased at the appearance of these little gems, which look just like little pineapple pieces cut right from the ring.
Opening the package they smelled more like canned pineapple than the fresh stuff, but as I mentioned above, I quite love that stuff even though I prefer fresh. They have a sugar coating which protects the soft pieces from sticking together. They’re a stunning light yellow, slightly opaque but dead ringers for pineapple chunks.
The sugary coating isn’t flavored so after putting them in the mouth I’d either dissolve the sugar or start chewing to release the flavor.
They’re tart, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call them full on sours. But the pineapple flavor is deep and complex with the high tangy notes and the deep fragrance and mid-level sweetness.
Dang tasty. I’m glad I finally found them. Katjes is a huge confectionery company in Germany and I hope to come across more of their products (I really need to try their licorice line). Cost Plus World Market carries a lot of the line as does the online store, GermanDeli.com. While at Cost Plus, Sera (formerly of Candy Addict and now out on her own with The Candy Enthusiast) picked up Katjes fruit jellies, so look forward to her notes on those soon.
Next on my hitlist is to track down their mixed pack called Saure Heringe that includes lemon, lime and blackcurrant and has a sour coating along with the soft flavorful gummi.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Lately there’s a lot of talk about the economy in the news and how people are downsizing their summer trips to staycations, eating out less and even driving less. What hasn’t change is sweets sales. In fact, history shows us that candy is recession-proof (even thrives in bad times as people can always spare something for a bit of sugar).
But what is happening is people are choosing their treats more carefully, with price being a key factor. I’m not one to shy away from house brands and generics, so I thought maybe I should give some design impostor candies a try. First up on my list is Foxes Five Flavor roll. I saw these in the vending machine at work. They were economical, at only 60 cents when all the other candy items were 85 cents to a dollar. Of course the roll was also smaller.
They’re meant to compete with LifeSavers 5 Flavors, so I put them to the test, head to head.
LifeSavers have a few competitors in the “small roll of hard candy” field. Mostly Charms, which are pretty hard to come by and Jolly Ranchers. I’m not terribly picky when it comes to hard candies, flavor is usually the first reason for me to buy something, brand is second or third. (Ingredients are also important.)
Here’s the specs on each:
LifeSavers 5 Flavors
I’ve been very unhappy with the flavor change in the LifeSavers 5 Flavor roll for many years now, and the hiatus from the product hasn’t changed my mind. There are only two flavors worth beans in here Pineapple & Orange. Raspberry is actually good but not what I want in my Favorite Five. Watermelon and Cherry can take a flying leap. (I actually don’t want cherry to leave the mix, I know it’s a legacy flavor and it’s a good way for me to make friends, by offering it to others.)
Foxes Five Flavor
The disks are attractive, translucent and sparkly. They remind me of the old Brach’s Sparklers. They are exceptionally smooth with very few voids so there’s nothing to tear up the mouth. The little divot in the middle makes it easy to run the tongue over it to deliver more flavor, or tuck it in the roof of the mouth comfortably.
Orange was rather bland. A mellow mix of zest and light tanginess, it didn’t have much zip. Lemon was all about sweetness, it was more like cotton candy flavor than a lemon drop, the lemon oil flavors developed more as it dissolved but never moved past pleasant for me. Lime was more intense with both sour and zest ... pretty good. Strawberry was surprisingly peppy - tart, fragrant and a bit like jam. The raspberry was similarly tasty, a little tart, a little flowery.
Overall the flavors were good, not stellar but quality hard candies. The flavors were distinctive and consistent. I would have preferred they be more intense, especially the citrus ones but the two berries were surprise hits.
Though you get more in the LifeSavers roll, you also pay more and with the price of LifeSavers at 85 cents at 7-11, the Foxes Five Flavors win out gram for gram. So, the verdict - if the flavor variety sounds good, the Foxes is a good option when you’re stuck with vending machine fare or are looking to pinch your pennies (and yes, it’s only pennies that are at stake).
Monday, July 14, 2008
I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of reviews for candies with health claims lately. I blame it on there actually being a lot of new candy introductions that make health claims. Some tout being fat free, others have beneficial natural ingredients pumped up others are fortified with nutrients not normally found in candies.
Part of this is because of the perception that candy is to blame for the current obesity crisis. Vending machines are being removed from schools and where they still exists, the snacks must pass a rigorous test to be deemed healthy enough to be included. (Some ban high-calorie portions, others put limits on the fat ratio and/or the sugar content. More here.)
In order to maintain their marketshare many confectionery companies are tweaking their candies to stay in the diets of kids everywhere. Sunkist is pretty much synonymous with fruit so it’s a pretty good guess they’d want any candy with their name on it to be regarded as healthy. So they’ve launched some Better For You! gummi.
Not only do they have 100% of the RDA of vitamin C and are made with fruit juice but they also state that they contain 35% less sugar than average leading gummi.
The ingredients go like this:
What’s nice is that Sunkist went with a combination of sugar alcohols (sorbitol and maltitol) instead of artificial sweeteners but still kept sugar and corn syrup as the primary sweeteners here. Sugar alcohols can cause intestinal distress in some people, so I took it very slow with these.
They look gorgeous. No kid is going to look at these and not think that they’re soft and fruity gummi. As a whole they smell like fruit punch.
Each piece is formed like the fruit it’s flavored for.
Cherry - rather medicine-like. Tart and sweet, very soft.
Strawberry - looks more like a shoe tread than a fruit, but still nicely fragrant and fruity, only slightly tangy but basically tasty. There’s a slight throat burn towards the end. These were redder than the cherries so I blame my personal nemesis Red 40, your mileage may vary.
Lemon - I expect great things from a lemon product from Sunkist, which made its name on citrus. This doesn’t disappoint. The shape is perfect, the chew is soft and the flavor is a blend of tartness, sweetness and zestiness. It could be a little more intense, but overall a great middle of the road lemon gummi.
Orange - the little translucent orange slices are just lovely. They smell like orange zest and are surprisingly complex with lots of zest to back up the light tart bite.
So they make a believable candy. And nutritionally? Well the sparing use of the sugar substitutes means that these clock in at a mere 78 calories per ounce. 31 grams are carbohydrates but 11 of them are from the sugar alcohols per 40 gram serving (which amounts to 110 calories). There are no other fortifications ... no crazy fish oil or Zinc or anything to give the gummi a crazy aftertaste. Just 100% of the RDA of vitamin C in every serving.
Though the package says 35% less sugar, it’s not that significant in the whole scheme of things. Regular gummi have about 100 calories per ounce ... but really, how many are you eating? I suppose if you’re eating gummi every day you can save yourself 150 or so calories per week. (Every bit helps!) As long as you’re not sensitive to the use of sorbitol or maltitol.
On the whole only half of the flavors were of interest to me and the very soft texture and threat of an evening in the bathroom isn’t enough for me to buy them again. But they might be right for some folks.
As with all true gummi, these are made with gelatin and are unsuitable for vegetarians. (Note: while Sunkist Fruit Gems are made by Jelly Belly here in the USA, these are made under license from Sunkist by Healthy Food Brands in China.)
Friday, July 11, 2008
Last year I was introduced to Feodora chocolate by my husband who brought me this lovely Hazelnut bar. It was just whole hazelnuts in a rich and sticky milk chocolate. Very tasty (but had bloomed so I didn’t do a full review but somehow managed to eat it all anyway).
In order to properly review it though, I needed to find more.
Feodora is a German chocolate company who named their line of bars and chocolates after Feodora, the sister of the last German Empress and half-sister to Queen Victoria. As an imported brand it’s not as easy to find for me as some others from Germany like Hachez or Ritter Sport.
I picked up this small assortment of Feodora’s small bars at the Fancy Food Show way back in January and found them in my chocolate stash.
Vollmilch-Hochfein Chocolade - 37% Kakao mindestens - sweet but quite deep with strong raisin and grape flavors, smells a little like a mild cheesecake but very creamy.
Edel-Bitter Chocolade - 60% Kakao mindestens - has a wonderful buttery consistency, but a strong and bitter taste. The notes are of balsam woods, coffee, cherry and dark teas.
Grand’or - 75% Kakao mindestens - The Grand’or is reputed to undergo a long conching process, which results in an extra smooth chocolate, so I wasn’t concerned with the texture. It was just as buttery and creamy smooth as the 60% but really intensely flavored. Some dark cherry and tea notes were present here along with charcoal and cedar. It’s quite rich, one of these tiny bars was absolutely satisfying.
The bars are very consistent in their consistency - lovely smoothness and even flavors. The molding was pretty and the tempering spot on for each of the small pieces. They’re not that expensive for import bars, leading me to believe this is a mid-range bar. You can get them online from German Deli and I’ve seen them at Mel & Rose’s Wine & Liquors.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m often a sucker for packaging. In this case it’s the Feodora Mocca’s. Little coffee flavored dark chocolate bits shaped like coffee beans. In this case they came in a gold box with a flip open top and a very attractive cup of coffee on the front. Since I’d already tried the little chocolate bars, I thought something in their flavored line would be ideal. Still, they were $3.99 for 75 grams.
They’re actually quite a bit bigger than real coffee beans at 3/4 of an inch. Each was nicely formed, flat on one side and with a little lengthwise cinch to simulate a bean.
The bittersweet chocolate is smooth, and actually a bit bitter with the authentic taste of freshly roasted coffee infused quite strongly. (It’s 3% coffee according to the label.) It was every so slightly grainy which was disappointing after the smoothness of the bars, but forgivable compared to the gritty nature of many coffee bars I’ve had over the years.
The coffee chocolate is also available as a bar, but I think I’m willing to pay the premium for the cute box and shape of the pieces. But I reckon I’m only going to do that once or twice a year at most. But they’d make a nice stocking stuffer for any coffee fiend.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
I was enamored of the name of this new guarana boosted line of gummis called Loud Truck. (And I said so! Which prompted the company to offer me some samples, which I accepted.)
The crazy logo features a classic old truck with a gazillion different horns and loudspeakers mounted to it. It’s cute and it gives the impression that these candies can wake me up! That they’re in my face! They’re in a blazing orange bag! I’m up! The flavor is called citrus blast! I’m up already!
It’s a tiny little bag, it holds only an ounce, but then again, it’s powerful stuff. I couldn’t tell from the opaque packaging or any of the material on the Loud Truck website what they’d look like. I thought, you know, maybe like little trucks. Nope.
The gummis are little bears! Loud, truck driving bears! (Okay, they don’t have their trucks on the, but if you look very carefully I think you can see the keys to their trucks in their pockets.)
But wait, they have little As on their bellies which either means they’re adulterous bears (and being cooped up in a tiny bag with perhaps no hope of being reunited with their loved ones, you can imagine the temptations and perhaps even forgive any transgressions) or more likely it means that they’re made by Albanese Confectionery Company.
They feature a blend of nutrients, though the package is kind of odd. They recommend a pair of bears as a serving, which features 7 mgs of caffeine and a blend of things like Vitamin C, B vitamins and Taurine. A whole package (4.5 servings) has about 32 mgs of caffeine. (Red Bull has 80, a 12 ounce cup of coffee can have anywhere between 70-160.)
So even if you eat the whole package, it’s not gonna kill you. You’ll be lucky if it keeps you up at all, depending on your sensitivities.
The texture is similar to most other soft gummis. Bouncy, soft and nicely scented. The smell, on the other hand, is kind of odd. It’s more like jasmine tea than orange or lemon. The flavor is only slightly tart and has a slight zest, but not definable as citrus, per se. They are slightly bitter, at least to me.
They’re odd, not unappealing, but I don’t consider it citrus in the slightest. I think the bitterness is not zest but probably the guarana, which has a flavor of its own.
At about $2 per package, they’re not cheap, but as a non-liquid caffeine source they’re more palatable than many other items I’ve tried.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.