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).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.