Thursday, July 31, 2008
That time it was LifeSavers Musk, little compressed hoops of sugar with a light musk flavor. It was like eating incense cones (you know, if they were made from sugar and not sawdust).
But I was still intrigued enough to pick up what I thought was a more authentic Australian Musk Lolly. This is from a brand called Black Gold and called simply Musk Flavored Sticks confectionery.
The bag was a bit bigger than I wanted at 200 grams, but then again it was only $3, so it seemed like a fun gamble. I was told that the LifeSavers were a bit firmer than the traditional sticks and this is true.
The little extruded sticks remind me of Conversation Hearts, Altoids or Canada Mints but also a bit like a stripe of dried out frosting. They do have gelatin in them, so they’re not appropriate for vegetarians (well, I don’t think true musk would be appropriate for vegetarians either).
They are strongly scented, kind of a generic “nice smelling shop” vibe. The thing is, I don’t mind it. It’s kind of like rose, orange blossom and Avon’s Skin So Soft. It’s pleasant enough, not bitter or syrupy like some floral flavors can be. But it’s not terribly satisfying. I don’t finish a stick and then think, “I’d like another.” Instead I put the package away and think, “I should write about those at some point.” But I got them back in January and only really put them back in the review queue when I moved offices and had to empty out my desk. (They do make a fine desk freshener.)
If you end up with some out of curiosity and don’t know what to do with the other 180 grams, maybe this reciep for Pink Musk Stick Mushrooms will help. Also check out this essential nostaligic Australian lollies list.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Santos gave me a huge cache of Mentos a few months ago and I’ve been slowly going through them.
Mentos makes two different basic formats of Mentos. Their regular rolls and the Mentos Plus variety, which is fortified with Vitamin C and sold in boxes. As far as I know the Mentos Plus is for the Southeast Asia and Australia/New Zealand markets. (We have boxes of Mentos here in the US too, but they’re usually the sugar free variety.)
The one that caught my eye first was the box of Mentos Plus Tropical Mix. It features Pineapple, Watermelon and Mango.
Recently I had mango citrus and Pine Fresh from Japan, so I was curious how these compared.
The yellow one is Pineapple. It’s fresh, tangy and has that slightly pepperish tingle to it. One of my new favorite Mentos flavors. (I really hope they keep making the Japanese single-flavor rolls.)
Mango is the orange one and it has a mellow, melon flavor to it. It lacks that sort of pine sap taste but has some deeper notes that I couldn’t quite place ... and didn’t really belong in something mango flavored as far as I was concerned. It was more like a jam taste than a fresh fruit taste.
The pink one was Watermelon and I have to hand it to them, this was one of the better watermelon flavored candies I’ve had in a long time. It gets that floral melon flavor just right, only the slightest hint of tartness and then a finish that’s like cotton candy.
The box seems less necessary with single flavors like Mentos Plus Black Currant, I figure boxes are great for picking out just the flavor you want.
But Black Currant is pretty special, at least for Americans, since we don’t have that flavor here much. It’s rather like a combination of concord grape and pomegranate with some violets - a dark berry flavor with a musky flavor element to it.
They’re soft and chewy and a lovely lavender color. It’s taken me a while to get used to currant, but I’m enjoying this edition quite a bit. Not that I’d probably buy it over a citrus like Pink Grapefruit or Pine Fresh.
Though these are not marked Kosher or Halal, they do not contain gelatin or any other animal products.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The Almond Joy candy bar was introduced in 1946, just after the World War II, when sugar, tropical coconuts and chocolate became more available. The Peter Paul Manufacturing Co was based in New Haven, Connecticut and was already known for its popular Mounds bar.
Peter Paul, then producing out of their facility in Nagatuck, Connecticut was bought up by Cadbury back in 1978, and in a deal ten years later, Hershey’s purchased Cadbury’s American operations. Even though the company has gone through a few hands, the bars are still known by their original brand of Peter Paul. The Nagatuck plant that produced Almond Joy’s from 1948 forward closed last year and production was consolidated to a Virginia factory.
Mounds and Almond Joy enjoy a bit of a corner on the chocolate covered coconut market here in the United States. For a while Mars tried to push into the arena with their already popular Bounty bars from Europe, but they never quite made it.
The standard single serving package includes two small bars. The moist coconut and fondant center is covered in milk chocolate and studded with two almonds each. They’re tucked into a tray to protect them.
The bars smell sweet and a whole lot like coconut. The bite is soft and moist, the mockolate is a bit grainy and fudgy and doesn’t really add much flavorwise but does keep things a little creamier (overall I’d say it’s not back mockolate and the ingredients to indicate there’s real chocolate in there). The almonds, though usually small, are good quality and nicely toasted.
I prefer the Mounds (though I’ve always wished they’d do a Mounds with Almonds) just for the counterpoint of the bittersweet chocolate and the sweet coconut. But the coconut is always a good texture and chew with a nice tropical flavor and satisfying tropical fat content. But it is sweet, a bit too much for me.
Almond Joy holds a place in many American’s hearts because of a very popular advertising campaign in the 80s and their jingle that says, “sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you don’t” to distinguish between their two coconut bars. Even though that campaign is long gone, the phrase “sometimes you feel like a nut” still knocks around as a cultural reference.
Almond Joy are also available in a few other formats. They have snack pack size, which is slightly smaller than a single from the regular sized. (A two almond one weights approximately .8 ounces while the snack pack size weights about .6 ounces and sports only one almond.)
There is a third size called fun size, which I only see around Halloween, which looks like it’s from a box of candy. (See Wikipeda for an example.) That also has only one almond, though probably the highest almond to center & chocolate ratio of the three varieties. Easter also brings a large egg shaped version which also sports a solo almond (reviewed here at Candy Addict).
Out of curiosity (mostly because there was a Consumerist posting yesterday), I picked up the Snack Pack and a regular Almond Joy just to see if there was some sort of shenanigan going on here. Consumerist alleged that there was false advertising because there are two little almonds on the package and the description lists “almonds” instead of almond. I can’t really say what the legal situation would be, but I would probably expect that the Snack Pack would simply be the same as a single from regular size.
I can say that this is not a new development. I found this shot from 2005 (back when it was real chocolate too) that shows the single nut on the Snack Pack Almond Joy, so if it were a big deal, I would have expected it to be addressed long before now. While the use of the plural almonds does create a sense of expectation, I’m not sure we also expect a half a coconut’s worth of shreds in there too, even though that’s also depicted in the artwork.
The Snack Pack, which I picked up at the 99 Cent Only Store, as far as I was concerned, was a very good value. Eight of these smaller bars for only 99 cents. They have 80 calories each. The regular sized ones have 110 calories each. It’s pretty obvious that the Snack Pack, even with its decreased almond density is a far better deal than a single bar purchase.
Almond Joy has enjoyed a few alternative varieties through Hershey’s limited editions including Key Lime, Passion Fruit, Chocolate Chocolate and Toasted Coconut (my personal favorite over the classic Almond Joy).
UPDATE 9/30/2008: Almond Joy was briefly made with mockolate but after consumer feedback, Hershey’s switched back to the original chocolate formula.
Monday, July 28, 2008
I picked up this Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolate bar in San Francisco a few months ago and have been saving it for a time when I need a little sparkle.
Elbow is known for his inventive combinations of spices, fruits and savories with chocolate. His bonbons are distinguished by their bold and bright patterns. His bars, on the other hand are subdued and understated and dare I say lacking any pretension that a bonbon piece named Strawberry-Balsamic Caramel might connote (or my favorite from Elbow right now is the Venezuelan Spices Chocolate Pecan Turtle).
Instead his bars are numbered, currently 1 through 12. I picked up No. 6 Dark Rocks which features 61% dark chocolate blended with popping candy.
The bar is anything but intimidating. The fresh brown & aqua box protects the sizable 3.5 ounce bar well. It’s wrapped inside with a simple silver aluminium foil. (A little thin for me, I like a foil I can wrap and unwrap a few times before it falls to bits.)
The bar is simple looking, just 24 little sections. No logo, no letters, no names.
It’s a glossy dark brown with a good snap to it. The little popping candies are easily seen in a cross section, though don’t look quite as dense as the Pop Rocks Bar.
The chocolate is smooth and on the sweet side but has a wonderful buttery quality that sets this apart from any other pop rocks confection I’ve had to date.
Letting the chocolate melt means that the pops come out as a little background sizzle. Munching the bar means that they crackle and hiss. Either way is certainly a different experience.
They’re expensive at $7 a bar, but of course not your every day fare. A fun bar to share, especially for a special occasion.
There are plenty of other bars that caught my eye on the list though, so I’m more likely to experiment (I’m likely to go for the white chocolate with nibs next) before buying this again. But I have a few friends who adore this bar and still others that I would consider gifting this in the future.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Last year Hershey’s introduced some new Whoppers, twists on the classic chocolate covered malted milk ball (well, in the case of Whoppers, they’re mockolate). For some reason my area in Southern California is a vast maltless wasteland, so I had to pick up these Reese’s Peanut Butter version of Whoppers in Dublin, CA as I returned from the Bay Area last weekend.
I love the use of the little milk cartons for Whoppers (and Milk Duds, though sadly those have turned mockolate as well), it’s a great way to package a product to stand up, be dispensed and then closed.
The new Whoppers Reese’s Peanut Butter Flavored Candy are basically a peanut butter confectionery coating made of defatted peanuts & partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. (Think of the inside of Reese’s Pieces.)
Whoppers are a bit smaller than the usual malted milk balls found in bulk bins, which are usually about the diameter of a quarter. These little Whoppers (hard to call them that when I’ve just said that they’re small, now isn’t it) are about the size of a hazelnut.
The outside is a little waxy, but definitely peanutty. It’s not terribly sweet and does eventually do something akin to melting. But the best part is the crumbly, sweet and malty center.
It’s a nice addition to the line, but I think I’ll stick with the Trader Joe’s version (see this post from June 4 Bellies) which is not only bigger but has real milk chocolate on top of that. But if I were to stumble across these as an option at the movies, I’d certainly go for it, the combo with popcorn would be pretty fabulous.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I went to the Bay Area last weekend and instead of going on a spree to all the most luxurious chocolatiers and confectionery shops I went to the Dollar Tree and Long’s. (Yes, we have Long’s & Dollar Tree in Los Angeles, but this plaza in Dublin had some really good shops.)
I was pleased to find the new LifeSavers Gummies Tangy Fruits which were announced at All Candy Expo a few months ago. I was drawn to them because they feature tangerine, which is my absolute favorite LifeSavers flavor (and will prompt me to by Tropical LifeSavers just for those).
I wasn’t sure when they were announced if they were going to be like the LifeSavers Sour Gummies, which are coated in a grainy sugar/sour sanding or if they’d be like the traditional smooth rings of the LifeSavers 5 Flavors. After purchasing and opening, I was pleased to see that they are the smooth variety. (Yes, I prefer my gummis without the grainy mess, because I like to play with them.)
While the LifeSavers 5 Flavors Gummies follow the flavor set of the 5 Flavors hard candies, the Tangy Fruits were free to be whatever tangy fruits they wanted to be without a parallel. In this case they’re Tangerine, Watermelon, Lemon, Sour Apple, Tangy Cherry & Wild Fruit Punch. Now, what I found most interesting about that list was that three of those flavors are kind of in the 5 Flavors (Green Apple, Watermelon & Cherry). So in order to fully compare, I also bought a pack of the 5 Flavor Gummies.
The new packaging that LifeSavers introduced last year has a helpful key on the front that details the color & flavor combinations.
Aqua = Wild Fruit Punch - I don’t think there’s a wild fruit flavor in here at all. It tastes like a chemistry set. Perfumy, a bit like Kool-Aid fruit punch but there are some citrus notes and even though it’s blue, it was kind of bitter.
Green = Sour Apple - yeah, it’s green apple, but I was really missing the tangy bite I felt I was promised. Granted it does taste different from the 5 Flavors Green Apple, but not any more sour. Just different.
Light Red = Watermelon - I’ve never understood the desire to make anything watermelon flavored sour. Watermelon flavor has nothing to do with tartness as far as I’m concerned, so it’s like making sour honey, it just doesn’t make any sense. In this case it’s not sour, it’s actually quite nice. It reminds me of the perfect Jolly Rancher.
Dark Red = Tangy Cherry - I was expecting the black cherry flavors of a regular LifeSaver and I got a lot of those really intense woodsy-floral notes here. It’s not that “tart cherry pie” flavor but it’s also not at all the same as the Cherry in the 5 Flavors (which after tasting again reminds me of lipstick).
Yellow = Lemon - I’ve been missing lemon in the 5 Flavors, so I was glad to see its return here. And it was lemon! Tangy, zesty (almost too zesty!), soft and fragrant. Much more potent than the old hard candy LifeSaver.
Orange = Tangerine - I saved the best for last. And I wasn’t disappointed. This is no drink mix flavor, it tastes like someone peeled a tangerine right in front of me. There’s even a slight bitterness, plus the juicy taste of the gummi is enhanced by the soft and rubbery chew. I think it could be tarter, but I think all of them need to be more sour if they’re going to call the product Tangy Fruits.
The texture of the gummis was nice. They felt less greasy than they used to, but a little tougher.
While Tangy Fruits has more flavors that I actually like, buying six flavors just to get two that I like (tangerine & lemon) is insane. So here’s my request: Citrus Mix. Orange, Lemon, Lime, Tangerine and Grapefruit. (And if they wanted to throw Pineapple in there, I wouldn’t argue with the violation of the definition of citrus.)
LifeSavers hard candies are made in Canada, but these are made in the USA. They contain gelatin so are not suitable for vegetarians and are not Kosher.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Hershey’s has reinvigorated one of their old lines: Young & Smylie Licorice. Known more for Twizzlers, Young & Smylie is one of the oldest candy companies in the country.
This new line, called simply Old Fashioned Soft Eating Licorice and includes three flavors in their initial offerings. Flavor no. 1, oddly enough, is Strawberry. Nope, it’s not licorice, it’s strawberry. I’ll admit, right away I’m offended by this. While I fully accept that “red licorice” is a grand and glorious genre of confection, the original flavor of licorice is actually licorice.
However, I’m at least a bit appeased by reading the package which says that even this strawberry flavor has licorice extract in it.
These soft little nuggets are pretty. They’re opaque and shiny logs. It smells tangy, kind of like strawberry yogurt.
The bite is quite soft, a cross between Dots and HiCHEW. It’s sweet and mild, the strawberry flavors are all in the range of toasted sugar and floral. It’s not the slightest bit tangy, though exceptionally smooth.
The resealable packages are a hefty 8 ounces. It feels like more. The plastic is matte and rather elegant. Easy to open and reclose, the design is quite nice - modern yet classic. I like the geometric background pattern that’s used on all three.
I’ve seen them in a few stores, usually selling for $2.99 a package, so it’s on the high end of Hershey’s sugar products at the moment. Small wonder, it must be hard to make an inexpensive product when the list of ingredients is so long. No less than 15 ingredients. It starts with corn syrup and ends with soybean oil. But hey, I can’t be too disappointed, there is licorice root extract but I don’t have high hopes as there’s no molasses in there. (Not that licorice must have molasses, but I do love the combo so.)
Opening the bag, it’s an odd scent. It’s a combination of anise and curry. It smells hearty and warm.
It’s very soft stuff, kind of salty (190 mg of sodium per serving). Mild and sweet, it has a nice anise or fennel bump to it, but not terribly intense. It is a little sticky, but not like Crows.
It’s appealing and certainly different than the other soft eating licorice brands on the market, so I at least have to tip my hat to their originality. But it just doesn’t satisfy my licorice desire. I’ve had these since the beginning of the month, yet I found myself buying Good & Plenty last weekend instead of eating these.
I was also kind of annoyed that these made my tongue greenish black thanks to my old friends Red 40 & Blue 1. (Many black licorices are colored by the presence of molasses.)
I have to just wonder how it was that this became one of the top three contenders for a soft eating licorice line.
Like the Strawberry & Licorice, Peach Mango is naturally and artificially flavored. In this instance it smells artificial from the get-go. Both the Strawberry & Peach Mango list that each serving contains 35 mg of licorice root extract (the licorice variety makes no mention of how much it contains, only that it’s above that “less than 2% of the following” line).
This package smelled even before I opened it. The peach and mango blend becomes something like apricot, which I admit is a fresh and enticing smell. But generally I stay away from stone fruit flavors, they never seem quite authentic to me.
These are the softest of the three varieties. It’s all sweet and no tartness. The chew is smooth but has a pasty quality, kind of like too-soft macaroni. After eating a few pieces I realized that it was just peach flavored and I wasn’t getting anything mango out of it (which is usually a rather pine tasting note). It also left a lingering and mellow bitter taste in my mouth ... it wasn’t bad, just kind of strange.
I’ll be curious to see if this flavor makes it. It’s certainly different, but inconsistent with the other two and of course so out of the range of traditional licorice it may not attract those folks who might like a mild apricot-scented overcooked pasta.
On the whole, I appreciated that these were actually different from other soft-eating licorice products out there. This tastes nothing like Panda, Kookaburra or Finnska. Licorice products are being marketed as a low-calorie treat. As a wheat-based product they are less calorically dense but this particular variety does have a smidge of fat (1.5 grams per serving). Not a deal breaker but regular Twizzlers are a bit better in that respect. (Twizzlers are 92 & 94 calories per ounce for black & red, respectively, Y&S Soft Eating is 94 & 101 for the same.)
These contains wheat, soy products and artificial stuff but no dairy. But they’re certified Kosher.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Kai’s Candies has a line of candidate sets. The one for Barack Obama is currently available and includes lollipops with Obama’s likeness on them plus little single candies that either say VOTE or have an image of a donkey.
Later in August they’ll have a set for John McCain that features a lollipop with his face plus red elephant candies.
The images are made by hand. Basically sugar and syrup are boiled, a little flavor or color is added and then the different hunks of colored candy are assembled into a large blob that is rolled thinner and thinner - little slices are cut that reveal the design created by stacking the different colors. This is the same traditional technique used to make swirled & twisted lollipops, starlight mints and candy canes.
In Japan this technique is called Kumi Ame (rolled candy), where these are made to Kai’s Candies specifications.
Kai’s Candy has a nice post on their blog that shows photos of the process.
In the case of Kai’s Candies, the background is a translucent candy instead of an opaque color, which adds to the appeal of these, like they’re enamel.
The Obama pop is attractive, I recognize it as Obama, though the flesh tone is a bit light and his lips should be darker as well. It’s about 1 1/2 inches across and about 1/4 inch deep. The stick is a stiff plastic, white with a twirl of color. They’re a bit longer than usual lollipop sticks at almost eight inches, so you could put them in a vase or something as a centerpiece.
The design goes through and through, it’s not an imprint or a raised design.
However, as the candy dissolves the different kinds that make it up dissolve at different rates. The clear candy background seems to be the hardest, so Obama’s face disappeared more quickly (as did the donkey in the little piece).
As a piece of edible propaganda, it’s one of the best I’ve seen. It’s good quality stuff and the company takes great pride in their work. The packaging is spare but appropriate. (I liked that the donkey, elephant & vote were not only in clear wrappers but had color coded ends.)
They are expensive ($14.95 for a set that includes 4 pops and 14 little candies) but they’re also hand made. There are also mini-sets for only $3.95 but of course it makes the per item charge higher ... and don’t forget shipping. There’s nothing on the site about just ordering the vote and party affiliate animals (though I bet you could contact them directly for that).
UPDATE 8/18/2008: Kai’s Candy has lowered the prices, the regular set is now $13.95. They also include lettered pops that say “Obama” or “McCain” and mixes that have both Obama and McCain face and name pops mixed.
UPDATE 2/20/2009: Kai’s Candy has a message on their website: Kai’s Candy Company Is No Longer In Business. We’d like to thank our customers who helped launch our business, but like many others, we haven’t been able to sustain our business through the recent economic downturn.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.