Friday, October 31, 2008
Each year around this time there are lists of the best and worst Halloween candies. At the top folks always seem to have Candy Corn, but right in there is another misunderstood and underappreciated candy, Smarties.
There’s not much too them, they’re a simple tangy compressed dextrose candy stacked into a tight roll and wrapped in cellophane. For almost 60 years CeDe Candy has been churning out the chalky, barely flavored tablets. It’d be a rare Halloween Trick-or-Treat bag that didn’t have at least one roll. More recently CeDe’s product line has expanded to include Bubble Gum Smarties, Mega Smarties and now Xtreme Sour and Tropical Smarties.
The Tropical Smarties roll is attractive, orange and yellow accents give it a sunny, citrus look. The tablets themselves don’t look or smell any different from the original though. Original come in green, yellow, purple, pink, orange and white, Tropical seem to come in green, yellow, orange, pink and white.
In the case of the Tropical array, when eating mindlessly the rolls had a soft sweetness to them with some notes of pina colada and banana/strawberry. In the particular the yellow ones are banana (in the regular array I think they’re lemon) and the white ones seem to be the pina colada.
All of this causes too much thinking for something like Smarties though. Though the different colors are different flavors they’re one of the few candies I won’t separate before I eat.
Tropical Smarties are pleasant, a little milder (if that’s even possible) than the Original.
Rating: 7 out of 10.
The first thing I noticed about the X-Treme Sour Smarties is that they’re more vivid. Not quite SweeTarts colors, but pretty close.
The colors are green, yellow, purple, orange and pink (maybe red). They seem a bit denser and less powdery than the Original.
The flavors are actually perceivable, though not terribly notable. The tanginess is very high pitched. Where SweeTarts are a mid-range tartness (malic acid) these seem more citric acidy.
I like the balance of flavor to tartness with SweeTarts, but I can see this different kind of tartness and the back seat the actual flavors take having its appeal.
Rating: 5 out of 10.
On the whole, I’ve always loved Smarties in the sense that I will eat them, all of them, than later I will feel sick, curse them and vow never to eat them again because of my stupid lack of self control. The ubiquity of Smarties around Halloween is also accompanied by some sort of mind-warping amnesia ray ... and I again repeat my demonstration of how much power these little tablets have over me.
(Note: Smarties are called Rockets in Canada. Smarties made by Nestle are little chocolate lentils and are sold everywhere except for the USA.)
Thursday, October 30, 2008
When I was a kid and we’d go to the Halloween Parade in town (Mechanicsburg, PA, if you’re curious), both folks from the floats and those watching from the sidewalks would throw corn. (Not on the cob, silly! Just dried feed corn.) I don’t know why we did it, but I kind of likened it to the harvest version of throwing rice at weddings.
This fun little remembrance has nothing to do with anything. Except that I was recently in Mechanicsburg and that it’s National Candy Corn Day and it made me think of throwing corn.
I picked up this Giant Eagle Candy Place Harvest Mix in Ohio. I believe they’re made by Mayfair. Though the colors looked rather faded in the package and the already known-quantity of the Brach’s Halloween Mix was on the shelves, too, I really wanted to try it. At 99 cents, the risk was minimal.
The assortment was much more broad than Brach’s. First, none of the shapes were assigned a particular color/flavor. Second, there were a lot of different shapes and this mix included both candy corn and Indian corn.
The shapes I found were: owl, skull & bones, pumpkin, jack-o-lantern, cat, witch, ear of corn, bat and mellowcreme pumpkin. The colors were orange, tan, yellow and brown.
The whole bag smelled kind of like band-aids and maple syrup.
Orange mellowcremes tasted like marshmallows and honey. Soft, smooth, very little grain and an even and sweet taste.
The tan shapes had a slight maple flavor to them and were my favorite in the bunch even though they lacked the touch of honey that the orange had.
The brown had a caramel and cocoa note, but it wasn’t very pronounced and seemed much sweeter than the other flavors.
Yellow tasted just like orange, which wasn’t a bad thing overall.
The candy corn were exceptionally smooth and had that light kiss of honey ... really good stuff.
While I didn’t like them as much as the Brach’s, this particular variety had no gelatin in it (but did have egg whites) and was made in the USA so there are many reasons why folks might prefer it.
Even though the colors aren’t as vibrant and the flavors not quite as remarkable it is a quality product and certainly worth the 99 cents I paid.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
They were on sale for $9.99, but going further into the store to the Christmas displays (yes, already out) they had several Christmas mixes that weren’t on sale ... for the same price.
The bag is big, as this is hollow chocolate, and holds 14.1 ounces of actual confection. Not a bad deal for 30% cacao milk chocolate, if it’s good quality.
There were two shapes and seven designs.
Each piece is rather light, weighing approximately 12 grams (about the same as a tasting square).
The designs are cute, the little figures come in ghost, witch, monster and jack-o-lantern ghost. The spheres are just different varieties of jack-o-lanterns.
The figures look like of like board game pieces, little pegs with flat bottoms (though much bigger, about the size of a meaty thumb). The spheres are about the size of a golf ball.
The chocolate itself is glossy and well molded. It smells, well, a little like parmesan cheese and caramel. Not entirely sweet or chocolatey. I’m guessing this is the high milk content (14% minimum) that comes from dried whole milk.
It takes a little getting used to, it’s rich and creamy, rather smooth but still has a strong dairy component that is less confectionery tasting and more like something I’d expect in a bechamel.
The foils are very pretty and nicely done. They’re a bit thin and I had to pick my package carefully as it’s easy to break these (I’m guessing some thumbs poked through two of mine before I got it home).
The ingredients include PGPR and whey (not allowed in the American definition of real chocolate) but also natural vanilla. But the package was fresh, which I think makes a big difference. (Expiration is July 2009.)
They’re well worth it on sale after Halloween if you can find them, but I think that the Christmas ones are a bit nicer. There’s more variety to the shapes, the balls come with little strings so that you can hang them as edible ornaments and I found the Santa to be quite attractive and would make a great centerpiece accent. But I wouldn’t buy a bar of this chocolate.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Since I knew I was going to be traveling, I thought I’d pick up some easy to carry chocolate for my trip a few weeks ago. I know that I’m guilty of ignoring Godiva here on the blog, even though it’s a major upscale brand of chocolate here in the United States, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to give some of their chocolate a go.
Godiva introduced their Chocoiste line which features all sorts of fun goodies that are convenient to carry for a little pick-me-up and sold at lots of stores, not just their outlets.
I chose the Godiva Chocoiste Dark Chocolate Pearls as a way to experience their dark chocolate without any of the muss of fuss of their fancy boxes.
The tin is lovely, tall and narrow with an elegant simplicity and holds 1.5 ounces.
I ran into trouble quickly though. I couldn’t and still can’t get the frelling thing open. Once I did get it open, my thumbtips were sore and this experience repeated each bowb-bowb time I wanted to try a little more. (I even thought it’d losen up, but after three weeks with this frakking thing, I feel like I’m demonstrating my inability to learn from my ficky-fick mistakes and I should just dump them into a ziploc.)
Each of the little pearls are the size of garden peas. Glossy and dark, they are attractive and ready to prove they’re spherical by rolling around the airplane tray table. (Yes, I put down a napkin first, I do have some standards of sanitation.) Luckily they also sit easily on my keyboard near lesser used keys.
The dark chocolate isn’t particularly dark (and contains dairy products like butteroil and milk) but is mellow and rich with a smooth melt. It’s certainly a step up from M&Ms, but at this price ($3.95 a tin) it’s hardly worth it. I would enjoy the tin if it weren’t so expletively frustrating.
Though I tried the dark chocolate first, I spent more time with the Godiva Chocoiste Dark Chocolate Pearls with Mint simply because the tin worked. It opened easily but stayed snapped shut firmly during all my travels.
The pearls looked exactly the same as the plain dark chocolate ones. They smelled like freshly crushed peppermint and spearmint leaves. The chocolate was smooth and had a cool touch of mint that tasted absolutely fresh and authentic.
Both pearl varieties use a resinous glaze, so are unsuitable for strict vegetarians.
Godiva also makes a Mandarin Orange version of the Dark Chocolate that I think I would like very much. Their other versions include Milk Chocolate Pearls, White Chocolate Pearls and Milk Chocolate Caffe Latte Pearls. Other items in the Chocoiste line include chocolate panned nuts & fruits, and solid chocolate bars.
I can see these being a nice gift item or stocking stuffer and the tins are wonderfully shaped and reusable (you could stuff your iPod earbuds in there or just refill with some other treat of your choice). As an everyday item, in this economy and most others I’ve experienced, I’d have to pass.
Monday, October 27, 2008
The Kisses join the large array of Limited Edition Kisses. The Fall themed ones this year are the return of the Candy Corn Kisses and the new Pumpkin Spice Kisses. These are the only milk chocolate Kisses in the bunch.
Caramel apples are kind of fun, and a rather simple idea. An apple, on a stick, dipped into caramel. This candy is like dipping an apple into caramel and then dipping that into chocolate. (Well, it’s actually more like flavoring some caramel with apple and injecting that into a Kiss shaped chocolate mold. The wholesomeness of the actual apple is completely missing here.)
As usual, Hershey’s has created an appealing package. The foils are swirls of orange and red with flags that say Caramel Apple on them.
Since I picked these up right at the factory, they were fresh and stored well. Each Kiss was glossy and firm, nicely molded.
They smell mostly of chocolate. The caramel innards are soft and flowing, more like a sauce than a chewy caramel. It’s smooth and has an apple peel flavor to it along with the caramel flavor. The authentic caramel notes of burnt sugar are absolutely missing as is the butter flavor.
It’s pleasant though, but throat-searingly sweet after two or three. I can say that I appreciate them, and it’s a nice flavor combo without tasting overly artificial but lacks any of the experience of a true Caramel Apple.
Not the nicest looking list of ingredients, the chocolate wasn’t stellar and the combination of flavors was still way too sweet. I give them a 5 out of 10. (Kosher)
Bullseyes are a bit harder to find on the West Coast, but I ran across lots in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
As is often the case with Goetze’s, this is a repack of the individually wrapped product under the Giant Eagle “Candy Place” label. But they were also only a dollar, so I can’t complain about the house branding.
They’re rather odd looking, but only because I’m used to the mellow caramel color and the shocking white center.
Here it’s the same caramel donut shape with a filling of intense red. For some reason these are a little greasier on the surface than other Bullseyes that I get, but they were also soft, so maybe that’s a side effect of freshness.
They smell more like Green Apple Jolly Ranchers than caramel and sugar.
I didn’t know what to expect, so I what I got was a shock. The cream center is tart. It’s like a cream paste of apple SweeTarts. It’s soft and tangy and does have a nice artificial apple flavor. In a way this is more “authentic” to the experience of combining an actual apple with caramel. Apples are tangy. But here it’s a very tangy apple, soft and cool on the tongue.
I’ve eaten quite a few of them now and I’m still debating whether I enjoy them or not. The stick-to-your-ribs, cookie-dough-like caramel is satisfying and filling, but the chemical aftertaste of the apple cream center is very odd and it just makes me want a regular Bullseye (and the bitter aftertaste from the Red 40 coloring is never pleasant for me, but your mileage may vary).
I give them a 5 out of 10 as well. This may be my overall feeling about real caramel apples as well.
Friday, October 24, 2008
A few months ago I picked up some Kosher Haribo Pink Grapefruit Gummis.
I love grapefruit and I love Haribo’s take on them. They’re gummy and chewy and have a nice crisp bite to them. I was curious though what the difference would be like with the Kosher version. It uses a fish gelatin instead of a non-Kosher gelatin that I can only guess is porcine in origin. (Gelatin is the thing that keeps me from being a true vegetarian - I just love gummis more than I love animals right now.)
Anyway, I’ve digressed. The Kosher version seemed gummier, seemed more gelatinous, seemed firmer and chewier. Happily it was also very intensely flavored, stellarly attractive and of course in my belly.
Haribo makes a bunch of other products that they don’t sell in the United States. I found this imported Haribo Saure Dinosaurier. The majority of the packages is in French with some German and a third version of the ingredients is in Spanish. The only thing in English is their tagline “kids and grown ups love it so.”
I’m no French major, but I know that this package contains sour dinosaur gummis.
The front of the package shows a bunch of different colored dinosaurs, but I only found four inside. Each shape came in all colors. The different dinos appeared to be Stegosaurus, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Apatosaurus and Triceratops.
The sugar sanding is rather thin and has small grains to it. It’s not sour either, it’s pure sweet sugar.
Green is green apple (in the Haribo gummi bear world green is strawberry, so I had to close my eyes a couple of times to be sure). This was great with some really authentic apple flavors.
Red is definitely cherry. Like a Blow Pop and Kool-Aid.
Clear is peach. I have no idea why. But I liked it! It was kind of like a nectarine, none of that weird fuzzy taste, it was tangy and sweet.
Yellow is an eye popping lemon. Like eating a concentrated batch of lemonade mix. It doesn’t have a lot of zest to it, but it’s unmistakably lemon.
The sanded gummis don’t have a lot of detail and they all smell rather similar, kind of like a big bag of mixed Jolly Ranchers.
I found the overall level of the sourness to be rather adult, not shocking or blistering but certainly tingly and it got my salivary glands going.
The chew is not like the soft and lingering durability of a gummi bear. Instead these are more like Sour Patch Kids, an easy bite and quick chew. They were on the expensive side, but I’m sure I could find them cheaper if I were in Europe. I’ve noticed that even Haribo’s own Gold Bears taste different depending on which factory they were made in. I don’t know if it’s even possible to get a hold of the German Gold Bears in the United States, but these were made in Germany.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Tiramisu is another one of those desserts that I’d always assumed was around forever. That perhaps it originated in Italy, that every valley in Italy had a different regional take on it and every Italian-American grandma put their own twist on it.
Nope, totally invented, perhaps sometime in the 1970s, by a restaurant. But hey, traditions have to start somewhere.
Tiramisu is an odd dessert if you ask me, the recipe reminds me of other strange dessert concoctions torn from women’s magazines that require store bought cookies, flavored gelatins, saltines or pre-made syrups.
The flavors of tiramisu are coffee and sweet creamy cheese with a little cocoa thrown in. So it’s sort of like a mocha cheesecake.
The wrappers on these are more enticing that the day-glo yellow of the Bananas Foster, an attractive bronze with difficult to read gold print.
Caramel: corn syrup, hydrogenated palm kernel and/or palm oil, sugar, skim milk, milkfat, lactose, salt, artificial and natural flavors, potassium sorbate.
The Dove Desserts Tiramisu starts with a dark chocolate shell. It has a pleasant cocoa and light espresso aroma.
The caramel center has a light salty flavor, a custardy smooth texture. So the creamy marscapone aspect is missing, as are the spongy ladyfingers.
Does it scream Tiramisu to me? Nope. Caramel mocha is more like it, not that it’s a bad thing.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I’m in Ohio at the moment but will hit the road to traverse Pennsylvania in a few minutes.
While here I’ve had some fun candy adventures so far. My mother and I went to Cleveland to the Malley’s Chocolates factory and watched them make dark chocolate macadamia nut clusters, Christmas Malley Ohs (chocolate covered Oreos dusted with crushed peppermints) and hand paint three foot tall chocolate Santas. I’ve already eaten half of a Dark Chocolate Pretzel Crunch bar and proclaim it fantastic and satisfying.
Later in the day with hit Mitchell’s Fine Candies and were awed by the huge collection of hand made dark chocolate goodies. While there I tried two of their newer creations in The Graecia Collection. A ginger, pistachio and marzipan piece with a Cointreau cured orange peel dipped in dark and a little layered milk and dark gianduia piece with espresso and Ouzo. Fabulous.
We’ve also prowled the local grocery stores and I’ve found some fun items from German company Moser Roth, the Goetze’s Apple Caramel Creams, a grocery store brand of Autumn Mellocremes, sour Smarties, some more Peanut Butter Kisses and candied fennel seeds. My mother also presented me with a huge box of local chocolates called Goumas who do wonderful toffees & caramels (that’s all I’ve tried so far).
I expect to hit Hershey’s Chocolate World and Wilbur’s Chocolate Factory tomorrow.
(I also expect to have better connectivity so hopefully I can post the reviews I wrote on the plane of such things as Dove’s Tiramisu Promises, GoNaturally Organic Hard Candies and some other stuff I can’t remember.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.