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February 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

Short & Sweet: Bites & Bites

I have more candy than I will ever be able to review at my pace of 5-7 products a week. Here are a few items I’ve tasted recently and some notes on them (most gratuitous photos). So here are some small bites of a whole week’s worth of candy. Get ready to scroll!

New Packaging & Marshmallow Size for Plush PuffsI visited with Anne Hickey and the Plush Puffs’ crew when I was at the Fancy Food Show. At closing time they gave me a box of their Vanilla Bean Marshmallows. It’s new packaging for them, which I really like. It’s still spare and highlights the product well.

But what I liked best is that they’ve made the marshmallows a bit smaller. Now they’re 1” cubes instead of the larger version I tried several years ago. This means that when toasted the center gets molten before the outside catches on fire. (There are important physical laws that even marshmallows must obey.)

The box has been sitting next to my stove top and some evenings I’ll toast up two or three for dessert on the gas burner. It makes the house smell wonderful.

(Original review.)

Seth Ellis Chocolatier Candied LemonsSeth Ellis Chocolatier Candied Lemons

I visited a few times with Seth Ellis Chocolatier while at the Fancy Food Show. They had a lovely array of samples, but for some reason I eschewed their truffles and became obsessed with their Candied Lemons.

Seth Ellis Chocolatier Candied LemonsIt’ might be because they’re so beautiful.

Perhaps it’s because of this little nugget from their website, “We candy the freshest organic lemon slices slowly, over twenty-five days, using a traditional European method to preserve the intense lemon flavors.”

The box contains one full lemon slice plus and extra quarter. Special bonus, the packaging is made with wind power (well, that and some tree pulp).

The candying doesn’t make the peel as soft as some others, but then again, sometimes that makes them gummy and flavorless. This definitely has a bitter bite and because the pulp is also still there, it’s quite tangy. The dark chocolate is creamy and also has a woodsy bite to it.

(Website.)

image

I must have been obsessed with lemon and lemongrass at the Fancy Food Expo because the other item I knew I had to bring home was L’Estasi Dolce Sweet Ecstasy Lemongrass Ginger Truffles.

Lemongrass is a bit of a strange flavor. I love it in Thai cooking (hot & sour soup especially). It imparts the zesty notes of lemon peel, but it has a soft side to it as well, that I can only compare to bubble gum.

These nicely sized truffles are a real ganache made with lots of real cream.

The center is soft and silky with an immediate soft flavor of lemongrass. Then there’s the warming power of the ginger. The woodsy ginger flavors never come forward, it’s just that little burn in the background. This all combines well with the slight dairy flavor of the cream and the mellow dark chocolate.

Rubicon Bakery CocoaBerriesOne of the Fancy Food Show items I mentioned in my show notes was Rubicon Bakery.

They not only make all natural, wholesome products right here in the United States, their mission is to help people in need by giving job training, jobs placement assistance to work their way out of poverty.

The package pictured here is a mock up used for the distribution of the samples, the real thing is much nicer.

Their Strawberry CocoaBerries may put them on the map even without the amazing backstory.
Rubicon Bakery CocoaBerries

They’re little meringue kisses, a little larger than a Hershey’s Kiss. The center is a crunchy fluffed egg white made flavorful by the addition of gobs of real freeze dried strawberries. To seal in the crispness, they’re dipped in bittersweet Guittard chocolate.

The freaky part about the whole combination is that it’s so tasty & satisfying yet so low in calories. They say that a serving of five is only 90 calories (about 100 calories per ounce, amazing for a chocolate product). So even if you ate a whole box of 15 bites, you’re still under the 300 mark of most king sized candy bars.

SFGate wrote about them last week too, those lucky dogs, it’s a local company for them.

Andes Mocha Mint IndulgenceLest you think that everything is a rave and everything is from the Fancy Food Show, I thought I’d mention the Limited Edition Andes Mocha Mint Indulgence.

These candies have single-handedly caused me to swear off of all Andes products except for the original Creme de Menthe.

While I rail against mockolate, I recognize it has its place and there are a few products that I like and still eat that have it. (Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews & Hershey’s 5 Avenue.)

The Mocha Mint Indulgence is a freak product. I don’t even know what it is. The pieces are ugly (sorry, no photo of the interior, this is supposed to be a tantalizing post). Putty brown mockolate over a layer of mint green confection like the center of the regular Andes.

It smells like minted cardboard. The texture is like grainy wax. The flavor is like musty Christmas candles found in a drawer at an estate sale.

Ococoa Nut Butter CupsTo close is something to restore our confidence in nuts: Ococoa Nut Butter Cups made right here in Los Angeles by Diana Malouf. I picked them up from her in person before Christmas but never go around to posting the review.

More than just gourmet peanut butter cups, these are tall cups filled with exotic nut butters & fruits. The flavor array is: Classic Peanut Butter, Pistachio Date, Sesame Fig, Hazelnut Chocolate, Almond Cherry, Cashew Apricot, Marzipan Truffle, Macadamia Guava, and Sunflower Honey.

The box is elegant and substantial.

Ococoa Nut Butter Cups

The cups are about an inch high with a cute ruffle of chocolate around the collar and an inch in diameter at the top.

Ococoa Guava & Peanut Butter CupThey were a bugger to photograph the interior, luckily their website has the fantastic and accurate cross sections that you can peruse. This one is Guava jam & macadamia nut butter. Probably the best experience I’ve had with macadamias & guava, which aren’t really my fave, but done very well here.

I was attracted most to the Sesame Fig, which I gobbled up after taking a photo. The sesame paste is combined with chocolate to create a sesame Nutella of sorts, though quite firm. Inside the center was a reservoir of fig jam. The toasted & grassy flavors of the sesame went well with the fresh & slightly tangy notes of the fig. Sunflower Honey was next on my hit list. Sunflower seeds have such a distinctive taste. This center was like a creamed honey with sunflower flavors.

Cashew Apricot was really decadent, as the apricot’s pine-notes were offset by the deep toasted butter flavors of the cashews. The hazelnut was also stellar, the freshness of the nut butter was so different from many other guianduias I have regularly. (I shared some others and didn’t take complete notes on the rest.)

Unlike many nut creations that rely on salt to bring the nut flavors forward, Ococoa lets the sweetness of the nuts come through. The only problem I had with these, if it could be called that, was the construction. The chocolate cap on the top was very thick, so biting the pieces in half wasn’t very easy. While I don’t think it’s imperative that all chocolates be dissected, it meant that there was always a larger reservoir of chocolate at the end when sometimes I really wanted to end on a nut note.

They’ll set you back $22 for a 9 piece box.

Candy Addict also had an excellent write up on these back in December.

Related Candies

  1. Fling: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate & Hazelnut
  2. Andes Fall Harvest Mix
  3. Candy Dump 2008 part 2
  4. Caffarel Figs & Chestnuts (Fico & Castagna)
  5. CocoaBella “World’s Best Box”
  6. Jacques Torres
  7. Chocolate Sunflower Seed Drops

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:38 am     All NaturalCandyChocolatierFancy Food ShowReviewChocolateGingerLimited EditionMarshmallowMockolateNutsPeanuts7-Worth ItUnited StatesComments (6)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Starburst Sour & Sweet

Starburst Sour & SweetMars has definitely mucked around with new Starburst over the past few years. Luckily they don’t touch the original.

The newest item on the shelves is this Starburst Sour & Sweet mix. (It’s a little unclear if this replaces the Starburst Sour or not, but the actual words on the package are New flavors - Starburst Sour - Sour (6 chews) Sweet (6 chews).

The two sour flavors are Sour Watermelon & Sour Green Apple and two sweet flavors are Sweet Strawberry & Sweet Blue Raspberry.

image

Sour Watermelon - hot pink - this has an immediate sour bite that’s almost salty. The flavor other than that is the typical fake watermelon. It’s quite intense all the way to the end.

Sour Green Apple - acid green - quite tangy and juicy, there’s the plastic flavor of chemical green apple and just a little dash of apple juice flavor in there.

Sweet Strawberry - maroon - This was weird. I thought it was just a regular strawberry Starburst, but the flavor, maybe from being near the green apple, is much more artificial and less floral.

Sweet Blue Raspberry - cerulean blue - at first this seemed much too tangy to be called a “sweet” flavor, but then I ate a few more sours and it seemed a bit tamer after that. The raspberry flavor is mellow, a little jammy but not much in the floral notes.

The balance of sweet and sour was fun, especially since I don’t think I could eat a whole package at once. The sours seemed much more sour than the previous Starburst Sours I’ve had. I enjoy Starburst’s smooth chew and intense flavors. I think they could probably lighten up on the food coloring, seeing how they’re individually wrapped. But the flavor assortment was kind of boring, I’d love to see them really reach for some exotic, powerful flavors instead of these same retreads.

Starburst’s website is insanely annoying. It takes two minutes to load ... and then another two minutes once I clicked on “products” ... then clicking on nutritional info takes me to a Mars list of products (okay, no biggie, central databases are good) but I have to navigate that list AGAIN. It also doesn’t list this product specifically, it still has the old flavor array for the Starburst Sour on the Starburst site and not at all on the Mars site.

Starburst Sour still contain gelatin but are listed as Gluten Free on the package.

Related Candies

  1. Eiffel BonBons
  2. Starburst GummiBursts
  3. Cinnamon Fire Twizzlers
  4. Sour Extinguisher
  5. Starburst Baja California & Tropical
  6. Starburst Berries & Creme and Fruit & Creme
  7. Starburst
Name: Starburst Sour - Sour & Sweet
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Mars
Place Purchased: 7-11 (Vermonica)
Price: $1.19
Size: 2.07 ounces
Calories per ounce: 116
Categories: Chew, Sour, United States, Mars, Starburst

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:46 am     Comments (8)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Q.Bel Wafer Rolls

Q-Bel Dark ChocolateI was more than pleased with the Q.Bel Crispy Wafer Bars that I reviewed last week.

The other half of Q.Bel Foods’ all natural candy line are their Wafer Rolls.

Unlike the bars, which are made in The Netherlands and not Kosher, the Wafer Rolls are Kosher and made in the United States.

They come in three companion varieties: Dark Chocolate Wafer Rolls, Milk Chocolate Wafer Rolls and Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Wafer Rolls.

Q-Bel Wafer Rolls

The packaging is a bit overly-protective and perhaps deceptive. 

Q-Bel Dark Chocolate WafersThere are two rolls in each package, which weigh .9 ounces total.

They come in a plastic wrap around a plastic tray. The tray does a good job of keeping the rolls in good shape. But I think if you’re going to position yourself as an all natural product, less packaging is a good idea. (Especially when your tagline is Be True - Be Honest - Be Good.)

I would suggest doing a sealed top on the tray with all the label on that and ditching the over-wrap. (Kind of like most yogurt got rid of the plastic lids and just went with a foil seal.)

The rolls are lovely to look at. A slender stick about .5 inches in diameter and 4.75 inches long, the enrobing is nicely rippled and usually has a matte shine to it. The sides were sometimes scuffed a bit from being tossed around in my bag inside the package.

Q-Bel Dark Chocolate Wafer RollsI was, as you can imagine, most attracted to the Dark Chocolate Wafer Rolls.

The dark chocolate is quite dark looking though like the bar counterpart, did contain milk in the ingredients. Not that it would make any difference towards the non-dairy status of the bar. The wafer roll under the chocolate was crisp and flaky, with a light malty note, a bit of salt, it reminded me of a fresh waffle ice cream cone.

The chocolatey cream inside was also a dark and firm cream that melted pretty readily with the help of some palm kernel and coconut oils. It tasted a lot like a good cup of hot chocolate with some wafer cookies.

The portion size of two sticks means that the whole thing has only 120 calories. Even though a lot of them are from fat, the price tag alone should keep most folks who weren’t sent a whole box as samples from wolfing them down.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Q-Bel Wafer Rolls

The Milk Chocolate Wafer Rolls looked a little different than their wafer bar counterpart, this time wrapped in blue instead of orange & red.

They smelled a bit more like milk and cereal with a little chocolate cake note to it.

The chocolate seemed a bit silkier and creamier than the dark version, but also much sweeter. The toasted-flavored wafer kept it from being too cloying.

Rating: 8 out of 10

The Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Wafer Rolls smelled like fresh roasted peanut butter. (And I get to smell that often at the LA Farmers Market.)

The silky milk chocolate sets off the wafers, which seem even more flaky in this version than the others.

The peanut butter center on this tastes different than the wafer bar. The bar is sweet and sticky, a little oily. This is salty and pasty - just the right balance. The peanut butter is very strong with a slight bitterness to it, as it tastes very darkly roasted. (This version has 130 calories.)

Rating: 8 out of 10

Besides the packaging & price for the size (retail $1.39) I think these are a resounding success. They’re not unique, they remind me of Pirouline, except more decadent. Other products on the market that are similar are the Nestle Stixx, which I do like quite a bit but avoid because of all the hydrogenated oils in them. It might be nice to be able to get them in a large tray for entertaining. They’d be the perfect garnish for ice cream, sorbet or just an after-meal coffee.

Other reviews: Candy Addict just reviewed the whole line & Chocolate Blog also liked them.

Related Candies

  1. Nestle Crunch Cappuccino Stixx
  2. Butterfinger Stixx
  3. KitKat Bitter & White
  4. Nestle Crunch Dark Stixx
  5. Milky Way Crispy Rolls
  6. Paskesz Klik
  7. Chocolate Pocky
Name: Wafer Rolls: Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate & Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Q.Bel
Place Purchased: samples from Q.Bel
Price: retail $1.39
Size: .9 ounces
Calories per ounce: 133, 133 & 144
Categories: Chocolate, Cookie, Peanut, United States, Q.bel, All Natural, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:19 am     Comments (2)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Butterfinger Buzz (Caffeinated)

Butterfinger Buzz (King Size)Nestle has jumped on the caffeination bandwagon introducing their Limited Edition Butterfinger Buzz.

I got a hold of the king size version (I don’t know if it comes in the regular size) via Nestle’s PR company who offered me some samples. I’ve been looking for them for about a month, as the Butterfinger Buzz Facebook page says they should be available at 7-11 and Walgreen’s.

Butterfinger Buzz (King Size)The name pretty much explains it all, it’s a Butterfinger with extra caffeine. The king size version is two smaller bars - 3.75 inches long & 1.85 ounces each (a regular bar is 2.12 ounces).

The package is a little confusing. It says with as much caffeine as the leading energy drink. The whole package has 80 mg of caffeine (the same as an 8 ounce Red Bull). But the recommended portion is one half of the package which nets you 40 mg of caffeine. 40 mg is about the same caffeine as 3 ounces of brewed coffee.

image

The little bars are less than attractive. The mockolate coating isn’t very chocolatey looking, it’s much lighter than most milk chocolate and has a chalky, matte appearance instead of a silky & shiny look. It does smell a bit like cocoa and peanut butter with a small whiff of Cap’n Crunch cereal.

The crunchy peanut butter candy center is rather different from the regular Butterfinger. First, it’s an unnatural red/orange color (thanks to Red 40!). It’s also denser. I’ve eaten three of these bars, just in case it was just that one bar that was a little off from the norm. The middle half of the bar is more like a hard candy than the flaky peanut butter crisp.

Other than the color & texture difference, I can also state that there is a definite bitter bite to this. (Who knows if it’s just the caffeine or and added contribution of the detestable red food coloring?) The bitterness lasts as a slight metallic aftertaste for several hours, at least for me. I don’t have this problem with coffee, which also has caffeine and can often be bitter, but will fade away after I’ve swallowed it.

I know these will likely generate lots of interest, especially from students, gamers and long-haul truck drivers. It is nice to have the option to get a little candy boost with some caffeine. This integration didn’t quite make the cut for me, though.

Mars introduced Snickers Charged around this time last year, which was 60 mg of caffeine as well as B vitamins & taurine.

Honestly, if Nestle wanted to impress me, they should make a gourmet Butterfinger, with some of their real Swiss chocolate. And I can have that with a cup of coffee and really a buzz going.

Related Candies

  1. Butterfinger Buzz (Caffeinated)
  2. Loud Truck Energy Gummies
  3. Caffe Acapella - Coffee Confections
  4. Butterfinger Stixx
  5. Head-to-Head: Butterfinger vs. 5th Avenue
  6. No Time & Black Black
Name: Limited Edition Butterfinger Buzz
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Nestle
Place Purchased: samples from Nestle PR reps
Price: unknown
Size: 3.7 ounces
Calories per ounce: 124
Categories: Mockolate, Peanut, Caffeine, United States, Nestle, Kosher, Limited Edition

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:52 am     Comments (32)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Q.Bel Crispy Wafer Bars

Q-Bel Crispy Wafer BarsOne of the issues these days with candy bars isn’t the empty calories, it’s the ingredients. There’s a difference between bad for you (sound cue: giggle) and bad for you (sound cue: medical equipment).

I don’t usually feel bad about calories, fat or sugar. But I do feel weird about eating partially hydrogenated oils, artificial colors and flavors.

Enter Q.bel with their line of all-natural candy bars. No artificial colors, no artificial flavors, no hydrogenated oils, no high fructose corn sweetener and no preservatives.

Q-Bel Milk Chocolate Crispy Wafer BarsThe happy thing to report is that candy bars never needed any of the above to be good ... they just needed them to be cheap. So quality will cost you $1.39-$1.69 (but if you’re buying your candy at Whole Foods, that’s hardly a surprise).

Their inaugural line has six products. I’m going to review three of them today, their Crispy Wafer Bar which come in Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate and Peanut Butter.

Q-Bel Dark Chocolate Crispy Wafer Bars

The Dark Chocolate Crispy Rice Wafer Bar (purple wrapper) is a stack of three crisp, flavorless wafers filled with a chocolate cream, sprinkled with crisped rice and then covered in dark chocolate.

They come in a two pack of fingers. Each is about three inches long and three quarters of an inch wide.

If the photo and description sounds vaguely familiar to you, it might be because this is very similar to the Hershey’s Bar None. (Except there’s no peanuts in this version.)

The crunch is light and crisp, airy and a little like an ice cream cone. The chocolate is slightly bitter, creamy and sweet with a dry finish. The cream center is sweet and a little grainy but rather buttery.

The whole experience is extremely satisfying. It’s not really a chocolate bar, it’s definitely a candy. I am in love with this bar.

Rating: 10 out of 10 (as long as I can find it in stores)

Q-Bel Milk Chocolate Crispy Wafer Bars

The Milk Chocolate Crispy Rice Wafer Bars are just like the dark version except with 10 more calories.

They’re a lighter taste and seem to have more crunchies to them, but that just could be variations in the manufacture.

The scent is milky sweet with a slight cereal smell. There’s less of a chocolate punch here and more of a creamy, dairy milk chocolate event going on.

I was very pleased with it (and at first though this would be like Bar None, but it didn’t have the same punch).

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Q-Bel Peanut Butter Wafer Bars

The Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Wafer Bars are a little different in that they don’t have the crisped rice. Instead of a chocolate cream filling they have a peanut butter filling between the wafers.

As I’m writing this I’ve been following the RSS feed from the FDA with all the recall warnings about peanut butter & peanut products. I’ve been assured by Q.bel directly and their website that they did not source their peanut butter from Peanut Corporation of America. (And it’s easy to believe them since these bars were manufactured in The Netherlands.

As with most nutty candies, this pair of bars clocked in with the highest calorie count: 190. (Don’t get the impression that these are dainty when it comes to calories, they’re dense in sugar and fat, clocking in on the upper range of the calories per ounce that I track.)

The bars are lovely to look at with their rippled coats of chocolate. They smell like fresh roasted peanuts.

The bite on these is very different. The peanut butter cream filling tastes unsalted and unsugared - so it’s a startling pop of real peanut flavor. But it’s very oily and soft, so when I bite into the bar, sometimes I’ve broken it because it’ll slide around (you can see the kind of crack it makes along the wafer line in the photo).

The peanut butter, while not crumbly or thick really sticks to my ribs. I found just one stick here to be very filling. The milk chocolate holds its own in this battle as well, giving a sweet and milky component to bring it all together.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

I’m so pleased that someone is making a quality product and I hope Q.bel becomes a standard in the confectionery industry. That you can make something with real ingredients and still make people want to overeat it. The packaging is compelling and appropriate. It protects the product inside, doesn’t take up too much space and gave me all the information I wanted to know. The images on the front are tantalizing and the bars actually look like that.

The portions may seem a little small, only 1.1 ounces, but they appear large because of the light wafers inside (maybe a little smaller than a KitKat bar). However, this also lowers the calorie count per portion, all are under 200 calories (which means those 100 calorie folks can just eat one). The price point is a little steep too, but if I were faced with an array of these and something like Nestle’s Crunch Crisp bar (which is a one-bar version of this filled with partially hydrogenated fats and covered with mockolate), I’d pick these at twice/thrice the price.

The other half of their product line is a series of Wafer Rolls in the same flavor array. (I’ll have a review of those soon.)

Q.bel did some liberal mailing of samples, so expect more reviews to pop up on the other food-oriented blogs. They did send me a silly-huge number of “samples” which were a box of each (20 bars) flavor. I’ve been very popular with my co-workers this week.

UPDATE: They should be available at most Whole Foods nationwide and online at Natural Candy Store.

Related Candies

  1. Q.Bel Mint Wafer Bars
  2. Choceur Luxury Mini Chocolate Bars
  3. ReeseSticks (Revisit)
  4. Ritter Schokowurfel
  5. Ferrero Raffaello & Rondnoir
  6. Happy Hippos
  7. Head-to-Head KitKat vs KitKat!
  8. Butterfinger Crisp
Name: Wafer Bars: Dark Chocolate Crispy Rice, Milk Chocolate Crispy Rice & Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Q.bel
Place Purchased: samples from Q.bel
Price: retail $1.69
Size: 1.1 ounces
Calories per ounce: 154, 163 & 172
Categories: Chocolate, Cookie, Peanut, Netherlands, Q.bel, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:31 pm     Comments (6)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Trader Joe’s Gummy Tummies

Trader Joe's Gummy TummiesThe idea of a liquid burst inside a gummi candy is nothing new, but seems to have made a bit of a comeback lately. (Starburst GummiBursts & LifeSavers Fruit Splosions.)

Trader Joe’s has a twist on this in their new Trader Joe’s Gummy Tummies Penguins. The flavor array in the package is pretty small: Strawberry, Lime and Cherry. They’re made with natural flavors, have no preservatives and no artificial colors. (They also state that it’s pork gelatin in them ... so they’re safe to eat for non-vegetarian Hindus.)

They’re much larger candy pieces than other versions and are made in such a way that you can actually see the goo inside their tummies.

       Trader Joe's Gummy Tummies

Oh, I’m sorry, did that scare you?

Scared me.

These things are freaky looking, and what’s worse, they smell. For a couple of days I thought there was an old apple core hiding somewhere in my office (I even crawled under my desk looking for it), turns out that’s what the combination of cherry, strawberry & lime Gummy Tummies smells like.

Trader Joe's Gummy Tummies

The shapes are nicely defined, though I wouldn’t call them nicely designed. I didn’t really get the whole “penguin” thing. I asked around and everyone pretty much agrees they look like Grimace from McDonald’s or one of the lesser ghost characters from Casper.

They’re very soft and have a bulbous belly that’s even softer to the touch. They remind me of blisters ... the cherry one (on its side up there) is even worse, because the gummis rather uncolored (like my skin) but has a dark red filling (like a blood blister). I’ll spare you the graphic photo of that and let you just imagine it instead.

Lime is easy to tell from the others, as it’s transparent yellow. The flavor is rather mellow, just a light touch of lemon/lime zest and then a mix of tangy & sweet. The filling is smooth and sticky and just a repeat of the above flavors in a form that needs no chewing.

Strawberry is the pink bellied one. (Though I had to hold them up to the light to tell them apart from the cherry.) The flavor is floral and tangy. The goo doesn’t do much for it and that’s probably a positive.

Cherry has the darkest belly and smells like wild cherry LifeSavers. The liquid center is a lot more flavorful, like a dense syrup of cough suppressant or Cepacol.

This whole tasting has made me realize that I don’t like goo filled gummis.

For those of you who have a Trader Joe’s nearby, you may enjoy this little video.

Related Candies

  1. Haribo Saure Dinosaurier
  2. Big Bite Gummy Bear
  3. Lemonhead Fruit Snacks
  4. Organic Zootons
  5. Albanese Gummi Butterflies
  6. Upscale Hollow Chocolate: Michel Cluizel & Hotel Chocolat
  7. Organic Surf Sweets
Name: Gummy Tummies
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Trader Joe's
Place Purchased: Trader Joe's (Silverlake)
Price: $2.49
Size: 7 ounces
Calories per ounce: 94
Categories: Gummi, France, Trader Joe's, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:03 am     Comments (35)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Guylian Twists

Guylian Mixed TwistsFor much of my life the prototype in my mind of Belgian chocolates was Guylian’s assortments shaped like sea shells. It was one of my earliest introductions to hazelnut pralines and though I rarely got the opportunity to indulge in them, they certainly fixed in my mind an image of what European fine chocolates were like.

They epitomize the convergence of flavors and design. Cute seashells and seahorse shapes with different cream fillings.

Now that I’ve had more access to a greater variety of confections, I wanted to revisit them with a fresh perspective.

Guylian Mixed TwistsThe Guylian Belgian Chocolate Twists are a good way to try out their style without sinking too much money into the effort. For about $4, it’s a 4.51 ounce box with 18 individually wrapped “twists” in six varieties.

Each little piece is color coded and marked, wrapped in mylar. The pieces, I was surprised, are actually sealed and then twists (many other companies just twist the ends, these are actually sealed little pouches that look like twists). They do open easily though.

    Guylian Seahorse

The little seahorses are striking. Each one was in great shape, even though I toted these around the floor at the Fancy Food Show and then all the way back to Los Angeles in my luggage.

Original Praline is dark and white chocolate with a hazelnut praline center. It has a soft and sweet hazelnut aroma. The bite of the chocolate is on the soft side. The center is lightly grainy with a strong hazelnut flavor. But it’s also very sweet with a touch of milky chocolate to it.

Now I remember why I don’t buy these. They’re very sweet, though I have to say, they are gorgeous.

image

But this assortment has other flavors, and they’re not white chocolate, so maybe I’ll find something else in there that I like.

Strawberry - this one looked like the classic marbled seahorse. It smelled like Twizzlers. Upon biting it open I saw the construction of the piece. The white cream center was covered in a white chocolate shell which then had the marbled dark chocolate on top of that in a thin veneer. So it’s a mostly-white chocolate piece. The strawberry flavor is more delicate than it smells, with only a slight tangy note in the cream. It’s rather like a chocolate version of strawberry ice cream.

Guylian Mixed TwistsCaramel Crisp (top of the pyramid) - this one didn’t start out well because it had a fake butter smell like buttered popcorn. But the texture combination upon biting it was fun. It’s a sweet milk chocolate shell with a whipped cream center with a butter flavor to it and some caramelized crisped rice bits in there for crunch.

Orange (bottom left of the pyramid) - dark chocolate with a light cream filling flavored with orange. The cream center is light and not too sweet, no graininess. It’s all about the orange, the only chocolate is from the shell, which isn’t strong enough to contribute much more than itself as a container.

Cappuccino (bottom right of the pyramid) is a dark chocolate truffle-like piece. The filling is light and fluffy, a white cream base with a heavy does of ground espresso beans in there. It’s definitely at the other end of the spectrum from the cloying sweet classic praline. Bitter yet still smooth, strongly flavored. The center isn’t quite truffle-like, it’s cool on the tongue, probably because palm oil is the second ingredient in the centers.

Chocolate Truffle is a milk chocolate shell with a milk chocolate ganache center. It’s slick and creamy, not too sweet but like I experience with the palm oil based Lindor truffles, it ultimately tastes empty.

Like the Lindor truffles as well, these are incredibly caloriffic. I clocked them at 192 calories per ounce. (A serving is 5 pieces, 34 grams and 230 calories.)

The craftsmanship on these is undeniable, but I don’t think this is the best that Belgium has to offer. They’re a fun little sweet for the eye, but less satisfying for those with discriminating palates (and who wish to avoid palm oil). I do have some of their Solitaire chocolate tasting squares which I’ll try soon, just as a touchstone for their main ingredient and they do make their chocolate from bean to bar to bonbon.

Terry has a review of the classic shells recently.

Related Candies

  1. Harry & David Chocolate Pinecones
  2. Reese Hazelnut Creme
  3. Lindt Chocolate Carrots
  4. Pralines Leonidas
  5. CocoaBella “World’s Best Box”
  6. Cafe Tasse: Orange, Extra Noir & Noir Praline
Name: Belgian Chocolate Twists
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Guylian
Place Purchased: samples from Fancy Food Show
Price: $3.99 retail
Size: 4.51 ounces
Calories per ounce: 192 (eek!)
Categories: Chocolate, Coffee, White Chocolate, Belgium, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:40 am     Comments (7)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Fling: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate & Hazelnut

FlingSomeday I may write a long(er) article about public relations, marketing and product launches. I have a few case studies. Well, not really case studies, perhaps they’re just essays where I make fun of PR. Mars’ new Fling would probably be at the top of the list.

(If you just want a review of the candy, skip down to the photos of the actual candy bars out of the package, because I’m gonna go on here for a while with liberal use of parentheticals.)

The Ranting about Marketing & Press Spin

Fling is a new candy bar being test marketed in Los Angeles. The tag line is naughty but not that naughty (tm).

It’s geared towards women, and even more specifically towards women with food issues.

Dark Chocolate FlingBut it’s packaged like tampons (the individual fingers sold in stand up boxes moreso), so maybe it gives women who are embarrassed to be seen with a chocolate bar a more discreet package to disguise it. (If I were a child or man searching through someone’s handbag for a snack, I’d certainly think at first glance that this was some sort of feminine hygiene product and not a sweet consumable.)

The press release that accompanied my single sample (yes, I requested samples since I hadn’t seen it in Los Angeles, yet and I was overnighted a huge box with a too-small tee-shirt, press release and one package of the milk chocolate ... no samples of the other flavors, which is pretty much what I do here, eat all the flavors and then provide oodles of description & photos) is filled with fascinating stuff that defies logic:

Can chocolate be a replacement for men? Not yet, but California women confess that they enjoy chocolate as much as passionate kissing (77% enjoy chocolate, 75% enjoy passionate kissing).

There was no accompanying Venn diagram to show me what the overlap of that was. Is that 75% that enjoy passionate kissing a subset of the 77% of all women that enjoy chocolate? (The footnotes did provide me with the information that these surveys were conducted in Los Angeles and San Francisco, so perhaps this is only the leanings of 500 California urban women who were willing to talk about items so personal?)

Milk Chocolate FlingThe only fact contained in the release that I think will be of interest to retailers is that “California women claim they are less likely to give up chocolate and splurging on clothes than other indulgent flings, such as drinking gourmet coffee, having girls’ night out and spa treatments.” So with the current economic situation, this product will thrive. I have to say, I am not these women! (I don’t drink gourmet coffee, I don’t have girls’ night out, spa treatments or splurge on clothes ... really the only thing that I fling my money at is chocolate.)

The other threats contained in the press release include a marketing campaign that will include innuendo-laden headlines. (Just when I was starting to recover from the Herbal Essence commercials - as long as they don’t become the GoDaddy of candy.) Oh, I could go on and on about the things that I found insulting about the press release. But hey, consumers don’t get to read it.

Flings

There’s a companion website as well, which actually contains information about what the product actually is (there is an accompanying fact sheet that does have some additional scant info with more marketing-speak).

We’ve broken the rules by creating FLING(tm) Chocolate, an un-regrettably indulgent premium chocolate. It is a delicate truffle sitting on a subtle crisp layer enrobed in shimmering chocolate that looks at glamorous as the woman it speaks to.

The marketing mentions that these are 85 calorie treats, but they’re sold in packages that are pairs. So each package, each serving size is 170 calories. They come in three flavor varieties: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut.

The Actual Candy Review

The Fling Milk Chocolate is meringue plank with a layer of chocolate cream covered in milk chocolate. The milk chocolate has an iridescent/pearly finish to it.

Milk Chocolate Fling

The marketing calls this premium chocolate, yet careful reading of the ingredients reveals that it has PGPR in it. Odd.

The fingers are rather like a Twix bar, about 4.25” long in a mostly half-round log. There are little squiggles that distinguish it from the Hazelnut variety.

They smell sweet and a little milky. The bite is quite nice. The meringue is crispy and has a very distinct crunch. It’s a very smooth meringue, not like a honeycomb. The vaguely sweet and toasted meringue is set off by the truffle cream, which is silky smooth and a little salty. The milk chocolate coating is a bit milkier than the rest of the bar and gives it a little malty punch and pulls it all together.

It’s a rather nice bar, wonderful blend of textures and delicate flavors. A bit on the sweet side for me when eaten alone, but with some strong tea or a cup of coffee, it’s a good break.

The Fling Dark Chocolate is meringue plank with a layer of chocolate cream covered in dark chocolate (which contains milk, milkfat and lactose) but no PGPR.

Dark Chocolate Fling

The iridescent coating on this was more noticeable and frankly, more disturbing to me. What is that stuff? Eyeshadow? Crushed gemstones? Powdered mussel shells?

The smell of this bar reminded me a lot of Dove Dark Chocolate. It has a woodsy and slightly acidic/milky scent to it.

Again, the snap of the bar was really refreshing. It releases a little waft of toasted marshmallow flavor from the meringue. The darker chocolate gives it a dry finish and a bitter bite towards the end, leaving me feeling a bit more satisfied.

The Fling Hazelnut is the same meringue plank with a layer of hazelnut-flavored chocolate cream covered in milk chocolate. (The zig zags are doubled on these.)

Hazelnut Fling

I thought this one was the most innovative. Hazelnut isn’t a common flavor in the United States for candy found in single packs at grocery & drug store checkouts, so they’ve found a unique selling proposition right there.

The bar smells like a flavored mocha drink. Sweet, with a toasted nut scent like hazelnut “flavor.”

The crisp bite still pleases me in this version, but the overly fake hazelnut flavor doesn’t do much for me. I would have preferred an actual giaunduia instead of the truffle cream, but I recognize that the coffee drink culture owns this hazelnut flavor thing.

There are a lot of things to like here. It’s a completely new style of bar, they’re really well made. The attention to detail is great (even the imprinting on the bottom of the bar is little flowers & swirlies like the package design).

I think the use of meringue, the mix of textures and the finger format is excellent - perfectly proportioned. It was crisp, it was creamy and overall, two bars was satisfying. The dark chocolate was my favorite of the three, but all were definitely good and different enough that I can see people having favorites.

The calories controls stuff is a little disingenuous (as most stuff regarding dieting and portion control is). The packages only hold 1.11 ounces. The caloric density is actually higher than most other candy bars on the market at 153 calories per ounce ... just a smaller portion. Twix, which is their own product and perhaps the target audience for this is only 140 calories per ounce, 3Musketeers is about 125, KitKat is about 150. The big difference here is that it doesn’t look small. (I think this was a similar hurdle with the 3 Musketeers Mint.)

To bring this back to my earlier assessment of the marketing and positioning of the product, I think it’s a huge error to launch this as its own product line. I think it should be part of the Dove products, which are already about indulgence (and strike me as less likely to alienate men) and have a recognizable package & logo design.

The other striking thing is that Fling is not new to planet Earth. It’s been around in Australia for two years. (Candy Addict had a review of it on its launch.) The packaging there was less feminine (no pink) and though still aimed at women it had a quirky campaign that used the tagline, forever is overrated. Here’s an animated commercial. (Thanks Sera!)

They’re only available in Los Angeles in stores right now, but if you’re convinced this will be your new secret love, you can order online.

UPDATE 2/15/2009: A couple of other blogs have picked up on this marketing campaigns & have commented on it. Read more views on Mother Jones (picks up on women with food issues) & Jezebel.

Related Candies

  1. Trader Joe’s 100 Calorie Chocolate
  2. Ferrero Prestige (Ferrero Garden)
  3. 100 Calorie Packs - How Lazy Are We?
  4. Twix PB
  5. Candy Mash Ups - Marshmallows & Chocolate
  6. Head-to-Head KitKat vs KitKat!
Name: Fling Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate & Hazelnut
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Mars
Place Purchased: sample + CVS (Silverlake)
Price: $.75 (on sale)
Size: 1.11 ounces
Calories per ounce: 153
Categories: Chocolate, United States, Mars, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:51 am     Comments (24)

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

 

 

 

 

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