Monday, April 20, 2009
I have been waiting nearly a year to find these! I first read about them last year on Candy Addict’s list of new products coming out from Hershey’s. The release date of December 2008 came and went and I kept my eyes open but still didn’t see them in the stores ... not even on the internet. I thought maybe Hershey’s decided not to put them out.
Then last week I wandered down to the 99 Cent Only Store about a mile from my office to see what was new. I found a box. One box. Just sitting there, mixed in with the Sugar Babies and Care Bears Gummi Bears. I would have bought more, but this was all they had (and this one was a little dinged).
The front of the package was no help. It describes these only as Sweet and Spicy chewy candy. The side of the package pushed me in the direction of Good & Fruity when I looked at the ingredients. The first three are dextrose, sugar & corn syrup. Good & Plenty has wheat flour as part of the licorice.
So now I knew that I was expecting: Lemon, Orange, Apple & Cinnamon jelly rods.
All that confusion aside ... the box design is fabulous. I love the bold colors & graphic style (which is why there are so many photos in this review).
Lemon (Yellow) - bright and translucent, I was more than curious what the combination of lemon and cinnamon would hold. The candy shells on these is rather thin & crunchy. Now, the flavor ... at first it’s a little bitter. The shell is sweet, but the little sweet veneer wears off and I got a slight bitter hit, an organic type of woodsy bitter. I got lemon zest too ... and then cinnamon. At the very end there was a little twang of tartness.
It’s downright bizarre. It’s like eating a candle. Not in a bad way.
Orange (orange) - also starts with a slight bitterness but that moved into a very strong sweetness quickly. The cinnamon here is like an actual cinnamon stick - woodsy with notes of cedar and pine and then a strong snap of tartness then some more bitter at the end. There’s a warm feeling from the cinnamon but not a strong lingering one.
Apple (red) - I had trouble telling the reds apart when I didn’t have another to compare it to (though usually the cinnamon ones were a bit fatter). This apple is sweet and tangy and has that nice combination of apple juice flavor mixed with that made-in-the-lab note of “green apple flavoring”. The cinnamon is a bit of a background here but makes it taste a bit like a McDonald’s Hot Apple Pie. (Without the “caution filling is hot” label.)
Cinnamon (dark red) - I was expecting the plain cinnamon to be like a Hot Tamale or Sizzling Cinnamon Jelly Belly. Instead this one went in a wholly different direction. The shell on these seemed crispier. The cinnamon flavor on the outside was soft. Then at the edge of the shell and the jelly center there was a burst of flavor - like an all cinnamon chai - it had a burning warmth and some really authentic notes of real cinnamon, not just the cinnamon oils.
This has to be one of the strangest ventures I’ve seen Hersheys’ take in quite a while. It’s like they subcontracted the folks who developed the Dots: Elements (Earth, Wind, Fire & Water) to come up with a brand extension for Good & Fruity. I’m completely puzzled by these though, because I think Hershey’s created a great new product with their Cinnamon Twizzlers Fire. Why couldn’t they have taken those and made a version of that like the true Good & Plenty?
Those who are disappointed by the soulless rebirth of Good & Fruity aren’t going to find any comfort here. Those who enjoy cinnamon with all the variations of the flavor might find some solace.
Joann from Sugar Hi reviewed them a few months ago, at least helping to disambiguate their candy category but didn’t dissuade me from trying them.
Friday, April 17, 2009
I don’t know much about fudge. What I do know is that when I accepted an offer of fudge samples from Rosa’s Fudge last month I became the proud recipient of more fudge than I have ever possessed before.
The box pictured is over 6 inches long, 4 and a half inches wide and almost three inches deep. Inside were 24 1.25 ounce squares. Yes, the box weighed about two pounds (counting the weight of the box itself).
This was an ideal time for me to get over my fudge ambivalence. It’s not that I don’t like fudge, it’s that I don’t know fudge.
For the most part I find fudge tasty, but difficult. After all, it usually requires implements to eat ... cutting it with a knife, storing it awkwardly, it dries out easily. Candy should be low fuss.
Their fudge is sold in these little cubes, one serving, each stays fresh and they’re easy to eat, store & share.
They’re made with mostly wholesome ingredients: milk, butter, sugar but also a dash of hydrogenated palm kernel oil (can’t be much based on how far down on the list it comes) plus chocolate or nuts as dictated by the flavor then some potassium sorbate to keep it all fresh.
Chocolate - the bite is soft and the chocolate flavor is immediate (chocolate is the second ingredient in this flavor). It’s rich and has both the cocoa flavors and some nice fatty “melt” going on with the slight sugary grain. It was appealing and went especially well with salty/crunchy snacks like pretzels or plain almonds. *
Peanut Butter - this is a classic flavor and I find that fudge made from peanut butter to be one of the ideal ways to use peanuts in confection (along with peanut butter cups & peanut brittle). It smells dark and a little bitter. The stuff is fatty, but not greasy ... though it did make the little waxed paperboard bottom label a clear translucent. It has a softer and crumblier bite than the chocolate. The nut flavors were wonderful with a mellow not-too-sweet powdery quality that kept it together without giving me that “sticky” feeling on the tongue. *
Chocolate & Peanut Butter - this block is a combination of the first two flavors, about 25% is chocolate on the top and the 75% on the bottom is peanut butter. The variation between the two textures is awesome, and of course chocolate and peanut butter are a natural fit. *
Chocolate Mint - this piece could have gone a few ways. It could have been a vanilla piece flavored with mint and then a layer of chocolate fudge. Instead this is a chocolate fudge with a creme de menthe flavor to it. It was quite cool, not too strong and refreshing with a good authentic peppermint note (it does have peppermint oil in it). The mint made it seem a bit less sweet but the mint wasn’t so overpowering that it infected the neighboring pieces. *
Vanilla - I was a bit lost on what this should be. It’s just butter and sugar, right? Well, this isn’t quite grandma’s recipe. Sugar, milk, butter, partially hydrogenated palm kernel and cottonseed oils, cream, corn syrup, maltodextrins, natural and artificial flavors, invert sugar, soy lecithin, potassium sorbate and salt. Maybe it needs some real vanilla bean in there.
Penuche - I love the idea of penuche and sometimes get a version of it I love at the local shop by my office. Penuche is basically a brown sugar fudge. It’s grainy and maybe even a bit greasy, but I love it. This one was smooth and had the brown sugar notes, but mostly it just tasted like a good cooked buttercream frosting would.
Maple - was much softer than the other pieces. Not so soft that it lost its shape once out of the wrapper, but definitely a little droopy. The flavor also seemed smoother, very strong in the woodsy pecan end of things. Sweet, aromatic and definitely one of my favorites. *
Butterscotch - I wasn’t sure what butterscotch would be like, I assumed it’d be like butterscotch pudding. Instead, when I opened the package I was greeted with an aroma like putting my head into a bucket of butterscotch disks (the hard candy). The fake “flavorishness” aside, I enjoyed it. It was artificial and throat-searingly sugary, but the texture was nice and I really knew that this was supposed to be butterscotch.
Coffee - looked a lot like the Maple or Penuche. Instead the texture was quite different once I bit into it. It has the same grainy consistency that melts in the mouth that I like about fudge. The coffee flavors were mild but sweet and milky. It reminded me of coffee ice cream. This was my top pick of the whole assortment. *
Coffee & Chocolate - this one is rather simple, just a coffee fudge with a layer of chocolate fudge. But I didn’t like the addition of the chocolate much. It didn’t give it a chocolate punch, but did lessen the coffee flavors. The two fudges had a slight consistency difference as well, the chocolate was firmer with a tighter grain (is that a way to describe fudge or hardwood?).
Amaretto - my appreciation of amaretto is pretty shallow. I like almonds but I don’t care for marzipan because of the strong amaretto notes, which I associate with the same fake flavor that butterscotch is to true toffee. This smelled, to me, like a fine bath product. Sweet, a little floral and a lot like amaretto. It was actually pretty good ... nothing I’d eat, but I think amaretto fans would like it.
Irish Creme - is a combination of three flavors: Irish Whiskey, coffee and cream. Instead this tastes like coconut, butterscotch and maple. I’m missing the deep woodsy tones that whiskey can bring ... and I’m definitely not getting any coffee in there, but there’s a creamy flavor. I’d definitely keep eating it, if I didn’t have a bunch of other fruit & nut flavors to get to.
Chocolate & Coconut - looking at the side of this, it was evident that this was more than a coconut flavored chocolate fudge, there’s coconut flakes all through it. It smells woodsy, herby and a little bit like granola. Biting into it, it has a lot of chew from the coconut but the biggest flavor hit here is chocolate. The chocolate tastes deeper, richer and less sweet than the other versions I tried singularly and in combination earlier. This stuff is awesome. It reminds me of a less-sweet Mounds bar. *
This was where I reached a stumbling block. While I usually like bright colors & fun incorporated into my candy, something about these fruit ones just seemed wrong. So I picked around them in the box.
Pina Colada - this was bright yellow. While I was hesitant because of the color and the idea of pineapple and coconut in fudge didn’t sound like a good idea, the chocolate coconut was a pleasant surprise. This one doesn’t have as much coconut in it as the chocolate version, but there’s still a fair bit. It smells sweet and like a floral/peppery pineapple. The bite is soft, dry but with a very small grain (besides the bits of coconut). There’s a lot of pineapple flavor, but no tang to it. The coconut gives a lot of texture and a fair bit of authentic coconut butter flavor. It’s better than I expected, but still far too sweet.
Chocolate Raspberry - the bright pink and malleable texture makes this look something I made with Playdoh. The raspberry flavor is all fragrance and food coloring. I ate that one bite shown and didn’t want to go back for more even if it meant a scathing paragraph here.
Chocolate Strawberry - this smelled like strawberry ice cream and kind of tasted like it too. It was very sugary and the chocolate kind of brought it down a notch, but then the bitter taste of the food coloring kicked in. I know some folks probably like this, but it’s not my thing.
Even though it ended on a down note, the tasting experience with Rosa’s Fudge was fun. I found out that there are some specific flavors that I think go well with fudge. (I also think nuts go great with fudge, so if you’re a walnut person, I wholeheartedly recommend it even though I’ve never tried theirs.)
Rosa’s offers custom packed boxes based on your flavor preferences, so you’ll never end up with a block you don’t want. My choices (marked with a *) now ranked in order: Chocolate & Coconut, Coffee, Peanut Butter, Chocolate, Chocolate & Mint and Maple.
The whole thing gets a 7 out of 10 rating. Good price, spare packaging & excellent shipping. The flavors were distinct, classic and well executed.
Rosa’s Fudge is sold on their website ($12 for 12 pieces - 15 ounces) as well as at some candy counters in the northeastern United States.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Hershey’s Whatchamacallit was introduced in 1978. I remember the launch, the commercials and buying the candy bar quite a bit in the first few years when it came out.
It was a peanut butter & crisped rice bar covered in milk chocolate. It was simple, crunchy, looked really big and was satisfying.
Hershey’s has never seemed particularly proud or supportive of the Whatchamacallit. Their advertising for it waned after the eighties; maybe they wanted to go out on a bang with this classic commercial:
The Hershey’s website lists only four notable moments in Whatchamacallit history: introduction (1978), reformulation (1987), package redesign & king size release (2002). You can see the earlier, less “blasty” package design on Brad Kent’s wrapper archive and Mike’s Candy Wrappers (2002 & 2003)
The page mentions nothing about the second reformulation where the bar lost its milk chocolate and gained its rich chocolatey coating (circa 2006).
This bar is made with chocolate, cocoa crisps and peanut butter. At first glance it sounds like it might be the original Whatchamacallit, the one without the caramel (well, that also had real chocolate).
Instead it’s a block of cocoa flavored crisped rice covered with a strip of peanut butter and then covered in Hershey’s inimitable imitation chocolate.
As with many limited edition products, this bar is slightly smaller than the original. It’s 1.5 ounces versus the 1.6 ounces of the Whatchamacallit.
Whatchamacallit on the left and Thingamajig on the right
It’s hard to review the Thingamajig in a vacuum, so naturally I’m comparing it to the Whatchamacallit. I’m also prone to wondering if, when Hershey’s was developing the Whatchamacallit, that they didn’t go through this bar as part of the evolution of the new product, obviously rejecting it.
The Thingamajig has a nice cocoa scent along with a whiff or roasted peanuts. It’s not quite a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup smell, but pretty close.
The bit into the bar is a quick snap, biting through the cocoa crispies is easy, they’re crunchy but have plenty of give since they don’t seem to be held together by marshmallow or peanut butter like the Whatchamacallit.
The mockolate coating is rather good ... I have to give Hershey’s credit, their fake chocolate can often be better than some other companies’ real chocolate. The cocoa flavors from the crispy center probably help.
The peanut butter is a bit salty, creamy and smooth (smoother than a peanut butter cup center).
Overall, it’s a nice experience ... probably not something I’d want again. I’m not sure why Hershey’s did it, but they’re not really taking any credit for it (they never emailed me about it, it doesn’t appear on their website) and it will probably disappear without any fanfare as well.
Rating: 6 out of 10
As a little side note, since I’ve never done an official review of the Whatchamacallit (which by now I’m rather dreading typing), I thought I’d add that here:
The bar smells like cocoa and toffee. The peanut butter crisped rice center is great. It’s buttery, salty, crunchy and has a good roasted nut flavor and a strong butter/dairy note to it. The caramel, though only a very thin layer, gives it a bit of a chew that holds it together in the mouth. The mockolate coating is creamy and melts well but offers no chocolate flavors here ... just a sealant for the crispy bar.
Rating: 6 out of 10
But most of all, I have to wonder why the Whatchamacallit isn’t a Reese’s branded product, getting the full benefit of the peanut butter branding.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I’ve never seen them before, so I’ve done a little poking around.These were introduced in 2001 or so in Europe. The package says that these were manufactured in Russia ... I’m hoping that’s a temporary thing until Twixels either succeed or fail in the US (as Mars has pledged to support the communities where they make their candy in the United States - Twix are made in Cleveland, Tennessee).
I picked out the Triple Chocolate variety which was described as Dark Chocolate with Chocolate flavored Caramel & Chocolate Cookie. This sounds like the limited edition Twix Triple Chocolate from late 2006/early 2007.
The box is pretty ordinary but has a funky parallelogram shape - bigger on the top than the bottom. The tray inside protects the contents well, after all, they’re coming all the way from Russia. The tray has three discrete sections, but the plastic film seal over the top covers the whole thing, so no way to just open one little bit and save the rest of later.
Inside are basically mini Twix bars. They’re three inches long and have a similar ripple to the chocolate as in the large Twix.
The little sticks have a crisp bite, the cookie is very firm but not terribly flavorful. The chocolate enrobing says it’s “sweet chocolate” and though it has no milk in it, it does have milkfat. It’s very sweet, but rather rich as well and gives me a satisfying “Dove Chocolate” feeling. The caramel is just a tiny strip on the top of the cookie, so it’s hard to get much chew out of it. It doesn’t have the wonderful pull like the large sized Twix does, but here it gives just a bit of texture.
Overall, I can’t say I liked them any more than any other Twix product (except for the Limited Edition Java Twix).
They’re easy to eat and a nice size for controlled portion snacking. The box recommends four sticks as a serving which is 140 calories (35 calories per stick). Four sticks actually feels like a lot, so for those trying to have a small and satisfying indulgence, these may be a good trick. (Or just eat one Twix out of the pack.)
I paid $2.99 for 4.4 ounces of slenderized Twix bars ... too much for me. Think about it, a regular Twix is 2 ounces and costs less than a dollar. The only reason to buy these is if you actually prefer this flavor profile to the original full-figured bars. (You can stop reading here if you want, that’s about it for the actual product review, the rest is just me ranting.)
As a side note, I find the current version of the Twix.com site as supremely annoying and poorly executed as Mars other “hot” site, Skittles.com.
First, I have to “load” a huge flash thing that takes an actual minute. While I’m waiting there’s a progress tally that has a guy “chewing it over for me” ... one of my least favorite things to do on the web is watch people chew. In fact, I’d say it’s something I actively avoid. If there were a ChewBlock add on for Firefox, I’d be all over it.
Second, once it’s loaded, I go right to the PRODUCTS option because the “game” is going. The products pop over plays AUDIO ... audio which cannot be turned off or controlled in any way.
Finally, as I navigate the products, there are three: Twix with all its different sizes and shapes, Twix PB and Twix Ice Cream. There is no mention of the actual existence of these Twixels. Thanks Mars, thanks for putting a relevant web address on the package.
If you want more snark on their advertising campaign and the other contents of the flash game, please read this Happily Bitter post (some strong language).
Since Mars was unable to help me learn more about their product, I turned to YouTube, where I ended up finding some advertising from Russia’s TBWA agency that made me realize that the whole Fling marketing concept was no accident.
The end tag line is “it makes us chat about everything” if by everything you mean “fluff” - let’s see, they have a prince on a white horse, some clothes, an inept plumber, a man’s ass, fighting children, drinks, a manicure, a goat-headed boss/co-worker and a gift car. I guess it’s actually realistic, candy is just about as relevant and important as all those other consumerist nuggets. (Okay, child rearing is important ... and I know that workplace annoyances are, well, annoying, but boiling women down to shopping, image-obsessed daydreamers who want to be rescued is insulting.)
So, to sum up: in a complete vacuum, I found Twixels Triple Chocolate to be okay, regular Twix patrons will probably like the change of proportions & snackability. In the presence of everything else like the current Twix advertising campaign, their equally insulting & unworkable companion website plus the paucity of information about the actual product ... well, I like them slightly less. They get a 6 out of 10 based on the former.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
This tall tub of Gourmet Gumdrops at Whole Foods simply looked too good. (Here’s a photo of an in store display.)
Part of it might have been because they’re huge. Over an inch in diameter and an inch high, these are mega gumdrops.
And the flavors listed were just as compelling: pomegranate, acai, grapefruit, Meyer lemon, key lime and tangerine.
The price, well, that had me vacillating. The 18 ounce tub was $5.99 ... a great price for an all natural chocolate product, but a bit much for an all sugar candy.
Oh, but the flavors ... grapefruit gumdrops! So I bought them.
The ingredients are pretty simple: Corn syrup, sugar, corn starch (modified - non GMO), natural flavors, malic acid, sodium citrate, citric acid, colored with vegetable extracts (red cabbage, paprika, turmeric), freeze dried acai powder.
I had trouble counting when I took the photo and didn’t notice the difference between the acai and pomegranate drops, so only one is represented here.
The texture of the drops is great. They’re very heavy for their size, quite dense. They have a soft give, but not quite the same bouncy texture of a gummi. The outside is a small grain sugar (not the larger grain that I think most of us are accustomed to with gum drops). Inside, the bite is smooth, the texture of the drop is even ... not super sweet but definitely more intense than most mass marketed brands.
They’re not as firm as something like Dots - more like Chuckles, so even though they do stick a bit in the teeth, it’s not a solid mass, they’re soft and a little drink of water washes away the bits. (Or you know, follow your dentists recommendation and brush after eating.)
Key Lime (colorless) - I have a word for this! It’s fresh. Biting into it is like rubbing the rind of a fresh lime. The flavor is both tart and sweet, not at all bitter. It’s not quite a key lime texture (which is a little dusty and dry) but the flavor is practically perfect.
Meyer Lemon (yellow) - very zesty, almost to the point of melting me with its caustic oils but still a really vibrant piece of flavor. I loved these, but they burned my tongue if I ate too many. And I kept eating too many.
Tangerine (orange) - though this one is the most stereotypical of the lot - it’s part Tang juice drink and part orange zest, it was still one that I pulled out to eat first.
Pomegranate (magenta/purple - not shown above) - raspberry and balsamic vinegar. Sweet, sticky with a low bitter afternote. A little high sour bite.
Acai (darkest purple) - cloying, dark and soapy. A little bit violet with a hint of concord grape. There’s no tang or tartness to it. My experience with acai is rather limited.
Each gumdrop weighs about 13 grams (.46 ounces) and has about 47 calories.
I found two different packages of these. The first, as shown above was a big tub. Then yesterday I realized that I didn’t have all flavors for review (I shared my big tub and friends picked out the citrus flavors) so I went back and bought some more. This time they were in the short tubs sold by weight with a generic deli label on them. At least I was able to just pick up a half a pound and compare the different packages to get ones that had fewer of the purples.
These are really great gumdrops. They have the smooth, soothing texture the gives flavor from start to finish. The texture is similar to Turkish Delight, but has a more full bodied flavor that includes more than the fragrance & zest. The colors and shape are appealing and of course the all natural thing is great - I like to taste my fruit flavors, not artificial colors. The price is steep, but then again the Pate de Fruit that I like to pick up every once in a while is more expensive, so these are a nice middle ground.
They appear to be vegan though not peanut/nut free and there’s no statement about gluten.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:55 am
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.