Monday, August 10, 2009
I’ve been meaning to hit Robitaille’s Fine Candies in Carpenteria, CA for a few years now. They’re in a cute little seaside town just south of Santa Barbara known for its excellent beach. Of course no seaside town is complete without a candy shop. Robitaille’s makes their own fudge and some chocolates along with what they consider themselves most famous for, their Inaugural Mints.
The shop is much larger than I expected, perhaps because I thought that their 400 square foot candy kitchen included the store floor ... instead it’s a large open space that houses three full aisles of pre-packaged bulk candies.
I made a beeline for the mints and had several versions to chose from.
They sell two different sized packages of the mints, eight ounces and four ounces ... all standing on end like little record albums. I chose a box of the classic red, white and blue ones in the smaller four ounce size.
I wasn’t quite sure what they were, since the honor of an official mint for an inauguration made them sound exotic or perhaps even unique.
It turns out they’re not. It says on the website Do not let the colors fool you. These are all made from white chocolate. Sadly that’s not quite true. Maybe it was at one time, but the ones I picked up are sugar, partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil and then some cocoa butter followed by some milk products and other things like sorbitan monostearate that sound like they don’t need to be in there. So at least there’s some white chocolate in there. (And a heavy heaping of food coloring, as you might imagine.)
I admit, I was still enchanted with them. They look like glossy, patriotic tiddlywinks
Though they boast about being handmade, they’re really just little puddles of peppermint flavored white confection (see Smooth n Melty Mints) which probably taste just as good spewed out of a machine.
That said, I liked them! They’re smooth, they’ve very sweet and minty and have a good silky melt on the tongue. I appreciated that they weren’t covered with little nonpariels so at least there was something unique about them.
They come in a few different color variations - pastels, harvest colors and red, white & green for Christmas. I would probably prefer just plain white ones if I could.
The store itself has a huge selection of other candies, something for everyone. There is a whole display of items between the fresh fudge and the house-made candy case of sugar free candies. Then there are many aisles filled with shelf after shelf of items. There’s a good selection of licorice including salted from Europe and Australian style along with German (Haribo wheels) and American version of allsorts. There were flavors and flavors of salt water taffy, lollipops the size of your head. All colors of M&Ms (in single color packages), rock candy in all colors, compressed dextrose candies (Runts, pacifiers, little stars, little daisies) and then jelly beans and all sorts of chocolate coated things like pretzels, honeycomb, marshmallows & graham crackers.
The prices of the candies varied and were by and large decent. Some chocolate candies were $12.95 a pound and the sugar candies were usually about $5.95 a pound with others somewhere in between. Most prepacked items were 4-8 ounces, so the choice of sizes wasn’t that great.
There were also shelves and shelves of candy favorites especially hard to find independent companies like Annabelle’s, Necco and Tootsie. No vacation destination is complete without a selection of a few dozen candy sticks, which are right up by the check out counter.
One of the other items I picked up in the candy case was something I saw on their website and was even more impressed with in person. The Dark Chocolate Turtle (they also come in milk and white chocolate).
This sizable patty is 3.5 inches across and exquisitely formed in layers. A dark chocolate disk as a base, glossy caramel, then a few pecans then another dollop of dark chocolate.
The caramel had a nice pull, good chew and excellent burnt sugar & butter flavors. The dark chocolate was semisweet with good fruity & toasted flavors to go with the woodsy pecans. Some spots seemed to be mostly chocolate but the whole effect was a satisfying candy. The price was pretty decent as well, each piece was about $1.50 each and might I say they were just slightly too big for me. (I cut most of them in half and shared.)
Robitaille’s Fine Candies
Thursday, August 6, 2009
I didn’t really know what that meant. Maybe it’s like menthol or mint added to a sour candy?
When I got the sample back in May in my box of stuff from the All Candy Expo folks, I dutifully logged them in and took a photo of the package and then ignored them. But then I got a few comments from some readers about them ... so I was intrigued.
The front of the package of new Sour Patch Chillerz shows three smiling, waving & scarf-sporting, mitten-wearing Sour Patch Kids. Purple, Yellow & Red. On the back of the package is lists the flavors/colors ... and there’s some blue child, completely missing from the front. I guess he missed the photo shoot.
They come in four trademarked flavors:
Berry Punch Chiller - it smells like raspberry, but the first burst is of a sour lime ... then a weird bitter menthol/mint comes in. It’s strange. Then there’s a sweet berry punch flavor as it becomes pretty much the same texture as a Swedish fish. I didn’t like any of the flavors on their own, and certainly not in combination. The blue coloring also seemed to give this a weird aftertaste for me.
Frozen Lemonade - this was fascinating. The initial tingle is of zesty & sour lemon, but then a bit of nasal clearing menthol erupts. The end flavor is like lemon pound cake - all sweetness. It reminded me a lot of lemon cough drops, but each flavor was separate and rather distinct.
Strawberry Shiver - the sour start had a lot of menthol in it but the strawberry finish was like cotton candy. A very mellow combination overall, but at this point, I had a pretty lasting cool throat blast going on.
Frosty Grape - The first flavor is sour then quickly fades into menthol but then the artificial grape seeps in. It’s sweet and concord-ish. The combo is weird, but not disgusting, so I tend to eat another.
I found them quite odd, but not bad really. My bag was pretty heavy on the grape but light on the berry punch, so it worked out pretty well. My favorite was the lemon, but that could have been that it was the most readily related to something I already found pleasant.
It’s a fun experiment and I can actually see myself craving these during a cold since they have some of the same elements and so much of the flavor doesn’t depend on the nose, instead it relies on the taste buds and textures.
Note: The package I reviewed was marked “sample - not for retail sale” so I cannot be certain that the package is exactly as sold at retail, though I’m pretty sure the product on the inside is.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I’ve been fascinated with Japanese cola candies for a while, and I think I completely forgot about the German cola candies. (I did review the Haribo Fizzy Cola a few years back.)
The great thing about Haribo is that they make an incredible variety with a huge variation of flavors and shapes. The bad thing about Haribo is that the quality varies depending on which factory they’re made in. These were made in Spain.
The bottles are nicely formed, they’re plump and have the shape of a soda bottle. The candy is created using two different colors - a dark amber and a clear, the bottom of the bottle is the darker color and gives the impression of a glass bottle filled with cola. So simple, but so convincing.
These are rather firm but still have a pleasant cola scent when I stick my nose in the bag and inhale. It’s a little lemony citrus and a bit of spice.
The firm bite doesn’t burst forth with much flavor. It’s at first citrusy ... a little tangy. Later I get the cola notes, which is a little woodsy and mellow spice. But it’s very bland. It’s like lemon soda with a splash of cola instead of a cola splashed with lemon.
I want something a little more intense, something that gives me a lot of cola flavor. Maybe I’m spoiled or impatient ... these are still fun though, a great summer vacation candy to munch on while on long drives.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
So this review will contain slightly more photos than normal ... so you get all your candy goodness for the day and I get a little bit of a rest (since I’m writing these reviews in advance).
In Europe folks get to enjoy different versions of the Terry’s Chocolate Orange quite regularly. In the United States we get a novelty version about every two years (I had the white chocolate version before). I heard about the Terry’s Chocolate Toffee Crunch Orange at the Fancy Food Show earlier this year and was hoping that I’d see it in stores in advance of Christmas (which is high season for chocolate made into slices of of fruit & reassembled into a sphere).
I picked out a smashed box in my haste, but was happy to see that it didn’t matter to the product inside, which was well protected with a plastic form.
Inside the plastic form, inside the box, is a plastic wrapped sphere that includes directions: WHACK & UNWRAP.
I’ve been around enough to know that’s a bad idea. Either that or I whack to hard and end up with a big handful of crumbles. Instead I just open the package and insert a knife and pull out a few slices.
This particular orange was very nice looking. The slices inside were glossy & had a good snap.
What surprised me was the orange scent. Honestly, I thought the “orange” part on this particular orange was just going to be the shape, not the flavor. For some reason I didn’t think they’d do toffee and orange.
It smells like orange frosting ... very sweet.
The first ingredient on the list is sugar, the second is milk ... so this is a very sweet & milky product.
The texture of the chocolate is smooth, but a little on the fudgy grain side. The milk was a bit overshadowed by the orange flavoring. Within the chocolate were little salty toffee chips. The texture combination is great - the chips were crispy and crunchy. However, the whole thing was just throat searingly sweet. I liked it, but after two slices my throat just ached. Better with some black tea or in combination with something like pretzels or nuts.
Since I picked this up in the off season (though it was very fresh), it was pretty expensive for what’s otherwise rather cheap chocolate. The novelty of the shape is great, and really helps with the portion when sharing, but of course a big 3 or 5 ounce bar is a much better deal. In this case the flavor combination was the unique selling proposition. For gifting chocolate, these are great ... for eating on an every day basis I think I’ll stick to a Scharffen Berger Milk Nibby or for a toffee chip experience I’ll review a new Lindt bar soon.
(Okay, so this review didn’t end up being as short as I thought it was going to be.)
Monday, August 3, 2009
Sometimes I pick things up to save you the trouble. Because I know that you’re the babbling ill-nurtured ingested-lump that’d be tempted to buy Shakespearean Insult Gum. The little “shelf” of “books” is actually a set of boxes that hold two gumballs and a line from one of the scribe’s plays.
William Shakespeare was the master of the witty insult and now you can amaze your friends with these highbrow putdowns!
It’s like an episode of Frasier, but with gum!
The assortment of boxes feature names of Shakespeare’s tragedies on the spines: King Lear, Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, Henry V, Hamlet, Richard III and Othello. My fobbing idle-headed whey-face couldn’t remember that many insults from the great dramas, figuring that just a transcription of The Taming of the Shrew is probably all the insults one would need for any novelty product. (You remember the wildly popular Katherina doll called the Spewing Shrew that you pulled the little cord on the top of her head and she would animate and push you out of your chair and call you names ... they were pulled from the market pretty quickly so they’re quite the collector’s item.)
Each little box contains two gumballs. They came in a variety of colors, though four of the boxes had one green and one white. I feared, knowing they were made in China that I would end up with spongy long-tongued botch.
The gum itself are solid little balls (though not quite spherical), not those hollow ones that slanderous flap-mouthed skainsmates try to pawn off on unsuspecting gum-chewers. They were pretty small, so it’d probably be more of an engineering issue to make them any lighter. Even two pieces didn’t make a decent chewing amount.
Pink was cherry. A little tangy, rather soft but mercifully free of bitterness. Yellow was lemon which was a soft flavor that dispensed some tartness as I chewed it. Green was probably supposed to be apple, but it didn’t taste like much. White was watermelon, and while it was no spongey hell-hated odoriferous stench it did remind me of an Avon lady’s neck.
Really, it wasn’t bad so much as it was pointless. What do gumballs have to do with Shakespeare?
First, I’ll spoil the surprised and show you 7 out of the possible 25 quotes you could get:
Macbeth = Dissembling harlot, thou are false in all (Comedy of Errors)
King Lear = How foul and loathsome is thine image (The Taming of the Shrew)
Henry V = Bless me, what a fry of fornication is at the door (King Henry VIII)
Richard III = A plague on both your houses (Romeo and Juliet)
Romeo & Juliet = Base dunghill villain and mechanical, I’ll have thy head (Henry VI Part 2)
Hamlet = Thou art likest to a hogs head (Love’s Labour Lost)
Othello = Hang, beg, starve, die in the streets (Romeo and Juliet)
Two of them, I’d reckon, are not insults but actually curses.
What’s sad about this is how completely hobbled it is by its own parameters. Only 25 insults? They’d better be the best ... but they’re not! Here, have some fun with this random Shakespeare insult generator (where I got the ones peppered in here ... you don’t think I actually remember that much from college, do you?).
Why are they tucked into these little volumes like this? They don’t match the spine, so there’s no way to even chose what you think might be the right one for your occasion. And then, why do I have to tear the little boxes apart to get at the insult?
The website says Sure to offend the intellectuals and confuse the dimwitted!. Yeah, I’m not sure I’m an intellectual, but I’m certainly offended that this was such a dimwitted product. What do they take me for? An unmuzzled tardy-gaited hedge-pig?
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.