Friday, September 18, 2009
And they’re also licorice. Actually, the completely unattractive sticker on the front of the bag informs me in English (the rest of the package is in German) that it’s Licorice Foam Candy.
They’re shaped like panda faces and I have to say that they’re fraktacularlary cute. So cute I just wanted to eat them up. And the name? Tappsy! How could you not like something called Tappsy? (It reminded me of Stampy.)
What was also fun was the fact that they’re a European candy, so they don’t use any artificial colorings and seem to have all natural flavorings. (I don’t know if ammonium chloride is consider natural or not ... I mean, it’s a mineral.)
The light & flexible disk are shaped like cartoon panda faces. They’re about 1.5 inches across at the ears. They come in two varieties - licorice faced and foam faced. (Panda’s don’t actually look like that, they have white faces with black eyes and ears.) The white faced ones had little noses made of a berry flavored jelly. (Real pandas also have berry flavored noses, but couldn’t find any verification of this, so you’ll just have to take my word for it and of course make mention of it in conversation until someone starts sending around emails and Snopes investigates.)
The little faces have a kind of cock-eyed smile that reminded me of Wybie from Coraline.
The licorice parts are quite mellow - a light anise flavor and not overtly sweet and a good caramel & molasses undertone. The texture is more like a chewy licorice than the foamy stuff - not the wheat based chew of the US/Australia and not quite a jelly or gummi. The foam white part is rather like a marshmallow - but smashed, just a bit more dense and not at all sticky.
I loved the licorice parts and ate the licorice-faced ones first (sadly they didn’t make up half the bag). Licorice-eared ones were just a little bland, so towards the end, I just ate their ears and tossed the face ... it’s the candy equivalent of shark finning.
I would definitely buy them again, though I would like to find them in bulk bins so I can pull out a better proportion of licorice. (They also come in a fruity version.) I looked on the Katje’s website and think there may be some other products that are more balanced to my liking like the Domino Delicious (which appears to be the first same-sex-marriage-marketed candy I’ve seen - well, besides the Rainbow Mentos).
Finally, here’s a commercial for Tappsy starring Heidi Klum:
I don’t know what’s going on in that commercial except that it’s a pretty accurate depiction of my Saturday mornings in my breezy white-clad bed, rolling around with my candy.
Finally, just a note about the calories: each piece has only 28 calories. And a whole ounce clocks in at 97 calories. So this is definitely a candy you can use a a little low-calorie treat that looks like a high calorie one.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Last year Trader Joe’s introduced what I think was their first original candy bar. The Lumpy Bumpy Bar did not live up to my Trader Joe’s expectations (and they rarely disappoint me).
This year they have the new PB&J Bar which features peanut butter, milk and dark chocolate and raspberry jam.
The box is hot pink with eye-numbing blue & orange text. It in no way reflects my expectations for what’s inside. Again, I think it’s some sort of medicated soap or analgesic.
Like the previous bar, it’s much smaller than the box (well, I can’t name a candy bar that isn’t smaller than the volume of the packaging) - the box is 4.5” long and 1.5” high & wide. The actual candy bar is about 3 inches long and about 1 inch high. But then, you know, it was easy to get back into the box after taking the picture.
But still, what is it?
The bar is quite interesting to look at, though I couldn’t figure out where the dark chocolate is ... maybe there’s a slim layer between the jelly and peanut butter.
The peanut butter is quite dark and has a deep roasted flavor. It’s not terribly sweet and of course is not only salted but has little bits of potato chips in there for additional texture and salt.
The bite of the bar is interesting. The peanut butter has an easy give, but the jelly bottom layer is quite firm. However, it is very jelly like in that it doesn’t stick to the teeth like gumdrops do. The flavor doesn’t come out right away, there is a berry note, but it isn’t until I chew it up that I got the nice, deep jammy raspberry flavors (seedless).
The two ounces felt like quite a lot of food, and I actually ate the bar in two sittings - 1/3 when I took the photo and the other 2/3 while doing the review. The calorie total is 300, a smidge more than I like in a single portion.
Since there are no other readily available bars like this, I give it high marks for filling a niche. I’m definitely more likely to pick it up over the Lumpy Bumpy ... but there are so many other items at Trader Joe’s that I prefer, I’m not sure it’ll ever happen.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I got these at Target, as you can probably tell by the package if you saw yesterday’s review but they don’t make them themselves - they’re just repacked. The bag says they’re made in Spain but I can’t find any note online of who actually makes them (Haribo has a factory in Spain but so do a lot of excellent Spanish gummi companies). You can even buy them in bulk online. The idea that any candy corn products are made outside of North America strikes me as a bit odd - as far as I know, we’re the only market for candy corn products. You don’t see it in Europe or Asia ... or at least you didn’t used to.
As freaky as they look, the idea of a puffy marshmallow-like candy corn was appealing.
Unfortunately these are not as marshmallowy as I’d hoped. Yes, they’re puffy and chewy, though denser than a regular marshmallow. They’re a cross between a traditional dense & translucent gummi and a marshmallow (many of the ingredients are the same, after all).
The bag, once opened, smelled again of that fake butter flavor. I don’t get it. When did candy corn flavor mean butter? I always thought it was toasted sugar and honey.
If you’ve ever had the Haribo Strawberry Puffs, these are very similar, just a little pointier and of course with a cute layered effect. They’re the same height as a regular piece of candy corn, just four times wider & three times thicker. The layers go all the way through, that’s no airbrush job on the outside.
Out of the bag they have less of the butter notes and smell more like a regular old vanilla marshmallow. But biting into it the butter scent returns along with a jarring tartness. It’s a tangy vanilla flavor - the only thing I can liken it to is a yogurt flavored gummi. The ingredients list lactic acid, so my dairy comparison wasn’t far off.
I’ve gotta say, I didn’t like them. I really wanted to ... the texture & chew with the lightness is really refreshing. But it just needed a lighter touch of honey or plain vanilla without the tang. But they would still make a striking decoration for a cupcake or in a candy dish.
Like the Chocolate Covered Candy Corn, they give you a lot of info about the origins: Candy Made in Spain, Package Made in China and Packed in Mexico. The expiry on these is January 2011! These are durable candies!
(I got to thinking that maybe Peeps should do a giant marshmallow candy corn. Just a thought.)
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The newest thing about Candy Corn over the past five years has been flavors: Green Apple, Pumpkin Spice, Caramel Apple, Tangerine and on and on. The odd thing is that their kin, little shaped mellocremes, have always come in different flavors - harvest mixes come in maple & chocolate and the Easter specialties often had delicate citrus & berry flavors.
So now comes the ultimate mash-up of candy corn. Both flavored and covered in chocolate. It seems odd that this product hasn’t succeeded before.
I found this bag of Toffee Flavored Candy Corn covered in Milk Chocolate at Target. They have a special line of little stand up pouches like this marketed in their house-brand.
The package is cute & compelling - a dark orange accented thick cellophane bag with a clear window to show off the shiny chocolate covered mix. I thought it was a little expensive at $2.99 ... but $7 a pound for a chocolate item isn’t that bad, and this is a Candy Holiday.
About one third of the package is chocolate covered. The rest are plain Naturally & Artificially Flavored Toffee Candy Corn. The colors are a muted amber center with the stereotypical yellow base and white tip.
The package smells off-putting. It’s a fake butter flavor which leads me to a rant about toffee:
Toffee is carefully boiled sugar and butter. The essential qualities of toffee (as it’s made in America) besides the crunchy texture & cleave are the toasted flavors of the caramelized sugar and the creamy melt of the butter/heavy cream. It’s not about the butter flavor, it’s about the burnt sugar. So when someone offers me something toffee flavored I expect dark sugar notes not artificially flavored buttered popcorn.
I tried sampling it a few times and found it too artificial, so I left the package open overnight and that seems to have let some of the volatile organic compounds evaporate and it became a bit more appealing if bland. Rather like ordinary candy corn. I even detected the smell of milk & chocolate in there.
The plain candy corn is nicely textured. It’s soft but not too crumbly, it melts easily and though it’s sweet it’s not too sickly. It could have used just a tad more salt to sell the toffee flavor.
It seems more sugary than the uncoated stuff. The milk chocolate isn’t particularly creamy, though the flavor profile has a fair bit of the dairy component to really sell the toffee part. I liked the combination of textures - the fondant of the candy corn has a crumbly texture, kind of like the center of a York Peppermint Pattie. (Which makes me wonder why I’ve never seen Mint Candy Corn and then the logical conclusion of Chocolate Covered Mint Candy Corn.)
I give them kudos for the attractive mix and the innovation factor here. It’s also available in Green Apple flavor (maybe some green apple fans would love it - I’m not keen on the combo of chocolate & green apple).
The package gives full disclosure: Candy made in USA. Bag made in China. Packed in Mexico. (Best by December 27, 2010) It also says that it contains milk, eggs, soy and coconut and may contain peanut & tree nuts. The only thing it doesn’t mention is gluten.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Candy Season has started with the first Halloween candy entering the aisles as drug stores, discount warehouses & grocery chains move their summer & back to school merchandise to clearance.
I was excited to find the new Bat Dots in the large theater-sized box at Target over the weekend. They haven’t quite put out all their Halloween items yet, but I found these in the regular candy aisle on a little hanging display at an endcap. I first tried them after All Candy Expo and was looking forward to seeing this single flavor box.
Bat Dots are black but instead of being the black licorice Crows in a different box, they’re Blood Orange.
The package is great and plays with themes of the orange as a harvest moon, the word bat is juicy and the little bat shaped Dot uses an orange slice as a smile.
It’s unusual to find a box of Dots that has just one flavor, and for it to be blood orange is quite a coup for citrus lovers.
As far as flavor goes, these are packed with it. There’s an immediate tartness followed by some nice zesty notes and a strong orange juice flavor. They’re soft and easy to chew ... and for some reason they’re not sticking to my teeth quite as much as other Dots.
My only misgiving with these is the heavy use of food coloring so I get a little weird aftertaste ... if I don’t pop another one in my mouth right away.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Candy Corn Dots seem like a natural mash-up. They look pretty cute - though I have to say that they weren’t as consistent as the package leads me to believe. The layering is sometimes spot on, with a yellow third on the bottom and an orange top (no white tip) but other times I had to turn over the Dots to even see the yellow.
I didn’t know what flavor to expect but I girding myself for fake butter. Instead they ended up being a pleasant French vanilla or maybe pudding flavor. It was missing that light touch of honey that the better candy corn has ... but overall it’s a cute take on Dots.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Ghost Dots have actually been a seasonal product for three years now. Again, I give Tootsie some props for the package design and the concept itself.
They’re regular fruit Dots, but they’re all the same translucent & spooky beach glass light green color.
The spooky part is you never know what you’re going to get. It’s rather interesting to experience the flavors without the color contribution to the flavor event. It confirmed that I really don’t like cherry much, even if there isn’t a crazy aftertaste and I had trouble telling my citrus apart from time to time. It’s tempting to think that they should be glow in the dark, but I don’t think that’d be safe. (Though maybe it would be - kids could mount them on little sticks and carry them around while trick or treating for extra visibility!)
Rating: 6 out of 10
I really couldn’t beat the price on these either - for a buck they’re a fun change-up and hopefully they’ll go over well and return every year. (I haven’t seen them in the Trick-or-Treat size yet ... has anyone else?)
Friday, September 11, 2009
When I was in college at Humboldt State University one summer I house-sat for a friend and as a thank you they gave me some tickets to see Twelfth Night at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. So my best friend and I packed up her rabbit puppet in her yellow Dodge Dart and we hit the road for the journey to Ashland to see the show.
The theatre was in the classic outdoor Elizabethan-style, except for the electric lights and assigned seating. The show was fantastic. In addition they also had an amazing selection of treats and sweets to consume during the show. At an intermission I picked up a roll of Callard & Bowser Licorice Toffee. The roll was long and had individually wax-wrapped pieces. I was ill informed what they were, I was expecting buttery hard candy with a licorice note to it. Instead it was what we call a caramel here in the States and it had a pleasant spicy & woodsy flavor. I ate the whole roll right there during the show.
Over the years I found them here and there but the last time I had some was when I was in London sometime late in the last century.
Callard & Bowser was a British founded in 1837 and the maker of toffees but most notably to Americans are their Altoids mints. They were swallowed up by Kraft, which later spat them back out in 2004 to Wrigley’s ... which in turn was bought out by Mars last year. Somewhere along the way they discontinued the Licorice Toffee. So I no longer look for it. Instead, I’ve been on the prowl for alternatives and found a few promising options to suggest to readers. Today, I present to you the Walkers’ Nonsuch Liquorice Toffee.
Unlike the other Walkers’ Nonsuch Toffees I’ve reviewed so far, these are individually wrapped in twisted paper-backed foil. The wrapper is cute & easy to identify as licorice since it’s a simple black & white design with a checkerboard pattern and red text.
Each little nugget is a little bigger around than a quarter and a lovely lump of sugar, sweetened condensed milk and treacle. It also features real liquorice extract as well as oil of aniseed.
They’re softer than the bar toffees; it’s an immediate stiff chew that softens with heat & mastication. The flavors are buttery and dark - not so much licorice but a soft anise with deep woodsy tones that reminded me of pumpernickel bread and spice cake. It’s smooth and satisfying.
I found the 150 gram (5.3 ounces) package to be completely inadequate (but it’s partly my fault for sharing these with my other licorice loving friends). The good news is that I got them at India Sweets & Spices and have also seen them listed online at The British Food Shop down in Orange County and if I get really desperate I can order online at Licorice International (though more than twice the price I find them locally).
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Less than 1% of the US population is allergic to peanuts (it’s estimated at .6% actually). But for families that have a peanut-allergic member it means that the whole household has to go peanut free (and sometimes classrooms as well). So finding candy that everyone can have is an issue. And there’s no reason that there can’t be excellent, no-compromise peanut free candy.
Enter the new P-NOT BUTTER flavored Sixlets ... yes, they’re Sixlets but instead of being mock chocolate they’re mock peanut butter.
This little flip top box boasts that it contains 44 pieces peanut butter flavored but peanut free candy.
The little spheres are bright and attractive ... if a little rolly. I’ve got to say that I appreciate M&Ms for their pleasing roundness but ability to stay put after playing with these Sixlets.
I’ve seen another review of these and thought maybe she had a bad batch. And I was curious what a fake peanut product would be like. What’s in there?
So it’s soy butter? That’s not so bad. I’ve bought that before for sandwiches.
The shells are strangely crispy & crumble and are cool on the tongue. The insides are soft and pasty, like super-smooth peanut butter.
But oh, after a few chomps on the trio I put in my mouth and I was repulsed. It reminded me of something but I couldn’t quite place.
At first I kept thinking of purses, basements & babies. I thought it was the soy part and it reminded me of strained pea baby food. And then I thought some more and realized that it reminded me of the smell of vomit in a hot car. The initial flavor is grassy and a little milky ... but then there’s this awful acrid tangy note that just hangs there like spit up baby formula. But it’s not like some distant vomit ... it’s something inside my own mouth, it give me the feeling that maybe I threw up a little while ago and forgot about it, except for this awful taste in my mouth.
Ultimately I think that these are a fantastic public service. Give these to children who are allergic to peanuts but have never actually eaten them and they’ll be sure to never be tempted to touch them again.
(For the record, I gave some to Amy-Who-Spits-Things-Out and she was miffed to say the least and wants to give them a negative 4 rating.)
UPDATE 9/22/2009: I heard from SweetWorks who manufacturers & distributes P-NOT Sixlets. They assure me that the product was discontinued (and the package I reviewed was possibly expired - but it had no expiry date marked on it and was only introduced a year ago, so how was I to know?).
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
A couple of years ago I got a preview of a new line of candy bars from Annabelle’s, makers of Rocky Road. The new Rocky Road Supreme bars didn’t even have wrappers yet when I tried them at the All Candy Expo in September of 2007. They were finally released last year, but it took me another full year to find them on store shelves.
I finally found them at a new shop in Burbank called Rocket Fizz. Though it’s supposed to be a soda pop store - with hundreds and hundreds of varieties of sodas sold in single bottles, it was also a candy shop with hundreds and hundreds of items to choose from. Amongst the mostly classic offerings I found the Rocky Road Supreme Peanut Butter Bar. Though it was a whopping $1.99, it’s also nearly 3 ounces ... so consider it a king sized bar.
The package describes it as Handmade Marshmallow and Peanut Butter with Crunchy Peanuts, Double Dipped in Velvety Milk Chocolate. I stopped eating several days ago in order to accommodate this extra 460 calorie pop.
The bar was a little worse for wear, though I tried to choose carefully from the bars on the shelf. I often have this problem often with Rocky Road bars ... they might benefit from at least a waxed paperboard tray.
The layers are nearly equal strips of marshmallow and peanut butter. Luckily the peanut butter is on the bottom, as it’s the densest. Considering how much peanut butter there is in this bar, plus the peanuts on the top, it doesn’t smell very peanutty. Just vanilla-sweet, a little milky and a little like roasted nuts.
The bar has a nice bite to it. The chocolate is soft and not at all flaky and the marshmallow is firm enough that it springs back easily but is dense enough not to give into the weight of the chocolate shell.
The flavors at first do well. The peanut butter layer has a salty pop and a mellow nutty flavor. The vanilla marshmallow isn’t too sweet and gives a bouncy chew to the whole thing. The chocolate coating is a little lackluster in the flavor department, but also not too sweet. The peanuts give a little crunch. The whole thing is a bit slick & fatty though, it never quite melts.
As I went on, I tried eating the separate elements. The chocolate is satiny smooth, but lacks a real cocoa punch. It’s all about the texture, I guess. The peanuts on top were kind of chewy instead of crunchy. The marshmallow is actually great, mostly because it’s foamy and has a smooth texture without being too sweet. The peanut butter layer though is weird. It’s very firm and has a greasy Crisco texture to it. A look at the list of ingredients reveals why #4 on the list is partially hydrogenated soybean & cottonseed oils ... that comes before #5 which is peanut butter.
Now I’m as much a fan of fat as the next person, but fat has to add texture ... it needs to give a pleasing mouthfeel as well as deliver flavors. This peanutty layer simply doesn’t. It’s like the grease is a cloaking device.
I really wanted to like this, I wanted it to be a powerful combination of textures & flavors. Instead it just left me feeling heavy & unsatisfied. (And I didn’t finish it, so now I get to have lunch!)
Here’s Sera’s review from Candy Addict.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.