Thursday, October 22, 2009
Every once in a while I wander into a Gelson’s grocery store. If you don’t have this small upscale market chain in your area, perhaps you have a similar one. Regular food you see everywhere, only more expensive, but then they also carry hard to find and superior items. They do have a good produce selection, but charge a premium.
What I find interesting about the store is the candy. They have Twizzlers and 3 Musketeers but they also tend to have an odd idea (or maybe perfectly appropriate for their customers) of what Halloween is like. Their trick or treat selection tends to be a little upscale.
One of the items in their area was not a trick or treat item, but just a Halloween themed one: Jelly Belly Deluxe Halloween Mix. I got a similar mix a few years back for Easter, but this one seemed a little different so it was definitely worth a try. (Even though it was $3.99 for a 9 ounce bag.)
The mix likely offers something for everyone. There are mellocreme items, a few jelly beans, crisped rice milk chocolate balls and some licorice dots.
There aren’t that many jelly beans in there. As far as I can tell, they’re lemon, licorice and orange. All are definitely favorites of mine, so we’re off to a good start.
The story goes that the Goelitz family was making Candy Corn sometime around 1900, one of the earliest candy corn makers (and they made a lot of other mellocremes, which they called Butter Creams). They might not have been first, but they’ve definitely be doing it uninterrupted for over 100 years.
The Candy Corn in this assortment is the big stuff. It’s basically an equilateral triangle, but the tip is just a bit pinched. (Yes, they look a little breast-like to me.) The texture is smooth and the flavor quite mellow. Not as salty or honey tasting as the Brach’s/Farley’s stuff. There is a slight butter note to it.
Mellocreme pumpkins are cute. They’re quite squat and about half the height of the Farley’s/Brach’s stuff, but with a much more pronounced stem. They’re quite firm, but still have a smooth and not-quite-grainy texture. The flavor was surprising. It’s supposed to be orange, but it was just horribly bitter to me. I can’t fathom why, as they’re not that intensely colored, but I ate them several times over a week and each time they were just so bitter to me that I couldn’t finish a whole one.
The yellow ears of corn are the cutest of the bunch. Long and narrow, they’re a pretty big punch of pure sugar. The design on them isn’t very well defined so they didn’t photograph well. The flavor is lemon. It’s sweet and more of the floral lemon, now the tangy or zesty kind. Far too sweet for me.
To break up all that sweetness, I indulged in some of the foil wrapped chocolates.
The odd thing about the package was its vagueness. There was no inventory of the stuff inside. The ingredients were just a huge messy listing of all the ingredients of each element in one list (which I think is a huge disservice to customers).
I was careful to pick a bag that had a lot of the foiled chocolates, so I wasn’t disappointed here.
The balls are small and are the perfect single bite of milk chocolate with crisped rice. I wouldn’t call them the perfect milk chocolate and crisped rice though. It was sweet, perhaps a little waxy. The texture of the chocolate wasn’t quite creamy enough for me, but at least wasn’t grainy. Compared to the other items though, they were far from sweet. So at least they were a little counterpoint.
I wasn’t sure what these would be (again, no inventory), but I recall seeing these in the Licorice Bridge Mix years ago.
The flavor of the licorice is a little different from the Licorice Jelly Belly. It has more anise and a less watery flavor.
The issue for me again though was the bitterness of the artificial color from the nonpareil coating.
It’s a fun mix that everyone should find something in it they like. I found that there was too much I didn’t like for the price though. Jelly Belly also makes a Fall Festival Mix, which is all flavored mellocremes in different shapes. They also make three different flavors of the giant candy corn: traditional, chocolate and cinnamon.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Grave Grabbers from Flix Candy are billed as a handful of fruit flavored gummy! and they certainly do deliver on both the hand and the gummy part.
Maybe it’s that they’re not shaped like something I would normally want to eat. Maybe it’s that they’re made in China. Or maybe it’s that I have such a low appetite for flesh.
They come in three flavors, and each one is individually and uniquely designed. Each piece is 1.94 ounces, and though not as large as an adult’s hand (they’re only about 4.5 inches long), they’re still impressive to handle.
Green Apple is the left hand (hah-hah, the others are right hands!) in a dark green with black fingernails and knobbly knuckles. It also has a lightly textured skin that looks a bit like a lizard’s or snake’s. The gummy texture is soft, but not too soft and sticky that it makes a greasy mess when you play with the candy. The flavor is rather mild but an actual pleasant green apple flavor. Almost realistic with some apple juice notes.
Strawberry is the skeletal one in the center. It’s a light and creamy white with gray cartilage. The fingers are longer than the others, but the palm is also less fleshy. (And the attachment of the thumb makes me think this is chimpanzee hand or foot more than a human hand.) It’s a very mild strawberry flavor. A little light tangyness but it’s mostly the florally & berry fruity that we’re accustomed to.
Blue Raspberry is a strange thing to call this, since there are no blue raspberries, they’re just a made up flavor and this isn’t even a blue colored candy. Instead it’s more of a zombie hand, sinew & open flesh, even some bones and gory bloody bits showing. The flavor was pretty unremarkable. I lost the package for this one and had to muck around on the internet until I found someone else mention with a picture.
They’re obviously too expensive for Trick or Treat, with a recommended retail of $1.25 (though you may find them cheaper). They’re a fun candy for kids to play with or to use as a decoration for a Halloween spread. The one odd impulse I have with this is to smack someone on the face with them a la a glove for a good old fashioned challenge. Luckily I’m alone in a hotel room today and there’s no one to do that to.
Flix also makes giant insect versions in similar flavors (though bolder colors). I think they’re far more inventive & creative than some of the other Flix items I’ve had, though still nothing that appeals to me.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
I’ve had a few Hachez chocolate products over the years, though I haven’t written much about them (just this one review). They’re a German chocolate maker (though they have Belgian roots).
My boss was traveling in Europe recently and returned with a stack of candy, and this bar was definitely blog-worthy (all others were tummy-worthy).
The Edel Vollmilch Nuss is a dark milk chocolate bar studded with hazelnuts.
The wrapper is odd in that it doesn’t look like the other Hachez products I’ve seen, which are long narrow bars. However, the classic shield and seal that accompanies the logo is the same. The wrapper here is a heavy and glossy paper wrap with a light drawing of a squirrel holding a nut and some nuts growing on a limb. (And of course the little image of the chocolate bar itself.)
It’s a thick bar, and even so the nuts protrude from the bottom of it in a cobblestone look.
The bar smells smoky and woodsy with a strong grassy hazelnut scent and a slight hint of dairy.
The texture I’ve experience with Hachez before is extremely smooth with no grit and this was no exception. The melt is slick and silky and the twang of the dairy notes were spot on perfect. The notes have a toasted flavor to them that echoes some of the darker notes of the rather dark milk chocolate (37% ... but remember that 24% of the mass of this bar is just hazelnuts).
It’s a wonderful eating bar. The hazelnuts are a little small, but then again there were a lot of them. Every one was roasted to perfection so it was crunchy with just a slight sweet note to it. I enjoyed it simply as a hearty snack and a decadent little treat after dinner. And now it’s gone and I’m going to have to find a way to get them in the United States.
Monday, October 19, 2009
There are dozens of new version that are flavored, but by far the most popular and best selling is the classic stuff that comes in the Harvest Mix of mellocreme items.
Farley’s is an old company, making candy under the Farley’s name since 1891. They’ve distinguished themselves by making a huge variety of generic and popular candies such as gumdrops, candy coated peanuts and hard candies. In 1996 Farley Candy Company merged with Sathers Candy Company, a company with a strong distribution arm to become Favorite Brands International. In 1999, Nabisco bought up Favorite Brands and then within a year Kraft Foods purchased Nabisco. Then in 2002 Kraft Foods sold off Farley’s Candy Company and Sathers Candy Company which became Farley’s & Sathers Candy Company, Inc. Since then Farley’s and Sathers has swallowed up a few other candy companies, most recently Brach’s in 2007. Other brands include the classic Fruit Stripe Gum, Heide, Now and Later, Trolli Gummis, Super Bubble and Bob’s.
I found this Farley’s Harvest Mix at the Dollar Tree. The Harvest Mix (or Autumn Mix) is usually a combination of Candy Corn, Indian Corn and Mellocreme Pumpkins. This is no different. I found the bag a little odd. It’s a pretty big bag, and I think that 9 ounces for a buck is a good value, but the bar seemed barely half full.
Farley’s Candy Corn is made in Mexico, as is Brach’s ... which as I mentioned earlier (if you didn’t skip that paragraph) is now owned by Farley’s & Sathers, so I have to wonder if it’s just the same stuff. Both are made with honey and both contain gelatin (most other brands of fondant type candies are made with egg whites).
They look very much the same (well, most candy corn looks the same). I wouldn’t call the attention to detail fantastic, some were smudgy at the margins of the colors, others were of course shortened two color or one color versions. But the general flavor of them was a smooth and sweet dissolve. The texture is only slightly grainy and satisfyingly dense with a light moisture to it to keep it from being completely crumbly.
The honey note is noticeable as is a little hint of salt, which keeps the sweetness in check.
Instead of three color stripes, there are only two here. A deep brown base and an orange top.
The brown base has a light cocoa flavor but the orange top seems less like the traditional candy corn. It doesn’t have that little bit of salt or honey flavor. It’s just bland and sweet. There’s not enough of the cocoa to balance out all that sweetness, so this Indian Corn, though it has a nice texture, is just too sweet.
I also got a little bit of a bitter aftertaste from it, which I suspected was from the food coloring. (More orange means more Red #40.)
The green stem and deep creases give them a nicely stylized look of real pumpkins. (If real pumpkins were smaller than your thumb and had flat bottoms.)
Like most other Mellocremes, these are just a dense sugar fondant. The flavor isn’t as pronounced or salty as the corn, so it’s all sugar. The texture is extra smooth, as the centers are quite soft.
But the sweet is simply too electric for me. It shoots bolts straight through my teeth and into my brain, leaving me feeling weary and abused after eating a half. There’s also the orange aftertaste, a lingering metallic note.
UPDATE: I talked to a representative at Farley’s & Sathers who confirmed that the Farley’s Candy Corn & mixes are now the same as the Brach’s. (They kept the Brach’s recipe.) So there you go ... I just re-reviewed the same product.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Just Born announced some new mixes of their classic Mike and Ike jelly rods for different seasons. The first one on the calendar is the Autumn Medley which features four flavors in a fall color array.
The package, at first glance, looks like the Tangy Twister, but on closer inspection has some pumpkins on it and a little scarecrow. It also has a little pile of fruit to represent the flavors inside. They’re Strawberry, Orange, Lemon and Cherry. If you picked up a regular bag of Mike and Ike you’d get five flavors, four of which are in this mix. The only one missing is Lime. So if you’ve always wanted a lime-free Mike and Ike mix, this is your product.
Instead of a box that can let the jelly rods get stale, this sealed plastic wrapper keeps them fresh. If you’ve never had Mike and Ike, they’re basically jelly beans. Rod shaped jelly beans that are available year round in mixes of fruit flavors (except for Jolly Joes which are all grape).
My positive experiences with Mike and Ike up to this point have been with their more intensely flavored products like the Tangy Twister and the spice-flavored Hot Tamales and Jelly Beans. I know I’ve had the regular Mike and Ike before, but never thought much of them so I’ve kind of ignored them.
Cherry - It’s easy to spot the dark red rods in the batch. They taste pretty much like they look, a jelly version of a Black Cherry LifeSaver but without the satisfying tangy counterpoint to the woodsy medicinal flavors. So they come off as non-medicated Sucrets to me.
Strawberry - The lighter red rods are supposed to be Strawberry, but there’s very little here. There’s absolutely no tartness, just a sweet and slightly floral flavor. All I can say is it didn’t taste artificial to me ... it just lacked any taste at all. Not that I didn’t enjoy the blandness.
Orange - This one has a little sour note at the start in the grainy shell, but the flavor dissipates to just sweet jelly with a touch of orange oil. They’re actually quite nice, the zest is not too strong and the texture is rather like the classic Orange Slice jellies.
Lemon - I’m always up for a lemon candy, it’s hard for me to name a yellow candy I don’t like. Oddly enough, the lemon was not as tart a the orange, which is disappointing, because I know Mike and Ike can do a nice lemon because they made a whole product called Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
What I think would be a fun are real harvest inspired flavors: things like Mulled Apple Cider, Baked Caramel Pear, Cranberry Orange and White Grape. But as a simple repackage based on colors, I guess they’re fine for folks who like the classic Mike and Ike.
There will be a version for Christmas that will be styled in green & red and a version for Valentine’s Day in pinks & purples.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I was surprised and pleased when I ran into the bars at the nearby Cost Plus World Market.
There are three varieties with a bold package design that keeps in tune with the Swiss Army style of the red shield with a white cross. The bars are larger than most American single-serve chocolate bars, about half the size of the typical 3.5 ounce (100 gram) tablet.
The wrapper calls them Survival Portions though the rest of the package is rather vague about how these help you survive, or what exactly the challenge is that needs a portion for survival.
I think the design on the wrapper is great. The bold design of the logo caught my eye immediately and the nice placement of the description & statement that it contains caffeine from guarana is easy to see.
It’s billed as Swiss Army Energy Bar Chocolate - Skimmed Milk Chocolate with Cornflakes and Guarana.
Guarana is an Amazonian vine related to the maple tree that produces a little fruit with seeds high in caffeine. In its purest form I understand the roasted fruits/seeds are a bit like cocoa powder, a bit astringent and bitter but also with some pleasant cocoa & coffee flavors. In this instance it’s just a guarana extract and it only makes up 1/2% of the total bar.
It’s quite a nice looking bar - shiny and nicely molded with scored pieces for easy portioning.
Once I broke the bar it was easy to see the little cornflake bits. It smells rather sweet but also slightly malty, which I attributed to the cornflakes.
The texture is quite smooth, though not quite silky because of the cereal bits. It’s sweet but the slightly salty, mildly malty cornflakes plus the dairy notes of the milk made it all work. I only got the slightest hint of caffeine bitterness that lingered high and light at the finish.
After the creamy experience with the milk chocolate version, I was thinking perhaps this one would be nice but probably sweet. I was happy to see that the first ingredient is cacao mass and the second sugar then cocoa butter ... so this was going to be pretty chocolatey.
It has the same 1/2% guarana extract content, which amounts to about 42 mgs of caffeine per bar.
The scent isn’t very complex, just sweet with a woodsy roasted note. The texture is smooth and has a good immediate melt. It’s a bit bitter with an overall fruity and berry note to the chocolate flavors and a little hint of smoke towards the end. I got a similar bitterness at the end as well that was different from the initial bitterness.
The white bar is a bit different, first because it has coconut instead of cornflakes. It’s made with real cocoa butter, and quite a lot of it (the second item on the list of ingredients, right after sugar and followed by skimmed milk powder).
Of course all that fat amps up the calorie count here, this bar is 290 calories versus the 260 for the previous two bars. The other confusing aspect of the nutrition label is that it lists salt as an ingredient but says that there is no sodium in it.
The bar is a light yellow, buttery looking block. The little white flecks of coconut are quite small. The overwhelming scent of the bar is coconut.
The bar melts readily and has a smooth texture, except for the soft & chewy coconut flakes. It’s sweet and milky but also has a fair bit of a salty note which keeps it from seeming too sticky like some white chocolates can. I might have preferred it with the cornflakes, but it’s still a fun bar. I didn’t sense any bitter aftertaste here, which may have just been the chocolate and not the guarana in the previous bars.
What sets these bars apart, besides the Swiss Army branding is the caffeine content. It’s not that much at only 46 mg per bar, the same caffeine content as 1 ounce of espresso or a 4 ounce cup of coffee. And as I mentioned, the portions are quite generous for what is basically an “all chocolate” bar with only a few small inclusions.
They’re well priced for what they are, a quasi-novelty item but also a decent chocolate bar with a unique set of attributes. They’ll probably be very popular stocking stuffers this holiday season.
They have an odd website, it looks great, but feels a little off because of what appears to be a machine translation of the text. The wrappers say Imported into the USA by Cost Plus, Inc. so I’m guessing they’re the exclusive retailer for these here.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The Russell Stover Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Pumpkin is what it says. A marshmallow in the shape of a pumpkin covered in a thin shell of semi-sweet chocolate.
The wrapper follows the same design, a stylized colored pumpkin drawing ... this one features a darker background from the milk chocolate version. It’s also smaller than they used to be. My 2006 review showed them at 1.25 ounces, but as sugar & chocolate prices go up, either the candy increases in price or gets smaller.
It’s a big, rather flat and vaguely pumpkin shaped piece. About 2.5 inches across at the widest. Even though they’re just wrapped in a little mylar sleeve, they seem to take traveling pretty well. This one only has a crack from me trying to get it to sit upright for the first picture, not anything that happened in transit or at the store.
Breaking it in half is not advised. This is a candy that’s best bitten & eaten in one sitting. The marshmallow is soft, moist and bouncy. It has a good pull, it almost looks like caramel or latex when I tried to pull it apart. The flavor is only the lightest vanilla, it’s mostly about the fluffy texture and sweet melt. The dark chocolate is decent. The sticky marshmallow keeps it from flaking off, even when it cracks. It also keeps the whole thing from tasting too cloyingly sweet.
I definitely prefer them over the standard milk variety and hope they do the Marshmallow Rabbits in a dark version next year.
For those watching their calories, this is a nice, spare treat. It’s only 110 calories but feels rather filling. (Of course as a marshmallow product it contains gelatin. They’re not Kosher and are made on shared machinery with peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and wheat.)
Other traditional Russell Stover Easter treats are now restyled for Halloween. So if you can’t wait until spring you can get Solid Milk Chocolate Pumpkins, Sugar Free Marshmallow Pumpkins, Caramel Pumpkins, Milk Chocolate Marshmallow Pumpkins, Coconut Cream Pumpkins, Strawberry Cream Pumpkins, Orange Marshmallow Pumpkins, Coconut Buzzard Nest, Strawberry Cream Buzzard Egg, Vanilla & Chocolate Creme Buzzard Egg, Marshmallow & Caramel Creme Buzzard Egg, Peanut Butter Ghosts, Marshmallow Ghosts and Coconut Ghosts.
Monday, October 12, 2009
At the Walgreen’s I noticed a new set of bars far down on the bottom shelf in the candy aisle. They’re simply called 3 for $1 Buck (which seems redundant, three for one dollar buck bar?). They’re Proudly manufactured in the USA by R.M. Palmer. I picked out one of each and today I thought I’d do a head to head comparison between one of them, called Cookies ‘n’ Creme.
Of course the best known Cookies ‘n’ Creme bar is made by Hershey’s. It was introduced in 1994 and for a long time was made with real cocoa butter so it was a white chocolate product. Now it’s made with a white confection so a good item to do a match up with the Palmer version.
Each bar is a white confection (a mix of vegetable oils, milk & sugar) studded with chocolate cookie bits ... the whole effect is like Oreos in ice cream at room temperature.
Ingredients for Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme (1.55 ounce)
Ingredients for R.M. Palmer 3 for $1 Buck Bar Cookies ‘n’ Creme (1.45 ounce)
The Hershey’s bar is formatted just like the regular Hershey’s Milk Chocolate. 12 rectangles make it easy to snap & share. The ingredients aren’t quite as good as the pure white chocolate they used to use, but this is still a distinctive bar of decent quality.
It smells quite a bit like ice cream. The melt is rather smooth and cloyingly sweet. The cookie bits are jam packed in there, you can see from the flipside view that they’re little cookie pellets so there aren’t a lot of little crumbs, just real crunch & toasty chocolate flavor. It has a good bit of salt to it (110mg) so it helps the vanilla and chocolate flavors pop.
The Palmer version is a nice long, domed format. It’s a little lighter in color compared to the Hershey’s version. Even though it weights a tenth of an ounce less it has the same number of calories (220) and one more gram of fat (12 g).
It’s immediately sweet, but has a good, cool melt on the tongue. I didn’t get as much in the way of milky flavors from it but a fun fake vanilla that reminded me of taffy. There really weren’t that many cookie bits, which was disappointing, especially since I figured those were the cheapest ingredient in the whole thing.
Overall it was far too sweet, even statistically I can tell: Hershey’s has 19 g of sugars & Palmer has 24 g ... and remember, Palmer’s is smaller.
There’s really no comparison, the Hershey’s is a well rounded white confection with a dark chocolate cookie crunch. The Palmer is just a cheap sweet and fatty imitation. If the Palmer price tag is too much of a temptation, wait until the Hershey’s come on sale.
They’re both Kosher and both made in the USA.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.