Friday, November 13, 2009
If you’d asked me a year ago if there were any more mint flavors that Altoids could come in, I would have said, “Nope, it’s all been done.”
I know, this is a really short review but it has a really big picture. I spotted these new Cool Honey Altoids at Walgreen’s. I liked the prison stripes of yellow and black,oh wait, maybe they’re supposed to be bee colors. It’s distinctive enough I don’t think anyone will mistake this for Ginger or Licorice.
I liked the idea of cool honey, like a cough drop version of Altoids. (Honestly a eucalyptus version might be good.)
They’re lightly tinted, maybe a little yellow, I thought sometimes they looked a tad green. Perhaps absinthe! But the flavor? They’re minty and strong but other than that I wasn’t getting anything honey-ish out of them. They’re milder than a regular Altoid, but lacking the complex flavor combination that I enjoyed in the Creme de Menthe version.
It’s too bad, it was a nice idea. But at least the tin is cute. Gigi also reviewed them.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Heide Red Hot Dollars have a colorful past. The original Heide Red Hot Dollars were raspberry flavored, but when they were bought by Hershey’s in the 90s, they thought the name was confusing, so they changed it to Red Raspberry Dollars, which was obviously more descriptive but also lost the decades of product identification. To make things more confusing Farley’s & Sathers bought the brand (which includes Jujyfruits) and introduced these Red Hot Dollars, which are cinnamon flavored.
When I tried Red Raspberry Dollars last year I was a little frustrated because I wanted to try their spicy Red Hot Dollars. I was too cheap to actually buy them via the internet where shipping candy is often in excess of the candy cost, so I just kept my eyes open. When I was the NACS show in Las Vegas last month I mentioned my difficulties in finding them to the Farley’s & Sathers representative and he helped me out by giving me two boxes. (But no real help in finding them again.)
The box was frustrating. Dots usually have a cellophane wrapper on the boxes. But Heide candies are just a plain paperboard box with product rattling around inside. But what they lack in moisture seals they more than make up for in glue. It was impossible for me to open either box at the flap ends without tearing the layers of paperboard to bits. But fortunately this frustrating package did keep it fresh. They were soft and pliable.
The thick “coins” look exactly like the raspberry ones. They don’t smell either, so don’t throw these in a bowl together unless you love both.
They’re soft like Dots, a little softer than Jujyfruits tend to be. The matte surface doesn’t have a greasy coat like some gummi products do. The gumdrop texture is dense and firm and very cinnamony. Some were hotter than others, enough to make me sweat sometimes.
I really enjoyed them and had no trouble eating both boxes in a matter of weeks. They’re a great candy to keep at my desk because they’re not messy, easy to offer & share plus they don’t give me any sort of weird candy breath. I enjoyed the smooth texture more than the grainy jelly bean known as Hot Tamales, but they really did get stuck to my teeth.
Vegans may be able to consume these; there’s no beeswax or confectionery glaze and the colors are all artificial. It all depends on how you feel about mineral oil and sugar. They’re also Kosher.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
One thing that was missing in the Dove chocolate line was white chocolate. Well, Dove’s new Dove Peppermint Bark Promises are the first step to remedy that. This new holiday version of Dove’s foil wrapped bites of chocolate has special holiday tips on the wrappers from Martha Stewart.
I was a little hesitant to pick up this bag when I saw it at RiteAid last weekend. Of course I was excited by a real cocoa butter version of peppermint bark with white chocolate. As mentioned in our forum discussion about new holiday candy, I was hoping these would replace the Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses in my heart, which are no longer made with 100% cocoa butter. And of course I love that Promises are easy to eat and share. But they were priced at $4.99 for an 8.5 ounce bag. That’s pretty steep for drug store chocolate.
When I opened the bag I wasn’t blown away by a minty smell; actually I didn’t catch much of anything as far as scent. But that’s not a bad thing, it means that the foil wrappers are doing their job of not only protecting each piece but also keeping their mint out of other candies that you might throw in the same bowl. Each little foil wrapped piece is cute: silver foil with red and green polka dots. They’re definitely easy to spot in comparison to the existing Promises line.
There’s a dark chocolate base with a white chocolate topper. The white chocolate has bits of red and white peppermint candies mixed in.
The melt is great. The dark chocolate (not totally dark, there is some milkfat in there, like most Dove) melts a bit quicker than the white chocolate. It’s a silky and fatty melt, slick and with some decent woodsy cocoa notes, but there’s also a cocoa experience ... a dryness like eating cocoa powder. No worries though the white chocolate layer is sweet, also fatty and of course minty. There’s a slight vanilla note to it and a bit of a dairy milk flavor with a hint of salt. The creaminess offsets the dry bite, as long as you eat the layers together.
The whole effect is a mint meltaway with a really tasty chocolate punch to it. Far and away better than an Andes Mint. The candy bits provide a good crunch (though I don’t necessarily need them, but without them it’s not a very convincing bark product.)
Price aside, these are awesome. They really fit the holiday season with the mint and chocolate combo. It’s also available in an actual bark shape, but I haven’t seen that in stores.
Monday, November 09, 2009
The problem with Mr. Goodbar was that it was never Mr. Greatbar in the first place. When Hershey’s replaced the cocoa butter in it, I completely lost interest. So, I’ve been looking for Mr. Betterbar because I still believed there could be a simple, satisfying combination of milk chocolate and fresh roasted peanuts. When I was at the Target in Harbor City shortly before Halloween I spotted this new bar: Green & Black’s Peanut. Since Green & Black’s is organic and expensive, I thought for sure it was going to be better.
After I got the bar home and photographed it, I read a little closer to see that it wasn’t just a plain milk chocolate with whole (or half) pieces of peanuts. No, this was something quite different but still equally compelling: Milk chocolate with caramelized peanuts and a hint of sea salt - 37% Cocoa Content.
The bar looks smooth and shiny. It also looks darker than most milk chocolate bars, somewhere between a true dark and a milk chocolate. I like how Green & Black’s bars are just a little thicker than the Lindt Excellence or Scharffen Berger. This is great especially when there are inclusions, because it leaves room for them to stack and still be surrounded by chocolate.
The bar smells incredible. It’s deep and smoky with a great authentic peanut scent along with the faint hint of caramelized sugar and milk. The texture is equally great, there’s a silky smooth melt and a sweet dairy flavor along with some dark bitter notes of both chocolate and toasted nuts. The peanut flavors are quite strong, and the nuts themselves are crunchy but there’s also the wonderful surprise of both little buttery toffee bits and a crisp toffee coating on some of the peanuts. The salt is also a nice complement to the flavors, keeping the rather sweet milk chocolate from becoming too sticky and setting off the woodsy notes.
I ate this bar up in less than two days. Then I went looking for another. I still haven’t found one, but when I see it, I’ll buy it. Oddly enough, it’s still not the Mr. Goodbar substitute I was looking for, but I’m going to just be happy with the serendipity that brought it into my life and be grateful that my mistakes are so tasty.
Friday, November 06, 2009
This summer Morinaga came out with a limited edition line of World Fruit flavors of HiCHEW. I tried to collect all of them. Shown here is the Blood Orange I reviewed over the summer.
HiCHEW, originally from Japan but now sold all over Asia and now in North America, are a soft chew made from sugar, glucose syrup, palm oil and gelatin. They’re rather like Starburst, but with a much smoother chew and a bouncy texture. It’s kind of like soft bubble gum that you can swallow. The flavors are usually very faithful to the real fruits.
I’m not usually fond of peach flavored candies. I like peaches but peach candy often ends up tasting either too much like the skin or like a bland version of the flesh but rarely an authentic combination of the two.
White Peach HiCHEW are extraordinary. They’re sweet, a little tangy and have that strange peach skin flavor which is some kind of cross between popsicle stick, rosemary sprig and Christmas tree. Though some folks say that the outside and inside have different flavor intensities, as far as I can tell it’s all the same.
Rating: 8 out of 10
When I ordered this I’d never had a real dragonfruit before. I didn’t know what they were and thought they were far too exotic to find at my local farmers market. Well, that turned out to be untrue. I did find dragonfruit at the Los Angeles Farmers Market and though it was expensive ($3.99 for one, which was about the size of a large pear) I bought it to try. What I found out is that a dragonfruit is just a prickly pear fruit (something I have in the back yard). The one I got was rather bland. It tasted like a cross between Kiwi (lightly tangy with a crunch of seeds), Fig (a fresh and clean flavor) and Musk Melon (sweet with a touch of honey) but not nearly as good as any of those on their own. Not worth the bucks.
The Dragonfruit HiCHEW package looked a bit more exotic than my real dragonfruit. The flesh of mine was white with little black seeds, the one on the wrapper had magenta flesh. Inside the foil the pieces are an intense pink with little black flecks, which I assumed would emulate the seeds. The flavor is fruity, like fruit punch, cantaloupe, peach and strawberry. It’s a little tart, but not nearly as intense as the peach from above or citrus flavor HiCHEW I usually prefer.
Though I enjoyed it, the flavor wasn’t as distinct and innovative as I’d hoped. (I guess part of me is hoping there’s a fruit out there that I’ve never tasted that will blow my mind.) The seed bits provided only a tiny bit of texture, like those in kiwi usually do. Certainly tasty enough to keep eating them, but not something I’m going to put on my list to seek out.
Rating: 6 out of 10
CamuCamu HiCHEW was a complete mystery to me. One of the things that is so compelling about tasting candies from around the world is that it exposes me to fruits, spices and flavors that I would probably never encounter otherwise. Camu camu is a bush native to the Amazon River basin and the berries (the size of grapes) don’t travel well, so the chance that I’ll run across them in the grocery story is pretty slim. They are available as frozen pulp or juice. Most of the information I could find about camu camu makes it look like it’s the next superfruit, another acai. (It can cure herpes! Detoxifies the liver, improves mood balance and promotes healthy brains.)
The pieces were white on the outside with pink from the inside kind of peeking through the not-quite-opaqueness. It’s immediately tangy: really really tart and smooth. It made my mouth water and gave me that tingle in the corners of my jaw. The flavor is a bit like cranberries, sour grapes and apples. I enjoyed it quite a bit, not really because of the flavor but because of the nicely rounded sourness that wasn’t a screaming acidity.
Rating: 7 out of 10
The final on the list is Durian HiCHEW. For those of you who don’t know what durian is, well, as far as I’m concerned you’re not missing anything. (You can read more about durian here.)
My personal experience with durian candies is limited. I’ve had a few hard candies that I mentioned here and some durian taffy another friend gave me that I couldn’t even bring myself because it smelled so bad. Neither of those, combined with what I’ve read about it, has compelled me to seek out the real thing. (They’re available frozen whole at several local markets in Los Angeles and seasonally in Chinatown.)
Oh sure, this HiCHEW looked benign, even smelled a little like vanilla. It was all white, no different colored center. Biting into it, it was a little tangy like a yogurt chew. But then the real durian flavor. It’s a mix of strawberry and mirepoix. The onion notes weren’t completely revolting, it was like eating ice cream that had been stored in a smelly freezer ... just off and not something that you’d think flavor-ologists would slave over and present to their bosses as something that should be placed in production.
If you’re durian-curious, I think candy is a great way to expose yourself to it and maybe even check it off of that omnivore list you have. As far as I’m concerned this was the best durian candy I’ve ever had.
Rating: 4 out of 10
HiCHEW use all natural colors, but I don’t think the flavors are all natural. They contain gelatin so are unsuitable for vegetarians and those who are looking for a Kosher/Halal chew.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
The Twilight Saga: New Moon opens in theaters all over the world at the end of November. It’s expected to be a huge hit, as was the first movie in the series, Twilight. New Moon again stars Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan and Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen. If you’ve been under a literary rock for the past five years, it’s based on the popular young adult/fantasy Twilight quadrilogy by Stephenie Meyer.
Necco, maker of Necco Wafers, Sweethearts, Clark Bars and Mary Janes has a licensing deal with Summit Entertainment. It started earlier this year with Forbidden Fruits Sweethearts and has expanded now with the line of chocolate candies under their Sky Bar brand called Heart’s Desire.
The products are various bars and individually wrapped pieces. Gigi Reviews had the full bar, which is like a regular Sky Bar but with only three segments but a hipper looking wrapper. I found these little individually wrapped pieces, which are one ounce each and retail for about fifty cents.
The package calls it a creme filled milk chocolate heart. The ingredients actually sound pretty decent for a movie tie in product. Real milk chocolate filled with a sugary, corn syrup, invert syrup, artificial flavors, salt, egg whites and invertase.
It’s odd though that the candy of choice for New Moon would be a boring old vanilla cream. The Sky Bar has four fillings: caramel, vanilla, peanut and fudge. Of those I think the peanut one would be best. It’s definitely different from other candy products on the market because the peanut section in the Sky Bar is a peanut flavored caramel ... worthy of a starring role by itself.
It’s rather large for a filled chocolate, they’re 2 1/3 inches tall and 1 1/4 inch wide at most. The highest part in the center heart is just shy of one inch.
The molded design is of two stacked hearts. The heart on top bears the female protagonist’s name: Bella (though when I first looked at it I thought it said Petta, which made no sense to me). The second heart says Cullen and looks like it may be the family crest. The crest is a hand print over a profile of a lion with a chevron with the outline of three shamrocks.
It smells rather like a Cadbury Creme Egg and honestly, it’s not that different. Of the three that I opened, two were cracked around the edges and leaking (but dried).
The chocolate is pretty good for a cheap piece of candy. It has a nice snap and a milky flavor. The creme center is smooth, a bit soupy and merely sweet with no other features worth mentioning. The whole thing though was a bit off, a little bit musty tasting and lacking that fresh pop of real vanilla. It’s too bad that it couldn’t distinguish itself with a fresh vanilla flavor so it would be more like a Valomilk than a Cadbury Creme Egg.
As a little treat to stuff in your pocket before heading out to stand in a long line at the movie theater, it’s a decent enough value. Not something I would buy, but if I were a parent and going to see the movie with my kids (or just driving them there) it would be a thoughtful little celebratory gift. As an enduring confection ... well, it’s not befitting immortal status, especially when it bleeds its contents so easily.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Yesterday I reviewed the new All Natural Necco Wafers. Today I have the All Natural Chocolate Necco Wafers and I’m sure some people are thinking, Why review a single flavor from the regular Necco Wafer roll?.
When Necco went all natural, they also tweaked their Chocolate roll to include four flavors instead of just one. Now it contains Milk, Dark, White and Mocha.
I’m was scratching my head, wondering if something so un-chocolately and bland can possibly come in four different flavors when the original is barely flavored.
First, I like the new package. I like the little brown on brown dots on the background. I don’t like the new logo, but hey, the frustrating paper wrapper is usually torn into little strips to get to the candy, so it’s not like I’m saving it and making noisy jewelry out of it.
The first problem I encountered when trying to review them was determining which disk was which flavor. I had to assume the white one was white chocolate, but beyond that I really couldn’t tell. There’s definitely a medium chalky brown that I assumed was milk but then I lost the key, the dark colors were too close for me to call and they weren’t even that much darker.
White Chocolate - this is not chocolate. There is nothing chocolatey about this. It’s not creamy, it’s not milky, it’s certainly not cocoa-ish. It’s an unflavored Necco Wafer. It’s like the test strip for Necco Wafers. You can reset your tasting abilities with this. It’s sweet, maybe it has a hint of vanilla but a toasted marshmallow would have been better. (Or maybe they could have done salted caramel instead of the white chocolate.)
Milk Chocolate - it’s like the old chocolate Necco Wafer, a bit like cardboard in both texture and taste. Not quite musty but not anywhere near chocolate or even chocolate milk.
Mocha - I think this one was the lighter of the dark browns. It was just as sweet as the milk chocolate and did have a hint of coffee flavor. But half the time I didn’t know if I was eating the mocha or the dark, so again I missed the point. It was kind of like eating old frosting from a donut wrapper. By far the most successful in the roll for me.
Dark Chocolate - I can accept chocolate ones in the regular roll because they’re just kind of sweet and different and not trying too hard. But in a roll where I’m supposed to be having a great time with four great flavors I’m greatly disappointed. Maybe it even rises to the level of irritated.
I had two rolls of these. The first roll I photographed and then threw into a little bowl to munch on while I watched TV. After three days of not munching on them, I kept smelling something that was akin to paper grocery bags. (I had no trouble eating the regular rolls though.) So I threw them out. Then I took out the second roll and started on those for the review. They can’t be stale or old, they’re brand new. Just so incredibly bland.
If you want to buy a candy to help you lose weight, this is something to stock up on. You’ll never touch them. For fans of the original Chocolate roll, I think you’re going to be disappointed.
Monday, November 02, 2009
It’s hard to believe that I’ve never reviewed Necco Wafers. In the early years of Candy Blog I tried to concentrate on candies I’d never had before, but it became apparent that in order to discuss things that were new (or new to me) I had to cover the classics as well. So I’m slowly adding those.
Necco Wafers were introduced in 1863 by the Chase and Company candy makers. They were known for their hard candies (boiled sweets), lozenges and “Oriental style” sweets including Turkish Delight. They also innovated machinery and techniques to create confections like the wafers. Chase later merged with Ball and Forbes and Bird, Wright and Company to become the New England Confectionery Company in 1901. By the time they’d been around for almost fifty years they finally settled into their present day name, assortment and packaging style in 1912. Necco Wafers were available in different sizes and were a popular penny candy of the time.
The wafers are lightly flavored and colored disks of sugar. The product is rather unusual for the modern era of confections and is more similar to breath mints than regular candy. They’re not fussy but perhaps a little homely and dated.
To make them, a dough of sugar and corn syrup is mixed up and stabilizers and binders such as gelatin, tragacanth, xanthan and gum Arabic are added. Then after the base is created it’s customized with the flavors and colors. The whole mass is loaded into a roller like it’s some sort of infinitely long pie crust then the disks are cut and stamped with the Necco name. They’re not baked, just air dried.
What’s created is a beguilingly crunchy lozenge. Crisp, thin and sweet.
The classic roll of Necco Wafers contained eight flavors and has always been a random assorted stack sealed in a glassine wrapper. I know most folks who like them also searched the store shelves for one that had just the right mix of colors they preferred.
This year marks a new generation of Necco Wafers now with all natural flavorings and colors. Because of the new restrictions Necco placed on itself, they dropped one flavor from the original that could not be replicated adequately: Lime.
The current flavors are chocolate, cinnamon, clove, lemon, licorice, orange and wintergreen. Since no artificial colors are used I was hoping that the flavors would be truer. (I’ve always had a problem with the pink ones having a bad bitter aftertaste.)
I haven’t been able to find the large two ounce rolls in the stores near me, but I did finally find this package of the mini rolls at CVS in the Halloween section. (I visited about a dozen stores in two states in a month looking for them.)
The colors are quite a bit more subdued, as if Necco Wafers weren’t already a bit washed out. They’re so muted that I have trouble telling the pale yellow, lavender and white apart. And for folks that like to preview a roll before they open it, it’s quite hard to tell the light colors apart. The new wrapper also sports an updated logo ... though I find the logo to look more like something from 1998 (when the titled oval was all the rage in logos) than a modern candy, but not quite a reflection of its classic past.
Clove - I always avoided the clove for two reasons. I don’t like clove flavor and I didn’t like the food coloring aftertaste. In this case the clove (faint lavender) is much more mild and less caustic than before. Of course there’s no weird aftertaste either. I still didn’t like it much and was a little irritated that it was so hard to pull them out of the mix in anything other than bright sunlight.
Chocolate - the easiest to spot and one that needs no coloring. I found the cocoa flavors to be overly sweet, but at least true. It was like an old piece of dried chocolate frosting. A little pointless if you really want chocolate, but it has a freshness to it that doesn’t leave me thinking of cardboard.
Wintergreen - I was so happy about these. The color is still a teaberry pink, so they’re easy to spot. It’s exactly like a piece of teaberry gum if it was a crunchy piece of sugar (and a stale piece of gum can be like that). The flavor starts out rather soft and quaint, but builds up to a bit of a Ben Gay burn later. There’s a lingering buzz in the mouth. The best part of the finish is that it’s all flavor and no food coloring mess. My tongue looks like when I started (normal pink) and no metallic aftertaste.
Cinnamon - this white piece lots its mojo in the conversion to all natural. It’s sad how lacking in cinnamon punch it is now, it’s not that it’s bad, but I just don’t feel like picking them out and eating them first any longer.
Licorice - the color is so much lighter on these, it took me a while to realize that they weren’t the clove ones. They’re a light putty color that sometimes has a lavender cast to it. The flavor is quite a strong anise note. It’s sweet and has an aromatic and slightly menthol quality to it. It reminds me a little bit of the Fisherman’s Friend lozenges.
Lemon - the lemon flavored Necco Wafers were never spectacular and they haven’t changed one way or the other. Sweet and with only the slightest hint of lemon flavor, there’s no tartness (thank goodness - if you’ve had the SweetHearts Sour Conversation Hearts you’ll know what I mean), no zest.
Orange - this faint orange colored one has a little orange peel note to it. It didn’t seem as sweet as the lemon one, but that’s not saying much about it. It was mostly inoffensive.
I don’t miss Lime, but I did enjoy the flavor. As an assortment, I’ve found myself munching through the bag of minis without any problems. I’ve picked out most of the clove, but find all the other flavors enjoyable. So I consider the new mix a definite winner. The only issue was the strength of the flavors varies - the clove, licorice and wintergreen were very strong and left a distinct burn in the mouth while the rest were pretty mellow. So after a licorice, I could barely tell that I was eating a lemon.
Each roll of 9 pieces has only 50 calories. They take a while to eat and of course there’s the variety, so it’s a nice snack that’s easy to take anywhere. I do have a problem with the little white powder that seems to get everywhere though. (I tend to wear a lot of dark colors.)
I think this is a great development and I’m actually looking forward to see if the classic SweetHearts Conversation Hearts will also go all natural. They do still have gelatin in them, so sadly no good for vegetarians and they’re not Kosher/Halal. I really like my candies to taste like candy, not artificial colors.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.