Tuesday, January 12, 2010
The Mars family of candy bars, as far as I’m concerned, is all about nougat. They put it in all their legacy bars: 3 Musketeers, Mars (now Snickers Almond), Snickers and Milky Way. For a very short period of time they actually made a plain old caramel and chocolate bar, it was called Marathon.
Back in 2007 or 2008 there was a brief limited edition in miniature form of the Milky Way bar with just the caramel. Then it became a regular item in 2008 in Canada as Mars Caramel (and nut free to boot). It’s taken a while for it to return to the United States, but now it’s available in full bar form here, too (though this one is made in the USA and doesn’t have the no nuts seal, it actually doesn’t list peanuts as a possible allergen ... just egg and of course soy and milk which are in the ingredients.)
The Milky Way Caramel bar fills a hole in the American candy bar grid of confectionery possibilities. It’s a firm caramel covered in milk chocolate. It is unlike the Cadbury Caramello which is a flowing caramel covered in milk chocolate or the Rolo which is small pieces filled with a flowing caramel.
It’s attractive, as are most Mars candy products. The block is smaller than the standard Milky Way bar. It’s only 1.91 ounces instead of 2.05 and not quite as high (as there’s no fluffy nougat in there).
The milk chocolate is thick and doesn’t flake off. The caramel is a milky amber color and has an excellent glossy pull to it. The texture of the caramel is silky smooth and though it’s dense it’s not quite chewy. The scent of the whole bar is a bit like a toasted sugared cereal, not much chocolate punch but plenty of buttery notes.
The caramel has flavor, but that’s just it, it tastes like “flavor” not an authentic “boiled until it caramelizes” sugar flavor.
The whole thing is sweet and of course it’s a lot of caramel to eat, though certainly not as cloying as Caramello. I’ve had a couple of these bars (the broken one pictured above I got at the NACS convention in October and the package was from this weekend) and I simply cannot finish one in a single sitting. I like the proportion of chocolate to caramel and the texture is distinctive. There’s an overriding milk flavor to the whole thing, which I liked. But I prefer my chocolate to be darker and my caramel chewier (it probably doesn’t help that I spent the weekend eating See’s Scotchmallows.). But my preferences aside, it’s well done: real chocolate, no artificial colors and great textures.
Other reviews of Mars Caramel (which is a slightly smaller bar than the American one, so the proportions of chocolate to caramel may be different): The Candy Critic, Jim’s Chocolate Mission, Candyrageous.
Monday, January 11, 2010
I love variety, in fact I crave it. I was excited to find this selection of three different kinds turron (torrone) in this box from El Almendro. It includes Turron Duro, Turron Caramelo and Turron Crocanti.
Each piece is about one ounce (there are seven so I got three of the Duro) and individually wrapped. In fact the package was wrapped a lot. The box was wrapped in cellophane. There tray inside was wrapped in cellophane and each of the pieces is wrapped in cellophane. They’re very fresh.
The most remarkable thing about all three varieties is that they’re mostly almonds. Each lists the ingredients as 60% almonds.
Turron Duro is a light and crunchy turron. This version is common in both Italy and the Iberian Peninsula. El Almendro is Spanish and the best thing about it, of course, is that in Spanish you trill the double r ... it’s like extra exercise for your mouth, so you work off more calories.
The finger is three inches long and one inch wide, so it’s a nice bar-like portion. The white nougat is crispy and filled with nuts and has the scent of marshmallow, almonds and honey.
If you’ve always wanted more of those little nougat bits in a Toblerone, this is the stuff. They’re tacky but mostly crunchy, only mildly sweet with oodles of almonds. The honey notes are prominent but never quite dominate because there are just so many nuts. My favorite of the three,
The Turron Crocanti variation has a transparent amber version of the turron instead of the milky white stuff. Here the caramlelized sugar flavors win out over the honey. There’s no egg white in it, so it’s more of an almond brittle. It’s also a little more bitter as candy part is quite dark and burnt tasting (in the best way possible).
The Turron Caramelo was a little confusing to me at first. Every time I looked at it, I though ... oh, it’s a fig turron! And then I’d eat it and it’d be a sesame turron.
The candy looks like something I’d get in a dish at a Chinese restaurant. It smells quite dark and toasted, like sesame oil. Sesame isn’t always a good pick for me. I enjoy Sesame Snaps (those sesame finger cracker things) and Sesame Brittle (those little fingers wrapped in cellophane and sold at health food stores) and of course I’m a nut for Halvah. But sesame has a dark side - a side that reminds me of burnt hair and flaming plastics. The bars were extra hard and crunchy, which was a little disturbing as I’m worried sometimes that I’ll break my teeth on candy I’m reviewing and then where will I be!
The flavor is actually quite pleasant after I smashed the bar around inside the package when I had my second one. The sesame overshadows any honey or almond and definitely ventures into the bitter burnt notes. This was my least favorite.
I’m glad I got a variety that confirms how much I prefer the version that has egg whites in it. Now I just need to find a package that has them in these perfect sized fingers. Often the Spanish turrons come in dinner plate sized wheels, which means messy smacking & breaking.
It’s pretty wholesome and filling stuff, at only 110 calories per stick and the fact that it’s mostly almonds and all natural might make some parents pretty happy.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
Just before Christmas I went to Ikea for the first time in years. Our office was adopting a family for the holidays and I opted to get the wholly unsexy but necessary housewares gifts. My ulterior motive (besides getting a whole kitchen setup in a single easily wrapped box) was to get some candy.
I’d heard that Ikea had these strange candy laces a while back via Candy Addict and had to try them for myself. They’re called Godis Gula Sn?ren by Ikea Food.
The package is radically generic, a simple matte white plastic package with san serif black print in English and French and a high-key photo of the candy itself.
While it’s tempting to call them Toffee Laces since the description on the bag says candy laces with toffee flavour I’m going to go with candy spaghetti. And when I say candy spaghetti, I’m going all the way, from the fact that it’s made with wheat to the color and shape of the stuff.
I had 16 laces in my package. Each is 1 meter long. They’re quite thin, like cooked spaghetti. However, unlike cooked spaghetti these are actually hollow. They’re very, very long candy tubes. Perhaps more like bulk surgical tubing for Barbie Dolls.
They smell more like dishwashing liquid than candy, a vaguely sweet and vanilla scent but also a bit artificial. (The package actually lists no artificial ingredients - they’re colored with beta carotene.) The flavor isn’t actually toffee, but thankfully it’s also not butter flavored. It’s just, well, vaguely sweet and chewy.
They’re flexible and pretty useful candies. Tie them in knots and make an edible bracelet. Decorate cupcakes by cutting them like chives. Or when the craze hits a la candy sushi, you can make your own candy Pho.
As something to simply buy and eat, well they were passable. They’re either for people with far too little imagination or far too much.
(I looked up Godis Gula Sn?ren via an online translator and it told me it was Candy Yolk Cord.)
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Sadly, Danish Ribbons are no longer made.
So when I heard that there was a replacement for them, I needed to try them to see what all the saddened fuss was about. The replacement product is called Broadway Rolls. They come in the classic black licorice and strawberry flavors.
The roll itself is quite clever. It’s a very thin and malleable wheat-based chew. The strips are about 3/4 of an inch wide and deeply grooved (to the point that you can pull it apart into threads).
When rolled up, the little spools are about one inch high and the roll is sold with four in a package, lightly stuck together in a stack.
Each roll is like a spool; they’re dense and quite hefty at about a half an ounce each. Unrolled the strap is about 11 inches long.
The fun thing about them is that they’re easy to play with. I found that I could tease off one or two strands and unspool them. I also found I could unroll the whole thing and then have what appeared to be part of the innards of my computer (the cable that attaches my hard drive). The only thing I couldn’t manage was just biting into the roll.
Most of the time I just found myself unrolling enough for a bite.
The soft and slightly waxy textured Broadway Roll is rather like a Twizzler. They’re strawberry flavored, mostly sweet and floral but with a light tangy note. They’re not intense and though soft enough to bend and pull, I wouldn’t call them chewy.
I think I’d prefer to try them in Licorice, but these are pleasant enough and certainly unique. I can see why they’d be missed. The format is different enough from other licorices, even plain laces, to warrant a petition to revive them. I don’t know who originally made Danish Ribbons (some sources say Malaco, the originator of Swedish Fish) but these are made in China.
They’re probably really fun for decorating, or creating your own gingerbread motherboard.
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Last year I got a curious comment on my Red Vines review mentioning Grape Vines. I thought they were long gone. Incredibly I read that American Licorice was reviving the grape flavored licorice twists and have been scanning shelves for them ever since. I spotted them at the grocery store last week and of course snagged a package.
First of all, the box and logo are just fabulous. They’re snazzy and happy and classic. I like the simplicity and boldness of the Red Vines packaging, especially the standard tray which seems to be their most popular format. The clear window shows off the product but the unified graphic elements make them easy to recognize on the shelf. I was happy to see that Grape Vines fit right in.
It’s not your imagination nor a strange anomaly in the photo, they’re not all the same color. Some are more on the magenta side of purple and other twists are on the concord-grape-juice purple side. Besides the color, they look and feel just like Red Vines. The texture is matte but smooth with a bit of a glow, as they’re slightly translucent. They’re not at all sticky or tacky. They’re flexible, especially since these are fresh (though I’ll eat licorice fresh or stale).
They’re the kind of candy you can put out on your desk and not worry about. They don’t leave a greasy mess, they don’t really dry out (maybe after a day or so, but an afternoon while you’re working at the computer is just fine). I’ve even stuck them in my pocket out of the bag without incident (though I don’t recommend that for more humid or damp regions).
They smell like Pixy Stix and ball point pen ink and taste like flat grape soda.
The chew is pleasant and not as waxy as Twizzlers can be. The flavor is mild with just a light hint of grape. The grape isn’t all artificial tasting either, sometimes it’s remarkably like raisins. (Though if I wanted raisin flavor I should just eat raisins.) I was pleased to see that they didn’t need to use Red #40 for the coloring so I didn’t get that aftertaste I often find with brightly colored candies.
They’re different. I enjoyed them, though not more than the standard Red Vines and certainly not as much as my cherished black licorice.
On a side note, I got a new lens for my camera for Christmas. Can you tell I was enjoying Grape Vines if only as an excellent subject to test it out? (Tamron SP AF60mm F2 Di II LD (IF) 1:1 Macro)
Monday, January 04, 2010
I like wasabi and ginger, and of course cashews and dark chocolate. So Vosges Bombalinas Black Pearl Cashews, which are 62% dark chocolate covered cashews with ginger, wasabi & sesame seeds should be an amazing mix.
I bought this small box of chocolate covered cashews when I was in Las Vegas in November and I’d completely forgotten that I’ve had the Black Pearl bar from Vosges oh, so many years ago. It could be the reason I forgot was that it wasn’t that memorable. (It’s also entirely possible I’ve eaten too much between then and now ... entirely possible.) Something about Vegas made me spend $9 for less than three ounces of nuts, must be the fact that my honor bar in my hotel room made that seem reasonable.
Bonus featured here include the fact these are gluten free and considered vegan (the confectioners glaze is made from gum arabic and corn syrup, not shellac).
They are lovely. They are big, luscious cashews. They are expertly panned. So I had no quarrel with that.
The crunch of the nuts was great and the chocolate was dark and rich. But the other notes, the woodsy ginger, the sizzling wasabi and the toasty sesame were all missing. There was a grassy note to the chocolate and some smoky and woodsy qualities, but I really wanted my sizzle and burn. Good dark chocolate covered cashews aren’t hard to find, and since these pack no special punch, I’d say go for the cheaper plain versions.
Did I eat them all? Eventually. Were they worth nine dollars? No. Would I buy them again? Probably not.
Friday, January 01, 2010
The world of candy is immense with more than 10,000 choices at any given moment on the planet, how can a mere mortal experience it all? Well, having it all is overrated. I’ve compiled a list based on my lifetime of candy of just the essentials, candies that every candy lover should experience at least once. You know, for a good foundation in candy education.
These are not necessarily my favorite candies (some I don’t even like and others I haven’t tried) but they’ve stood the test of time.
If you’re game, repost this list with yours checked off and your thoughts. (Maybe even add your own.) You can grab the raw list of 110 here.
2. Aerated Chocolate: (Brand Names: Aero, Choc-o-Lite, Elite, Wispa)
4. American-Style Hard Toffee: With or without chocolate, with or without nuts.
5. Anis de Flavigny
7. Atomic Fireballs: (Maker: Ferrara Pan, also Sconza)
8. Black Sugar Candy
9. British Toffee
10. C.Howard Violet Gum/Mints or Parma Violets
11. Cadbury Creme Egg
12. Candy Buttons on Paper
13. Candy Corn / Mellocremes
15. Cherry & Coconut: (Brand Names: Cherry Mash, Big Cherry, Twin Bing, Cherry Ripe (AU), Cherry Blossom (CDN))
16. Chocolate Coins
17. Chocolate Covered Cacao Nibs
18. Chocolate Covered Cherry Cordial
19. Chocolate Covered Dried Fruit (Raisins, Orange Peel, Apricot, Ginger, Fig)
20. Chocolate Covered Espresso Bean
21. Chocolate Covered Insects
22. Chocolate from at least 5 different countries
23. Chocolate Fudge
24. Chocolate Truffle
25. Chupa Chups
26. Circus Peanuts
27. Clear Sugar Hard Candy: (Styles: Barley Sugar Candy, Juntsuyu, Clear Toy Candy)
28. Coconut Bar: (Brand Names: Mounds, Almond Joy, Bounty)
29. Coffee Crisp
30. Coffee Hard Caramel (Brand Names: Coffee Rio, Coffee Nips)
31. Cotton Candy: (Also called Fairy Floss, Candy Floss, Pashmak, Fluffy Stuff)
32. Crisped Rice in Milk Chocolate: (Brand Names: Nestle Crunch, Hershey’s Krackel, World’s Finest)
33. Dragon’s Beard Candy
34. Dulce de Leche: (Also known as Cajeta)
35. Dulces de Calabasas: (Candied Squash or Pumpkin)
36. Durian Taffy or Hard Candy
37. Gianduia (Gianduja): (Brand Names: Caffarel, Ferrero (Nutella))
38. Ginger Chews
39. Goetze’s Caramel Creams (Bullseyes)
40. Green Tea Candy
41. Gummi Bears
43. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Kisses
44. Hot Tamales: (Brand Name: Just Born but generic cinnamon jelly beans will do.)
45. Idaho Spud: (Brand Name: Idaho Candy Company)
46. Jelly Babies: (Brand Name: Basset’s but there are other generics.)
47. Jelly Beans: (Bonus for Jelly Belly Buttered Popcorn)
48. Jolly Rancher Hard Candies: (Brand Name: Jolly Rancher from Hershey’s USA)
49. Jordan Almonds: (Also called Sugared Almonds or Confetti)
50. Kinder Surprise or Kinder Egg: (Brand Name: Kinder - Germany)
51. Kit Kats from at least 3 countries: (Brand Names: Nestle and Hershey’s in USA)
52. Lemonheads: (Brand Name: Ferrara Pan)
53. Licorice Allsorts
54. Licorice Pastels: (Varieties: Good & Plenty or Skoolkrijt)
56. M&Ms / Smarties
57. Malted Milk Balls
58. Maple Sugar Candy
59. Marathon Bar or Curly Wurly
60. Mars Snickers: (Alternate versions come in Dark and Limited Edition varieties.)
61. Marshmallow: (Both factory made and artisan style)
62. Marshmallow & Coconut Cup: (Brand Names: Sifer’s Valomilk, Adams-Brooks Cup O Gold, Boyer’s MalloCup)
63. Marshmallow Peeps
66. Mexican Mazapan
68. Morinaga HiCHEW: (Maker: Morinaga)
69. Musk Sticks
70. Necco Wafers: (Maker: Necco)
72. Nougat & Nut Roll: (Brand Names: Hershey’s Payday or Pearson’s Nut Roll)
73. Nougat de Montelimar or Torrone: (Brand Names: Arnaud Soubeyran, Nutpatch Nougats)
74. Panela, Panocha, Piloncillo and/or Jaggery
76. Peanut Butter Buckeyes
77. Peanut Butter Crisp: (Brand Names: Butterfinger, 5th Avenue, Clark Bar, Chick-O-Stick, Zagnut)
78. Peanut Butter Molasses Chews: (Brand Name: Mary Janes, Peanut Butter Kisses, Abba Zaba)
79. Pecan Pralines: (New Orleans Style & Texas Chewy)
80. Peppermint Pattie: (Brand Names: York, Pearson’s, Junior Mints, Dutch Mints, Holland Mints.)
81. Pez: (Maker: Pez)
82. Pixy Stix or Lik m Aid: (Brand Names: Wonka or Pucker Powder, Sandy Candy, Baby Bottle Pops)
83. Pocket Coffee: (Maker: Ferrero)
84. Pocky: (Brand Name: Glico also Meiji Lucky Stick)
85. Razzles: (Maker: Tootsie)
86. Red Licorice
87. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups: (Brand Name: Hershey’s)
88. Ribbon Candy and/or Old Fashioned Candy Sticks
89. Rock Candy or Konpeito
90. Root Beer Barrels
91. Salt Water Taffy
92. Salted Caramel
93. Salted Licorice
94. Satellite Wafers (Flying Saucers)
95. Single Origin Chocolate
96. Smooth & Melty Mints: (Maker: Guittard)
97. Spice Gumdrops and/or Spearmint Leaves
98. Sponge Candy: (Also known as Honeycomb, Seafoam, Cinder Toffee. Brand Names: Violet Crumble, Crunchie)
99. Starburst / Skittles
100. Swedish Fish
101. SweeTarts or other sour Compressed Dextrose
102. Tamarind Candy
103. Tootsie Pop
104. Turkish Delight
105. U-No: (Maker: Annabelle’s)
106. White Chocolate
107. White Rabbit: (Maker: Shanghai Guan Sheng Yuan Food, Ltd)
108. Wine Gums
110. Zotz: (Maker: Zots)
Some quick answers to what I expect will be questions: Why 110? Well, I made a list and it ended up with 110 on it. I didn’t want to hack 9 or 10 off just to have a cool number. It’s the number I felt was appropriate to display the breadth of modern candy.
Why so many American candies? Yes, it has a North American bias as it’s based on my experience, your list will be different.
Why aren’t the really good candies on here? You mean the high end chocolatiers or items available from only one store? I wanted to include things that are accessible to most people, to make the list do-able.
What do you think is essential but left out? Or inconsequential yet included? If you post your own list, please stop back by and leave a link so everyone can check it out.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.