Tuesday, May 11, 2010
For over eighty years folks enjoyed a simply little candy called Flicks. They were disks of chocolate (or mockolate) like large chocolate chips sold in foil wrapped tubes. Great for munching at the movies or sharing with the kids.
They were originally made by Ghirardelli starting in 1904 and over those decades they never changed. Seriously, never altered the manufacturing equipment at all. So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that eventually the machines broke down and couldn’t be easily repaired. Instead of developing a new process Ghirardelli simply stopped making them. But folks missed them, so after sitting idle, in 2004 the Tjerrild family bought the trademark and rights to the candy and set about repairing the old machines. Though the actual machinery is no longer in Racine, Wisconsin, but now in Fresno, California - they still use the same Ghirardelli mockolate formula.
The package is simple. It’s a cardboard tube covered in foil that wraps around and into the ends to close them up. Then they’re covered in plastic wrap to protect the freshness. (I believe they’re change it this year and putting the candies inside into a plastic baggy and getting rid of the overwrap.) The tube is about 5.25 inches long and about 1 inch in diameter, about the same as half of a paper towel core. The foil comes in four colors, for no particular reason I guess: red, blue, gold and green.
I admit that I’ve been hesitant to review these. I’ve had Flicks before, probably 30 years ago and recall them being cheap tasting (even then I knew the difference between real chocolate and substitutes). But enough people were pining for them that they were brought back after 15 years out of production, so the narrative of something being brought back from the dead is compelling.
The disks are between 1/2 and 3/4 of an inch in diameter.
The pieces don’t smell like much at all and look rather waxy. The texture at first isn’t very encouraging, it’s waxy and immediately gives off sweet and powder milk notes. But then it gets a little creamier as it melts, it’s a little malty, a little bit of salt in there. It’s very sweet. They’re not so much a chocolate as a simple kind of mockolate tablet. I can’t say that I love them, but didn’t mind eating them as much as I thought.
Overall, I have very little interest eating these when there are so many better things I can do with 220 calories and $1.39 that don’t contain palm oil. Ghirardelli makes such nice baking chips, it’s a shame these can’t just be those.
Here’s a little factory video, which is so utterly charming that I forgot I didn’t like them that much.
Pretty, pink and guava flavored candies. Quite a different texture from Altoids, LifeSavers or SweeTarts.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Nestle continues its expansion of the Raisinets line. First it was Dark Chocolate Raisinets and then they really blew our minds with Cranberry Raisinets (which have no raisins! and they’re dark chocolate!). This year they’ve introduced Cherry Raisinets which are “dark chocolate” covered dried cherries. So they’ve ignored two of the three defining features of Raisinets - no raisins, no milk chocolate (but they’re still individually panned candies).
Still, it’s a great idea. How many real fruit candies are there? I loved the idea that they were also using dark chocolate, which I think is an excellent mix with the tartness and wine-notes of dried cherries.
The ingredients list in classic Raisinets is mercifully short: milk chocolate, raisins, sugar, tapioca dextrin and glaze. The ingredients for the new chocolate covered sunshine Cherry Raisinets are Dark Chocolate [with dairy], sweetened dried cherries (cherries, sugar, sunflower oil, citric acid), sugar, tapioca dextrin, confectioners glaze, cocoa processed with alkali.
The package makes some claims:
Fact: the nutrition chart makes no mention of measurable antioxidants. There is no Vitamin C, no Vitamin A. There is 2% Calcium and 2% Iron.
I love fresh cherries and even the dried ones, I’ve never seen the need to add extra sugar to them.
But maybe I should ignore the package and expectations and get on with the actual tasting. I was expecting cherry bits, that these were going to be similar in size and shape to Raisinets. Instead they’re actual whole, pitted cherries. The nuggets are about an inch across, though some are larger, flatter or rounder.
With the Cranberry Raisinets I was irritated at how sweet the centers were. Even though they added sugar to these (or maybe because they also threw in some citric acid) they were tart, moist and chewy. The dark chocolate is sweet and rather cool on the tongue. It’s only vaguely chocolatey, but not too waxy or distracting. The cherry notes are well rounded - the woodsy and tangy chew is soft and complex. It gets tarter the longer I chew, so the very end is a lot of cherry flavor.
These are by far my favorite Raisnets product so far (but that’s not hard because I’m not that fond of Nestle’s take on chocolate covered dried fruit). I wish it was better chocolate, of course, and wasn’t so sugary ... but the prospect of getting chocolate covered dried cherries in a vending machine or at the movie theater is tantalizing. I wouldn’t eat them as a health food, but they’re a snappy snack and probably better for you than some other things.
The retail price of $3.29 for 4 ounces is a bit steep for low-quality chocolate candy ($13.16 a pound) but these may end up on sale for less.
Note - I got mine as a sample from the National Confectioners Association as part of their preview of new products. Nestle did some wide sampling and giveaways, mostly with the mommy blogs (that I didn’t care to participate in), so mine is hardly the first review of these even though I have yet to see them in the stores.
Thin black licorice vines filled with a vanilla cream. They were decent, more like candy than licorice. Package image here.
Sunday, May 09, 2010
Here’s another bar I got a hold of and never reviewed. The American Zero Bar (made by Hershey’s) is like a white fudge Milky Way. I took its picture and then it promptly melted into an unreviewable puddle.
Saturday, May 08, 2010
Last week I got some new trees. I have quite a little orchard going on in my back yard now. The new citrus, Mineola Tangelo, Meyer Lemon and Yuzu, join my Persian Lime and Fig trees. Of course nothing is bearing fruit right now, but walking around them and seeing the green figs certainly got my mouth watering.
Last year I went to Compartes in Brentwood and was blown away with the glace Figs.
Friday, May 07, 2010
Trader Joe’s is getting its “summer candy” on the shelves. Summer candy is usually sugar candy, or candy that bears the heat well. The great thing about summer candy is that it often reflects the taste of summer fruits.
One product is Trader Joe’s Gourmet Jelly Beans in 18 natural flavors. The jelly beans are even naturally colored with vegetable and fruit sources. (They’re not quite vegan though, since they use beeswax for the final polish.)
At first I thought that they might be actual Jelly Belly, but without the Jelly Belly stamp. But then I thought maybe they were Marich, who makes Green Beans for Whole Foods. Then flipping over the box I saw that they’re made in Ireland ... which really doesn’t make much sense to me because there are so many great jelly bean makers here in California.
The flavor mix is almost all fruits, except for liquorice, which is really essential for any mix. The box is a nice size at 5 ounces and $1.99 they’re cheaper than Jelly Belly ($6.40 a pound versus about $9 a pound for most Jelly Belly).
The citrus flavors included: Lemon, Lemon & Lime, Tangerine and Pink Grapefruit. All were sunny and zesty, though sweeter and not as intense as Jelly Belly. The zest was a little uneven as well, some were rather bitter from the peel oils but the same flavor another time wasn’t at all.
The berry flavors included: Strawberry Smoothie, Strawberry, Blueberry, Raspberry and Blackberry. These flavors had good combinations of both tartness, sweetness and the fragrant floral notes that accompany berries. I liked the raspberry quite a bit, it wasn’t quite jammy but still the best rounded (and possibly the most ubiquitous flavor in my box) but on the other end blueberry was completely lacking in any flavor at all.
Traditional fruits were Cherry, Apple and Grape.
Cherry was weird, in fact, I wasn’t sure for a while that it was the cherry, but process of elimination meant that it couldn’t be anything other.
Apple was dark green, not the light green shown on the package. It’s mild but convincing.
I can’t say that I remember eating the grape.
Exotics were Banana Split, Coconut, Mango, Passion Fruit, Liquorice and Pomegranate.
Coconut was watery and sweet but still had a “coconut flavor” to it. I didn’t care much for it on its own but combined with other flavors like pomegranate or banana split it was a nice pop.
Pomegranate was sweet and a bit like cotton candy and raspberry.
I was quite fond of Liquorice, mostly because it was the first all natural licorice jelly bean that I think I’ve had. It had all the anise and licorice flavor - very sweet but a balanced woodsy and spicy character - but didn’t have any of the food coloring bitterness.
Mango was like peach for me, a little too much like the peel (or fuzz in the case of peaches) and not enough of the luscious tangy and custardy flesh.
Passion Fruit was similar to mango in that it didn’t quite get the fresh fruit for me, but it was a good mix of sweetness and toasted sugar flavors.
I loved Banana Split. It was sweet but still a good rounded banana flavor that made it taste creamy.
The texture overall is firmer than Jelly Belly and other gourmet beans. They’re smooth and very well made but chewy. Some folks may prefer that texture but I thought they were lacking punch and many didn’t taste different enough to warrant 18 flavors over 12 or 8.
Like the Jelly Beans, these are all natural and vegan. They’re also Kosher.
They’re also a better value, at 8 ounces for the same $1.99 price tag. I was hoping they’d be as good as the Starbucks teensy gum drops or the comparably priced but huge Whole Foods Gourmet Gum Drops.
The gum drops fit right in as gum drop sized. Like a thimble of firm jelly candy. The sugar sanding is fine grained and stuck well, so there’s not a lot of dust.
Lemon - spectacularly well rounded, more like a marmalade than lemonade. Very zesty and only lightly tangy. The citrus oils are very pronounced and have a bitter aftertaste that I love until I’m done eating them and I have a bit of a burning tongue.
Pink Grapefruit - I had high hopes for these but they were a bit blander than I’d hoped. They’re more about the juice flavors than the peel. So they’re not bitter but just lacking a well rounded citrus punch but did have a bit of a caramelized sugar/honey smoothness.
Key Lime is subtle and quietly peppery. A little tangy and zesty but much deeper than the usual lime.
Tangerine - it says tangerine but it tastes simply like orange, perhaps even like Tang. Sweet and juicy, but not zesty or tart.
The gum drops were so well suited to my preferences, it’s like Trader Joe’s has been reading the blog. I liked the size and of course the price was great for a premium item. They’re not pate de fruits but they’re more vibrant than Dots.
I stumbled across this find at a farmers market in Laguna Beach some years ago from a new chocolatier named at that time Cacao Chocolatier. I chose a selection of nine chocolates to try but when there was no website to direct readers to, I just forgot about it. (And ate them, of course.)
This wasn’t actually called a peacock caramel. I think it was just a fleur de sel.
A few years later this little confectioner is pretty hot and now named Christopher Michael Chocolatier.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.