Thursday, July 15, 2010
When I take my long walks early in the morning with the dog, I often see Passion Vines (photo of flowers). The variety here in Southern California is mostly ornamental, the fruits are edible but not as good as the true passion fruits grown for consumption.
These are Passion Fruit Caramels made with cocoa butter and covered in chocolate from Amella.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Their new Scottie Dogs licorice are also all natural. That means real licorice and anise extract and no artificial colors in there to muck up the flavor.
The package is classy and kind of European. The description on the front talks about the history of licorice and how the Pontefract Monastery in England spread the popularity of licorice candies. There’s a picture of the English castle, but then there’s some tartan there on the side, you know, for the Scottie dog. A little confusing. But hey, it’s candy, not a documentary.
When I got a black dog earlier this year, I resisted the temptation to give her a licorice themed name. Scottie would have been my choice (we had a cat named licorice when I was a kid). Of course she’s not a Scottie dog, nor a male and not even close to looking like James Doohan. Which probably would have been perfect. We named her Maya instead.
The pieces are thick and well molded. They’re about 1 inch tall (when they’re standing on their feet) and 1.25 inches from nose to tail.
This version of licorice isn’t based on wheat or molasses, so it’s a bit more one note. The base is corn syrup and sugar with a bit of starch for thickener. The texture is quite smooth when they’re dissolved as a lozenge. But they’re soft enough to chew, and soft enough to stick in my teeth.
The flavor is mostly anise but there’s a little hint of the woodsy and glycerin smooth licorice. They’re fresh and not filling or bitter. I enjoyed them, but it took several months for me to get through the bag, especially when I had other licorice items to choose from.
The classic bag of Gimbal’s Scottie Dogs is easy to identify as well, though I really liked the new all natural version’s packaging. I don’t think there’s actually any difference in the product itself, Gimbal’s didn’t use artificial colors or flavors in them before.
On the whole, I think I prefer my licorice with either more texture or more of a meaty bite. It’s purely a preference, but I like molasses with my licorice. These are certainly cute and great for themed parties and favors. They’re also a nice shape and size for snacking at movies (why don’t they come in theater boxes?). Obviously they’re a great choice for folks who like licorice but can’t tolerate the gluten in the more common wheat-based chews like Twizzlers or Red Vines.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
NewTree is one of those feel good chocolate companies that balances the desires of the chocolatiers with nutritionists. Most of their products that I’ve tried until now have been their standard Belgian dark or milk chocolate blended with herbs or spices. Things like ginger, coffee, mint or lavender.
More recently they’ve been doing herbal infusions with alpha omega 3 fatty acids - so going more towards a nutraceutical than a simple decadent indulgence. One of the bars that seemed more mainstream is this NewTree Dark Milk 51% Cocoa I found at Target.
It boasts 3x more fiber, a full 51% cacao content and 30% less sugar than regular milk chocolate. I don’t usually expect my chocolate to do anything other than be chocolatey, but I thought I’d give it a try.
The box is simple, an easy to open tab top with a thin silver foil around the bar itself.
The first thing I noticed was that the bar didn’t look anything like the package image. It doesn’t say New Tree on the pieces. It’s just a generic bar.
It’s a thin tablet, six by four. The snap is good, a little softer than a straight dark but not as soft as some fudgier milks I’ve had. The color is between a dark and a milk.
There’s a definite dairy scent to it, more than a cocoa note. The texture is smooth for the most part and rather light on the tongue. It’s a little sticky and has a cooling effect as it melts. It’s slightly chalky and every once in a while there’s a little fiber to it, or maybe it’s grit.
The cocoa notes are smoky and toasted, a light caramel tone and quite a bit of dairy.
The ingredients list is quite long: sugar, cacao mass, pure cacao butter, (inulin & oligofructose, dextrin) added for fiber, whole milk powder, natural vanilla flavor, vanilla bean powder extract, soy lecithin.
The trick with this bar is that the fiber takes up space that would ordinarily be occupied by sugar, milk or chocolate. The sweetness level of the chocolate is perfect, so the only reason to add more sugar would be because it’s cheaper than chocolate or milk. It doesn’t need more milk and any more chocolate and it wouldn’t really be milk chocolate any longer.
For folks watching their sugar intake, this is an impressive fete. There are 13 grams of sugar in a 40 gram serving, but also 2 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber & 14 grams of fat and only 170 calories (about 20 fewer per ounce than standard milk chocolate). It doesn’t taste like a compromise and is actually a nice, less sweet but still rich experience. I ended up eating the whole bar, and not just because I was reviewing it.
It’s a bit expensive, but again, for something that’s slightly better for you than the usual candy aisle fare that doesn’t taste like “healthy candy” it would be a nice option.
With a name like Hedonist Chocolates I expected decadence. Yeah, it was that.
This was from the tea collection.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Marketing tie ins with blockbuster movie franchises are nothing new. The Necco Sweethearts and Twilight co-marketing continues. I saw these at the Ralph’s grocery over the weekend and remembered that the movie is in theaters and that I actually had a couple of boxes.
I’ve never actually read the Twilight books or seen any of the movies. This is just about the candy.
Inside are two flavors of Sweethearts in the new softer texture and more intensely flavored formula. The Raspberry Freezeout and Lime Frostbite feature a dusting of sparkles courtesy of a newly approved edible mica.
The front of the box says Intense Wave of Cold! ... just what you want in a relationship that might last for all eternity.
The shape of the sweets is nicely done. They come in only two colors, but they’re pretty easy to tell apart. The printing is subpar though. I worked hard to find some good representatives for photographing. The sayings were things like “I “heart” EC”, “Live 4 Ever” “Bite Me” and “Dazzle”. There were a fair number of blank ones, which I’m told is because Edward Cullen can’t read Bella Swan’s mind.
They smell, well, feminine and juvenile. It’s like fruity bodywash or scented trash bags.
The Raspberry Freezeout flavor is light blue. The sparkly quality was evident to me except in extremely bright and direct lighting conditions (like outside in the sun). The flavor is sweet and floral, like a raspberry flavor is supposed to be. There’s no hint of tartness, instead after a moment the overly sweet flavor fades and a throat cooling menthol comes over it. It’s a little medicinal, but also a bit unexpected as it doesn’t really complement the berry.
The Lime FrostBite is slightly more successful, probably because of my indoctrination to the flavor combo via the Mojito. The lime is a light zesty note, again with no tart juicy vibe. Then the menthol emerges and it’s well, okay. It’s a little like toothpaste.
The texture is softer and smoother than the classic Sweethearts, so in a way that’s nice. But the flavor choices here simply aren’t for me.
The second package is Sweethearts Fire which says it has an Intense Surge of Heat. The box features an image of the shirtless Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black, a shapeshifter with a tattoo. (Who was jailbait when the image was shot ... okay, maybe photos of shirtless teen boys can’t be jailbait.)
Inside is a plastic bag with two flavors of pink Sweethearts: Steamy Chocolate and Hotter Than Apple Pie.
These candies also come in two colors, though both are pink. One is bright pink and the other is dusty pink. They smell sweet and lightly cinnamony.
The pieces area also difficult to read, about half were not imprinted well enough. But the ones that I could read said things that were themed for the wolf boy and his unrequited love for Bella like “Wolf Man”, “Jacob”, “Save Me” and “Howl”.
Steamy Chocolate were rather rare in my package, about 25% of the candies. The flavor is light and slightly creamy, the cocoa notes come across as flat and cardboard, but maybe a little woodsy. The cinnamon is more earthy than spicy.
Hotter Than Apple Pie tastes like a holiday candle, like cinnamon with a little apple juice flavor thrown in to mellow it out. It’s a little spicier and more intense than the chocolate one. The pink coloring means that I got a bitter aftertaste after eating too many (about five).
While I liked the Fire version better than the Ice, I wouldn’t say that I liked them all that much at all. Perhaps the fact that the flavor was rather mainstream pleased me, just like most people really don’t want to love an immortal undead guy.
These candies suffer as novelty items instead of solid products that tie into a theme. The hearts and mottoes are a great idea, but the flavors are just ghastly for the most part. But maybe that’s the target market.
The good news is that Necco didn’t make a Bella Swan version, which as far as I can tell would be sugary sweet and flavorless.
Sweethearts have gelatin in them, so are not suitable for vegetarians and are not Kosher/Halal.
Full disclosure: I’m not against escapist entertainment, I’m sure if someone dug through my reading and viewing habits there’d be some goofy items as well. And I give folks full permission to make fun of those.
Hammond’s Candies of Denver makes stunningly beautiful candy canes in striking flavors. This one is Nutmeg (with all natural ingredients).
Sunday, July 11, 2010
South Africa Marshmallow Footballers are made by a company called Sweet Cred based in the United Kingdom, which sounds more like an casual clothing company than someone who makes confections. They specialize in gummies, sour ropes and marshmallows along with novelty shapes and holiday themes. The candies themselves are made in China.
Inside the package is a tray with eight little pockets to hold the Footballers. Yes, eight. Not eleven. Maybe it’s a metric conversion thing. You don’t get a whole team.
It’s only 88 grams (which means each candy is just 11 grams) but a huge package - about the footprint of a sheet of A4 paper.
The marshmallow figures are wearing the uniform colors of the South Africa national team. But that’s about as far as the resemblance goes. They’re mostly “peachy” looking guys, but a few are what I’d call “violet putty” color, certainly nothing like the real team. Did you look at the photo there? Yeah, none of them have green hair or huge, puffy noses.
As decorated marshmallow candies, there’s a lot more to them than just the ordinary sugar crusted Marshmallow Peep. These are frosted in several colors and then coated in a sugar crust. They’re a basic strawberry flavor as far as I can tell.
The marshmallow in the center is whatever color the footballer’s flesh is, but it’s all the same flavor after that. The hair, stripes, eyes, smiles and shoelaces are frosted after the sugar crust and are quite a bit more crunchy. The clothing is simply chewier than the marshmallow.
The texture is soft and latexy, it has a nice foamy chew to it but it’s very sweet, even when I took bites without the sugar crusting. Each piece feels like a lot of candy - it’s about three inches high and only a little over a third of an ounce. Kids will probably enjoy them, especially those fascinated with soccer (football).
The candy reminded me of so many other Chinese marshmallow candies I’ve had. It’s passable stuff and in the case of Sweet Cred, they’ve gone the extra mile and are sourcing beef gelatin, so these are Halal.
As with many of the novelty marshmallows I’ve had, I think they make better edible decorations than actual edible products. So for cupcakes or a cake or just a fun buffet in celebration of the World Cup, these would be great. They’re probably also great for giving to kids with vuvuzelas, if only to make them stop for the minute that it takes for them to gobble these.
These were sent to me by a wonderful reader (along with some other items I’ll get to reviewing, like premium nougat).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.