Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Name: Organic Licorice Twists
Name: Bubble Paste
Name: Cinnamon Bun Bites
Name: Gummi Bear-Rings
My biggest concern is that they won’t fit on my big fingers. I have no idea where to get them, but I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled.
Name: Starburst GummiBurst Flavor Duos
Name: sweetriot yumBar
All photos/images courtesy of the respective manufacturer
Monday, August 30, 2010
For something that’s described as “Chew Mints”, Mentos fail on diversity of mint flavors. In the United States there is exactly one mint flavor available: Mint. In other countries there are Spearmint, Xtra (double strong Peppermint or Spearmint), Lime Mint, Ice Mint, Cool Chews Orange Mint, Pomelo Mint, Strong Mint, Barley Mint and Lakritz Mint.
The only other flavor in the current American repertoire that I think features Freshmaking abilities is the Cinnamon Mentos. They’re not easy to find, I rarely see them in stores but grabbed this roll when I saw them at Walgreen’s last week.
The package is hard to spot though, because it’s red and looks a lot like Strawberry at first glance.
The pieces don’t smell cinnamon-like. It’s not like having a package of cinnamon gum and having the scent of it waft through your purse or desk drawer. These are quiet and self-contained.
They’re smooth and have a good crunch to the outside. The inside is like a candy version of Big Red gum. They’re woodsy and a little warm from the cinnamon flavoring, but not overly hot. The flavor last through the whole chew and is in general satisfying. There’s a little hint of mint to it, but that may just be me imagining it.
Some of the fruit flavors of Mentos can have a weird aftertaste, but the Cinnamon ones have a fresh note at the end. They cut mid-morning coffee mouth without making me feel like I’ve eaten a wad of toothpaste.
Friday, August 27, 2010
While in Illinois last month I visited Caputo’s Market, which boasts a huge selection of candies from all over the world. I tried some Polish candies and also picked up a few mixes of Italian candies from Cedrinca. I’m familiar with the brand as I’ve tasted a few of their mints and fruit candies at Italian restraurants when a handful is usually presented with the bill at the end of the meal. (Usually an Eastern US thing, on the West Coast they just have a bowl by the door.)
Caputo’s had a great selection of Cedrinca but I opted for a mix so I could get to know more of their items. This version is called Gran Mix and says Caramelle ripiene assortite which I took to mean assorted filled candies. And that turned out to be exactly what these are!
Cedrinca boasts that these are all natural candies, no artificial colors, flavors, additives or preservatives. Each candy was also individually wrapped and most were labeled to show what was inside.
The majority of the mix was a mix of little rod shaped candies. Most were marked on the wrapper what they were.
The first notable one was Menta Ripeno Al Cacao which were a light mint hard candy filled with a chocolate paste. I’ve had a lot of experience with those disappointing starlight mints with the chocolate (why would you finish an excellent meal with a piece of candy like that?) and this was nothing like that. The chocolate filling was a like a fantastic chocolate buttercream. It tasted fresh and creamy and like real cocoa.
Mandorlatte looked the same but was crunchy delight with almonds and milk. It was fascinating, like vanilla pudding distilled into a hard candy. The crunch was almost like the center of a Butterfinger bar, the flavor was sweet and milky but with a hint of lemon and almond. Some had a slightly soft creamy reservoir, others were just the crispy stuff. Either way, I loved them. Fascinating and like nothing else, so of course I pulled those out of the mix to save for later.
The colorful metallic wrappers with the gold swirls on them were fruity, Bonbon Fourre. The outside was softer than the other candies, it was a hard candy but still a little bit on the mushy side. Crunchy into them to get to the jam center was easy. Savored in layers, it was okay, but I preferred to chew the whole thing up to mix the stiff chew of the candy outside with the tart fruity goo inside. They were supposed to be different flavors, but I never really noticed much of a difference. They were all perfectly pleasant but not intense or distinct.
I don’t know what fruit they were supposed to be. These weren’t labeled, just color coded.
Caramella (peach wrapper) - a light, rather white large filled hard candy. It looked like the one above, but completely uncolored. The hard candy shell was lightly tart and vaguely fruity. The gooey jam filling was nondescript. It wasn’t citrus, perhaps it was peach. Tangy, very sweet but not very flavorful. I got another one that was in a purple wrapper that was also simply marked Caramella. It looked just the same (no artificial colors here, in fact, I don’t think they used any colorings on the candies themselves). The filling was a light yellow color and reminded me of red currant.
Espresso this was the variety of this format that I got the most of. The candy shell was the darkest of the three though it didn’t smell like anything at all.
Inside the candy was a thick coffee tar. It was a lightly grainy paste that tasted just like the sludge at the bottom of a coffee pot left on the warmer over the weekend. Yes, it was bitter and a little sweet, but also a bit burnt like charcoal. It was a curious candy, because it didn’t really please me, yet I kept eating them.
Cappuccino - the candy shell was crisper and had an excellent crunch. The candy shells was lightly coffee flavored, but mostly sweet. The filling was very interesting, it was a frothy sweet, slightly salty cream with little shards of bitter coffee hard candy. The combination of textures is fun and the light coffee flavor did give me the impression of a cappuccino with lots of sugar in it.
I’m a huge fan of assortments like this. It’s a great way to sample the whole line of products and narrow in on what you like before taking the leap of a full bag. The price is a little steep for sugar candy, but the fact that they’re all natural and that many were unique help to offset that. It’s a low-risk/medium-reward purchase. I think if I were to buy them again, I’d focus in on the Mandorlatte and Cappuccino. (Both were available at Caputo’s as single flavor packages.) I picked up a chocolate variety too, called Puccini that I’m still working my way through.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
The pineapple is a symbol of hospitality. Back in the early days of commercial cultivation in the eighteenth century they were extremely expensive, so when a host provided pineapple as part of a meal, guests were honored. Eventually the images of pineapples were also used in decorating, probably because of the tastiness of the fruit as well as the fun shape and symmetry. I mention this because of the charming image on the Hello Kitty Tropical Pineapple Marshmallow is of the white cat holding a pineapple, dressed in a sharp polka dotted blue dress and sporting a blue hibiscus flower at her ear.
Japan does marvelous things with marshmallow, I feel like they’re an extension of their gummi culture (after all, most of the ingredients are the same). Part of it, I think, is that marshmallows are formulated & marketed for people of all ages. Hello Kitty is obviously aimed at tweens and folks who are young at heart. But other varieties of marshmallows go for anime fans and there are even “beauty marshmallows” in Japan that purport to have rejuvenating collagen in them.
The marshmallows are light and about 1.25 inches around. They have little pinch points on the ends so they remind me of little sausages of balloons. The outside is soft and lightly powdery (corn starch).
The smell sweet and lightly floral, like a ripe pineapple in the store. The marshmallow texture is soft and latexy with a light bounce.
Biting into them I know that the center was going to have a little jelly reservoir. It was still surprising and ultimately nice. The marshmallow itself is sweet and has that pineapple floral thing going on, but the jam center definitely gave it some pop. The goo was a bit like the pineapple sauce on an ice cream sundae. It was sweet and tangy and had little bits of real pineapple in it.
After popping a few of them, I wondered what they were like toasted.
The aroma was amazing, I like toasted marshmallows, but this had an added flowery note that really smelled delicious. The outside toasted well, though the jam center didn’t get quite as molten gooey as I hoped. The toasting seemed to make it all a bit sweeter than it was at room temperature. They might make an excellent addition to a S’more - though the Strawberry version is probably a bit better flavor-wise.
As far as marshmallows go, I prefer them either covered in chocolate and used as an element in a larger candy (Scotchmallows) but my second choice is flavored. The jam center gives some texture variation and reminds me of a Westernized mochi. For someone who’s watching their weight or wants to give a small treat to a kid, marshmallows fit the bill - they’re low in calories plus there’s a lot of air in there. So you could eat the whole bag and it’s only 300 calories. (The other plus is there are no artificial colors in this version - though they do use artificial flavors but mostly real pineapple.) The whole Hello Kitty thing is really just about the packaging, but in this case I think the choice of licensing was at least with a quality product. I picked these up at a market in Little Tokyo, but I’ve seen the Strawberry ones at Cost Plus World Market.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy is a curious little confection. It’s curious in that it’s not really Turkish and it’s not really taffy. But it really was made by a guy named Victor Bonomo, whose father was from Turkey.
Turkish Taffy is made by boiling sugar, corn syrup and egg whites. But instead of being fluffed like a traditional nougat or pulled like taffy it was poured and baked in large sheets like candy bark. The resulting texture has an incredibly smooth and long chew with no hint of sugar crystals. It was originally sold in bulk and pieces could be purchased by weight at candy counters at department stores and five & dimes back in the 1940s. By the 1950s the company started selling bars where the customers were encouraged to whack them before opening to break into individual pieces.
When Victor Bonomo retired in the 1970s, the company was sold to Tootsie who made the candy from 1980 to 1989. Around 2003 there were tickles on the internet that the candy was going to return (including a few emails I got that never turned into anything), but it wasn’t until this year that it actually happened. Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy is now available in the classic bar format and little individually wrapped bites in the original four flavors: Vanilla, Strawberry, Chocolate and Banana.
I’ll start by saying that most chocolate chews are a disappointment. They can never match the chocolate punch of actual chocolate. The only thing going for a chocolate chew is the chew part, so it’d better be good enough to transcend the watered down flavor.
The color of Bonomo Chocolate Turkish Taffy is like chocolate nonfat milk, a light creamy brown. A bit lighter even than a Tootsie Roll, which I’m guessing is the most widely consumed chocolate chew in the United States.
To eat I followed the directions to whack the package firmly before opening on the corner of a table. I did it several times until I felt that the bar had been cleaved into several pieces along its length.
The pieces are thick and firm, but with some gentle pressure they do bend. Bend quickly enough and you can actually break it or pull very slowly and it will stretch. It smells lightly sweet and a little like cocoa and sweet, powdery marshmallows.
The chew is hard at first but melts after some work and warmth. The flavor is thin and watery - a light cocoa note but very little more than that. It’s not terribly sweet, which is a relief. The texture however, is dreamy. It’s smooth and silky, a chew that has no middle or end, it’s completely the same all along. The only thing that’s different is that it gets smaller the more I chewed.
The cocoa was disappointing, but the fact that it wasn’t too sweet and provided a strong texture without anything left sticking in my teeth was a huge plus.
The chew is firm and tough at first but softens. It’s exceptionally smooth and consistent, all the way to the end. The flavor is lightly creamy and has a good vanilla flavor that’s not too artificial though really not that deep either. It’s more robust than a Vanilla Tootsie but still not exceptionally interesting at a certain point.
Of the three classic Neapolitan flavors I tried, this was by far my favorite. The bar last a long time and since it’s a chew, it’s a lot lower in calories than a chocolate or nut product. So this 1.5 ounce bar has only 160 calories (the chocolate one has 150).
I avoid strawberry taffy for the most part. It lacks the things that I like about strawberries - like the texture of the seeds, the mixture of tartness, sweetness and floral aromas. Strawberries smell like cotton candy to me, or maybe cotton candy smells like strawberries - it’s like part of consuming it is the scent which carries its own portion of sugary calories.
The Bonomo’s Strawberry Turkish Taffy is bright, bismuth pink. It’s artificial looking, like a lump of plastic left over from an injection molding project for Barbie Corvettes. The scent is similarly off-putting. It says “strawberry with a hint of vinyl”. The texture is the same as the other varieties - smooth and a long, glossy chew. The flavor though was all sweet, a strange fake strawberry that was like a cheap body wash and a terrible bitter note from the food dye (it said Red #3 & Blue #3, which is not usually one I call out for bitter, metallic aftertastes).
While I thought it was ghastly, I can understand that some folks will love the stuff. I get it, I love things that I know are fake and weird, too - like American Cheese.
I know that Bonomo’s is a well-loved brand. I know that it’s also pretty intensive to create, so these packages were $1.99 each - twice the price of the Doscher’s French Chew, which is often sold as a replacement. Maybe with time and larger volume the price will drop back down, but I’d much rather have some real nougat. But at this price I expect artisan or all natural. They are Kosher but there’s no statement about gluten or nuts (they do say that they’re processed in a facility with milk products). Classic Caramel of Camp Hill, PA is making the taffy for the Bonomo Turkish Taffy company. Classic Caramel also makes SloPokes, Kits and BB Bats.
It also comes in Banana, I picked that up too, along with Doscher’s French Chew in Banana and will do a comparison soon.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Ah, Mandy’s Old Fashioned Confections. Just look at that charming packaging, how it speaks of artisans stirring a copper kettle of gooey butterscotch with a wooden paddle. Why, I can just picture Mandy herself swooping in to affirm that the mixture was cooked to perfection before it’s dumped onto a generations-old marble slab to cool.
In reality Mandy’s is distributed by ASA Foods, a 16 year old Southern California importer. They also make candy under the brand Fusion Gourmet, their best known candies are the Bali’s Best Coffee and Tea candies. All of their candy (as far as I know) is made in Indonesia ... a place that certainly knows about coffee.
While I may make fun it, the packaging is nice. The Butterscotch Flavored Hard Candy was nicely priced; I picked up this package for a dollar at the 99 Cent Only Store. It says it has 40 individually wrapped pieces and weighs 5 ounces. The ingredients are decent too:
Each piece is individually wrapped. Sealed tight. Yup, no moisture getting in there. They’re a little tricky to get open, but having spent some time in high humidity areas recently I can appreciate how that would make these even more appealing.
The candies are cute little disks, they’re just shy of one inch around (about the size of a quarter). They’re smooth and have a satisfying clink when dropped on a hard surface (and an unsatisfying tendency to split into a bajillion pieces when dropped on a hard surface). The package calls them Rich, Creamy and Buttery and I’m inclined to agree. They are wonderfully smooth. The melt is slow and silky, though not sticky. The butter flavor is good, though artificially flavored it doesn’t taste like microwave popcorn. There’s a light note of salt and a milky background to it. They’re like little toffee pieces, easy to crunch. Far to easy to crunch. That’s the way I was eating them, just crunching them up. Sometimes they’d get stuck in my teeth a little bit.
The second flavor I found for Mandy’s Old Fashioned Confections was the Caramel Flavored Hard Candy. This package is largely identical to the Butterscotch. This one describes the candy as Rich, Smooth and Creamy and uses browns as the predominant background color.
The description on the back of the package also says that Mandy’s makes an Orange Soda variety.
The package depicts the candies as dark brown in color, like coffee and cream. But the reality is not quite that way (though really not disappointing either). I put the caramel and butterscotch ones next to each other. See if you can tell the difference:
I don’t remember which is which. The ingredients are pretty much the same, too:
Again, it’s ultra smooth. The lightly salty hard caramel is very satisfying, especially when I crunched them up.
Though the flavorings are supposed to be different, they really don’t taste much different. Buttery smooth, salty, slick and satisfying.
I enjoyed both quite a bit, especially as it’s extraordinary hot this week, I get to enjoy a creamy treat that can take the heat. They’re a good deal, a really nicely sized piece and don’t have artificial colors in them.
There’s no statement about gluten or nuts on the package. They’re not Kosher (nor Halal). The freshness date was “best by May 2012.” They’re pretty diet friendly - even though they have 125 calories per ounce (about the same as toffee or caramel) the little pieces are only 4 grams each and 16 calories each.
Monday, August 23, 2010
I picked up a handful of these enigmatic peanut butter bonbons in Ohio at the Dollar General Store. I really had no idea what they were, but at 33 cents each it was hardly a gamble.
I was concerned they wouldn’t travel well, but they did surprisingly well considering the mileage and temperature/humidity variations.
I had to take the wrapper off completely to find out exactly what they’re called and who makes them. They’re called Milk Chocolate Bonbon Whisper. They’re made by Arcor in Mexico. Now, I’m not a huge fan of Arcor’s chocolate candy. But since I already had these in hand I tried to keep an open mind.
Not only is the package vague, but it also leaves out the most important part about this candy, the peanut butter. The domed chocolate pieces are about 1.5 inches in diameter. Nicely formed, they’re glossy and rather cute. I picked up four of them and three made it back in good shape (and even the smashed one was still edible).
The construction is simple and rather familiar. There’s a large sphere of peanut butter surrounded by a light wafer then covered in milk chocolate. It reminds me of a New World Ferrero Rocher (swapping peanut butter for hazelnuts). There are no crushed nuts on the outside though.
The piece is about .7 ounces, so about the same heft as a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. It smells lightly like peanut butter, a little hint of a grassy note instead of the dark roasted flavors of Reese’s. The chocolate looks light and milky, and though I was concerned that it wasn’t real chocolate but the ingredients listed cocoa butter and I think the soybean oil is in the peanut butter filling.
The chocolate isn’t fabulous, it holds everything together and is rather soft, but it’s not overly sweet or grainy. It just doesn’t have much of a cocoa punch. So the focus of the bonbon becomes the center. The peanut butter filling is smooth and fresh. It’s not greasy but feels a little empty at moments, like there’s a filler in it (maybe that soybean oil that’s so high up on the ingredients list). It’s sweet and salty and has a good overall peanut flavor. The crispy wafer is overshadowed a bit but still provides a nice crunch.
The wrapping is just a large piece of mylar. It wraps the piece very well though, even though it’s not completely sealed. The ingredients and manufacturing information was nearly impossible to read. The mylar is gold and the printing is blue. I ended up taking photos of the info and then blowing it up on the computer and adjusting the levels in order to read it.
It’s an odd little candy. It’s a great idea, but it lacked a bit of oomph and balance of textures with the flavors. It needs better chocolate and I think it could use little bit more crunch. But the price is certainly decent and the originality of the candy is a plus.
Friday, August 20, 2010
The National Confectioners Association (NCA) used to put ads in popular magazines about candy. This one appeared in LIFE magazine on October 15, 1945.
See in largest format to read or perhaps even print out.
I love the description at the bottom of the NCA’s goal: an organization devoted to maintaining high standards of quality in candy and the dissemination of authoritative information on its use as an energy-producing, morale-building food. I agree, by the way, I think candy has great morale-building potential.
There are some enigmatic questions and answers, such as Did the Pilgrims eat candy? (yes) and Is candy mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays? (yes) - wouldn’t you like to know what candy that was?
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.