Wednesday, September 29, 2010
May I just show you these lovely chocolate sticks and say thank you? There, I did.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Most of what I love about Halloween is the tradition. But sometimes I do like to see a bit of novelty thrown into the mix. Earlier this year I saw that Whitman’s, makers of the famous Whitman’s Sampler boxed candies, started making holiday novelty candies. Their first entry for Easter was a series of pastel confection coated marshmallows. Their entry for Halloween is similar, a candy corn shaped Marshmallow covered in Halloween Pastelle.
The candies are sold individually wrapped, I found mine at RiteAid but I also saw them at Walgreen’s. Each piece is an ounce and comes in a simple cellophane sleeve with a decorative Halloween black & orange border. At fifty cents each it wasn’t hard to take a gamble on them.
The construction is simple. It’s a rounded triangle of soft, almost gooey marshmallow covered in a white confection. The coating is orange and yellow and frosted in the form of a piece of candy corn. Of course it’s missing a whole stripe, which was a bit disappointing. But the shades and ratios of the colors that they do have are dead on good mimics.
This is pure sugar with scant other ingredients to break up the sweetness. The “pastelle” coating has a good snap like a white chocolate but no other flavor - no milky notes, no vanilla. It’s smooth enough though that it creates a bit of a creamy container for the marshmallow. Since this was exceptionally fresh the marshmallow was moist and fluffy, though also a bit sticky. It melts into a fluffed cream instead of a latexy marshmallow. It’s less sweet than the coating, but on it’s own it’s still throat searing.
It’s cute to look at and of course quite economical as far as Halloween-themed edible decorations go. While I found the Easter ones a little off-putting because part of me wanted them to be flavored, this one actually reminded me a little of candy corn. Not enough to make me buy it again.
Friday, September 24, 2010
As some of you who follow along on my twitter or flickr photostream might know, I’m an avid whale watcher. For the past six years I’ve been a certified naturalist with the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and American Cetacean Society and lead whale watching trips as a volunteer from December to April in the nearby Santa Monica Bay when the Gray whales migrate by.
I love it so much that I often go up to Santa Barbara in the summer to see our other nearby visitors: Blue whales and Humpback whales who come to feed near the Channel Islands. Unfortunately I also have a problem with motion sickness. So I’m often seen on the boats eating little ginger candies (and sharing them with other like-stomached passengers).
Ginger has been proven to reduce nausea. The great thing about that is that I love the taste of ginger and it’s not an expensive product for the most part.
I found these Newman’s Own Organics Ginger Mints at Mother’s Market in Orange County. They were only a buck and a nice compact format, like a roll of mints instead of an awkward package of individually wrapped candies (the wrappers can get blown away on a boat and into the water) or a tin (which can easily spill while I’m trying to open it).
The little disks are about 3/4 of an inch around and have a little “Newman’s Own Organics” engraved into them.
They smell toasty and earthy with a light citrus note. They’re sweet and a little chalky on the tongue, like Life Savers Wintergreen at first. The ginger is readily apparent, very woodsy and with a strong warming property that kept the back of my tongue and throat burning.
They dissolve quickly or can be chewed easily, which I guess speeds relief. I don’t know if ginger really works for tough stomach upset, but I find that occupying myself with hard candies (even non-ginger kinds) helps. Anything that keeps nausea from really taking hold can help since the cruises are only 2 to 3 hours. They’re sweet and not that complex overall, there’s no lemon or honey in them. But they seem to do the trick for me. I like how small and portable the package is.
As an organic product, as you can guess, they’re natural and contain no colorings. They’re Kosher and vegan. However, they are manufactured on shared equipment with peanuts, nuts, milk, wheat and soy.
I’ll leave you with a photo from last weekend. There is a strange and welcome gathering of Blue whales off of Los Angeles right now, at least 30 individuals hanging out within 5 miles from shore. They’ve never been spotted here in these numbers like this before. They’ve been feeding on a huge upwelling of krill, and I guess they’ll stick around as long as there’s food. So if you’ve ever wanted to see the biggest animal on earth (ever), get yourself out to the sea. I go out with Voyager Excursions.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
The companion to last week’s Licorice Natural Vines are the new Strawberry Natural Vines.
I’m often hesitant to call them red licorice, but in this case the wheat based chew made by the American Licorice Company does have a small amount of licorice extract in it. As a natural product they’re made with wheat flour, cane syrup, sugar, brown rice syrup, palm oil, malic acid, natural strawberry flavor, beet juice (for color), glycerin and licorice extract.
The package is nicely designed, I had no trouble spotting it on the store shelf. It’s a soft but light plastic bag that looks kind of like kraft paper at first glance. It has a resealable zipper top, which is handy for a half pound bag.
They’re not as sticky as the Black Licorice version, which was a bit of a relief. The Strawberry version are slightly translucent, which kind of got my mouth watering, like they might be some sort of wheat flour thickened Strawberry jelly.
The twists are pleasantly big with a good bite and chew. They’re soft but not mushy. They don’t smell like much, just a light fresh and slightly sweet scent that’s not even strawberry.
They’re tangy. That’s the first thing I noticed, they’re not quite sour but definitely tart. The chew is smooth but eventually a little crumbly, so they don’t stick to my teeth like some soft licorice products can. They’re not doughy but still have a bit of a starchy film towards the end.
The strawberry flavor is a bit green, since it’s more on the tart side of things, it’s not the sweet, cotton candy floral note that some real strawberries exude. The only other all natural product that I’ve had that’s similar is the Panda Strawberry Bar, but that’s almost like a fruit leather texture to the chew and has a slightly more earthy and jam flavor because of the molasses in it.
I found them appealing to eat, but not exactly begging for me to have more. They seemed more like a snack than a candy since they’re not that sweet. But of course the “less sweet” part and wheat base may be appealing to some parents - there’s only a trace of fat (1 gram per 1.41 ounce portion) and slightly more than 100 calories for that serving. A serving is nine of these pieces, so a child or adult could be satiated by this. They’re expensive at regular price (2.99 for this half pound bag) but a bit cheaper than some “fruit snack” options - though these have no vitamin C fortification. These might be considered vegan (depending on your feelings about sugar).
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Perfectly black licorice.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Last week I reviewed the Werther’s Original CaraMelts which were a buttery flavored white confection. I found them confusing and disappointing. But I had hopes that Storck who makes the Merci Chocolates and Chocolate Riesen caramels could do chocolate well.
So I picked up these Werther’s Original Caramel Chocolates Dark Cream. They’re billed as Rich European Cream Chocolate Marbled with Smooth Creamy Caramel. That marbling of smooth creamy caramel had me worried, as I don’t think that you can mix caramel and chocolate together to make a chocolate-like product, it yields something more like a caramel product.
The ingredients sounded pretty good - there’s a lot of milk in there in various forms, but none of the weird tropical oils that I experienced in the CaraMelts.
The pieces are just like the CaraMelts and pretty much the same as the traditional Werther’s Original hard caramel pieces. They’re ovals about 1.25 inches long and a little under an inch wide. They have an attractive swirl of two kinds of chocolate, a dark milk chocolate and a white chocolate along with a hefty extra dose of cocoa. They’re wrapped in little twisted plastic with maroon color coded ends.
I loved the look of the swirly pattern, each piece was different and the swirls go all the way through the chocolate piece (not like some Hershey’s Kisses that just have stripes on the surface).
But let me back up a little bit here for a moment. When I was a teenager I was obsessed with candy. As I got older I found ways of getting money to buy it, but there was a certain lattitude in the house when I was growing up that sweets that you made were more permissible. So to ease a craving I would actually make candy or cookies. And sometimes I would make frosting. Just frosting and eat it. At first making frosting involved a recipe (and sometimes the smearing of the result on Ritz crackers, Saltines or bread). Later frosting was simply: butter, powdered sugar and cocoa. Cream until smooth and consume from the same dish. If there was no cocoa in the house, vanilla frosting would result. (Other variations of desperation would be brown sugar & butter, sometimes with peanut butter.)
The point of that story is that I’ve eaten a lot of butter mixed with cocoa. Pounds of it. I’m very familiar with the mouth feel, smell and the taste of it. The Dark Cream Caramel Chocolates are like chocolate butter. If that’s what you want, well, here it is. The melt is quick and smooth. There’s a buttery taste to it, but more of a clean dairy note than a powdered milk or yogurty tang. It’s certainly not at all fake tasting either. There’s a light salty note, like cocoa often has. They’re slick when melting, but not in a thin or greasy way.
In short, they’re very fatty. The cocoa flavors are well rounded, mostly woodsy, brownie-like with a little coffee note. But they’re cocoa flavors, I don’t quite get actual chocolate from it.
I liked them quite a bit, much more than I thought I would for a product that has, by my calculations, 170 calories per ounce. (Most chocolate is about 145 or so.) There’s also a lot of cholesterol in there for something called Dark Cream (I guess that’s the cream part) - 10 mg. But all that milk also gives the serving of 7 pieces (240 calories) 3 grams of protein, 10% of your RDA of Iron and 6% of your Calcium.
I like their packaging, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s spare and light but still protects the candy. It’s made in facility with all the major allergens: wheat, soy, milk, tree nuts, peanuts. (No eggs mentioned.)
Friday, September 17, 2010
Earlier this year I reviewed the resurrection of the Clark Bar from its zombie status as a neglected and poor quality peanut butter crunch bar. The extension of that is that Necco is also making the bars in snack size and are bringing back their Clark Bar Wicked Mix for Halloween in their new and improved recipes.
Necco sent this bag to me a few months back as I’ve had particular trouble finding Necco products for the Halloween. It’s pretty big and perfect for houses that get a lot of kids; it holds 24 ounces (about 68 pieces). The mix is Real Milk Chocolate Clark Bar, Dark Chocolate Clark and the very hard to find Coconut Clark.
The little bars are easy to distinguish and seemed to be properly randomized in my bag so that I had nearly equal amounts of each. Each piece is about .35 ounces, barely two bites (45 calories).
The classic Milk Chocolate Clark Bar fun size is in an easy to spot red wrapper. I loved them, I ate them. They were flaky and crispy with a good balance of peanut flavor, molasses and creamy sweet milk chocolate. The only weird thing I noticed was a smoke flavor in all the milk chocolate ones; I didn’t like it. I also noticed this with some of my full size bars earlier this summer and I can’t explain it.
For a while the Clark Dark was the one I was picking out of the mix. The bittersweet note of the chocolate coating played well with the toffee notes of the molasses. They seemed crispier for the most part (I know that all depends on how the folds are thick or thin).
The new part of the mix for me was the Clark Coconut. This is the weird part. Clark, when it was based in Pittsburgh, PA also used to make a coconut coated version of their bar called Zagnut. That’s been made by Hershey’s since 1996. They’re pretty hard to find here on the West Coast, so I usually go with a Chick-O-Stick, which is similar but doesn’t have that white chocolatey sweet coating that holds the coconut on.
The Clark Coconut is, to the best of my recollection, the Zagnut. The center is the classic Clark bar but the coating on the outside is a thin cream like a white chocolate but a little more caramel flavored. The little bits of coated and crispy coconut stick to that. You’d think that it’d be messy, but the coconut stays put. The coconut and peanut butter mixture is good. The coconut brings a tropical creamy nutty note and the peanut butter has that earthy, roasted legume note that really fills me up.
I don’t know if the Clark name has the recognition needed to impress Trick-or-Treaters but I’m pretty sure parents would be happy to relieve their kids of this fringe looking candy bar. It’s a classic and this mix of variations hits the spot. The packaging is spare and does a good job of keeping the little bars fresh and design is sharp and clear.
The candy contains all sorts of allergens: soy, milk, peanuts, wheat and barley. Also processed on equipment with eggs and tree nuts. No Kosher status mentioned. Though the large Clark Bar and Clark Dark are considered all natural, this is not (I’m guessing there’s some artificial flavors in the Coconut, and BHA is added as a preservative). That’s to bad, because an all natural option for Halloween from a major candy maker would be quite a find. (I guess you can always give out the full size ones!)
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Did you eat your fruits and vegetables today? Runts don’t count.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.