Thursday, November 11, 2010
Starburst launched a new line of gummis back in 2008 called GummiBursts. They’re a very firm gummi disk filled with a flavored syrup. A year later they introduced a sour version, which sports a tangy grainy coating. Neither is a huge step forward in goo filled gummis, a product which has been around for at least twenty years. The best selling point I can note is that they’re available in small bags of 1.5 ounces and have a very low caloric density - at only 140 calories a bag which is 93 calories per ounce (2 grams of protein, too).
Starburst GummiBurst Flavor Duos are the newest version. They feature a different flavor for the filling from the gummi. The four flavor combinations are: strawberry-watermelon, cherry-fruit punch, green apple-strawberry and lemon-cherry.
The package contained ten little candies. As far as I can tell, I only got three of the four flavor combinations. (And I didn’t feel like chasing down another bag.)
I liked the smell, it was like fresh cotton candy and strawberries. Sweet and a little fruity and nothing plastic or artificial about it.
Lemon-Cherry - the outside was yellow along the edges but the red goo center made it look orange for the most part. The lemon gummi is soft with a distinct bite to it that’s chewy but not completely bouncy like some gummies can be. The lemon flavor is ordinary but intense enough to overshadow the center. It’s tangy and has a well rounded citrus flavor. The goo in the center is sticky and didn’t taste like much except perhaps sour with a light note of wild cherry on some of them. Of the flavors I tried, I liked this one best.
Strawberry-Watermelon - this one has a lot more definition. The outer strawberry gummi is quite tart and otherwise has only a light strawberry flavor. The gooey center is a throat-searing sweet and artificial watermelon flavor. It actually goes pretty well together and I’m not usually a fan of watermelon candies.
Cherry-Fruit Punch - the cherry gummi shell is sweet and tart without much cherry flavor. The fruit punch center has only a slight difference in flavor, more to the tropical side of things. The whole piece is a bit sweeter than the others.
I’m learning that I’m not that fond of goo filled gummis and these are no exception. They’re interesting combinations (though I’ve only tried 3 out of 4 of them) but not really up my alley as far as flavors go. They’re better than the originals, at least in my opinion, but that may just be the flavor assortment was more to my liking.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
I like the licorice style known as Rockies, they’re a black licorice tube filled with a cream, which is usually flavored. Many European versions are made with salted licorice, but according to this list of ingredients, it was sweet licorice. This package didn’t say what the flavors were (there was another variety that were filled with a pastel cream that said Fruit) but the ingredients mentioned cocoa, mint, coffee and toffee flavors.
The illustration on the box appears to show four varieties (white, caramel, gray and brown) but I could really only discern three ... and I ate the whole box.
They were just a little sticky in spots but were fresh and moist. The bag smelled nicely of licorice and toffee with a little hint of smoke, beets and molasses. Each is about 3/4 of an inch long and varied in diameter, though most were about 1/3 of an inch.
The middle pieces, the light beige ones were a coffee flavored center. This was fascinating. I like the combination of licorice and coffee and it’s not an easy pair to find together. The center is a little grainy, like frosting. It’s sweet and has a very mellow coffee and toffee note to it. The licorice flavors and the texture of the licorice chew were at the front with the most dominance. I found myself picking through the package to find these.
The darkest looking centers were chocolate, I think. It was a sort of Tootsie Roll version of chocolate. There were some vague cocoa notes but it was rather empty and couldn’t compete with the licorice and sugar flavors.
The white ones appear to be mint. The mint fondant filling is soft with a bit of a crumble though not completely dry. The minty notes are peppermint and menthol. It’s a strange combination with the licorice, the whole thing has a medicated vibe but it’s also fresh and doesn’t feel heavy like some other licorice can. The mint though was very strong and overshadowed the licorice notes.
Overall in this mix, the actual licorice wasn’t that strong. I liked it, it made it very munchable without giving me that feeling that I was eating too much licorice (it can have side effects) but it also left me wanting more licorice/anise punch.
I don’t know why there aren’t American licorice candies like this, it’s rather like Licorice Allsorts, but without the coconut. I’d venture that many folks who say they don’t like licorice might like it in this version where it’s just a container, not the main event.
I saw that Cost Plus World Market also carries the plain licorice and salted licorice from Halva, I’m thinking I might want to try their straight varieties. I get the impression that this isn’t the most elegant variety from Finland (which is known for its licorice), it’s more like the kid’s version of licorice or mass-produced like Twizzlers or Red Vines though I’m guessing with better ingredients (but perhaps some Finnish readers can help with that).
These contain gelatin, so are not vegetarian.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Sometimes I meticulously photograph things with the intention of doing an exhaustive review.
And then I eat them.El Rey makes chocolate from Venezuelan beans. Not only is it really good quality, it's pretty reasonably priced.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Cooler temperatures mean more chocolate consumption in my world. I’ve really been enjoying the bars from Equal Exchange, so I decided to branch out from the plain dark chocolate bars to their flavored offerings.
The Equal Exchange Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt is a modest bar, sporting only 55% cacao content, it’s not extraordinarily dark and has more of a candy bar flair to it with bits of salty toffee.
The bar is wrapped simply in a burnt orange and brown wrapper that goes with the color coding Equal Exchange has going on for their line.
The bar is inside a thin white plastic sleeve which is easy to open and slip the bar back into. The bar looks great, it has a reddish hue to it and the inclusions of toffee bits are visible within the chocolate mass.
The bar has a distinct and bright snap. Breaking the bar reveals a plethora of big crunchy toffee bits (made with just four ingredients: cream, sugar, vanilla and sea salt). The chocolate itself smells like coffee and has a light acidic bite to it. It’s sweet, but not sticky and has a well rounded woodsy chocolate flavor. The toffee bits are crunchy and buttery with a strong salty note. They go exceptionally well with the chocolate and complement the smooth melt of the chocolate with the hard burnt sugar notes and the dash of sea salt.
This bar straddles the world of easy to eat candy and decadent treat. The chocolate isn’t as nuanced as the darker single origin bars, but it’s also more accessible. It’s one of my favorite toffee chocolate bars now. (It still prefer the slightly more candy-ish Green & Black’s Peanut Bar, but that’s milk chocolate and I’ve had more of those bars than the Equal Exchange.)
It’s fair trade, organic and Kosher. It’s made in a facility that processes tree nuts and peanuts and of course isn’t vegan because of the milk in the toffee.
UPDATE 11/16/2010: I transcribed the ingredients incorrectly in an earlier version of this review. There is no corn syrup in this bar. The only sweetener is organic unrefined and/or raw cane sugar. I’ve revised the review to reflect the accurate ingredients.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Rowntree’s created what would be one of the most popular candy bars in the world, the KitKat, in 1935. In the same year they also created the Aero bar. There have been dozens of versions since then even as Nestle’s has taken over the brand and spread the bars worldwide.
It’s odd then to ponder that there is a mash-up bar of the two that’s found in South Africa. The Nestle Tex was launched around 1956 and combines the aerated chocolate of the Aero bar and the crispy filled wafers of the KitKat. I don’t know how the bar got the name Tex.
It’s a big chunky looking bar. It’s over 5.5 inches long and a little under one inch square. The wrapping isn’t fancy, just the name of the bar and a satisfyingly accurate cross section of the bar that shows the bubbly chocolate center with a layer of wafers above and below.
The bar smells more like sweetened cereal than a decadent chocolate bar. It’s quite light for its size, only 40 grams (1.41 ounces) when you think that a 3 Musketeers bar is 60 grams and has similar volume.
The bar is a little messy to eat. The wafers are crispy but also darn flaky.
The chocolate flavors are disappointing. There’s little cocoa flavor or chocolate texture in there. It’s not grainy or waxy, but certainly doesn’t have a silky smooth melt. The wafers are fun and distinctive, though not quite KitKat-like since they’re wider and have a more distinctive cream filling. The Aero layer is lost in the mix, it’s light on the chocolate but I didn’t really get the same airy melt and bubbly texture because of the fact that I felt obligated to chew the wafers.
Mostly I’m disappointed in the poor quality of the chocolate (it might be mockolate, it’s hard to tell which ingredients are the chocolate coating and which are the cream filling in the wafer part). I know Nestle is capable of making better chocolate, and since I bought this as an import, it was $2.00. I could buy some really good chocolate for that.
I could see this bar benefiting from other versions, like dark chocolate and flavors like coffee or orange. As it is, I see it as a middle of the road offering. Certainly unique but not better than the sum of its progenitors.
(I found one note in a book about Rowntree that said that the Tex bar was first introduced in Canada in 1955 around the same time as Coffee Crisp but was a flop.)
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Long ago there was a cough drop line called Pine Bros Throat Drops. They were a glycerin drop, kind of like a hard gummi. They came in a variety of flavors like cherry, honey and licorice. I bought them often and ate them like candy, even though they said medicated on the package.
I bought this box pictured here on eBay knowing full well that I couldn’t actually eat them as they’re at least 15 years old. I just wanted to take their picture and remember them.
But I haven’t stopped looking for a replacement for them. The melt was smooth and even for a cruncher like me, they lasted a long time. And they really did soothe the throat.
Then a few years ago Gigi wrote about something that sounded similar, Golia Respira
I finally found this roll of Respira Golia at Mel & Rose Wine & Liquors. They were expensive ($2.50), but at least the little roll was cheaper than the box or bag version. (And certainly within their best by date, unlike old Pine Bros on eBay.) They’re made by Perfetti Van Melle, known best for their rolls of Mentos.
The wrapper says they’re caramelle gommose which I take to mean gummy candies and alla liquirizia which I know means with licorice. They’re made with both gum arabic and glycerine.
They don’t smell like my much beloved cough drops, but they do smell compelling. It’s a mix of smoke, black pepper and incense. The pieces are large, about 3/4 of an inch in diameter and about 1/3 of an inch high. They sound like bakelite, crisp and hard, but they’re not. They’re a bit pliable in the mouth. The first flavor at the front is licorice, the light and true flavor of licorice which is sweet and a little syrupy. There are notes of anise and clove and of course a pervasive menthol, as that’s what the Respira part of the name is about (breathing).
They get quite soft but never soft enough to pull apart, just dissolve slowly and steadily.
I loved the strong eucalyptus flavor and background of licorice. They are slick and soothing and also, because they’re soft there are no little sores created by sharp edged voids like hard cough drops can do. But they’re really medicinal tasting, so they’re not a casual endeavor and everyone around you will know that you’ve been eating them. I know there are other versions of these, I’m hoping I can find something that’s a little more soothing, like the classic Honey Lemon Pine Bros Drops.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Mentos are the KitKat of chews. There are dozens of flavors worldwide, and of course most of the interesting flavors are found in Asia. This newest version is the oddest one I’ve had to date: Mentos Jam Filled - Strawberry Lemon.
They’re made in China and sold in Southeast Asia and Pacific Islands. I got this package from Santos of Scent of Green Bananas after two failed efforts to buy them on eBay from a Thai seller.
They’re double packaged (like the Sour Mentos often are.) There’s a main package of stiff, thick foil backed paper which is then encased in a plastic sleeve.
Inside the inner package are 8 soft candies. The most noticeable difference is that they don’t have a crunchy shell. They’re a little glossy and might have a bit of wax but are basically shell-less. They’re soft enough that they don’t really have a native shape, they’re a little flat on the sides where they meet and sometimes stick together a bit.
They seem a bit bigger than a traditional Mentos. They’re also more fragrant, authentically strawberry scented.
The outer layer of chew is soft and has a good pliable taffy texture and tangy/sweet strawberry flavor. The inner jam is not very complex, more like a lemon flavored syrup, more like a reduction of lemon drink than lemon marmalade. It’s not as tart as I would have liked and lacked a lot of lemon essence. The texture is sticky but not at all grainy. It didn’t do much for me. The difference in the flavors wasn’t strong enough to be called complementary and wasn’t close enough to match.
I’m not sure why they did this. It’s a lot of packaging and not a lot of excitement inside.
I might have felt differently if it were a uniquely named and branded item, but coming to me with a Mentos logo on it, I expected more authentic flavors and for it to, well, be a fresh take on the goo filled candy field.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
I liked this photo because I felt like the chocolate had some personality. There’s a swirl on top, but it’s turned away, like the chocolate is being coy. Or perhaps I snuck up on it and took this photo.
This is from Gail Ambrosius, which I’ll get around to reviewing for the holidays.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.