Thursday, January 20, 2011
Hawaiian Host is one of the better known macadamia nut companies in Hawaii (the other would be Mauna Loa, which is now owned by Hershey’s). They make a variety of macadamia products, including the best iteration possible, the Hawaiian Host Dark Chocolate Whole Macadamias. Hawaiian Host even says that they invented the chocolate covered macadamia nut, though I’d say it was an inevitable thing like radio, skateboards and hot cocoa mix.
Macadamias were known as the premium nut when I was a kid. The most expensive, the most exotic and the most decadent. (And probably the most fattening.) I have to say that I never really cared that much for them. I’d treasure them when I’d have them, but I never went out of my way to request them or acquire them.
They come in a little, single serve package that holds two chocolate covered macadamias. It weighs only .74 ounces and at about a buck a package, that’s a bit on the expensive side, but it also keeps you from eating too many and there’s only 110 calories in the package.
The nuts are big and generously coated with dark chocolate. They’re about 1.25 inches around at the base. It smells like dark, rich hot chocolate.
The macadamias are fresh. They’re crunchy, crispy and have a light coconut and pine nut flavor to them. The chocolate is rich but a little chalky in flavor but not texture, it’s hard to describe, but it had a powdery note to it, like the difference between cocoa and chocolate. It’s not particular dark but also not overly sweet or sticky. It strikes the right note and ratio with the nuts.
They’re little bites of Hawaii. A fun little treat and a lovely gift to bring back to your dog sitter or coworkers.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
I picked up this box of Jila Mints late last year. I was drawn to the box. It’s a cute little flip top box, a little over three inches tall and one inch wide. The design made me think they were Finnish or Swedish for some reason, but it turns out they’re made in Australia by a company called Ferndale Confectionery.
The Spearmint Jila Mints are themed in green. The back of the box has some charming copy: Jila round mints are made to last long, clearing the nose and freshening the breath. Refreshment from natural mint essence and energy from added glucose make them the ideal, modern personal accompaniment in work and social situations.
They’re made from sugar and glucose. Glucose is a little less sweet than sucrose, so I was looking forward to a mintier mint with less of a sticky sweet finish.
They’re a solid panned mint. A very small bead of mint is slowly coated in layers of sugar in a tumbling barrel over hours and days. This method has been used for hundreds of years (usually starting with a fennel seed as the center, like Anis de Flavigny).
They’re beautiful little matte green spheres. They’re about the size of large peas or dried garbanzo beans. They remind me of those small Atomic Fireballs and in a way they’re just a spearmint version.
The spearmint flavor is soft and has a strong herbal flavor that kind of penetrates like menthol. It doesn’t have that “green” or “grassy” flavor that spearmint candies or tea can sometimes get. The flavor goes through and though and is sometimes a little stronger in some layers. The mint lasts a long time and is practically un-crunchable for the first portion of the dissolve, when it gets much smaller, sometimes I can crush it.
They also come in Peppermint. I didn’t buy a box of them, but I did find after taking this photo that I had a sample from some trade show in my archives. Jila Mints Peppermint comes in a similar box, the design is navy blue and the mints themselves have no coloring at all. They’re just a soft white sphere. The flavor of the peppermint is quite woodsy at first but then mellowed out to a soft mint, like a Tic Tac.
I like this style of mint, even though I’m a hard candy cruncher. There was no distinction, really, between the layers as they dissolved, which gave me the sense that they were crafted with care and consistency. The price was pretty good for a box that contained about 1 ounce - the comparable Anis de Flavigny can cost several times this though they do come in a wider variety of flavors. The box is easy to carry and share and of course is easily recycled.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
NEWTREE is a Belgian chocolate company with a different take on the decadent chocolate traditions of their country. They make chocolate bars with interesting flavor combinations (like milk chocolate with lavender or dark chocolate with thyme). They also make bars that are fortified with healthy ingredients.
I picked up their new petite bar called NEWTREE Belgian Biscuit. It’s cute and just a little over an ounce.
Last year I reviewed their dark milk chocolate bar which has added fiber and less sugar. This bar also boast a reduced amount of sugar, though it doesn’t really save much in calories for a petite bar like this (about 5 calories as far as I can tell).
It’s a really nice looking bar - lovely molding and I like the shape for eating. It’s shiny and has a good cocoa aroma with a fresh woodsy note to it. It’s a long block with five thick sections.
The thickness let me really get the crunch of the biscuit bits. They were kind of like graham crackers, but not quite so sandy. They were small but well distributed. Then there were whole flax seeds. I like the idea of flax, but in reality they’re slimy little seeds that taste like fish to me. I’ll eat them and they’re just fine for savory crackers but I’ve decided they don’t belong in my chocolate.
The chocolate itself was strange. It was stiff and was lacking something in the melt, it wasn’t waxy but it also wasn’t quite the silky quick melt that I wanted. The flavor was rich but not deep.
I think I’ll stick to the more traditional Belgian chocolates and have an extra helping of green beans at dinner instead.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
The Judson-Atkinson Candies Tropical Sours are called the original soft center sour. They’re kind of like giant sour jelly beans, each is about the size of a hazelnut in the shell.
This theater box holds 4.5 ounces. Like many of Judson-Atkinson’s other candies, the packaging isn’t exactly compelling, but it’s at least easy to spot.
White is Pina Colada. It starts out with a light sweet coconut flavor, once I cracked the grainy candy shell I got a little burst of floral and lightly tangy pineapple. It’s not a sour candy at all, but it’s still like a great, mellow gourmet jelly bean.
Pink is watermelon. I don’t consider it to be a tropical flavor and it certainly wasn’t a sour flavor either. It was sweet and about as powerfully flavored as real watermelon is. I wasn’t disappointed that there were only five of these in the box.
Orange is some sort of tropical fruit like Mango. It’s hard to tell without a guide, but there was a peachy note to it and a light tangy flavor as well with some woodsy elements that remind me of mangoes.
Yellow is a mystery. It’s tart but not overly so, it’s not citrus flavor as far as I can tell and not pineapple. It was pleasant but not vibrant enough to go in a package called Sours.
Red is Fruit Punch and is quite a refreshing sort of berry flavor. I liked it, it was tart without the tangy notes completely blasting away the red raspberry flavors.
All of the flavors were nice enough but none qualified for a the category of Sour. They were barely on the range of “hint of tangy”. As giant jelly beans in tropical flavors, they’re decent enough. I paid far too much for these. I see the regular boxes of Sours at the drug store for a buck which I think is quite fair for pure sugar candy made in the States.
The candies aren’t marked Kosher and is tree nut free (though is processed in a facility that utilizes milk, soy and peanuts). There’s no gluten statement and they’re not vegetarian/vegan because of the presence of carmine.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Yes, I’m the type of person who eats sugar straight. Mostly brown sugar, but sometimes raw sugar and of course honey. Then there’s maple sugar. That’s a kind of sugar that’s actually marketed in little molded shapes to be eaten straight by non-sugar-obsessed folks.
Big Sky Brands of Canada is known for their little compressed sugar candies like Jones Soda Carbonated Candies and Yogen Fruz Smoothies. Their new Maple Ice Mints Original are far more subtle and dare I say, elegant.
The tin is rather ordinary but does the job. It has all the convincing faux wood grain of a early 1980s station wagon. It’s about 3.25 inches long and 1.75 inches wide.
Inside the tin are 30 little mints, each is about the size of an extra strength aspirin. They have a small maple leaf on one side. They smooth but leave a little powdery residue. They smell woodsy and sweet, like maple. The ingredients list both cane sugar and maple sugar, the color of them is a light sandy white and since there are no artificial colors in there, I’m guessing that’s the maple sugar that does that.
They’re sweet and have a light fresh mint hint far in the back, but mostly they’re a soft maple flavor. The great thing about the maple flavor is that it’s not sticky like the syrup and other sugar candies.
The problem with them is the price, I suppose. They were about $2 for less than an ounce. It’s tough in a Tic Tac and Altoids world to sink twice as much money into these. They’re not minty enough for me to consider them a mint, in that mints are consumed one or two at a time and then set aside for another day. Nope, I wanted to eat the whole box of them at once. I succeeded in eating them in three separate sittings. They still leave my mouth fresh and were wonderful with tea or just as a little delight in the middle of computer frustrations.
The package doesn’t say anything about the gluten status or nuts but they do appear to be all natural and probably vegan. (There’s calcium stearate in there, but I’ve never seen a candy that uses an animal source for the ingredient since the vegetable version is so cheap.)
Monday, January 10, 2011
Here in the United States we have an iconic candy bar called Milky Way. There are a few different versions of it, it comes in dark chocolate (Milky Way Midnight) and an all caramel version called Milky Way Caramel.
In the United Kingdom and much of Europe the bar is called Mars and comes in a dark version as well as some other more fanciful varieties such as this Mars Delight bar that I picked up at Mel & Rose Wine & Liquors. I liked the design of the package and I was wondering if it was like the Milky Way Crispy Rolls (which are not based on the American Milky Way, but the UK Milky Way, which is like our 3 Musketeers).
The package says that it’s Surprisingly Crispy, Deliciously Smooth. The ingredients listing also helpfully breaks down each element of the bar into percentages and separate ingredients, which I love. The bar is 10% crispy rippled wafers (they’re very airy), caramel cream (21%), cocoa cream (24%) covered in milk chocolate (44%).
The bars were lovely. It’s hard to believe that this bar, which was only weeks away from its expiry date and half a world way in a flimsy wrapper looked so good. Each is about 2.5 inches long and pretty wide. Each one has about 99 calories in it, so maybe it’s for dieters who want a little treat. (Still, I think 200 calories for a whole package is a bit steep, I don’t think many folks will be able to control themselves and eat only one.)
The milk chocolate is soft but smooth and creamy. It has a pleasant fresh dairy flavor to it and an overall sweetness that’s deep and malty. The advertised caramel and cocoa cream wasn’t as evident to me, there was a bit of something in there between the chocolate and the wafers but nothing notable - not much texture and the caramel notes just came across as more malty sweetness. The wafers were light and crunchy with a toffee note to them, more like corn flakes than wheat flour wafers.
I enjoyed them enough that I ate both, but there was a full week between the two sessions. It didn’t leave me wanting more and the fact that I paid a ridiculous $1.75 for this because it was an import left me wanting it to be far superior to something I can get at any drug store. I think I’ll stick with the Q.bel bars, just because they’re easier to find not just because they’re cheaper but also use better ingredients. However, if Mars wanted to make these for the American market, I think I’d be more inclined to buy them, especially if they came in a dark version.
The bars were introduced in 2007 and had some pretty radical advertisements.
Thursday, January 06, 2011
There are some candies that sound like fantastic concepts. Even new readers to Candy Blog know that I would favor any confection made of caramel, pecans and cinnamon. About five years ago Cinnabon, the little bakers of fresh cinnamon buns in malls, licensed their flavor and name for a line of candies made by Standard Confectionery Company. Standard is known for their GooGoo Clusters, so it’s no surprise that this line features various iterations of the ingredients all in the plopped cluster shape.
Back in 2006 I went to my first candy trade show, the All Candy Expo in Chicago. This was my first experience with “tasting everything”. This was an amazing time where I could keep an open mind and take small bites or samples of items that I probably wouldn’t consider buying for whatever reason. Most was exactly what I expected, but there were some surprises (both good and bad). I learned quickly that even in small bites there were things that demanded to be spit out. While there I spit three things out. The first was the Cinnabon Cinnamon Pecan Caramel Cluster.
What I didn’t know when I ate that sample was the actual description of this item: Rich Makara Cinnamon Caramel Topped with Crunch Glazed Pecans and Toffee Bits, Drenched in Milk Chocolatey Goodness. You already know where this description went awry ... in fact this might have been the item that mobilized me for the fight against anything that referred to mockolate “goodness”. I’d go so far as to call it “evilness.”
Years went by and I tried them again and had a similar reaction to the overly sweet, strangely grainy and waxy confection. Yes, the cinnamon notes were fantastic, but air freshener smells fantastic, that doesn’t make me want to eat it.
The Cinnabon Cinnamon Mousse Pecan Cluster says it’s Rich Makara cinnamon mousse topped with crunchy glazed pecans and toffee bits, drenched in dark chocolatey goodness. My spell checker knows that chocolatey isn’t a word, and I know that it isn’t chocolate.
The packaging is nice, it has an accurate image on the front and I actually liked the little swirly bun designs on the edges of the wrapper. The pieces are 1.5 ounces (about 2.5 inches in diameter), which I think is a nice portion for candy, in this case it clocks in at 180 calories.
My candy had a slight bloom on the top, not bad, just a light haze in some spots. The lumpy shape gave me hope that there were plenty of these glazed pecans.
I don’t know what Makara Cinnamon is. I’ve looked it up and can’t actually find that there is a real thing, it’s just like the Colonel’s 11 Herbs & Spices, a proprietary blend of some sort. Its mystery aside, the cinnamon does smell good. It’s a tantalizing blend of woodsy notes, a sort of heady volatile oil similar to menthol and a warm resin. The patties have a nice bite and texture. The mockolate coating is marginally flavorful, it’s overpowered by the cinnamon but the texture is smooth enough once it melts. The center of the patty is a sort of soft fudge that tastes kind of like the sweet center of a pecan pie, but a little more grainy. The pecans are nicely glazed with a sugary coating that gives them a salty crunch. Other than that hit of salt though, the whole thing is sickly sweet and quickly made my throat sore.
This version comes in a white wrapper and is easy to distinguish from the other versions. It also reminds me that Cinnabon has the flavor that warms the soul.
The description on this one is Rich Makara cinnamon cream topped with crunchy glazed pecans and toffee bits, drenched in white chocolatey goodness. Now, I get how the dark one can claim some sort of “chocolatey goodness” since it does have some cocoa solids in it. This product has not one gram of cocoa content whatsoever. It can’t be like chocolate because there’s nothing that’s even chocolate adjacent about it.
Even the color of the white confection coating is odd, it’s not at all like white chocolate, which has a yellow cast and a translucent quality. It’s opaque, like a primer coat.
It does smell smooth and buttery though, and I loved the way the fake butter smell combined with the Makara cinnamon, in that way that actual Cinnabon kiosks can draw you in.
Again I liked the glazed pecans - they were small but had a salty crunch. The white coating was sweet and had a less convincing melt than the truly chocolatey one. There are toffee bits advertised in both of these, but I noticed that they’re more like corn flakes (rice flour is listed as an ingredient)
Sweet, strange and unreal. I don’t mind candy that becomes fantasy - but this was just a poor imitation of real things that could be fantastic. Call it the uncanny valley of candy.
If you’re a fan of candles instead of candy, well this is the stuff for you. If you’re looking for something that emulates the fresh baked Cinnabon experience, I’d say stick to your memories of that and wait for the real thing.
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
I get advance tastes of new candies, but I often post about them months before they hit the stores. Here’s a little review of reviews of new candies:
Snickers Peanut Butter Squared from Mars is a new introduction to the Snickers family of candy bars. It’s not a limited edition and is available in single serve size and fun size bags.
The regular package is two squares of candy. It features nougat, peanut butter and caramel covered in chocolate. It’s a bit less of a textural marvel than the standard Snickers. Folks who like a softer chew may prefer it, but it left me wanting a real Snickers bar.
I saw these first at the checkout at Target.
See full review for Snickers Peanut Butter Squared. (7 out of 10)
The new Hershey’s Drops come in two varieties: Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Drops and Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme Drops. They’re large chocolate beans with no candy shell, easy to pop in your mouth or share. The milk chocolate variety isn’t different enough from a typical Hershey’s Kiss for me, even if there’s less unwrapping. But the Cookies ‘n’ Creme is interesting because there are so few candies that use the white confection like this. (Though there is a Kiss version, too.)
I saw these first at Von’s (photo) in stand up bags.
See full review of Hershey’s Drops (7 out of 10)
Like the Hershey’s Drops, the new Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Minis are here to making snacking easier. They little cups are easy to pop into your mouth and don’t require layers of wrapping like the foil-wrapped, fluted-cupped miniatures. They’re going to be great for baking.
See full review of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Minis (7 out of 10)
I teased these last summer and I’m doing it again. New PEEPS Chocolate Covered Raspberry Flavored Marshmallow Hearts in single-serve packages. This year, PEEPS Brand Marshmallow Candies are melting hearts with their new PEEPS Chocolate Covered Raspberry Flavored Marshmallow Hearts. Delicious milk or dark chocolate cover raspberry flavored PEEPS to create a scrumptious chocolate and marshmallow experience.
I tried the Peeps Peppermint Trees for Christmas and found them to be poorly made. I bought six of them and all were oozing, cracked and sticky inside. (Even the ones that weren’t cracked still had deflated centers.) I’m hoping the quality control for the Raspberry version will be better, because I think it’s a great idea.
I don’t think they need the colored marshmallow centers though, it just adds more ingredients that do nothing for the flavor (in fact, I’m prepared that the pink will taste bitter to me).
Finally, another tease. Mars is introducing a new Limited Edition Twix Coconut this spring. Look for it to hit shelves in April 2011.
Like the Coconut M&Ms, these have no coconut in them. Instead it’s a traditional Twix with a cookie base, caramel stripe and chocolate coating plus a light touch of coconut flavor.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.