Monday, July 18, 2011
As the billboards around town keep reminding me, the Harry Potter film series ends with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2. This may or may not mean the end to the curious creations from the books and films, the candies made by Bertie Bott, a magical confectioner. His triumph and perhaps unique item is Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. The tale goes that Bertie Bott was making traditionally sweet flavored beans when he accidentally made one flavored like a gym sock and then struck upon the idea of making a flavor of everything, even things not intended to be eaten.
The reality of how Jelly Belly went about it is rather similar. Years ago Jelly Belly was trying to come up with a Pepperoni Pizza jelly bean. Something about the intensity of the flavors was more than a little off and what they created smelled so bad that they had to clear the candy kitchen and air it out, because it reeked of vomit. So when the opportunity to make the Bertie Bott’s came up, they resurrected the failed recipe and made it ever so slightly more vomitous. (In the current variety package, though, Vomit is no longer part of the mix. Perhaps a little too much reality.)
The Harry Potter books list dozens of flavors and the actual candy made by Jelly Belly does incorporate many (mostly the ones that would be recognized by Americans, not things like tripe or marmalade). This little box may contain the following flavors: Banana, Black Pepper, Blueberry, Booger, Candyfloss, Cherry, Cinnamon, Dirt, Earthworm, Earwax, Grass, Green Apple, Marshmallow, Rotten Egg, Sausage, Lemon, Soap, Tutti-Fruitti and Watermelon.
I’m not going to eat them. I’ve had quite a few of the flavors, even some of the non-traditional ones like Soap (floral), Black Pepper (spicy and well rounded), Grass (grassy) and Dirt (like beets). But draw the line there. I have no interest in rotten eggs, boogers, earwax or vomit. I appreciate the the sheer breadth of flavors in the package means that you actually have to pay attention to what you’re eating. I like that idea. When I eat the citrus mix, I don’t really care that much of I’m eating lemon or orange, because they’re both good. With the Bertie Bott’s, there are no guarantees.
Like all Jelly Belly products, they’re expensive. The Jelly Belly website lists this little 1.2 ounce box for $2.25 (though I’ve seen them for $1.50 at stores). But then again, they’re not really for eating by the handful, unless you have no sense of smell and therefore do not gag on the cacophony of unnatural flavors. (And if you can’t appreciate the wacky tastes, spare yourself the expense and just buy the regulars in bulk, the texture is the same.)
I thought Jelly Belly’s rehash of the Every Flavour Beans as a sort of Russian Roulette was pretty good. It’s called Beanboozled and you get a container of jelly beans that could be either of two flavors, a benign one like coconut or it could be the less desirable baby wipes.
I don’t actually find these tasty (as I’ve given them an 8 out of 10 rating indicates) but I do find them to be the most inventive and successful emulations of a fictional product I’ve ever encountered.
Friday, July 15, 2011
I saw this at Target, Market Pantry Chocolate Covered Malted Milk Balls - Milk Chocolate with a little tag next to it that said it was a new item. I figured for less than $2.00 for more than a quarter of a pound, I should take a gamble on them (naturally, that gamble also means sharing the results with readers).
The package is spare but accurate, there are a bunch of milk chocolate covered malted milk balls in there. It’s a bit generic, but it was enticing enough to catch my eye.
The malt balls are about the same size as Whoppers. The chocolate coating is thin, but of course made of real milk chocolate (not that simulated product on Whoppers). There’s a thin glaze on the balls, which keeps them from sticking together and of course gives them their attractive shine. It does keep it from melting right away though, but with minimal “waxy” notes. The milk chocolate is quite sweet and has the typical milky flavor profile of mediocre American milk chocolate.
The malt center is crunchy and has a tight, small bubble texture. It dissolves well or provides a delightful crunch, depending on what sort of consumer you are. The flavor is not overly malty, it’s more of a salty rice cereal flavor instead of a deep malty flavor. Still, it was satisfying and I found myself eating them without getting distracted by any weird deflated ones or off flavors.
I don’t know quite what all my criteria are for the perfect malt ball, but these aren’t there. The chocolate isn’t quite good enough, though I do like this ratio. The malt center has a great texture for people who prefer that sort of melt in your mouth delicate style, I kind of like the rustic ones that are more like Cap’n Crunch.
I’ve heard rumors that Brach’s has re-introduced their classic real milk chocolate Malt Balls, but since I haven’t found those, these are an admirable substitute, especially as a movie snack. The price is great, too, though keep your eyes out for sales. Though it says 5 ounces on the bag, because of the aerated nature of the centers, the volume felt like a lot of candy.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
It’s their new Air Delight Aerated Milk Chocolate. I’ve already covered the Air Delight Kisses, which were sent to me by the National Confectioners Association back during The Sweets & Snacks Expo. The bar was supposed to go on sale shortly after that in June nationwide. Believe me, I tried to find it. Southern California may be the first for movie premieres, but we’re often the last for candy rollouts. I tried Walgreen’s, RiteAid, Target, Ralph’s, Gelson’s, Von’s and CVS. Eventually, by mid June the Kisses showed up at the drug stores, but I still couldn’t find the bar. Even more frustrating, the CVS store I was in was advertising the bar on their PA system ... but didn’t actually have it in stock.
I finally found it the other night at a different CVS, and on sale (buy 2 and get 1 free).
The package describes the bar as:
Finally, an end to the effort! I bet you didn’t think about how much effort it actually was to melt things in your mouth. You know, the opening and closing and then application of heat. All of that is solved with this new chocolate bar ... it’s so light, it practically inserts itself into your mouth. Wait, no. No, it doesn’t. You apply the exact same effort, except for the possible fact that this bar weighs 1.44 ounces instead of the 1.55 so it is actually a lighter bar.
The bar is thick but also a bit more narrow than the standard Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar. Both bars I picked up were unbroken and unblemished. They have six narrow segments that cleave off easily to reveal the little air bubbles within.
Since the bar is aerated, the snap and bite is softer. It’s not that it’s melted or anything, it’s just quieter or something. It does seem to melt quicker and has a stronger scent (perhaps because of the increased surface area on the exposed surfaces). The flavor is undeniably Hershey’s Milk Chocolate. If you don’t like the sweet, caramelly and tangy flavor of Hershey’s, you’re really not going to like this. The fudgy cheesecake flavors are more noticeable now that the texture matches that more closely. It’s really filling, I was surprised. I took each section as two bites and took quite a while to eat it. It felt like a lot more chocolate than 1.44 ounces.
As far as the success of Hershey’s aerated bar, I’d say they’ve done a great job. It’s exactly what you’d want if you wanted a bubbly Hershey’s milk chocolate experience. I found it far too sweet and gave the back of my throat that “acidic burp” feeling. So if you’re looking for a satisfying actual chocolate experience, you might want to step up to something a little higher quality. But if you’ve always wanted a Nestle Aero bar that you can buy at your local store without the import premium, this may be your thing.
This bar was made in Mexico. There’s no allergen statement anywhere on it (though it does actually contain dairy and soy, so you know those for sure).
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
A juicy slice of orange on a sunny summer day.
This is a Goody Good Stuff vegan gummi (which technically means it’s a jelly, not a gummi).
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
We don’t have Tesco stores where I live. I’ve heard from my other candy obsessed compatriots that they have an excellent selection. So I was pretty happy to hear that Tesco was creating a little chain of American stores called Fresh & Easy, which might be described as a Trader Joe’s style of no frills shopping for the price conscious. I’ve visited a few times and tried their house brand chocolate (but never wrote it up).
Over the weekend I popped in because I’d read online that they carry Gimbal’s candy and I was on the prowl for the Sour Lovers (no luck on that front). Instead, I picked up one of the house branded tubs of candy, in this case their Fresh & Easy Milk Chocolate Covered Toffee Pieces which were a smidge expensive at $3.99 for 11 ounces. However, they do boast there there are no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives used.
The little nuggets varied quite a bit in size. Some were as small as a ball bearing while the large ones were about the size of a Peanut M&M.
The chocolate coating is sweet and milky and quite smooth. It was far too sweet for me, I would have preferred a dark chocolate version of these if they were around. However, the toffee center makes up for it with a deep toasted flavor, crunchy texture and salted butter notes.
They’re not earth shattering. There are other products like this, but not a lot available in this format: a tub for unabashed full-fisted snacking. I might get them again, or I might go for the little caramels they also had that looked kind of like the Tahitian Vanilla Caramels that Trader Joe’s has in little packets, except of course they don’t mention the vanilla part and the price is in keeping with the bulk tubs, not the single serve.
They’re good for snacking, for watching movies or perhaps even as an addition to ice cream.
Monday, July 11, 2011
My sense of adventure with licorice from around the world is starting to ruin my appreciation of licorice. I’ve found that I’ve spent a lot of time trying to appreciate other versions, especially the salted styles from Northern Europe, that I’m spending less of my time just eating the products I’ve already found I love.
After my earlier experiments with German licorice, more specifically, licorice from Haribo (Lakritz Parade, Goliath Lakritz-Stangen and Sali-Kritz) , you’d think I would have learned something. I found most of the licorice I bought there downright inedible by my preferences. Yet when I was at Mel & Rose Wine and Liquors last month, I bought yet another Haribo licorice product. At the very least while I was in Germany I could rationalize that the candy was cheap, most under one Euro per package, here it was over $3.00.
They’re called Haribo Pearlico. The ingredients seemed to indicate that they were a children’s licorice, with no ammonia salts. My mouth may say otherwise.
I admit that I was attracted by the look of them. Each is a large mounded gumdrop shape. They’re soft enough to be squished with firm pressure. The ingredients are all natural, so the muted tones of the little candy spheres coating the licorice center is made from vegetable dyes.
At the center of each is a soft licorice gumdrop made with treacle flavor and licorice. It’s earthy, soft and relatively smooth. The candy sphere are soft and crunchy, not dense like the American version that might be found on SnoCaps. If you’ve ever had the Haribo Raspberries, you’ll know what I mean.
The licorice center has a lot of molasses flavor, some deep ginger and beet notes, burnt sugar and soft anise. But every once in a while I was getting a real whiff of ammonia. At first I thought that certain colors were ammonia (yellow in particular) but it turned out that they were all the same, just very mildly “salted” licorice.
As a first introduction to the world of salted licorice, they’re good. The textures are fun, though the colors remind me of something that’s been left in the sun to be bleached, like old plastic toys found washed up in October on the beach.
The center contains a combination of gelatin and agar-agar so it’s not quite suitable for vegetarians.
Friday, July 08, 2011
A couple of years ago Mars introduced some new candy bars to the United States based on their popularity in Australia. They were called Fling and came in bright pink packages along with lots of marketing directed towards women. They came in three flavor varieties: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut.
About a year later the test marketing of Fling waned and a new bar came out nationally, the 3 Musketeers Truffle Crisp. The bar is described on the package as whipped-up chocolate truffle on a crisp layer enrobed in real milk chocolate.
The bars are narrow fingers, nicely domed with drizzled chocolate across the top. They’re light, literally - each weights a smidge over a half an ounce. (For comparison, a single Twix finger is about an ounce.) The package says that each one contains less than 85 calories. Well, that’s pretty easy since it doesn’t weigh much. In reality, the calories per ounce are quite high at 155 but the package limits your portion.
The bar snaps nicely with a light cracking sound. The construction is interesting (and this is where the bar is unique). The base is a plank of chocolate meringue. It’s crispy and airy with a light sweetness and hint of salt and cocoa to it. The truffle on top really isn’t - it’s a mix of cocoa and hydrogenated and/or non-hydrogenated palm and palm kernel oils. (In my world a truffle is made of actual chocolate and some sort of dairy fat.) The chocolatey cream is okay, fluffy but a little greasy and flavorless to my tongue. It’s all wrapped in a good amount of milk chocolate. The milk chocolate is sweet and creamy with a strong dairy note to it. It pulls it all together well.
The idea and execution of this is actually really good. I wish the truffle part was better and having had the Fling in dark chocolate, I know this is actually better in dark chocolate.
I actually like these bars, even with all my complaining about various elements of the promotion, packaging and ingredients. They’re unique and inventive, once consumers try them, I think the rest of the weirdness of the rest of it will be irrelevant. It would also be cool if Mars extended the use of the meringue crisp - I could see them as interesting centers for M&Ms, different flavored cream toppings for this bar (like coffee) and perhaps something berry with dark chocolate.
Though there are no wheat ingredients on the list, it is made on shared equipment with wheat (and peanuts) so it’s not technically gluten free, so try at your own risk.
Update 10/29/2012: I just heard back from Mars, they are discontinuing the Truffle Crisp bar. They just weren’t popular enough. My suggestion for those who love the bar is to write to Mars and propose that they bring them back seasonally. So you can stock up.
Thursday, July 07, 2011
I’ve seen the Villosa Sallos Salmiak Lakritz Bonbons at import shops before. Their simple mostly black and white design is quite eye catching, especially in riotously colorful candy aisle at Cost Plus World Market.
The hard candies are strong licorice with a hint of herb extracts and ammonia salts.
For a while I wasn’t sure what they were. The picture on the package just shows a brown rectangle with a highlight on it that might indicate it’s soft and chewy or filled with goo. Every time I’d see them in the stores, I’d feel the candies inside and they were always hard. When I was in German, I saw these a lot at the stores (they’re apparently one of the best selling licorice products there), so I figured they were fresh and exactly they way they should be.
Inside the package are a couple dozen individually wrapped pieces. They’re well sealed and easy to open. The candies are one inch long and about 2/3 of an inch wide.
The texture is smooth and hard, kind of like a hard caramel like Coffee Rio, except it’s licorice. The overwhelming flavor is not really licorice, it’s a bit more rustic than that. It’s a mixture of molasses, caramel and a little touch of menthol and mint along with the soft licorice notes. There’s a little waft of ammonia now and again, but it’s not as strong and offensive as some other European licorices I’ve had.
Overall, it’s hearty and not too sweet. They’re more like a cough drop than a piece of candy, which was fine with me. While this wasn’t quite as good as the Amarelli Sassolini, my other European licorice favorite, they’re certainly more affordable.
I also picked up their Schul Kreide (Skoolkrijt or School Chalk) a few weeks ago as well at Mel & Rose Wine & Liquors. I found it rather expensive ($3.50 for a little 5 ounce bag) and a little understated compared to the Venco version I’m accustomed to. There’s also a Sallos Black & White review on Candy Gurus. I think I’ll try to track those down.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.