Friday, August 31, 2012
The new SweeTarts Gummies are not exactly new. There have been a few versions around, but they didn’t invoke the classic candies in shape and flavor variety.
The new gummies come in six flavors and though they’re in a bag, they are a similar tablet shape.
The assortment in the bag is soft and fresh and smells like SweeTarts. The pieces are a similar little disk shape as the classic roll version of SweeTarts, complete with a little divot in the center of one side. They’re about .75 inches around and .3 inches thick. They’re coated in a sweet sanding of sugar (not the sour sanding I expected).
What I found interesting about this new product is the list of ingredients indicates that most of these are made from natural colorings ... except for the use of Blue #1. Of course the blue gummi uses blue coloring, but I have to wonder if it’s also in the purple one, too. The other ingredients include cochineal, but also gelatin, so it’s off limits to vegetarians. It’s made in a facility with wheat, soy, peanuts, milk and eggs as well.
Yellow = Lemon - is quite fun. The lemon flavor is well rounded, very sour towards the end but smooth overall. Its flavor is quite close to the classic dry SweeTart.
Green = Green Apple - the spongy texture is fun and the flavor more tangy than apple-y. It’s a generic green apple flavor, but less pronounced than the compressed dextrose candies.
Blue = Fruit Punch - I’m old enough to remember when the Blue SweeTarts came out, and still carry a grudge (this is also when the green switched from Lime to Apple). They’re the one flavor that I usually don’t eat, as I never cared much for the punch flavor itself. That said, these are actually really punch. Smooth, vibrant and the flavor gets less fruit and more sour as your chew or let it dissolve.
Purple = Grape - is one of my favorite SweeTarts as it is. The purple color is vibrant and appealing, but it also indicates a hefty bit of food coloring is in there. The moist and bouncy gummi, like the others, gets more tart as you chew. The flavor is artificial and not quite as subtle as the chalky SweeTart. Instead it has more floral notes that are not at all in keeping with actual grape or even fake grape, it’s more like an ink flavor. I was disappointed with it, but only because I had high expectations.
Hot Pink = Cherry - is medicinal and woodsy, it almost has a raspberry flavor to it at first, but then as it gets more sour, it tastes more like cherry.
My true love has always been the classic chalky candies, but I’m sure there are some people who are looking for the texture experience of a gummi with the bold artificial flavors of SweeTarts. As far as tart gummis go, I’m a little more grown up now when it comes to sour and probably won’t even want to stray from the Haribo Ingwer-Zitrone.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
It’s amazing the diversity of candy bars that are still available, many of the most popular bars we eat today have been around for over 70 years. One regional classic that started right near where I live now is the Christopher’s Big Cherry (original review).
The lump of a candy bar was introduced by the Christopher Candy Company, which started in 1887 in Southern California. (That company was later bought out by Ben Meyerson, who made the Sunkist Fruit Gems, who then sold out to Jelly Belly in 2006 who kept the Fruit Gems line but sold off the Christopher’s line to Adams & Brooks, keeping it in Southern California.)
More recently the folks at Adams & Brooks introduced the Christopher’s Big Cherry Dark. The wrapper is a rich brick red instead of the bright pink of the classic bar.
The bar looks terrible. It’s a big, golf ball sized mass. It’s lumpy and irregular but at least smells good, like roasted peanuts and hot cocoa.
The ingredients are, well, barely passable as an edible item, very high in partially hydrogenated oil:
The previous review I did of the classic Christopher’s Big Cherry didn’t have a cross section. So I wanted to be sure this review fully documented the innards of this candy. What does set it apart from all others (Cherry Mash and Twin Bing) is the fact that it uses a whole cherry in the center. That auspicious fact aside, it’s marginally satisfying.
The center is sweet and slightly grainy. The mararschino cherry is sweet and heavily artificially flavored and colored. The mockolate coating is supposed to be “dark” but still has milk products in it and really doesn’t do much for me except that it’s less sweet than the original version. The peanut bits in the mockolate are the shining star here, they’re fresh and crunchy and flavorful. The combination of flavors is odd, the peanuts come across as rather savory, the fudgy mockolate has a vague brownie flavor to it but at least isn’t sweet and the cherry center is a blast in the face of fake cherry and sugar.
It’s certainly not a candy for me. The fakeness on so many levels is disappointing, especially for $1.89 which I could spend on things with real chocolate and real cherries in it. But it’s unique, if that’s still a selling point. If chocolate covered bacon can be all the rage, I suppose this can find a home somewhere.
Monday, August 27, 2012
I picked up these Victory Bubble Gum Sticks which are also known as Bubble Gum Cigarettes at Rocket Fizz last week. They’re a nostalgic item, now made by World Confections, Inc. and probably not very popular with a lot of parents.
There are a few different package designs, with different names like: Kings, Lucky Light, Target, Round Up and Stallion.
There were two kinds of fake cigarettes when I was a kid. There were candy sticks, which were like a Necco wafer sugar stick with a red tip that was supposed to look like it was alight. Of course the sticks were much thinner than an actual cigarette, so the effect was weak. The second is of course the bubble gum cigarette. It’s a rod of gum a little smaller than an actual cigarette, but each is wrapped in a bit of waxed paper with a light brown end to mimic the filter. Each piece of gum was coated in a little corn starch and the wrapper is loose enough that you could blow on one end and form a little puff of powder like smoke. Of course it only worked once.
The box construction on this Victory design box is a little bland. It’s a flip top box, so there’s no tab top that tucks back in or a flip top like real cigarette packs have. The artwork is minimal, but it works in the most impressionistic manner.
There were three flavors in my box of 8 sticks. Orange, Lavender and Pink.
Pink is cherry and it’s just horrible. It’s sweet and crunchy at first, then softens up and gives up all of its sugar over the course of about 10 good chews. It’s then very stiff and bitter (from the food coloring). The slight medicinal flavor of the cherry disappears quickly as well.
Orange is orange. The flavor is vague to nonexistent. It’s quite sweet and sugary and tended to stick to a couple of my fillings until the sugar was gone. It didn’t get as stiff and difficult as the pink, but also did do much in the bubble department.
Purple is grape. There’s a strong grape flavor initially, plenty artificial but still exactly what I expected. But that fades quickly along with the sugar in the gum. This flavor also gets dense quickly so the bubble blowing window is very short. The piece of gum is also pretty small, so the size of the bubbles was always going to be modest.
The gum is marginally passable, but the packaging is quite cute. Really all I was looking for was that experience of blowing the little puff of starch out. The gum is made in Macedonia, I think my first Macedonian candy. I think the Bubble Gum Cigars are more successful overall as a novelty item that still maintains its candiness.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Storck Mamba were introduced in 1953 in Germany well before Starburst came around. According to Storck’s website, they were sold in little packs of 6 pieces at changemaker prices (probably the equivalent of two or three cents at the time).
The new variety of Mamba are the Limited Edition Mamba Duo Chews that come in a long package that holds three of those little packs of 6 pieces. There are four flavors in the new Duo Chews, which feature a combination of two flavors in each piece, but each package only holds three packets. So you never know what variety you’ll get. (I’ve never gotten a package that doesn’t have three different flavors in it.)
The new flavors are Raspberry-Peach, Cherry-Banana and Watermelon-Apple. The final flavor, Redcurrant-Lime didn’t make an appearance in my pack. It’s a lot of wrapping, but it’s that think flow wrap on the outer wrap and for the flavor packs. Each individual piece is in a waxed paper.
In the day glow yellow and red wrapper is Watermelon-Apple, which is definitely distinctive. The watermelon flavor is a little artificial but is balanced nicely by the subtle and kind of natural tasting apple. The flavor is not as intense as a Starburst or HiCHEW, but still has enough zap to get your salivary glands going.
The Cherry Banana comes in a more subtly soft yellow wrapper with red printing. The banana is immediately creamy and the cherry is tart and though slightly medicinal, has an actual natural note to it.
Raspberry-Peach comes in a mango-orange wrapper. The peach is the forward flavor, a bit dusty and tart with a sort of pine and melon note to it. It wasn’t quite peachy. The raspberry portion was also tangy and had a sort of jammy note to it, but lacked a floral berry flavor that I was hoping would be there.
I prefer the more traditional flavors of the classic Mamba Chews. These combos are just slightly off from my taste preferences. Still, the candy is a good value, a Starburst package holds 2.07 ounces and Mamba are the same price but have 2.65 ounces in them. They’re also vegan (no gelatin like Starburst or HiCHEW) and contain no artificial colors (but do use artificial flavors and alpha-tocopherol as a preservative).
Monday, August 20, 2012
Squirrel Nut Zippers were introduced by the Squirrel Brand Company in 1926 as a vanilla caramel with peanuts, part of a line of caramel candies. The name, which sounds more like a collection of nouns than an enticing candy, came from a local alcohol drink called Nut Zipper (this was prohibition).
The Squirrel Brand Company or Massachusetts was sold off to Southern Style Nuts in 1999 and moved to Texas. A mere 5 years later, Necco bought the rights to Squirrel Nut Zippers, and the lesser known Squirrel Caramel Chews, and moved production back to the Boston area. In case you’re wondering, the Squirrel Nut Zippers swing band named themselves after the candy (with permission from Squirrel Brand Company).
The candies are a simple format, a little bite sized chew wrapped in wax paper. They’re sold in bulk bins or pre-packaged bags. I found mine at Rocket Fizz, a small chain of candy & soda pop shops that started in Southern California.
Like Mary Janes (also made by Necco now), a good Squirrel Nut Zipper will be slight soft. Don’t be dismayed if you pick some up and they’re hard. The trick is to put it in your pocket or hold them in your palm for a few minutes or someplace slightly warm just before eating. That way the oils rise slightly to the surface to help the wrapper release from the candy and it’s soft enough to chew easily.
A SNZ is an easy to like candy, it’s quite simple. It’s a vanilla caramel with bits of peanuts in it. The flavor of the caramel is mild and sweet, not as earthy as a Mary Jane, which has molasses in it, and not as toffee like as a Sugar Daddy.
I’m sure I’ve had them before when I was a kid, but they didn’t make much of an impression on me. As an adult, well, there are other candies I’d prefer to have, such as a Mary Jane or some Sugar Babies.
I have no clue about possible allergens, but the ingredients show dairy, soy and peanuts.
Friday, August 17, 2012
Here are some new confections that are coming in the future or may have already hit stores near you.
Name: Milky Way French Vanilla and Caramel Bar
Name: Toblerone Crunchy Salted Almond
Name: Perugina Baci White
Name: Warheads Sour Coolers
Name: Tic Tac Fruit Adventure
Name: Astro Pops
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
As a kid I would eat brown sugar straight from the bag. I loved finding chunks of the stuff in my oatmeal. As an adult I discovered muscovado sugar and love finding new ways to use it in everyday food.
As a candy, this molasses rich sugar is quite popular in Japan, where Japanese prize their Okanawan Black Sugar. It’s mostly found in hard candies but sometimes used in caramels. I was excited to see the Meiji Chelsea line of hard butterscotch candies came out with a variety pack based on flavors of Kuro Sato called Chelsea Kokutou Black Sugar. The flavors are milk, black sugar and ginger.
The packaging is always charming. A stark black background with little calico inspired flowers dot the wrappers. In this case each wrapper is a different muted pastel with black flowers on it.
The candy comes in two different packaging styles. There are little flat boxes that hold foil wrapped pieces of butterscotch, then there are the bags, which often have assortments instead of a single flavor. The sealed wrappers are great because they keep the candies from becoming sticky. However, the candy is expensive. I think I paid 3.99 for this package that holds only 2.5 ounces. I’ve seen other packages for sale online for over $5 a package as well.
The light purple wrapper holds the Milk flavored piece. It looks like ordinary butterscotch but tastes like sweet, creamy rum. The texture of Chelsea is extraordinary. It’s smooth. The pieces always look and sound like glass. If you like to let your candy dissolve, these last a long time with consistent flavor all the way through. If you’re a cruncher, these are crispy and buttery.
The milk flavor mellows the strength of the black sugar, which can have bitter components to it. It’s fresh tasting, like a very mellow black tea.
The light red wrappers hold the best of all, the Black Sugar flavor. The pieces are very dark brown, glossy and hard. The flavor is dark and complex. It’s like that charcoal-like flavor of a toasted marshmallow. It’s more earthy and cereal-like than just molasses. It’s creamy and smooth, woodsy with a hint of toffee and coffee.
What’s so amazing about black sugar are all the flavors and nuances. It’s like chocolate, coffee or wine in that way.
The lightest looking piece of the set is the Ginger. This is less about the black sugar but an interesting combination of flavors. The ginger is woodsy and smooth with a warm component to it. The flavor is less of the tangy fresh juice flavor and more of the dried ginger with milk profile. The black sugar is lost, so the sugary notes are more like maple than molasses. Still, a great ginger candy, far and away better than most other toffee style gingers.
This was a great mix and I found it hard not to eat them all right away. I even tried going back to Little Tokyo to find more, but couldn’t find a single grocer that carried them still. I’m very sad, but hoping that Meiji will bring back the Black Sugar at least as a single flavor in the boxes at some point and I will stock up.
Monday, August 13, 2012
The idea was to be able to reach more consumers with Markoff’s taste creations without sacrificing the artisan scale of the original Vosges but still reach more consumers. (Source) I have trouble believing that Vosges is truly artisan any longer since they’re a $30 million company. The Wild Ophelia website feature a hokey story about this mascot for the brand that dipped beef jerky in milk chocolate instead of the traditional lemonade stand as a kid. The story reads like a non-traditional innovator’s checklist:
But again, it’s all just made up. The real story of someone wanting to extend their brand isn’t good enough, yet with this pure fiction they want us to also come on board with the real stories of the artisans that provide some of the key ingredients in the bar flavors.
The Wild Ophelia line features bars that cost one third less than the Vosges bars, but of course are about one third smaller in size. That’s fine with me in principal at least, since I often find the 3 ounce bars a bit too much for me and my short attention span. The new line of bars feature flavors like Beef Jerky, Southern Hibiscus Peach, Salted Chowchilla Almond, New Orleans Chili, Sweet Cherry Pecan, Mount Sequoia Granola, Smokehouse BBQ Potato Chips and the final one, Peanut Butter & Banana is what I picked up.
The Milk Chocolate Bar Peanut Butter & Banana is made with a dark milk chocolate of 41% cacao. Then it’s mixed with pieces of dried Williams Banana, which is grown on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. Peanut butter is mixed into the chocolate.
It sounds great, though I wish I knew as much about the chocolate and the origin of the peanuts as I now do about the bananas.
The bar is soft and has a smooth break. It looks like the pieces are quite small and well mixed in. It has a strong scent of roasted peanuts and a little note of maple or sweet hot cocoa.
Though the bar has a peanutty aroma, the chocolate, it tastes of both chocolate and peanut butter, like someone melted and mixed together a peanut butter cup. It’s a little grittier and fudgier than a standard milk chocolate bar. The heartiness is then highlighted with bits of dried bananas. They’re soft and chewy, but still kind of tough. They’re sweet and have a strong banana flavor with a fair bit of tanginess.
I found the leathery and sticky banana bits a little off-putting, they’d get stuck in my teeth. But the overall ratios and the fact that it’s not a sweet bar but still has that satisfaction of a sweet snack is really quite good. There are little bits of salt in it as well, and though it tastes like a lot because they’re little granules, it’s actually only 30mg for a serving.
Now for the transparency part. The company says “Wild Ophelia is a uniquely American chocolate brand that features all-natural and often organic ingredients sourced from small farms and artisans to tell an American story. All Wild Ophelia products are made with 100% renewable energy and packaged in 100% recycled board. Proudly, the Wild Ophelia line is developed by a certified women’s business enterprise.” Nowhere could I find a statement about the sourcing of the chocolate (none was listed as organic, the only organic ingredient in this bar was the peanut butter). So I can’t say anything about the ethics of the sourcing of the cacao and at $5 for a 2 ounce bar of chocolate, I’d prefer that the dairy products in it also be organic.
Wild Ophelia is gluten free, but their facility uses dairy, soy, peanuts, tree nuts and sesame. I love many of Vosges products, but have had to stop eating them because of walnut contamination issues (which is fully disclosed on the packages). I did not have any problems with this bar and none of the Wild Opheila products have walnuts in them (my only allergy).
For a more complete rundown of the line of bars, check out Jess at Foodette Reviews.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.