Thursday, September 27, 2012
They say, “Combining the irresistible tastes of chocolate, rich and creamy caramel and apple, this new item brings a unique, new flavor to trick-or-treating, decorating and snacking.”
I had a tough time finding them in Los Angeles, but spotted them at CVS in Pennsylvania last week and managed to stash a bag in my luggage before leaving.
The Minis part of the Mars line is rather interesting. They’re far smaller than a snack sized bar, taken out of the mylar wrappers, you could easily tuck them in little fluted cups and put them in a candy box.
Each piece is .3 ounces (or 8.6 grams) and about 38 calories. They’re .8 inches square (a little shorter than a cube, about .7 inches tall). A suggested serving size is 5 pieces for 190 calories.
The big difference between the mini and the regular bar is the proportion of chocolate. The chocolate here is a thin veneer, just enough shell to hold the fillings.
The candies look no different inside than a normal Milky Way Mini. (Not like those Shrek Snickers which had green nougat.) This is comforting, as the candy smells more like apple pie a la mode than green apple Jolly Ranchers.
The scent has a light touch of milk and sweetness along with a hint of cinnamon and baked apple. The caramel and nougat are distinct layers. The nougat is a little on the mellow spice size, with notes of nutmeg and chai. The caramel seems to be where the apple flavors come from, more like apple cider and apple peels than an artificial apple flavor but it’s exceptionally mild.
Of all the formats for Milky Way, I prefer the mini, as it’s not too sweet and three can satisfy me quickly. I was not looking forward to this version, but was pleasantly surprised. That’s not to say that I thought they were transcendent and there are far better flavor combinations that I think would translate well to this, like Chai Spice.
For a Green Halloween for ethically sourced and clean ingredients, this candy doesn’t make the grade. Mars is making great strides towards using certified chocolate, starting in the US with their Dove line, but has not rolled it out in the Milky Way line in the US as yet.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
One of my favorite lozenges as a kid were the Pine Bros honey flavor. They were mildly sweet but the firm and smooth glycerine texture was what made them positively addictive. I was disappointed with the reintroduction of Pine Bros, so I’ve been searching again to find something to fill that hole.
I first tried the Rescue Pastilles at ExpoWest in Anaheim earlier this year. They’re rather utilitarian looking from the outside of the tin. They promise little, just stating that they’re natural stress relief and free from alcohol.
I finally found them for sale at a local natural products store, Erewhon, up the street from my office. Rescue Pastilles: Elderflower & Orange were expensive, far more expensive than a simple pastille should be (though the tin is cool and certainly something I’ll keep). It was $8.29 for the tin that has only 50 pastilles and 1.7 ounces.
The tin smells herby upon opening it with a firm press to the center of the lid. It smells like thyme and green tea. The little pastilles are a little smaller than the diameter as a dime, about 2/3 of an inch.
The flavor is lightly sweet, a little like honey with a strong note of orange blossom and orange zest along with a more balsam note like rosemary. The dissolve is slow and the pieces are a bit gummy and soft like a glycerine lozenge.
They’re just lovely and quite refreshing. The dissolve is mellow, but doesn’t have the same slippery, throat coating abilities as some other pastilles, such as Grethers. There’s a light bitterness towards the end from the zest that turns into a pretty good breath freshening note that sticks with me. That doesn’t detract from the great texture and delicate, unique flavor. I don’t know if I’d buy these again, unless I had a wicked sore throat.
They’re made with gum arabic as a gelling agent, there is no gelatin in it. However, they’re not completely vegan since they use beeswax to keep them from sticking together. The package also states that they’re not suitable for animals.
Friday, September 21, 2012
Brach’s has been around since 1904 and has been through a lot, especially in the past 20 years. The company, founded by Emil Brach, was bought by American Home Products in 1966. In 1987, Jacobs Suchard, a coffee & confectionery giant, bought Brach’s. By 1990, as Suchard was being swallowed up by the tobacco company of Phillip Morris, the Jacobs part of the company, Klaus Jacobs, retained Brach’s. Then in 2003 it was sold to Callebaut and only a few years later, in 2008, Brach’s was bought by Farley’s and Sathers. Just this year, Farley’s and Sathers agreed to merge with Ferrara Pan to become the Ferrera Candy Company.
Through all of that, the candy brand remained intact and the favorite confections in their repertoire continued. However, manufacturing changes happened, and the formulas, manufacturing techniques and quality was uneven. Farley’s & Sathers has been trying hard to resurrect the comforting and inexpensive brand by improving the quality for the past two years.
The clusters are made with simple ingredients, plain old milk chocolate and some peanuts.
The clusters vary in size, from little lines of three or four nuts to a full clump of a dozen peanuts. The overall flavor is fake vanilla. A soft and comforting sort of sweetness, like an angora sweater.
The chocolate isn’t particularly smooth, nor even noteworthy. As far as it being their best chocolate ever, well, it’s not the worst. It tasted fresh though not creamy. The cocoa notes are bland and the dairy is clean but not particularly buttery. What works here is the touch of salt and the peanuts. They’re fresh, small and crunchy. The ratios are heavier on the chocolate than the nuts, but once it’s chewed, it works well.
I don’t think I’d buy these again. In fact, I’ve had them sitting around for review for quite a while but felt no desire to eat them even though I love chocolate and nuts.They’re friendly candy and certainly well priced, but I’ll stick to the sugar confections Brach’s makes.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Poco Dolce is a small confectioner based in San Francisco known mostly for their lovely toffee tiles (really, take a look). A few years ago they started making specialty chocolate bars as well.
The one I picked up in San Francisco was one I was particularly looking forward to. It’s simply called Hazelnut Bar made with bittersweet chocolate. The ingredients are exceptionally simple, chocolate, hazelnut butter and sea salt. Since it’s a dark chocolate, it’s also vegan (though processed where it may have come in contact with milk proteins, other tree nuts or peanuts and there’s no statement about the sourcing of the sugar).
Poco Dolce sources their chocolate from nearby Guittard Chocolate Company, choosing from their Rainforest Alliance certified chocolate. The hazelnut butter comes from Oregon.
The bar is not that large, though the box makes it seem like it would be close to one of those 3 ounce tablets. Instead this one is 1.763 ounces ... or what I’d consider a very generous single portion.
The dark bar is nicely tempered and the smooth hazelnut butter is well integrated. The texture is smooth, no hint of hazelnut bits but a strong hazelnut flavor. The bar is bitter, but in a roasted way. The melt is good, though a little firmer than a regular dark bar at first, but has a lighter feel on the tongue than a straight chocolate. It’s lightly sweet and lightly salty, deeply chocolatey and nutty. It’s also exceptionally filling. About two pieces were a great pick me up. So while the bar was expensive and small, I felt like it lasted a long time.
One of my complaints about hazelnut paste (gianduia) as I’ve gotten older is that it’s too sticky and too sweet. This bar has none of those issues, yet still remains decadent.
Monday, September 17, 2012
A few months back I went on a little buying spree on eBay for some Japanese candies I was having trouble finding here in the United States. I paid far more than I usually would for mass-produced candies, but I also haven’t bought much candy on eBay and wanted to see what that experience was like so I could share it.
I did a “buy it now” purchase from the storefront of jappy11. The prices were steep, about $2.00 to $2.50 per item and then there was the international shipping, which averaged out to about $1.10 additional per item. These were the small HiCHEW packages, something that I usually spend about $1.25 for here. The key to value for me is to find a seller with a large enough selection that buying multiple items that I simply can’t find anywhere else makes sense. Invoicing, payment and shipping was quick and easy. The items arrived quite quickly (but I’m on the West Coast).
Grape was always my favorite soda flavor as a kid. I love to drink Shasta Grape from a matching purple anodized aluminum tumbler at my grandmother’s house. There’s nothing quite like fake grape soda.The HiChew Fanta Grape is achingly close. The tangy start has some actual authentic notes of concord grape at first. In addition to the layered look of the pieces (a light colored center and a creamy lavender colored outer layer, there are little crunchy bits that emulate the pop of effervescence.
The chew is smooth and lasts a long time, without losing its flavor at the end. I enjoyed these so much that I was sure to pick up another package when I finally found them at a local Japanese grocery store.
Orange soda was probably my second favorite as a kid. The HiCHEW Fanta Orange is less distinct than the grape, but still fun and refreshing. The citrusy taste is a mix of Tang drink mix and orange SweeTarts. It has a little bit of zest in it, but it’s mostly a juicy flavor, also with the little crunchy pops of candy inside.
Even though it’s not a Fanta flavor, I’ve been aching to try the HiCHEW Cola flavor for a long time and could never find it in the States.
These pieces look more mundane, a dull brown that could well be a caramel. The flavor is deep and well defined. What I like about Japanese cola candies it that they’re more intense and concentrated than actual cola soda. This version is actually quite caramelly, with some good lemon/citrus note and a hint of cinnamon. I would definitely buy these more often if they were part of the American release of HiCHEW flavors. (They aren’t they?)
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Fruit Stripe Gum was launched back in the early 1960s as an extension of Beechnuts broad line of gums and fruity candies. The packages were a mix of five flavors, each with striped colors on the gum sticks. The flavors were cherry, orange, lime, mixed fruit and lemon (picture of early ad).
The history of the gum is rather convoluted, as it’s tied up with Beech Nut, which made both candy and baby food. In 1968 Beech Nut (which had also acquired Life Savers in 1956) merged with Squibb to become Squibb Beech-Nut Corporation. In 1981 Nabisco acquired just the confectionery portion with the brands of Beech Nut and Life Savers. In 1999 Hershey’s picked up the brand from Nabisco along with the more popular Bubble Yum, Ice Breakers, Breath Savers and Care Free gums but then sold off the Fruit Stripes brand, along with Rain Blo, Hot Dog and Superbubble, to Farley’s & Sathers in 2003. Just this year Farley’s and Sathers merged with the Ferrara Pan Candy Company.
The concept of Fruit Stripe Gum is largely unchanged over the years. It’s a flat stick of gum, made from a synthetic chewing gum base with artificial colors and flavors. The flavors are now Wet & Wild Melon, Cherry, Lemon, Orange and Peach.
The paper overwraps for the individual sticks are also temporary tattoos. They feature the mascot for the gum, a zebra known as Yipes.
Peach is Peach Smash and has a fresh flavor to it. It wasn’t my favorite, but not too fake or sour. The gum is smooth, the sugar is very sweet, so sweet that I kept checking the label to see if it was some sort of artificial sweetener. I’m actually not accustomed to chewing stick gum, as I prefer the candy coated chiclet styles for the variation in textures.
Yellow is Lemon and as expected, it’s the most sour of the set. The lemon flavor is like chewing on a candle, not at all like a fresh or zesty real lemon, though there are some more zesty notes towards the end but those are reminiscent of cleaning supplies.
Orange is Orange - the flavor starts strongly artificial, sweet and tangy with only a slight grain to it. Later chewing brings out more artificial notes, including the colorings, which have a slight metallic and bitter note to them.
Red is Cherry and seems odd, if only because it’s cherry gum, which isn’t that common. It reminded me a lot of Cherry Life Savers. The flavor lasted longer than the peach and faded into a kind of woodsy medicinal thing that was actually better than the initial overly sweet thing.
Green is Wet Watermelon (but in a pink wrapper) which was much better than I expected. I didn’t care much for the tartness of it at first, but the fake watermelon was rather fresh tasting and lasted longer than I expected.
Overall, it’s passable gum. I’m not that fond of it, but it does offer advantages over most packs of gum in that there’s a variety of flavors. Fruit flavored stick gum has become much more common in the past 10 years, though it was always around in bubble gums, especially the gumball style.
Here’s a classic ad for the gum from the early 1990s:
Monday, September 10, 2012
Werther’s Original Hard Candies are truly a classic around the world, a kind of standard for hard candy butterscotch. They’re made by August Storck and named for the town where the candy company was formed, Werther in the Westphalia region of Germany. The company was founded in 1903 and may have come up with a version of the Original Hard Candy around 1909 through the efforts of one of the company’s confectioners, Gustav Nebel.
The first branded name of the candy emerged in 1969 when they began selling them as Werthers Echte in Germany, and then in the 1980s they became a world-wide brand under the English name of Werther’s Original.
The ingredients are simple: sugar, glucose syrup (from wheat or corn), cream, butter, whey, salt, soy lecithin and vanillin. There are no partially hydrogenated oils in there, no filler oils. For the most part it’s sugars and dairy ingredients with a splash of salt (about 15 mg per piece). The calorie count is higher than other hard candies, because of the fat content that’s usually absent from pure sugar candy. So these have about a half a gram of fat per candy and less than 25 calories each.
Each is wrapped in a mylar and clear cellophane wrapper. The gold sparkle is hard to miss in a candy dish. For a hard candy, they do a good job of straddling the world of durability and decadence.
The pieces are about 1.2 inches long and .8 inches wide. They’re smooth and nicely domed with a small depression in the top. They fit the mouth nicely and dissolve smoothly and slowly. The flavor is very well rounded, a hint of salt, a creamy burn sugar note and little hint of vanilla. The texture is exceptionally smooth and dense, there are no voids at all. But in addition to the creamy melt, they are quite crunchy if you’re a chewer. (And I am.)
They’re easy to savor, and provide a little more substance than a straight sugar item like a Butterscotch Disk, which is really only flavored like scorched sugar. There are other candies like the Werther’s and companies like Life Savers and Hershey’s have tried to enter the same market. But there’s really no need to try others. The Werther’s are superb. They’re easy to find at drug stores and discounters. The ingredients are decent enough and the price is pretty reasonable. The only issue I have with them is that they can get sticky in humid or hot environments. It doesn’t ruin the taste, but does mar the lovely appearance of the pieces when unwrapped.
It would be nice if they’d make them gluten free, though. Contains milk, soy and wheat.
Thursday, September 6, 2012
Right now the gumballs are sold in small bags of assorted flavors, a mix of fruits, mint and spice. It’s made with real sugar, no artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols (which can cause stomach upset in some people). Gum made with just sugar these days is particularly rare, and finding it in a fun and familiar shape is a big selling point.
The price for the bag was $1.59 on sale, but I see these on the internet going for about $3 for a 2 ounce bag, which seems a bit steep for gum, even if it is all natural. But when there are so few alternatives when you’re sensitive about ingredients, it’s the going rate.
The gumballs are nicely soft. The colors are consistent though not extremely strong or bright. The balls are a bit denser than I expected. I knew they were hollow, but each piece is a good sized chew and two are an appropriate portion, three a little too much for me.
Cinnamon Spice = Red tastes like those amazing hot toothpicks I was obsessed with as a preteen. The cinnamon is strong and has a woodsy note along with the spicy heat. It’s sweet and has a warming feeling on the back of my throat and a light note of cloves. It’s like a chewable Atomic Fireball, except there was no hint of bitterness from artificial colors, because there were none. I quite liked this one and would love to have more than three in my bag.
Tangerine Dream = Orange is soft and mellow. The orange flavor is more like a scent, there’s no tang but plenty of zest. Because there’s no sour note, it never verged into Aspergum territory (an orange flavored pain relieving gum with aspirin in it).
Orange Mandarin Berry = Pink was actually quite fruity and pleasant. I was expecting something more along the lines of Juicyfruit, instead it does actually have berry notes in it, like blueberry and raspberry and then a sort of citrus zest undertone. The flavor fades rather quickly, but still has a lingering freshness to it.
Peppermint T = Green is extremely strong. It’s truly like an Altoid gum, bold and natural. The flavor, like the others, fades, though the cooling effect of the peppermint lingers for quite a while. I liked these a lot and would like to just buy a bag of the green balls if possible.
Lemon E. Lemonade = Yellow was subtle. It was not at all tangy and has a light hint of fresh lemon or lemongrass. But that’s about it. It’s sweet and has a nice, soft but not sticky chew. Bubbles were appropriate after most of the sugar was gone, though never quite large.
I tried combining flavors, the orange went well with lemon or berry. The mint and cinnamon were both very strong and sort of fought at first before cinnamon won out.
The chew of the gum base is smooth, except for the sugary crunch from the shell. The chicle doesn’t stick to my teeth and stays soft and chewy without becoming stiff like a wad of paper like some gums can get. But it does lose flavor quickly and the bubbles are much stickier than the synthetic versions and can’t get very big. I wouldn’t recommend this for little kids, but older kids looking for something that appears mainstream might like this. Adults like me who like to chew the flavor out and refresh quickly will also like the variety.
The package doesn’t say where they’re made but did list that they’re gluten free, nut free, dairy free and Kosher, but they do contain beeswax so wouldn’t be appropriate for vegans.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.