Friday, February 23, 2007
They’re premium lollipops in Jelly Belly flavors. I tried a good assortment of their current line, courtesy of many visits to their booth at the Fancy Food Show and rummaging around in the samples bin.
Sizzling Cinnamon - a pretty sassy flavor. Not too hot, but a little too “flavory” for me without the burn that I was hoping for. I mean, they put “sizzling” in the name.
Cotton Candy - sweet and plain and delicious.
Tangerine - softly orange with a subtle zesty hit. No tart ring to make it juicy.
Bubble Gum - this one is the most alarming looking, it’s a bright, opaque pink. A slight tutti frutti element to it, but not really that unlike Cotton Candy.
Lemon - I’d call this light lemon. It’s sweet and fruity but has no tangy element to it.
Root Beer - I was really looking forward to this one. It smelled sweet and earthy. It’s smooth, like a really dense Root Beer Barrel (but no sharp voids to cut your mouth). I was not disappointed, this is a real winner.
The quality of the candy is great. It’s very dense, ultra smooth and lasted a long time. However, the size and shape of the pop is a challenge. The bean is perpendicular to the stick, so it’s pretty wide (1.75”) for placing comfortably in the mouth. Sucking on them, because of the shape, also tends to be a little noisy, it took me a few pops before I got my consumption tactics honed to the point of silence. Another small pet peeve of mine with premium pops like this is that the stick is paper and you can suck air through when you dissolve far enough down on the stem, for reasons I don’t quite understand, this results in more slobber.
If you’ve ever had Linda’s Lollies, these are very similar. I think I still prefer the fruit flavors in Linda’s because they’re a little more rounded and of course there’s a much larger variety ... but she also has a 20 or so year head start.
The other flavors I didn’t try were Watermelon, Grape, Strawberry Cheesecake & Very Cherry.
These should be hitting stores soon, though there’s still nothing about them on the Jelly Belly website. You can order them on the web, but you have to get full cases of single flavors. Retail they’re supposed to go for 79 cents to 99 cents.
The pair I’ll review today are from the Chocolatier line from Japan: Strawberry, Pistachio, Almond and Thyme. These have been around for a few months and as international KitKats go, they’re not that hard to get a hold of, as many eBay vendors, JBox.com and even Amazon seem to have them in stock. They come in a pretty little lift-top box (about the same footprint as a box of tissues) and hold 16 little individually wrapped fingers.
These are slightly smaller than regular KitKats, they’re actually the same size as those minis I tried after Christmas in the Dark Mint Chocolate.
This little morsel smells like milk and sugar. There’s only the slightest hint of strawberry in there, without the tangy berry bite, just a vague floral taste. The nutty flavors are also very subtle. I got no sense of the thyme whatsoever.
That’s not to say that it wasn’t nice, it wasn’t as sweet as some other white chocolate versions of KitKat, such as the Matcha, it’s just so refined it’s beyond me. As fruity KitKats go, I think I liked the Strawberry KitKat from Japan a bit better, mostly because it was more strawberry-y.
The second little box is Ujimaccha, Kinako, Ume by Patissier Takagi. That’s green tea, soybean and sour plum.
The sour plum hits me more as a salty taste, which is good to cut through the sweet white chocolate coating.
The packaging on these is very nice, it’s easy to have one or two little fingers and then reclose the box. It’s also great for sharing, people think it’s a really nice bit of candy I’m offering them. Of course the packaging might be a little extreme, it feels like I’ve eaten a lot when I have three and there’s a huge pile of wrappers next to me and I’ve eaten less than an ounce.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
The Easter treats were on the shelves before Valentine’s this year (Easter is one week earlier than last year), but now that VDay is out of the way, the Easter candy is really taking over the stores. I saw Cadbury Mini Eggs, Peeps and Creme Eggs at the drug store back in late January. But now everything is out, even though we have about seven weeks to go.
There are quite a few offerings from Cadbury this season, the various Creme Eggs (orange was introduced last year, and I finally found it this year). But this one, the Cadbury Royal Dark Mini Eggs took me by surprise.
The little chalky looking eggs are a smidge darker on the outside, more vibrant than the Cadbury Mini Eggs and don’t have any speckles.
The shell is sweet and rough on the tongue at first, then becomes soft and a little cool on the tongue. Inside is a core of creamy dark chocolate, the chocolate is super smooth and reminds me a bit of Dove. It’s sweet, but not overly and doesn’t have that milky-sticky quality of other Cadbury products.
It’s kind of weird, but they remind me more of a good cup of hot chocolate than candy. They’re definitely growing on me.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
These malt balls are Maple flavored and from Naked Chocolate in Philadelphia, PA. I don’t know that much more about them. In fact, I’m not even sure that they are Maple flavored, there’s no label on them that says one way or another, but they taste maple-y (or maybe pecanish?) and that’s good enough for me.
They’re stunning to look at from the outside. Wonderfully glossy, these milk chocolate covered balls have a secret inside, a second inner shell of dark chocolate. This may be where the flavor is.
The malted center doesn’t pack the malty punch that I usually look for, but the woodsy smell and taste along with the crunchy center was pleasant enough for me to eventually eat the whole package.
These orange beauties are Pumpkin Spice. Again, I’m guessing here, because there were no labels. They definitely had a good pack of spice in them, some mellow nutmeg, a little allspice and a light hit of cinnamon & clove (not so much as to bother me).
The orange color took a while getting used to, as did the sweetness of the white chocolate (that looks orange). There were no pumpkin notes, but that’s okay with me (I’d already had my fill of Pumpkin KitKats before I got these).
I can’t say that I liked these as much as the maple ones, at least that’s what the evidence of me still having the Pumpkin ones around and no more Maple says. They do make my desk drawer smell fresh and woodsy. Perhaps it’s that the center of the ball isn’t malty but more like a graham cracker flavor. Which probably goes with pumpkin spices better but left me wanting my malt fix.
I’ve seen a lot of different flavored malt balls out there, peanut butter, espresso, toffee crunch, mint ... the list goes on and on. And though some of these iterations are good, they lack the malt delivery that I’ve come to expect in a sphere of chocolate with a crunchy center. So either I have to adjust my thinking about what I’m about to eat or I need to stop picking these up and hoping to get my malt on. Then they’re pretty good.
UPDATE: it looks like these are actually made by Koppers.
Hershey’s introduced a product line around the turn of the century called Bites. I rather liked some of the products. One of them was the York Bites. They were tiny little York Peppermint baubles: a little gumdrop shape of firm fondant covered in glossy dark chocolate.
They were sold in a variety of bags, some for 99 Cents (I bought them for 50 cents at the 99 Cent Only Store last night). The cool thing about the size of the pieces was that you could take them to the movies or share them more easily.
Flash forward a couple of years and Hershey quietly discontinues Bites and introduces this sexy new product, the York Mints ... they shrink the little mints a bit and then coat them in a light candy shell and put them in a little retro tin. Pretty clever, huh?
These mints suffer from the same problem that the Bites did ... inconsistent consistency. Some of the mints have a crumbly center, a little firmer than a regular York Peppermint pattie. But others are pretty freakin’ hard.
What’s nice in this version of the mint though is that the white candy coating is also minted. It provides a couple of different options for eating. You can suck on it and take off the coating to get to the chocolate (which is rather minimal) or just chew the whole thing up. Both are good options. They’re not quite strong enough to be a breath mint and not satisfying enough to be a candy. However, each little mint is only 4 calories, so if you’re looking for something that you can use to control your portions (via your pocketbook), hey, maybe this will work for you.
The tin is certainly cool, but I don’t think I need more than one. (Junk Food Blog announced these late last year, you can find a list in the comments of where people have been finding them.)
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
I picked these Nestle Turtles up at the drug store where everything Valentine’s was already 75% off. I haven’t had Nestle Turtles in a long, long time. They weren’t always a Nestle product, they were originally made by Rowntree DeMet’s Inc. which was bought by Nestle in 1988 and eventually in 1996 rolled into the Nestle branding.
Although I’ve always loved the idea of Turtles, no one does them better than See’s (who call them Pecan Buds). But then again, I couldn’t go around thinking that without actually putting it to the test.
Nestle Milk Chocolate Turtles are rather uniform looking but have pretty good pieces of pecans in there. They smell very sweet and taste that way, too. Kind of milky, kind of mapley. The nuts are fresh but the chocolate tastes a little chalky and lacks a chocolate punch. They’re just too sweet and hurt my throat. They also taste kind of doughy even though there are no wheat ingredients.
Nope, I’m not keen on the real Nestle Turtles. I’ll stick to my various other versions. At the regular price they’re about $35 pound ... a total rip because you can get See’s for half that price online and even Sanders has an equally good deal (though I haven’t tried the pecan version of their Titans).
Fun Note: The character of Rochelle (Chris Rock’s mom) in Everybody Hates Chris is obsessed with Turtles. In the episode Everybody Hates the Lottery (ep 16) she agrees to give them up ... which of course goes poorly.
I’ve been more pleased with Russell Stover over the years. It could be that my tastes have mellowed or it may be that Russell Stover is making better quality product, but they’re still not a go-to brand for me. What really surprised me is their move into organics. So I picked up their Organic Pecan Delights just before Valentine’s Day. They come in a peg bag that’s all green and matte looking with a little burst of rich gold for the “organic” banner. It’s also heralded as “gluten free” which I would love to hear if I were someone who was hunting in the candy aisle for something I could eat.
Pecan Delights are a pecan cluster with caramel covered in milk chocolate. All ingredients are organic, except maybe the sea salt and it’s unclear if the soy lecithin is.
These are upside down. The caramel is on the bottom, the nuts (in pieces, not halves) are on the top and the whole thing is covered in chocolate. Don’t worry, it’s not that big of a faux pax as candy constructions go.
They’re a little small but a nice barely two bite piece of candy. The nuts are fresh and the caramel is decent. It’s chewy and not too soft or sweet. The chocolate on the outside is a little odd, it’s not quite the European powdered milk taste, but close, with a slight gamey quality to it. (It reminds me of the Thompson’s Organic Milk Chocolate.)
Overall they’re not my favorite pecan caramel cluster I’ve had, but I did finish the bag (it was only 3 ounces total), which is a testament to their freshness. The ingredients label is much more comforting than some other Russell Stover goodies, so there is that consolation. I wish they came in dark chocolate, but for a first step into organics they’re no-compromise. They also have their rather good coconut bar available in their organic line (also only in milk chocolate). If price is the object and not the organic status, stick with See’s.
On a completely side note, Russell Stover is having a big clearance sale on their Valentine’s candies on their website. So if you’re ga-ga over their Coconut or Strawberry Hearts, this might be the time to stock up.
Everybody has a different name for caramel nut clusters covered with chocolate. Sanders Candy, the Detroit-based candy and fudge sauce company, calls theirs Cashew Titans. Pretty good name, if you ask me.
These are compact candies with a nice layer of cashews on the bottom, a dollop of caramel and milk chocolate enrobing the whole thing.
The cashews are fresh and crunchy, though I could use a hit of salt on them and perhaps a few more. The chocolate was okay, very sweet but nice and creamy. The caramel has a good chew, soft and not too sticky but lacking a dark caramelized flavor that would match so well with the buttery crunch of the cashews.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Sanders also sent me some of their Caramels to try as well (and some other goodies that I’ll cover in a few weeks). This box of milk chocolate covered caramels were absolutely lovely. Yes, the plastic tray that anchors them in the box isn’t as classy looking as pretty little fluted cups, but I have admit that they looked glossy and flawless when I opened it.
It’s only your imagination that these look darker than the Cashew Titans, I think it’s the dark chocolate striping that makes it look darker. It certainly tastes like the same chocolate.
The caramel is smooth and without the cashews does hold up well on its own. The chocolate is sweet and I find it just a little too much for the caramel, but some careful nibbling around the edges creates a more ideal ratio (I do this with a lot of candies, as far as I’m concerned the coating on a Heath bar is disposable).
I can’t eat many of these at once, so far two has been my limit. But with a few pretzels as a crunchy and salty complement make for a tasty dessert. The price on these, for handcrafted candies is pretty good though and I’d certainly want to try one of their dessert shops if I were in the area.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.