Tuesday, July 25, 2006
If you’ve ever been in a Trader Joe’s, you’ve probably found the candy overwhelming. You may also have found that they have a lot of house-branded products. Luckily they’re inexpensive enough for you to shrug and throw it in the cart and give it a whirl. I’ve had a few bad experiences, but most are pretty darn good.
I’ve resisted these lilac foiled bars for a long time. They looked a little dowdy to me, and I’m all about the hot new candies. They come in a three pack - each bar is a single portion, so it’s easy to stockpile them, but also to have an immediate fix.
The Dark Chocolate bar is smooth and shiny and smells a little smoky and sweet. It has a nice melt, but a smidge of grain/chalkiness. It’s not too sweet and has a slight dry bite to it.
Overall, it’s a good deal and the size of the bars (1.75 ounces) makes it easier to tuck them in your bag for later indulgence instead of a larger 3.5 ounce ones that you often see. Still, if I were looking for fully satisfying indulgence I’d still go for a Chocovic and I also enjoy the Trader Joe’s Organic Dark Chocolate with Pecans and Raisins.
Monday, July 24, 2006
If you like Haribo’s Happy Cola gummis but wish they were more like real soda and gave you burps and such, wish no more. Fizzy Cola not only has a the nice spicy cola bite, it also has a sugary/tart sanding that gives it a sassy, fizzy feeling.
I always thought that the Haribo Happy Cola bottles were a little tame. Sure, they tasted like cola, but they also tasted a little ‘flat.’ These little gummi bottles are the best candy I’ve had that capture the soda experience.
That said, I’m not really that big a fan of soda.
Since they are a little gassy, I can’t gorge myself on them without negative feedback. So in that respect they’re good for helping me to monitor my intake. I doubt that other people have the same issues I do with them so I’m still giving them a good rating because they are quite different from other candies and cola is an underutilized flavor in the candy world.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Everything’s better when it’s big!
These are big Smarties. Yeah, there are two rolls of Smarties there in the picture. One is a regular sized roll and the other are the new gigantor Smarties.
Each Mega Smartie is the same diameter as a quarter and tastes suspiciously like a regular Smartie. (Yes, those are Mega Smarties with regular Smarties on top to show scale ... Mega Smarties do not come with hats.)
Really, there’s very little difference except that for the first time I was able to taste the actual vague flavor of each of the Smarties colors. Not that there’s a lot of it. Not that I want a lot of flavor in my Smarties. They’re plesantly sweet and tart and dissolve quickly on the tongue. If I have any complaint with the Mega Smarties, it’s that they’re not quite as crumbly. There’s something so light and chalky about the demi-Smarties that allows them to enter the bloodstream instantly.
If there’s one thing to recommend Mega Smarties, it’s because they’re now in a single-serving package, you should be able to find them with other candy bars instead of in with the bulk and fun sized bags. I usually only pick up Smarties at Halloween, because that’s the easiest time to find them in the large bags ... see how clever they are!
(The weird thing is that I didn’t know what to call these. The label just refers to them as Smarties with no reference to the size. The Smarties.com website doesn’t say anything about Mega Smarties even existing.)
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Aji Ichiban is a chain of stores that sells dried and cured fruits as well as candy by the pound.
I went to the location in Chinatown in New York City while I was there. The store was kind of small and the woman behind the counter barked at me when I took some photos. This one was taken from the street. I actually think they’re doing their customers a disservice when they can’t take photos, because that’s the only reason I know what some of the candy is. It’s marked in the bins, but not on the wrappers.
They have a large selection of bins that contains individually wrapped candies or salted fruits or nuts and rice snacks. There are even samples of the fruits by the bins, but I made the mistake of taking what I thought was dried ginger and it turned out to be a salted plum. Quite a shock and made me parched instantly.
It’s not a huge store, but then again, they don’t have large tubs of everything. A third of the display space is for snacks and dried fruit, the rest is candy. Most of the candy is a mix & match by the pound, but some of it you could buy prepacked.
I liked just about everything in this mix. I chose carefully, so this is a good sign about the way that the packages are marked. Some have English on them, most are just pictures and sometimes the bin they were in at the store had some clues about the contents. Items came from all over Asia, some marked from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Japan.
I got some super fizzy sours, something called Zour Bomb, which was a cross between a cola flavored hard candy and a Zotz. However, partway through it got a minty flavor to it that kind of turned me off. The outside was dusty looking and super sour, then a hard candy and then the inside had another reservoir of sour. It also came in Lemon which was excellent.
Another was a little orange packet called Sour + from Lot100. It had little orange faces on it making sour impressions. It was a gummi, soft and about the size of a gumdrop with a sugar sand on it. Whoo, it was sour to start, then the soft gummi had a nice orange flavor to it. I would definitely buy these again. I wonder if they come in pineapple. That’d be cool.
Lot100 also had a nice Cola hard candy. It looked a little odd in that it was a plain red hard candy. It tasted like cola but had a slight hint of cinnamon.
Not everything from Lot100 was a hit - I had a rather promising Mango gummi that just didn’t quite hit the right balance. The texture was fantastic, plump and moist with a nice tart note but the mango “flavor” was less “pine meets melon” and more “burnt rubber.” Too bad.
Kasugai had a good assortment of fruit gummis, which I’ve reviewed before. I picked up Litchi and Muscat this time. They’re called super juicy on the label and they are plenty soft, but the litchi was a little flavorless and almost like a Turkish Delight. Muscat smelled wonderful and had a bit more complex flavor, something like white grape and orange blossom.
There was also a line of Milk candies that had calcium in them that came in interesting flavors like chocolate, vanilla and also red bean. They had an odd, firm, fluffed latexy quality to them, kind of like Hi-CHEW. I have no idea how much calcium is actually in it, but they were super soft and very satisfying. The vanilla was a little bland and the chocolate was kind of like a bouncy Tootsie roll, but I really liked the red bean. I mean, I really liked it. I’m sorry they’re gone now.
I picked up a few tea flavored candies, one from Thailand called Didi Honey Lemon Tea Candy was particularly nice. Only slightly tart, there was a nice play between tea and honey in there. The other brand was Cister from Malaysia wasn’t as pleasant looking (brown) but had a much stronger tea flavor and some mint thrown in (which made it taste more like a Ricola drop).
Another assortment were called S’Creams and were just hard candies with a milky swirl to them, kind of like Lifesaver’s Creamsavers. They were pleasant enough, with a Werther’s-like crunch if you bit them but a good tangy hit too to keep them interesting and satisfying. I picked up Orange, Strawberry and Melon.
There were a few flavors of these, I picked up Pudding Marshmallow, Grape Marshmallow, Mango Marshmallow and then two that have no English text on them - one has purple on its wrapper and the other has pink.
Mango Marshmallow - shown above - sucked royally. I had two of them, I at that bite of one and I gave the other to Amy, who promptly spit it out in my trash can. Why is it bad? It just is ... don’t make me think about it.
Pudding Marshmallow - it looks suspiciously like Mango, but thankfully is quite nice. It’s a marshmallow with a little lump of creamy, dulce de leche tasting filling in the middle. Not quite fudge, not quite creme, but pleasant and a little artificially vanilla tasting but with a tasty hit of salt.
Chocolate Marshmallow - there was no indication what this was, just a pink wrapper. The chocolate was a cross between frosting and a Tootsie roll. Not as good as the pudding one, but I liked it.
Grape Marshmallow - hmm, it was okay, but the grape filling was like cheap jelly and it just didn’t appeal much to me.
Basically, Aji Ichiban is as much of an adventure as you want it to be. You can grab a pound of simple mixed candies that you know and love or you can push the boundaries of your taste experiences and just shovel them into your bag blindly and see what happens.
I think the candy is horribly expensive for pure sugar stuff - $10 a pound is way up there even for the fancy fruit candies from Italy that I see at Zabars or something. But the variety is pretty special and with no minimums and the ability to mix and match is a huge plus. You can also order online, but there’s a half-pound minimum with most candies and of course the selection is limited. They have stores in several large cities across the edges of the United States, but they don’t have the addresses on their site.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
I miss living where there are lightning bugs. When I was in Pennsylvania last month it was a little early for them ... we saw one or two, but not the nighttime display I so longed to see. It was certainly fun catching them as kids and putting them in a jar and setting them on a bookshelf in my bedroom overnight to watch all night (and then release in the morning).
I thought this product was pretty cool looking. It’s just gummis shaped like bugs and they include a set of tweezers with a battery and LED at the tip that activates when you close them around something.
The tweezers work really well, they’ll light up when they get close to being closed, so you can grasp one of the gummis and without even squeezing hard they light up.
The LED is red, which is kind of disappointing because fireflies have a more green/yellow color to their luminescence in real life, but I understand the limitations of making a novelty product at a particular price point. The other thing that I found a little bit of a bummer is that the gummis aren’t actually lightning bugs ... they’re glow-worms.
The gummis are pretty good. A little different than a Haribo, more like a Trolli. They come in two different colors: red and yellow. They’re very soft and chewy. The orange one is citrus of some sort and the red one tastes like strawberry.
Once you’ve eaten the small portion they give you, the fun with the tweezers isn’t over. You can pick up all sorts of things with them. Light colored jelly beans worked well, gumdrops, hard candies (they’re really cool with these), vitamin gel capsules and of course any small gummis like the traditional bears. If the battery lasts as long as that light up lolly I got last year, you can have hours of fun with them!
I’ve never been particularly fond of most of the novelty items out there (such as clear plastic cell phones with little candy inside) but this one really seems to provide interactivity and promotes imagination ... as well as being a candy delivery device!
If you’re looking for a fun little party favor for a summer kids birthday celebration, these aren’t priced too bad at $1 per if you find a good sale. However, I’m seeing them online for about $1.50 each ... still not a bad deal for a little toy.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.