Tuesday, February 2, 2016
This year Russell Stover jumped on the strawberry trend quite well. They already make a Strawberry Cream Heart for Valentine’s Day, but this year they’ve also added at least three new items with the strawberry theme. I picked up two. The first is the Russell Stover Strawberries & Cream Mix which the package says is strawberry and white pastelle hearts combine for a rich strawberry and cream taste.
The pink package sports lots and lots of hearts, including a few that show the size and shape of the candies. And it’s actually pretty accurate, they do look like little drawings of hearts colored in off white and palest pink. It’s a white confection version of the iddy biddy Santas and Bunnies they do in milk chocolate. (Though they mercifully sell those in little single-serve packages.)
The pieces do smell rather sweet, mild and with a decent strawberry note. They’re soft and matte and kind of strange because they’re very quiet. They’re light and have no candy shell, so pouring them from the package means more sound from the bag than the tumbling of the candy.
When Russell Stover says pastelle, they really mean a combination of sugar, fractionated palm kernel oil, partially hydrogenated palm oil, some milk solids & fats plus a few dabs of food coloring and flavor.
The effect is pretty much what you might think. Mostly waxy, rather sweet, a smidge milky and vaguely strawberry. The white pieces are supposed to be vanilla, but are really just less strawberry because of their proximity in the bag.
They’re not as sweet as I feared they would be. Mostly I’m disappointed that they’re so expensive when Mars was able to make actual white chocolate strawberry M&Ms for less for Easter this year. The one thing they have going for them is that they are pretty darn cute and would be great as a decorative element for a cake or cupcakes or just scattered on a dessert plate. Because they’re a mockolate product, not a coated candy, the colors won’t run and they’re not as likely to melt in most serving situations.
Monday, November 16, 2015
Of course there should be Christmas gummis! And not just red and green gummi bears, they should be fully conceived holiday gummis. So, I was really intrigued with Vidal Gummi Gingerbread Men.
The package has all the holiday icons: ornaments, holly with berries, red background and of course a little gingerbread house for the gingerbread man. The gingerbread man looks extremely happy to be there, too. Like he wants to run and jump in your mouth.
The gummis are cookies n’ creme flavor, which is not quite what I was hoping for, especially since I’m not sure what that flavor actually is, it’s more of a thing with textures.
They’re cute little guys, actually they’re pretty big for gummis (but small for cookies). They’re about 2 inches tall and an armspan of about 1.25 inches. Unlike real gingerbread cookies, these are “iced” on the bottom. There’s a foamy white layer base on the pieces and then a tan caramel colored gummi layer for the gingerbread. The actual flavor difference between the layers is negligible, it’s really about textures. The bottom is a little lighter, not quite marshmallow but foamy with a slight creamy touch. The top layer is a little smoother, but about the same flavor.
So, the flavor is, well, not cookies and cream. It’s more like honey sweetened yogurt. It’s sweet but there are no cookie or vanilla notes. There are certainly no spice notes, but it was clear that these aren’t gingerbread flavored. Instead they’re lightly tangy and just bland. I found them absolutely unappealing. The only good thing was that they didn’t smell weird, like some gummis can.
I think that there’s a market out there for non-fruity gummis. There are some licorice types around, but it would be fun to expand the flavors to things like mint and butterscotch or caramel or maybe even peanut butter. As far as these go, though, they’re purely for decoration and non-discriminating people. They are not tasty candy.
Vidal gummis are gluten free. They contain gelatin so they’re not vegetarian or kosher. There’s no statement on the label about soy or nuts, but they do contain coconut oil.
Monday, November 2, 2015
The Spearmint Mix Tic Tac is pretty simple, and not that different than the classic Peppermint.
Spearmint is a less common mint flavor when it comes to candy (though an easier herb to grow than peppermint, strange how that happens). The package holds equal quantities of medium and light green mints. I picked these up at Target a little over a month ago, but no I can’t seem to find them again.
If there’s a difference in the flavor between the two colors, I’m not sure I ever figured it out. It’s possible the darker color was stronger but both were suitably flavorful.
The nice thing about Tic Tacs are the smoothness. The coating on the outside is slick and kind of eases me into the minty notes. I’m a cruncher, so I get to the very minty core pretty quickly. They’re quite strong for such a small mint, though not as caustic as Altoids can be.
But here’s where things go awry. As I was preparing this review, I wanted to make sure I knew what all the allergen specifications were and noticed that the ingredients on the package said that this variety includes sucralose (sold as Splenda in yellow packets). I rechecked old reviews and packages posted online to confirm that this is not the case with other varieties. I specifically avoid artificial sweeteners and some are actually called out on the labels like allergens, but in this case the sucralose was just in the list way at the end and the word resembles sucrose at first glance. (And there’s some printing in a different direction on that part of the label that’s rather confusing, design-wise.)
Basically, I’m bummed. I have never experienced a reaction to sucralose specifically (my problems are with Aspartame, but I’m tarring a lot of other sweeteners with that brush, because, well, why not, it’s a big world and I should be able to get candies with sugar in them.) At first experience I was very enthusiastic about this variety, now I don’t care to eat Tic Tacs any longer. They were my go-to mint for full sugar and shareability.
Friday, September 11, 2015
I’m a big bubble gum fan, though not much of a chewer. I’m a purist, I like my bubble gum to be the traditional bubble gum flavor. I saw this Cotton Candy Bubblicious at the beginning of summer, though, and thought it was a splendid idea for a gum flavor.
The pieces are ridiculously blue, the package design is wonderfully summery, and it all smells like an air freshener designed for a child’s room.
The lightly strawberry sweet scent is strong enough that I new which room I’d left this package in without even looking. It’s not chemically or unappealing, though it doesn’t necessarily smell like food.
The pieces were easy to open from the little paper wrappers and soft. The easy chew was very sweet with less of the strawberry or cotton candy notes and more of just a clean sweeteness.
However, as the sugar in the chew dissipated, I was left with the taste of the gum base, which is rather like some door mats I got at Ikea. It’s just a touch of asphalt with the berry. The longer I chewed, the more that note came out, until I was pretty sure it was a sign that the whole thing had turned into a big tar ball. Nope, when I took it out of my mouth, it was just a piece of blue gum.
So, if you’re looking for some room freshener that looks like blocks of sidewalk chalk that you’re not going to chew, these are great. But even for the type of person who chews the gum until the sugar is gone, the awful aftertaste is too much.
Monday, April 6, 2015
I’ve been putting off this review of SweetWorks Celebration Candies for months. I’ve seen them at stores quite a bit lately, not just the bears, but SweetWorks makes a wide variety of shapes and color variations for different party needs. My hesitation was that they look great, but didn’t taste like much at all.
This particular variation is little candy coated bears in pearlescent yellow, green and white. The sparkly coating is created with food-safe mica based pigments.
I got a sample of their peg bag of this variety that’s 12 ounces, but I’ve seen smaller 6 ounce bags and of course some wholesalers will sell by the case. They’re a very popular item for candy buffets, or for decorating and party favors for baby showers and birthday parties. They’re made by OakLeaf in Canada. The package says that it’s peanut free, tree nut free and gluten free, however, the package says that their facility does use milk and soy.
The bears don’t smell like much, a little perfumey but otherwise a clean smell. I don’t know if they have particular flavors, as the package only mentions what you can do with them: candy buffet, baked goods, party favors, themed events, candy dish, bridal shower, baby showers. Nowhere does it mention just eating or how they’ll taste.
They’re a pressed dextrose candy, a compacted powder made from glucose (dextrose) is flavored and stamped out under high pressure to make the candies. Then they’re tumbled with some colors and glazes to make them even prettier.
What is also nice about them is that they’re designed on both sides, so the front is the bear’s face and belly, the back has a tiny little buttocks tushy thing going on.
When I was at the Lolli & Pops candy store, I noticed that they had some uncoated multicolored bears as well, so I picked those up to see if there was a flavor difference.
These are actually quite different from the coated version, which is kind of sad, because these are nicer. The texture is a little on the powdery side, compared to the SweeTarts tablets but not as chalky as Smarties.
Green is Lime - which is rare. It’s a more floral flavor than most lime candies, and much less sour than a traditional SweeTart.
Red is Cherry and passable, though more sour than cherry flavored. Heck, it might even be strawberry.
Orange is Orange and has a good orange soda flavor that balances the tart and juicy flavors.
Yellow is Lemon or maybe Pineapple. It was terrible, sweet and soapy.
Purple is Grape and probably my favorite - tart, floral and completely artificial.
Blue is Raspberry and so flowery, it was more like a soap.
These are nice edible decorations, but not great candy. I think the pearlescent bears may work well in decorating recipes since they don’t have a flavor, they won’t compete with anything. OakLeaf also makes Cry Baby Tears, which are the candies you’d want to get if you want something extremely sour with very little flavor variation.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
I have very little to say about this product today. On Candyology 101, for our first Easter episode, Maria presented some Dollar Tree candies, as a sort of dare. Of course, once I said I might be interested in one of them, I felt compelled to actually follow through. So, off I went to the Dollar Tree to plunder their aisle filled with R.M. Palmer and Ferrara Candy found nowhere else.
The item I expressed I wanted to try was Melster Marshmallow Fluffies with limited edition Spring Flavors: Vanilla, Lemon, Cherry and Green Apple.
Melster is one of two American companies I know that make Circus Peanuts (Spangler is the other) and I always hope that I will find a version of the Marbits-style candy that I actually like. So, my optimism and one dollar got me this bag. Thankfully it’s only 6 ounces, which means there won’t be much waste after I try them and throw them away.
They’re absolutely ugly. The little cartoons on the package are great, but these just look like hammer-wrecked pastel thumbs.
Since I dreaded them, they were far more likely to impress me than not.
The Lemon Yellow one was pleasant enough. The texture of the marshmallow is firm. There’s a slight grain to the fluff, which is pretty dry but not stale. The sweet lemon flavor is light, giving the whole thing the vague taste and texture of an Italian nougat.
The White Vanilla was also nondescript, it had virtually no flavor aside from sugar, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The fact that it had no coloring also meant that there were no strange aftertastes.
Green Apple was mercifully bland, as I was afraid it would be Jolly Rancher-ish. Instead it had a vague note of “flavor” but nothing I could pin down.
Pink Cherry smelled like a new vinyl showercurtain. It tasted like a cross between an antiseptic spray and a generic fruity candle from the dollar store. There was such a bitter aftertaste that upon eating one while taking their photo, I made a mental note to make this the last of my tastings for review. Which is good, because this leaves a long and lingering bitterness.
So, the three decent flavors weren’t as bad as I thought they’d be, but that’s only because I thought they’d be as bad as bad could be. The Pink Cherry actually exceeds the expected horribleness.
For an Easter candy, these should be more attractive, not look like actual pre-hatched chicks and ducks or a roadkill bunny. Brach’s also makes a version of these for Easter, which are equally unattractive. This really isn’t a candy that’s likely to wow me, but if you’re a Circus Peanut fan, you might enjoy the variation on the standard Banana flavor.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
One of my favorite candies is malted milk balls. Easter brings the pastel version, which is egg shaped and has a candy coating. I rounded up four of the most popular versions in stores today for a little comparison.
I have various sized bags from Jelly Belly, Necco, Brach’s (Ferrara Candy) and Whoppers (Hershey’s).
Though there are some size differences in the eggs, and some other sizes available from these brands, pastel malted eggs are usually larger than malted milk balls and less focused on the milk chocolate coating.
They’re generally an attractive candy, but with a large variation on the look and texture of the shell and color palettes.
From left to right: Necco Mighty Malts, Jelly Belly, Whoppers and then Brach’s.
Name: Mighty Malts Speckled Malted Milk Eggs
Verdict: It’s too messy to eat around the awful coating, so I can’t recommend these at all for eating, only decoration.
Name: Speckled Chocolate Malted Eggs
Verdict: The shells are very thick, probably too much shell for me and the flavor was not a good mix for the other flavors. I still loved the colors and have eaten two full bags so far this season. However, they’re also very expensive ... about 5 times more expensive than the Necco Mighty Malts, though imminently more edible.
Name: Whoppers Robin Eggs
Verdict: The unappealing pink shells and less appealing mockolate layer just make these unbearable. I actually find myself doing the extra work on the Necco Mighty Malts instead of eating these, even though they have an excellent malt center.
Name: Malted Milk Pastel Fiesta Eggs
Verdict: Of the four, I prefer these, though they still don’t quite shine on their own merits, only in comparison. I’ve eaten two bags so far this season and do find them comforting, but I only keep eating them on the naive hope that I’ll find “a good one” as if that’s ever happened or will happen.
The result of this tour only confirms that I love the idea of a great Malted Milk Pastel Egg, but I haven’t found it yet.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
They include the returning JuJu Hearts in cinnamon and cherry flavors, Peppermint Heart Nougats and at least three different kinds of wafer Conversation Hearts. The new items, which I’ll try to review this year, include today’s item, Brach’s Gummi Conversation Hearts.
They come in a 10 ounce stand up, resealable bag and cost $2.79. There’s no description on the package of what the candy actually is, just the name.
The hearts come in six colors: pink, orange, green, white, yellow and lavender. Each has lumpy motto molded into them, nearly all are in text-ese. I might have preferred emoticons.
The mottoes depicted were short, as I think the limit was 2 characters + 3 characters + 1 character stacked. So they went something like: 2 HOT or XO XO or QT PIE or BFF. Not exactly a conversation.
The gummis are opaque and look like latex paint. They smell a little off, a little too much like cherry and plastic. It didn’t matter which color they were, they all smelled like cherry.
Yellow is Lemon. The texture is quite bouncy. Each piece is really the right size for a gummi, not more than a bite, and easy enough to conceal if you like to let it dissolve or chew. It’s quite mild, not overly tart or zesty. Not even strong enough to classify as pleasant.
Green is Lime. This was floral and only has the smallest tangy bite. It’s so bland, I had a hard time figuring its flavor for a while.
Lavender is Grape. Grape is a rare flavor in gummis, so it ought to be savored ... this one has a little grape soda note to it, but not much else going for it.
Pink is Cherry. This is probably the best one, not that I like cherry, but it’s definitely cherry and a bit more vibrant than the others.
Orange is Orange. There weren’t a lot of these in my mix, which is fine. They had a lot of zest notes, which is good, but not much in the way of juice.
White is Pineapple. Probably. I don’t know what this is, there are not colorings (except for the titanium dioxide) so it’s definitely more of a blank slate. It’s a little tangy, kind of bright, but not citrusy, but then again, it kind of tasted like cherry.
I think Brach’s does some candies well, such as Candy Corn. Gummis are not something I would select Brach’s as my brand of choice. There are too many other companies making better gummis with better flavors and better shapes. Since they’re not appealing even as a decoration, I’d say these are not worth anyone’s time.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.