Friday, November 2, 2007
In the Autumn a candy lover’s fancy turns to Licorice. (Well, if you like licorice.) The cooler air and shorter days seem to beg for the earthy flavors of a good molasses-based licorice. I get that not everyone likes licorice. It’s like mincemeat and cloves ... not everyone gets it.
There are lots of different versions of licorice, but one of my favorites are pastels, which are little nibbles covered in a candy shell. (Just like candy covered chocolate like M&Ms are a great way to eat chocolate!) I’ve had at least a dozen different varieties, from Good & Plenty to Koppers to Jelly Belly. They’re all good ... but after Good & Plenty, they get kind of expensive. (I’m not sure why.)
I was pretty happy to find Kenny’s Licorice Pastels at the All Candy Expo. They do great things with licorice, including using real licorice extract and making their products affordable (you’ve probably seen them repackage and sold under house brands or in bulk bins before).
They’re made from a very thin piece of licorice, think laces chopped into little segments. Nothing wrong with that. But the coatings are irregular. Some are chipped, which may have been me treating the package like a bean bag in my travels. Still, the coating wasn’t complete on some, with little bits of licorice sticking out or appearing just below the thin veneer of sugar shell.
The color choice is interesting. White, Green, Mustard Yellow, Black, Purple and Hot Pink.
They were soft and fresh. The sugar shell didn’t have a sharp and crisp crunch like the ones I get in the little bulk tubs at Cost Plus World Market. I like that kind of shell, but this was okay ... more like the Good & Plenty side of things. The licorice inside is nice and chewy and has a good note of roasted molasses and real licorice and anise extracts. (The anise is detectable in the shell.)
The thing that spoiled it for me (and this is just me) was that there was Red #40 in them. It was absolutely detectable in the pink and purple candies. (I even did several blind tests to see if I was just being dramatic.) It made them bitter. I had to separate them out from the rest of the bag ... and not eating a third of them doesn’t really make them cheaper. (4 out of 10)
I love root beer barrel hard candies and the root beer Bottle Caps, which are pretty much the only candies that incorporate root beer well into their pantheon of flavors.
Kenny’s also makes a huge line of flavored Juicy Twists (I’m loathe to use the term “red licorice” which is like saying “unsweetened sugar”.) They come in watermelon, green apple, chocolate and of course, Root Beer.
The twists aren’t really that twisted (only a half twist per length), but have pleasant ridges. They’re shiny and rather firm (but not stale). They don’t have the firmly pinched ends that other brands like Red Vines have. But they are hollow (if you’re a straw person).
The root beer flavor is sweet and has a nice balsam quality, not as intense as some other more spicy candies, but still a good match for the flour-based twist. I’d love it if they were more intense, but this is often my problem with root beer in general. I want lots of flavor. But, as I mentioned before, I take my root beer enjoyment where I can. These are a fun change from hard candies. (7 out of 10)
Thursday, November 1, 2007
I wasn’t much for dolls as a kid. I never had a Barbie. Instead I played with things like microscopes, art supplies and Playmobile/Lego. Sure, I liked to dress up, but I never considered myself very feminine and wasn’t terribly interested in fashion, makeup or my appearance. (I admit that I liked to braid my hair though and collected rhinestone jewelry ... and often wore much of my collection at once.)
There were candy cosmetics when I was a kid, not that they did anything. You can still get the little lipsticks. Which weren’t actually meant to be applied to the lips, they’re just little cylinders of compressed dextrose in a lipstick container. (The most successful candy lipstick, as most kids know, would be Easter Malted Milk Eggs, which could be used to painting lips, faces and dog noses.)
So in two ways this candy is kind of lost on me. It’s based on the idea of cosmetics (I still rarely wear makeup) and the fashion dolls line called Bratz. But it’s candy ... and good candy should stand on its own!
All four of the candy products from Dracco in a licensing agreement with MGA Entertainment are related to lips. Or is that Lipz? Bratz are a group of girlz who love clothz. Their appearance is stylized, kind of like the Troll dolls from when I was a kid, except instead of being asexual, these are hypersexual.
It’s sweet. Not an overly sour bubble gum, just lightly tangy and fragrant. It has a nice soft chew, a little slick without much graininess, so bubbles were pretty much ready to go.
It really wasn’t that flavorful though. And it didn’t make my lips look any different.
(5 out of 10)
The only “makeup” I wear on a regular basis is tinted lip balm. But usually regular lip balm. When I was a pre-teen I did fall into the obsession with BonneBell Lip Smackers. But I was always disappointed that they had no real flavor, just scent.
This cute little Candy Lip Gloss Tube is much like a package of Blistex. It’s a gooey liquid in a clear plastic package. The applicator tip is angled and has a little hole. A gentle squeeze to eject a little drop and then press against the lips to apply.
I was expecting something sweet and sticky. And though it smelled like lipgloss often does, it tasted like a liquid strawberry hard candy. A little tangy and lacking in a deep flavor.
As for lip decor, it was a little runny at first, then when left on the lips it became dry and sticky. However, this did impart a glossy appearance. The light pink tone in the tube did nothing on my lips (well, they’re kind of that color anyway).
(4 out of 10)
It took has a light strawberry smell and light pink color.
I have less experience with bottles of gloss, but the ones that I’ve tried usually have some sort of spongy tip for precision application. This is just a plastic stick. (But probably slightly more sanitary. If licking a stick and putting it back in the bottle can ever be considered sanitary for candy or cosmetics.)
(3 out of 10)
This Candy Lipstick is the same as the others, only in solid form. A little smaller (more slender) than a real lipstick, but hard candy certainly doesn’t have the engineering problems that a semi-solid fat does.
This one was easy and satisfying to simply eat and not apply. The other goos just didn’t lend themselves to licking off the applicator. After numerous applications though my lips were actually a bit chapped ... hmmm. But they looked redder!
(4 out of 10)
I’m of two minds about candy lipsticks & glosses. First, lipstick is consumed. We think it’s for external application only when in reality it’s slowly eaten off the lips by the wearer. Some may be lost due to transfer to a cup or a kiss, but most of it is eaten. What’s in there? Here’s what’s in Lip Smackers. Try reading what’s in lipstick sometime. Definitely not something you’d slather on your toast every morning. So this is definitely safer for pretend play for kids than the real thing or even flavored lip balms. Second, imitative play is good, natural and healthy. Children have been “playing house” and aping their parents for thousands of years. But it may be training girls to eat the lip products! So, I simply don’t know.
Most of all, I’m not a parent.
This is a product that’s capitalizing on the licensing of the Bratz characters on the packages. If you’re already a fan of the Bratz brand, then these are probably a nice product, especially for the younger kids who want to experience cosmetics but really aren’t ready.
As a candy, these are marginal at best. But mostly harmless from the standpoint of a cosmetic item. (Well, they’re made in China, I can’t vouch for their safety.)
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I’d buy them by the tray, which was usually about 99 cents at the IGA that I rode my bike past on my way home from my art class on weekends. They seemed a suitable treat for a budding artist. Wrapped in pretty foil ... named for a mountain range in Peru, but called by the French liquor flavor creme de menthe. At that time in my life I despised alcohol, except for a drizzle of Creme de Menthe on vanilla ice cream.
Over the years those tray package became more expensive and they started putting fewer candies in there. I recently bought a box for $1.00 and it had a scant 2 ounces in it ... but hey, it was back to the original price point! The candy is mockolate with a mint confection in the middle. They make a pretty cross section of dark looking chocolate flavored coating and the light green stuff in the middle. They have a cool feeling on the tongue and of course a pleasant mintiness that doesn’t overwhelm.
Restaurants that serve them with the bill may even be perceived as classy. (Well, it’s classier than getting nothing at all!) The Tootsie site even claims that Andes Mints are the number one selling after dinner mint. I wonder what the number one before dinner mint is? I give them a solid 6 out of 10 as an adult, but back when I was a kid they were probably an 8 out of 10.
Andes has come out with a few other versions over the years ... none that I’ve tried. But I saw a display of the new Andes Dessert Indulgence at the All Candy Expo and was fixed up with ample samples. The Limited Edition Dessert Indulgence array comes in an 8.5 ounce bag with an assortment of three flavors: Raspberry Cream, Lemon Meringue and Key Lime.
Each piece is individually sealed in a plastic wrapper instead of wrapped in foil. They’re substantially bigger than a standard Andes Mint as well. Why? I have no idea. But the base ingredients are still the same: sugar and partially hydrogenated oils.
Key Lime has only two layers, a base of light green and then a top level of a lighter green with little flavor crystals which is kind of like faux zest. The scent is fresh, like limes. However, as most folks who have had both key limes and more commonly used Persian lime there is a difference. Key Limes have a deeper flavor and a strange thick consistency to their juice. Persian limes have a high intensity and clear flavored tartness and a wonderfully bitter zesty flavor. This tastes like Persian lime ... or Lime Blossom candles.
Lemon Meringue flavor should be characterized by a nice tart custard with a balancing toasted meringue that is less that a sweet complement and more of a fluffy cooling bath for the mouth. The Lemon smelled, like the lime, a bit floral and pleasant enough for me to want to stick a wick in it. The texture evoked similar feelings, as it wasn’t nearly as creamy as I’d hoped. It did have a pleasant tartness to it, but not that toasted, almost marshmallow flavor to complement it.
Raspberry Cream was such a disappointment. It smelled really strong ... too strong. The ingredient list does boast “freeze dried raspberry puree” and I have no doubt about that. The waxy texture and overly sweet start is then met by a strong taste of chopsticks ... or dried grass clippings. I know what the taste is, it’s raspberry seeds. It’s that taste you get when you puree unstrained raspberries and the seeds get in there, but in this case they became a really noticeable flavor. Hey, maybe it added some fiber!
Sometimes I like “white confections” but in this case, I felt pretty sick after eating five of them while typing them up (I’ve had about 10 total since I took the photos over the weekend). They just didn’t sit well with me. I really wanted them to be something else, which is always a bad idea. I should just accept them unconditionally for what they are. But they don’t have cocoa butter in them and the flavors are just ... well, not satisfying to me, not enough to get me to eat any more of them. So into the Limited Edition Giveaway they go! They only get a 4 out of 10.
Each piece contains 50 calories (regular Andes Mints have only 25 each).
Monday, October 29, 2007
Well, Palmer didn’t even capitalize on attractiveness in their new candy bar line called Big Mo’. I mean, why bother when you have Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on the package. The packages seem to have some sort of woodgrain on the lettering, which lends itself to an association with NASCAR especially well. I wasn’t going into this with high hopes, but really, this statement from Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in this article is really too much.
The bars come in two varieties at the moment: Milk Chocolate with Peanut Butter and Milk Chocolate with Creamy Caramel. If you pay special attention to the wrapper you’ll notice that the words milk chocolate are in teensy lowercase letters and the Creamy Caramel part is huge all caps about five times the size. See, they’re being responsible and telling you that it’s not about the chocolate.
The Big Mo’ Milk Chocolate with Peanut Butter is a large, king sized bar clocking in at 2.5 ounces. It’s divided into 10 sections, each filled with a smidge of roasted peanut butter filling.
I have to admit that the chocolate was far better than I expected. Smooth and very sweet and lacking a bit of chocolate bunch, it wasn’t waxy and complemented the darker flavors of the peanut butter very well. There’s not quite enough peanut butter in there for my tastes, but this isn’t about replicating the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, I think it’s about creating a new bar.
The portion is far too huge for me (as are most king sized), and they do call the whole 2.5 ounces a single portion which clocks in at 380 calories.
The Big Mo’ Milk Chocolate with Creamy Caramel also sports two different designs on its ten sections. The top row has the Dale Jr signature and the bottom says Big Mo’.
The Creamy Caramel bar breaks well at the section lines without any oozing, as is often the hazard with Caramellos. There were a lot of voids in this bar, little holes from air bubbles. There’s not a lot of caramel in each little section, which means that the proportions are heavy on the mediocre chocolate. In this case there’s no salty peanut butter to balance it out. Instead it’s a strange goo they call creamy caramel. It’s not glossy, instead it looks more like a thick gravy.
It has a strong woodsy taste to it, not in the slightest bit buttery as the description “creamy” would have indicated. A little on the nutty side of flavor and not a bad texture really, but not enough to balance out the super-sweet chocolate.
While I had some trepidation at the brand and a little irritation with Dale Jr for teaming up with them, I don’t think they’re bad bars. They’re far too sweet for me and I think the portion is ridiculous (especially given the caloric density of the peanut butter bar). Cut these in half. I don’t think they will survive the test of time, as history bears out that vanity candy bars never do. I haven’t seen these in stores yet, but I expect you’ll see them at the usual places that sell Palmer products, such as 99 Cent Stores and other dollar chains, but they could pop up at convenience stores. (Here’s the page on the official website that lists stores.)
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Dove has been adding to their line of Promises, the little chocolate nuggets they sell. It’s nice they have such a diversified line and I do enjoy a little foil wrapped treat. Lately they’ve been stuffing caramel see review) inside those little nuggets of milk or dark chocolate. Now they’ve added a few more versions of those to the line by flavoring the caramel:
Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Flavored Caramel - this was less caramel and more like a hazelnut creme. It had a nice nutty flavor to it, though I didn’t quite identify it as hazelnut. A little salty hit cut through the sticky sweetness of the milk chocolate.
Most of my little pieces were dented. I don’t know if that was a function of the travel or if they’re particularly delicate. (5 out of 10)
The Mint Caramel Dark Chocolate terrible, terrible pieces of confectionery nonsense. Gobbledygook, I tell ya! Gibberish! There’s nothing wrong with caramel, nothing wrong with dark chocolate, nothing wrong with mint. But put them all together and you get this humongo double take of “what the heck were they thinking?”
The caramel is just weird - it’s like it’s over emulsified, if there is such a thing. It’s gooey, but has no buttery element, no burnt sugary elements ... it’s become its own strange, pudding-like product. That’s it! It’s like peppermint-butterscotch pudding ... with dark chocolate. It’s just all kinds of wrong when I think too hard. (4 out of 10)
The strangeness continued with the Dark Chocolate Raspberry Caramel.
Luckily I didn’t have a whole bag of each of those, just a little handful ... and now they’re on their way to Kimberly, who won the drawing! (I should have had her sign some sort of a waiver.) Again, it’s like raspberry flavored butterscotch pudding. I just didn’t like all the flavors together and the salty hit of the caramel with the raspberry was just over the top. (4 out of 10)
The happy news is that the rest of this is all good. The more traditional new offerings to the Dove Promises line are just the regular milk and dark chocolate with some crushed almonds added in.
Almonds are a personal favorite of mine, I practically live on them (really, I eat them just about every day as a snack). What’s always bothered me about Dove chocolate is its foolish consistency ... it feels too perfect, too manufactured and lacking any personality. The crushed almonds in the Dove Dark Chocolate with Almonds fix that.
They add some texture, they add some extra flavor, a little crunch ... they just complete the Dove Dark Chocolate. Any trepidation I had about their chocolate has disappeared with the added element. (8 out of 10)
The Dove Milk Chocolate with Almonds benefits similiarly from the crushed almonds. It makes the milk chocolate, which was always a little sticky sweet to me, more malty and rich. The milky flavors now take on a toasted, darker tone.
They please me. (7 out of 10)
A single Milk Chocolate with Almonds has about 45 calories in it.
I don’t have the nutritional info on the Caramel line or the Dark Chocolate with Almonds, just the Milk Chocolate with Almonds, as that’s the only one I have the complete packaging for. I’m not sure when these are showing up in stores, they’re not on the Dove website yet. Anyone see them in stores yet?
Monday, October 1, 2007
I had high hopes for the Reese’s Whipps bar. The bar goes something like this: light and fluffy peanut butter flavored nougat wrapped in a layer of peanut butter then coated in mockolate. Okay, I’m not completely certain it is mockolate, as the ingredients include chocolate, but it’s so low on the list, I have my doubts. Especially since they don’t list it as part of the description of the bar and say that this element is “Made with Smooth Chocolate.” Whether it is or not is immaterial because it’s flaky and not that good.
The bar is hefty at 1.9 ounces, just a little smaller than a 3 Musketeers (2.12 ounces) and wrapped in that unmistakable Reese’s orange.
A little blue triangle in the corner heralds that this bar has 40% less fat*. That * leads to the disclaimer that it contains 9 grams of fat versus 15 grams of fat for the average leading chocolate candy brands. I really want to know what they consider the leading chocolate candy brands, which I’m guessing are M&Ms, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers and Hershey Bars. The bar itself has 230 calories. But I’ll rant about that more a bit later.
The bar looks just like the wrapper promises. It smells lightly sweet and peanutty. The bite on the bar is soft, not stiff. The nougat inside has an immediate peanut butter flavor to it with a little salt and a kind of molasses darkness.
The peanut butter layer around that gives a little extra peanutty zazz to it. The mockolate adds nothing. It gives no chocolatey contribution to the thing, no creamy component, no milky, buttery texture. It merely contains the other two elements, that are actually pretty good. The only good thing about the glaze is that it’s used sparingly ... it’s ultra thin. You could probably shine a light through it.
Yes, with a good coating of real chocolate (like a 3 Musketeers), this could have been a standout bar.
But I guess my real disappointment is that they’ve grabbed a play from the book of 3 Musketeers and are calling it “lower in fat” without mentioning on the front that it contains pretty much the same number of calories as any other candy bar. I’ve made a little list of the size, calories and caloric density of the leading bars, arranged with the least dense at the top. Pay careful attention to the number of calories though, even if it’s not dense, it’s certainly big:
Candy Bar…..............size in grams….calories/cals per gram
It’s pretty clear that the York Peppermint Pattie is the candy to have if you want straight carbs (no fat, no protein). 3 Musketeers does pretty well as does the Whipps, but remember, if there’s no fat and no protein it’s all sugars. While I find sugar to be wonderful, straight sugar doesn’t really provide much long-lasting satisfaction if you’re looking for a snack that’s a treat.
That chart means nothing if you don’t actually like the candy bar though. And this bar proves that Hershey’s does not need the FDA to change the definition of chocolate, they’re free to make a substandard product and try to sell it to us. Yeah, I’m probably been pretty harsh, but this could have been a really good bar.
Shopping Jen found these at WalMart already and has a review posted here. I also saw these this weekend at Walgreen’s (at two for a dollar!), so they’re in the wild now.
Friday, September 14, 2007
I’m a little late to this Limited Edition Milk Chocolate Razzberry M&Ms story, but mostly because I couldn’t find them anywhere in Los Angeles. I tried all my usual haunts (RiteAid, Walgreen’s, Von’s, CVS, Target & 7-11) and finally found them Wednesday night at the Dollar Tree in Harbor City on my way to San Pedro.
The bag felt a little light, and it is. It’s only 1.5 ounces instead of the usual 1.74 ounces for the Peanut variety or 1.69 ounces for the Milk Chocolate. (Of course the Pirate Pearls ones were similiarly scant.)
The bag is a pleasant hot pink and urges me to “Get Razzed” ... which as far as my understanding of the lingo that the kids use these days, that means, “Get Harassed.” Okely Dokely!
At first when I dumped these out to take their photo I thought I got a bad bag. The color looks completely off. Now if you just handed me a bowl of them, I might say, “Oh, what a lovely muted pink color!” But because of the brightness of the package, this feels like it clashes, which makes me feel like it’s unintended. But looking around at other photos on Flickr of the candies, it seems like they’re supposed to be this way.
The size and shape is also irregular. Some are the same size as typical Milk Chocolate M&Ms and others are as big as the now-discontinued Mega M&Ms. I rather like the regularity of M&Ms when spread out on my desk when eating them, but these just didn’t please me as much with their appearance.
The candies smell, like, well, someone spilled a bottle of raspberry after-bath spritz. I’ve spent a lot of time with fresh raspberries. When I was a kid, for several years when we lived in Ohio we had a raspberry patch in the back yard which was absurdly productive. While they weren’t wild berries, they certainly weren’t like the commercial ones sold in stores today. They were on the small side but bursting with flavor, a combination of sweet, tart and floral. By the time I was a teenager and we moved away, I was so spoiled by the real thing that I couldn’t stand raspberry flavored things or bring myself to spend $5 for a teensy little portion of watery-tasting fresh berries at the grocery store.
The Milk Chocolate is okay, for some reason it tastes sweeter than the regular Milk Chocolate M&Ms (remember, I’ve eaten a lot of those lately), it could be the larger size of most of them that gave a bigger hit of the ordinary chocolate center. The chocolate simply wasn’t creamy and I have to wonder if these were stored properly. Southern California experienced a wicked heat spell around Labor Day weekend and there were sporadic power outages all over which means that these could have bloomed in some way.
M&Ms stressed in their press releases about these that they’re the first fruit flavored M&Ms ever given full distribution. (I guess they were ignoring those super exclusive fruity ones they did last year.) I’m sad that they didn’t do orange, as I think that’d be a good place to start. It’s easy to get an authentic orange flavor with chocolate. But then again these aren’t raspberry M&Ms ... no, they’re razzberry M&Ms, here to mock real raspberries (and us) with their fakeness.
Monday, September 10, 2007
I browse eBay a lot, just to see what sort of candy is being sold. It’s a good place to “make a friend” in a particular area who can send you a special candy on a regular basis. Of course a good deal of the candy on eBay is also Limited Edition items, which can be devilish to find as inventories wear thin in parts of the country.
It’s also a great way for me to find out about newer Limited Editions. Like the Candy Corn Kisses that showed up there last week. I immediately searched all my best spots (RiteAid, WalMart, Target & CVS) with no results. So I emailed Hershey’s ... they confirmed that they exist at least.
Then yesterday I gave Target another try and there they were!
I must admit, they’re lovely. The wrappers are silver, yellow and orange with little flags that say Candy Corn.
Unwrapping the foil, they are super-cute layers just like candy corn. Wider on the bottom than normal candy corn, the proportions may be a little squat, the colors are also rearranged, with yellow on the bottom and orange in the middle, instead of the reverse. I can see why they did it though, it is a pleasant combo.
While I enjoy candy corn that has a slight honey or caramelized sugar taste to it, these go for the buttered corn flavor. I know that the Buttered Popcorn Jelly Belly is one of the most popular, but it’s never floated by boat. Same with this one ... a little caramely white chocolate would have made me very happy. This doesn’t. The fake butter just turns my stomach when I smell it. If I don’t smell it, then they’re not bad, not too sweet with a light little hit of salt.
Unlike many of the other white confection offerings from Hershey’s, these are not white chocolate (which has a cocoa butter base). The ingredients go like this:
I think the idea is cute and I could actually see these being a great cookie decoration (as suggested on the package with a peanut butter cookie recipe). Other than that, I’m going to just admire the photos and the idea and keep the package way from me. I couldn’t decide what rating to give this, mostly because my personal revulsion to fake butter flavor (it actually gives me a headache when someone makes microwave popcorn) is, well, a personal thing. The product is well executed ... I just wish they called them Butter Kisses and made them like real candy corn, not that Milk Maid Caramel Candy Corn. My nose said give them a two out of ten. But looking at the photos, I can’t help but bump it up to a four out of ten ... what can I say, I’m a sucker for design!
UPDATE 9/25/2007: I found out from Hershey’s that this is an item that they created exclusively for Target. So don’t bother looking anywhere else but Target & eBay for these.
UPDATE 9/5/2008: The Candy Corn Kisses have returned for 2008. I found them both at Target and Rite Aid, so they are enjoying a wider release this year.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.