Thursday, July 26, 2007
There’s a movie coming out this week called The Simpsons Movie which is based on some long-running cartoon also called The Simpsons. (Yes, I know you know who The Simpsons are!) I live in Los Angeles and we’re blessed with two live-action promotions for the movie ... they’ve turned two 7-11 stores into Kwik-E-Marts. It’s kind of fun, you can go into the store and see dimensional cut outs of your favorite characters and partake of a few of their favorite fictional foods. This means Buzz Cola, Krusty-Os and those pink glazed & sprinkled donuts are actually available.
Sadly, there is no candy actually associate with the series, but I did pick up these Simpsons Fruit Snacks, which have been out for a few years. (If you want other candy content from The Simpsons, check out
Jamie’s awesome list with videos!)
The Simpsons Fruit Snack is about as lame as a product you’d expect to find if you really lived in Springfield. The package is nice and happy and says things that are totally true like “mixed fruit flavor”, “no preservatives” and “made with real fruit juice” and sports images of the Simpsons kids: Maggie, Lisa and Bart.
But once the package is open and not in view there is absolutely nothing “Simpsons” about these. They’re shaped like little fruits ... not little characters.
So I decided that I just wasn’t working hard enough at this ... that I wasn’t taxing my imagination and decided that they ARE Springfield characters ... if you really work at it. (The illustrations below may require a bit of squinting to make it work.)
Orange: Apu (on those formal occasions when he wears his turban)
The promise of the package and the Simpsons tie in aside, the flavor of the candies is pleasant. They’re a gummi (with gelatin), but extremely soft. I was happier once I let mine sit out for a couple of days. They do have a full days allowance of vitamin C and they do have fruit juice as the first ingredient (just as those Scooby and Hello Kitty snacks had real fruit juice). So for a friendly fruit gummi, they’re a pretty good deal for $1.59. Not really flavorful, just, well, pleasant.
Other irritated opinions about the lack of relationship between the Simpsons and the fruit snacks: Taquitos.net, Amazon.com & VeganCore (may be a different version of the snacks that didn’t have gelatin though).
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
I’ve always loved Jujyfruits, but probably for the wrong reasons. I never particularly enjoyed eating them, but they’re stunning to look at.
What’s particularly odd about Jujyfruits is that they’re less fruit flavored and more vegetable-oriented: asparagus (which I always thought was a little corncob), banana (the one that says Heide), grapes, pea pod, pineapple, raspberry and tomato (which I thought was the bottom of a bell pepper or just a flower). The shapes, further, have nothing to do with the flavors and are randomized so that all shapes come in all flavors.
And the flavors? Lemon, Lime, Cherry, Orange and Licorice. (Kind of like Chuckles which are also made by Farley’s & Sathers now.)
At the end of the last millennium, a customer survey revealed that the original spearmint green Jujyfruit was not popular enough and was replaced with lime. I rather miss that ... I liked being able to get a licorice and a spearmint candy in one package. Jujyfruits are rather soft when fresh, though not quite as soft as Dots in my experience. They’re chewy and pretty flavorful, though lacking in any tangy notes, it’s all sweet. They’re sticky and can leave big hunks congealed to the sides of molars. I really like the licorice one, which has very nice anise notes and a very clean flavor.
Candy Wrapper Museum has a nice image of an earlier version of the Jujyfruits box, which I much prefer. The current box is rather, I don’t know, primitive looking. (Keep clicking around at the other old Heide products there at the CWM, quite fun to see they had a Good & Plenty knock-off called Hi-D-Ho that were also pink and white.)
A little more history: The Heide company that invented the Juju candies was started by Henry Heidi, a German immigrant in 1869. The company introduced Jujyfruits and Jujubes in 1920. Heide continued as a family run company after Henry Heide died and was then run by his son Andrew and his grandson Philip. But in 1995 they sold out to Hershey’s. Hershey’s then sold Heide (along with their other famous candies Red Hot Dollars and line of gummis) to Farley’s & Sather.
While the Jujyfruits have remained relatively unchanged over the years, the Jujubes have gone through some substantial changes.
According to the Food Network show Unwrapped, the difference between Jujubes and Jujyfruits is really only that Jujubes use Potato Starch instead of Corn Starch as their primary thickener. Add to that, Jujubes are “cured” longer, so they’re firmer.
When I was a kid, Jujubes were always hard as rocks and only a fool would try to chew them. (We were all fools back then. Of course the cool part was to soften them up enough to chomp down and glue your teeth together ... what fun!)
The Jujube that both the Jujyfruits and Jujubes are named after is a little tropical berry that really has nothing to do with the candy, it was probably just a romantic sounding name and in the early part of the last century many candies tried to adopt such exotic names. Both candies actually used something called Ju-Ju Gum at one time as an ingredient (it’s similar to many of the other vegetable gums like Gum Arabic, Acacia, Agar or Guar).
Today Jujubes are a little softer, kind of like stale Jujyfruits. They also have a bit more range in their flavors which are: Lemon (yellow), Violet (purple), Lilac (orange), Lime (green) and Cherry (red). So they’re basically little floral pastilles that are slightly soft. (Think of them like the Grether or Doolittle pastilles.)
I haven’t had them in years and was actually rather pleased with them. I don’t think I really need a box of 6.5 ounces, a little tin filled with an ounce or two might do me for a week. All of the flavors, even the fruity ones, are rather delicate and floral. I wish they did still make the spearmint ones (but it’s okay if there’s no rose in there, I think two flowers is enough).
They’re just lovely to look at and because of their durable and inert nature, I feel fine leaving them sitting out on my desk without worrying about anyone eating them or them getting any staler. If you do find them inedible, a fun craft project is to stick an ordinary sewing pin through them and use them as push pins!
Overall, neither are candy I’m likely to buy or consume, but it was fun to revisit them and I’m glad they’re still around and have their ardent admirers.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Dots are one of those candies that I see a lot at stores, but I rarely see anyone buying them or eating them.
Originally they were made by a company called Mason, who also made Black Crows (a licorice gumdrop). Black Crows were introduced in the 1890s, but Dots came along a bit later in 1945. What’s fun about Dots is that they’re gumdrops, but they don’t have that sugar sanding on them. The Mason company was sold to Tootsie in 1972, but some folks still call them Mason Dots (even the Tootsie site refers to them on their nutritional data page).
They’re sold in a few different sizes, the regular single sized box, a fun size (often in assortments of Tootsie products) and the “Movie Box”. I have to say that the movie box I picked up last week makes these look darn appealing. And taking the candies out of the box, I was pleased that they really do look like they do on the box.
Dots come in five flavors that are supposedly random in the box:
This box had a clear plastic overwrapper, so these were fresh. The Dots were soft and easy to chew. Of course they’re also kind of sticky, not in the way that threatens fillings, but big lumps will get stuck on the sides of my teeth. I’ve had my share of stale Dots and they’re really not a chewable food.
Overall, they’re a nice candy. They don’t really thrill me much, but I had these sitting on my desk for several days and did actually eat them. I don’t see myself buying them for any reason though. If you’re a Dot lover, please testify to their enduring greatness.
Each Dot has about 12 calories and no fat (it’s all sugar, baby).
There’s no gelatin in these (that’d make them gummis) so they’re suitable for vegetarians and vegans who eat white sugar.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:28 am
Thursday, July 19, 2007
These are from Japan and come in a few different varieties. They’re called Inside Out KitKats. I was calling them Naked KitKats for a while until I found out the real name.
They’re a KitKat without the coating. The bar is longer (about 5.5”) and generally larger. The center filling is lightly flavored. I think the one pictured is Chestnut.
A few KitKat variations out there seem to be breaking the rules of KitKats ... KitKats are supposed to be multi-bars that can be snapped into fingers to share or enjoy slowly. (I’ve never met anyone who just chomps on a whole KitKat.)
But this comes down to the discussion of what should be included under a particular candy “brand”. When I think of Reese’s, the essential element is peanut butter and the secondary element is cups ... the third element is chocolate. You can add things in there, but but taking away more than one of those essentials just mucks with it so much that it ceases to be a Reese’s.
The same goes with KitKat. It has to be fingers (even if the fingers are sold individually), it has to have crispy wafers and it has to have some sort of chocolate coating (be it white, milk or dark). Here we’ve lost the coating and the “fingers” have become as large as rods.
Okay, so maybe they’re not KitKats. What are they? They’re cookies. Cookie wafers with a cream filling and I dare say it, they’re no longer candy. They fall into the confectionery category, but out of my realm of specialization.
Naming and placement on the taxonomic chart of candy aside, these are okay. The wafers are certainly crispy, but they’re also dry. There’s not enough cream filling to give them much of a flavor, and subtle is fine, but there’s so little going on here. I’d say they’re the perfect summer candy bar because there’s no worries about melting, but there’s also so little moisture here I’m worried about dehydration and these sucking what little fluids I have left out of my system.
I tried two flavor sets: chestnut and mango. Chestnut is pleasant because the sweet nutty flavors go with the cream sweetness. The mango was just weird, the pine-type flavors of the cream just seemed to fight with the bar on the whole. Perhaps if it had a bit of a tang to it or recognized more of the juiciness of the fruit instead of just the flavor, it might have worked more. Of course that would be an even larger departure from the KitKat-ness.
I still have a few of these left (and I’ve had them since January - both Amy in Japan and Santos gave them to me) and even when I eat them and find them okay, I keep forgetting I have them and when I see them sitting there I have no impulse to eat them.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Summertime is about long trips in the car with whiny, sweaty children. One of the options to appease the little ones, of course, is candy. But I know a lot of parents want to do better by their kids so they opt for fruit snacks, items that are ultra-portable, don’t spoil and can take the heat of a parked car.
So while on a trip to the 99 Cent Only store I decided to pick up a couple of brands that seemed to be positioning themselves for kids but not made by candy companies. I found the Betty Crocker Scooby Doo Fruit Flavored Snacks and the Kellogg’s Hello Kitty Fruit Flavored Snacks. Both say they have 100% of the RDA of Vitamin C and have six flavors (naturally and artificially flavored).
The Hello Kitty snacks come in one large bag (3.8 ounces) while the Scooby-Doo ones come in four pouches of .9 ounces each (3.6 ounces total weight for the box). The portion control of the Scooby-Doo ones is a nice feature, since it’s only 80 calories for a pack. (And if you have kids who can’t share from a single bag, that might be a good option.)
Just a note, when I looked online for these products I did see that the Hello Kitty ones come in boxes with individual packed portions as well, so you can have it either way.
I used to watch Scooby-Doo when I was a kid so I can tell you that I didn’t have to go looking up anyone’s name (like I tried for Hello Kitty). My packages (I’ve only eaten two of the four so far) were slight on Velma, which is too bad because I like orange best. Shaggy was grape and tasted like magic markers and the Mystery Machine was green and tasted like floor wax. Daphne is red and cherry ... which fits because she was always my least favorite character.
They were soft and fresh. Not bouncy like a gummi, but not as chewy as Swedish Fish either.
The Hello Kitty ones are so cute I could cry. Look ... a bow! Look ... a star! Of course my favorite is the little pink bunny winking at me (someone help me out with a name there).
The pieces are soft and chewy, but not sticky. Firm, but not hard. The flavor is good, it’s easy to tell them apart (pink is cherry and red is strawberry). They’re not super-tangy, but do have a little tart kick to them. It may just be my imagination, but these have a little coconut background flavor to them. I know that the ingredients mention coconut oil which is way down on the list and I’m guessing is something they use to keep them from sticking together.
The only real difference so far between these snacks is the shape of the candies and that one comes in individual portions. So I turned the packages over to study the nutrition (the same) and ingredients. I found this part rather interesting, so I’ll share what’s inside each:
Scooby Doo Fruit Flavored Snacks
Hello Kitty Fruit Flavored Snacks
So when I first looked at these I thought, Scooby Doo wins ... the first ingredient is fruit juice! But upon looking closer, Scooby Doo has lumped apple & pear juice together as a single ingredient, while Hello Kitty breaks them out into two separate ingredients, which makes them fall, by proportion, lower on the list.
Both products are made by cereal companies (Betty Crocker is run by General Mills). While they both have fruit juice as an ingredient, let’s be realistic here, Apple and Pear juices aren’t known for high antioxidant properties or their nutrition profile. (There’s a reason why applesauce makes such good cake, after all.) The packages call these “snacks” but these products are candy plain and simple and the 99 Cent Only store rightfully put them in the candy aisle. (I don’t know where they keep them at the grocery store, but I don’t see them in the candy aisle.)
As portion controlled candy, hey, they’re fun. They’re small, they don’t have a lot of calories because there’s no fat, but then again, they don’t have any fiber or protein in there either. If your kids want some candy and they like these, then hey, give them to them as a sometime snack. If you think that these are part of a balanced breakfast, well, do some more reading and maybe buy some fresh fruit instead. There are other candies that have a similar nutrition profile (jelly beans) so don’t be afraid of looking at some labels to find a good compromise between treat and indulgence. (There’s an article in the Detroit Free Press today that lists 10 great healthy snacks for kids.) If you’re actually looking for a candy that’s free of artificial colors and flavors, try the Organic Surf Sweets.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
These are cute but certainly expensive, useless and probably bad for the environment.
What’s worse? I bought two.
The come in a gajillion different versions: Eeyore, Piglet, Tiggr, Pluto and Mickey were the ones I saw. They’re called Candy Keepers, and as far as I’m concerned, they can keep the candy.
Each little pod comes in a snug little clear plastic box along with a packet of candies (about the same amount as a packet of sugar). They’re all pastels. I thought for a while there might be primary colored ones in there and rooted around in the display. The pastel really doesn’t make much sense, unless you’re a Piglet fan.
The little pastel candies are dreadful. I thought they were going to be like Tart n Tiny ... little sugar shelled SweeTarts or something. Instead the candies are slightly floral/raspberry flavored ... completely sweet except for the awful bitter aftertastes (is that the artificial coloring?).
How much, you’re wondering? $2.50 each. The included candy aside, they’re still going to be fun to keep on my desk and put other actual candies that I like inside. (This week it’ll probably be Good & Plenty.) If it were just a little toy, I think I’d be okay (if it were less than $2, come on, how much was it to make these things ...). With the candy, these fall out of my good graces and I give them a 5 out of 10. If you’re trying to moderate your child’s candy intake and have only given them a $2.50 budget for sweets and Disneyland, well, this is the treat for you! (It makes me feel silly for complaining about paying over a dollar for those Gummy Fishies.)
There are a lot of lollipops for sale at Disneyland. My guess is there is at least one per child available in stores at all times. They’re a silly candy, really. A very, very big piece of bright hard candy. You could get a kid interested in hard candy if you paid them ... unless it’s flat, comes with a handle and has some sort of Princess on the wrapper.
I was pretty pleased to see these Mickey Mouse Bundled Pops at the stores. They’re fun to look at and it appears that a kid might actually be able to eat one of these while waiting in one of those long lines for a ride ... and still have some for later.
The bundle has five thick Mickey Ear pops in it: Cherry, Orange, Banana, Cotton Candy and Watermelon each on a 7” paper stick.
I left the red on my brother’s windshield ... so the kids would think there was a lollipop fairy at Disneyland!
Each pop weighs about .66 ounces each. They feel substantial and are dense, without any noticeable voids. They’re opaque due to the addition of titanium dioxide, which means they’ll make effective but small sunblocks if necessary.
The flavors aren’t as bright as the colors though. For Banana and Cotton Candy, the flavor was mild and sweet. For the Orange and Watermelon, the flavor just didn’t have any zazz. It was all sweet and no tang. I suppose some children prefer sweet over tart, so keep that in mind if you’re looking for a candy that won’t overpower them.
They are very attractive and one of the few candies that continues the Mickey Mouse theme all the way until you bite their ears off. At $3.95 for the bundle of five, well that’s a bit steep. I give them a 6 out of 10.
Neither of these treats was marked Kosher.
Monday, June 25, 2007
The first thing I was looking for at the Candy Palace at Disneyland was something unique. Why should I eat something that I can get anywhere? So I scoured the store to find something that was made only for sale at the Disneyland candy stores. Sadly, there really wasn’t anything there like that, so I settled for something that I thought I’d like that had a novel take ... the Dark Chocolate Pretzels in the shape of Mickey Mouse.
They were sold in a couple of different formats, a simple plastic baggie tied with a bow with a stack of four (mostly shopworn though), they had singles in the candy case for $1.25 each and then a nice box with 8 ounces of dark chocolate pretzels for $9.95. The box had all the classic Disney characters on it. Nothing from this century (the most recent characters on there are Beauty & the Beast and The Little Mermaid). The box looked like it protected the contents well (shaking it actually didn’t yield much in the way of sound, which is a good thing).
The pretzels are gorgeous! The dark chocolate is glossy, thick and with cute little scribbles to make it extra dense in spots. They’re in a deep tray, leaning against each other in little slots, eight pretzels total. (So that makes them 1 ounce each.)
Only one was broken.
The pretzels themselves are bigger than I’m used to, at first I thought they were stale but then I realized they were just really crunchy and a bit dense ... which kind of keeps them from being crispy in the way I’m accustomed to. The chocolate is good quality, not too sweet and with a good balance of smoky notes and a dry finish. The pretzel is only lightly salted, so this remains a sweet treat. Unfortunately this “dark” chocolate has milkfat in it, so it’s not for vegans. It is Kosher though (I don’t think anything in the candy case is). 8 out of 10
For the record I also tried a Milk Chocolate Pretzel out of the candy case, which I ate as I left the park. It tasted like, well, candy case. The pretzel was a little stale and the chocolate bland.
The candy case has a huge variety of chocolate treats in it. Nut clusters, caramel patties, peppermint patties, chocolate dipped crisped rice treats, chocolate marshmallow bars on sticks, little cups with white chocolate mixed with cookie bits, milk chocolate with M&Ms, chocolate haystacks, toffee, and of course the chocolate covered pretzels mentioned above.
I was drawn to the Milk Chocolate Caramel Marshmallow Bar. It’s about the size of a Snickers bar, though not quite as dense in hand. I was hoping for something to approach the See’s Scotchmallow.
Inside the bar the caramel and marshmallow are in equal proportions. The caramel is thin, though chewy and smooth (but lacking some deep burnt caramel flavors). The marshmallow is moist and springy and not too sweet. The milk chocolate is okay, sweet and milky and pretty smooth. It’s a sweet bar, but the marshmallow makes it feel both satisfying and light at the same time. $1.95 ... I give it a 7 out of 10.
I had very low expectations for the Small Mickey Turtles. The large ones in the case, though attractive in shape and size were a bit bloomed. The little ones weren’t quite as pretty, but the price was certainly better for someone who was looking for variety.
My expectation for something called a “Turtle” is this: caramel and pecans covered in chocolate. I like my caramel to be soft and chewy, but also flavorful to provide more than a textural counterpoint to the nuts. Pecans are a strongly flavored nut, so a good caramelized caramel is important.
The Mickey Turtle is a huge disappointment. The nuts didn’t taste fresh. The chocolate had more of the flavor of the refrigerator case than of chocolate and the caramel was less like caramel and more like a fudge or pecan praline (a chocolate covered pecan praline would be delightful, too).
Oddly enough the “turtle” pictured here with the white stripes wasn’t a turtle at all. I think it was supposed to be a truffle, but it tasted a bit more like a piece of fudge covered in chocolate. Again, it tasted like refrigerator more than chocolate.
The large (bloomed) Turtles were $3.00 each. The mini versions were 94 cents. Not bad as price goes, but it’s certainly not worth it. I give these (even the accidental “truffle”) a 5 out of 10.
If you’re coming to California and want a special candy treat to take home, go to See’s. The prices are better, the candy fresher and of course it just tastes better. (And I’ll wager you won’t stand in line as long ... most California airports even have a See’s kiosk.)
Next, I’ll try some of the prepackaged candy bars!
Thursday, June 7, 2007
Chiclets are my absolute favorite gum of all time. I love the classic white gum. It’s not easy to find any longer, I usually pick up six packs at the 99 Cent Only Store. They used to come in a lot of flavors, Spearmint and Fruit and if I’m not crazy, I think there was a Cinnamon at one time. The boxes are clean and feature nicely packed little candy-coated tile-like pieces of gum. Crunchy, flavorful ... easy to share. No messy wrappers.
At one time the Fruit Chiclets were different flavors, but eventually all the colors became the familiar fruit flavor (kind of like JuicyFruit). On rare occasions I also see the Tiny Size Chiclets at the store. Tiny Size are, well, just adorable. They the perfect size to offer to your Barbie doll. You know, if she’s a gum chewer ... maybe trying to break a smoking habit.
I stopped at the CVS to pick up some toothpaste the other day after work and spotted these at the checkout. I couldn’t resist. Sure, I had a six pack of Peppermint at home, but I hadn’t had the Tiny Size in years and that Gold Mine Gum was still pretty fresh in my mind.
While the regular pack boasts 12 pieces, which is pretty much six portions, the Tiny Size is only one half of an ounce.
For me this amounted to about three portions. The chew is satisfyingly crunchy, but not as grainy as the larger Chiclets can be. The fruit flavor is pleasant. A little bland and of course doesn’t last very long.
As cute as these little freaks are, I don’t think I’m going to buy them again, unless I’m working on some sort of candy craft project. The colors are unusual, the package seems to indicate that they’re rather neon tinted, in reality they’re just bright.
Peppermint Chiclets were introduced by the Fleer company in 1906. Fleer was later swallowed up by Warner Lambert in 1962, also the year that the Tiny Size was introduced. Warner Lambert sold their gum concerns to Cadbury Adams in 2000. Chiclets are still made with sugar but are manufactured in Colombia.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.