Friday, May 18, 2007
Back in January at the Fancy Food Show I picked up a few candies I like to put in the category of “comfort foods.” Asher’s is one of those companies, like See’s that I associate with traditional sweeties.
Asher’s is in Souderton, PA and though they’re pretty big, I don’t see their candies very often on the West Coast. Then one day I was at Loehmann’s and saw a stack of big boxes of Asher’s Chocolate Covered Pretzels and I decided I should finally review these items. Because I’d want to know whether or not something is good before I go buying it at Loehmann’s.
The Chocolate Smothered Pretzel, as far as I’m concerned, is the epitome of Pennsylvania Candy Cuisine. After all, they make lots of chocolate in Pennsylvania and they certainly are known for their pretzels. As a kid I would make my own chocolate frosting (equal parts butter, powdered sugar and cocoa) and then dip pretzel rods into it. Later as I began making my own candies I dipped pretzels when I ended up with leftover melted chocolate.
Asher’s milk chocolate is smooth and creamy. Very sweet, but the pretzel is salty and crunchy, so it goes well together. I prefer the tiny pretzels to the big ones, because you can fit the whole thing in your mouth at once instead of risking chocolate loss to flaking. (They make a variety of sizes.)
Milk Chocolate Smothered Graham Cracker - a chocolate covered graham cracker is kind of wholesome, right? This reminded me of a Twix bar without the caramel. The chocolate was creamy and the graham was crisp and fresh. It’s not my favorite of the three, but I’m sure folks who enjoy graham crackers will also like this.
I think a little bit saltier cracker would help, but then again maybe it’s the bland and slightly malty sweet cracker that’s the highlight here. Now, I see that Asher’s makes their own chocolate covered marshmallows and I’m wondering why a S’More isn’t an option on their site.
The Milk Chocolate Sandwich Cookie was fun. When I was in college I worked in a bakery/chocolate shop and one of my duties was to make chocolate dipped cookies. Back then Oreo made a HUGE version of their cookie, the size of my palm. They were a bear to dip, but the proportion of chocolate to cookie usually turned out well because the proportion of chocolate to cookie was just right.
The Asher sandwich cookie is covered in real milk chocolate (as are all of the above). Again, it’s sweet but the dark and slightly salty note of the cookie set it off nicely. One cookie is plenty, it’s very filling. (If you want a really good version of these, check out the Best Regards version as well, which is more expensive but come in other flavors.)
If you see these at the discount stores, they’re certainly worth picking up at less than $10.00 a pound, I’m not sure they’re worth more than that seeing how there’s a lot of filler in there and they’re not that labor intensive. The pretzels are certainly better than the bagged versions available in the candy aisle from Hershey’s and Nestle. I have to admit that the Chocolate Smothered Potato Chips also sound good and have to be better than those mockolate chips I had earlier this year.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
The story of how LifeSavers were created is one of those classic happy accidents. They came about in 1912 when Clarence Crane was looking for a candy to sell in the summer when chocolate was difficult to store. He concieved of a hard mint and engaged a pill manufacturer to make them for him. They found that the candies were easier to make if they were donut shaped and thus the candy and name Lifesavers was born.
The Five Flavor LifeSavers are not a compressed dextrose candy, instead they’re a boiled sugar candy. While the Pep-O-Mint was going strong, the fruit flavored versions were introduced in 1924 as simple hard candy disks. In 1929 technology caught up with demand and LifeSavers got their holes. The original fruit roll was all citrus - Lemon, Lime and Orange. In 1935 they became the Five Flavor Roll with Cherry and Pineapple joining the mix. And that’s how it was until 2003.
Then the internet mucked it all up. Wrigley’s, who now owns LifeSavers, decided to change up the flavors in the roll because they thought that the old flavors were hurting sales. So they let voters add their voice at their website. I think this was their first mistake. First, you could only vote for the flavors on their list. Second, they were only polling those people who visited their site ... I’m sure the great majority of LifeSavers consumers do not visit CandyStand.com, which appears to be designed for kids.
But I digress. Or ramble. And will continue to ... this is just one of those posts.
I had a yard sale over the weekend and my neighbor Robin brought some stuff over, which included a bunch of stuff from her desk that included a roll of LifeSavers. I, of course, wanted them. They looked like the original flavors (you can tell because it doesn’t have the purple stripe) but I wasn’t sure because it listed CandyStand.com.
I took them up to the Candy Blog labs for a look and found that they were in fact the original Five Flavor roll (the ones pictured above, not here to the left). They were not in great condition, as hard candies often get milky looking after about three years. But there they were, the original Five Flavors: Orange, Lemon, Cherry, Pineapple and Lime. They were stuck together and stood up easily for the photo. The package also spells out the word Five, and important distinction.
The new roll heralds that it has NEW FLAVORS! though it makes no mention of what they are. I understand not mentioning the flavors on the old roll, they’d been around since 1935 ... LifeSavers, a part of living.
The new roll also saves copoius amounts of ink by calling itself 5 Flavors, thus saving on those icky and expensive letters.
The flavors, in case you’re wondering are: Pineapple, Blackberry, Cherry, Watermelon & Orange. (This article points out that Orange was dropped in ‘03 in favor of Blackberry, but it appears it was quietly restored ... or maybe that’s the new flavor they’re talking about on the package.) It could also be because Nabisco sold LifeSavers to Wrigley’s in 2004.
Raspberry is good, nice and fruity with a good wine robustness. Watermelon is nice, fruity and floral. And of course the original pineapple is a glorious song that I hope will never end, orange is dependable and citrusy and cherry continues to be the epitome of medicinal-tasting candy. The old flavor set held one candy I would always give away ... the new one has three I don’t care for. I can’t just buy a LifeSavers 5 Flavor roll for orange and pineapple.
The saddest part of the whole LifeSavers story is that they stopped making the single flavor rolls that I loved so much. Tangerine was simply marvelous. More juicy, more zesty and more tangy that the simple orange, I could eat a whole roll in one sitting, no matter how long I was sitting down. While I might complain at the loss of flavors, I do have to applaud them for putting more in a roll. (I believe the old rolls used to hold 12 candies, the newer ones hold 14.) I might have to switch to Tropical Fruit as my go-to roll ... I wonder how much they’ve mucked that up lately.
Note: LifeSavers are now made in Canada. They also don’t have those little green strings that help you start a roll anymore.
UPDATE 2008: LifeSavers are now: Watermelon, Pineapple, Cherry, Raspberry, Orange ... so blackberry is now raspberry but pretty much looks the same.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:56 am
Friday, May 11, 2007
Sometimes I don’t read the directions. Especially when it comes to things like Ikea furniture and software. On an evening walk a couple of weeks ago with the neighbors and my lovely site programming/design team, we stopped at the 7-11. I scanned the racks for something new and sure enough found the Limited Edition Retro Starburst Fruit Chews. Or so I thought.
I got them home and the next morning went to take their picture. As you can see, that went pretty well. Then I opened the pack only to find that it was the regular flavors with just one of the limited edition array inside. Drat! Not only did I have to buy keep searching, I’d have to buy another package ... and take another photo. Drat!
As luck would have it (I do have plenty) I got an email from a similarly snack-obsessed reader in Colorado who said that they had the large bags at Safeway (called Von’s in my area). So I stopped at Von’s on my way home and lo and behold they serviced all my limited edition needs on sale.
I’ve decided after living with them in a jar on my desk all week that I LOVE the Skittles Carnival flavors. For that same period of time I’ve had the Starburst Retro bag on my desk as well. Granted, they fruit chews are not in a pretty glass jar, but I have to admit the tie-dye look of the package is pretty fun and tasty looking.
The package shows a slice of watermelon, a mango, a lime and some cherries. Not really a good sign for me. The concept of retro confuses me as well. From the package design I was expecting something from the sixties and seventies; perhaps the original Starbust flavors (which would be lame as originally the Cherry chew was Lime).
Or maybe retro is just anything that used to be a fad and is no longer popular.
As a mix I wasn’t that fond of these. Lime was nice, well, they were all nice, but I never felt like picking out a particular flavor and preferred to eat the Skittles all week. What I really want is a good Citrus Mix. Grapefruit ... why haven’t they done grapefruit? They could put in a tangy tangerine, zesty lemon, biting grapefruit and a key lime.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
I’m not sure how it is that there’s an actual novelty candy category for Bug Jars, but perhaps I underestimate the fascination people have with insects. Okay, I like insects too and spent many an hour catching fireflies and watching ants. I like the idea of a candy container having a life after the candy is gone and the candy being themed to the package is a nice touch.
The Buggin’ Glow Pop by Impact Confections doesn’t really provide much candy. It’s a hard candy pop mounted to the underside of a plastic jar lid. The 21st century bonus here is that there’s a little button on the top that turns on an LED.
I struggled with the little button for a while because I wanted to figure out a way to keep it turned on. Alas, the button is too sensitive and I never did find a way.
The pop itself is shaped like some sort of bug. I think it looks like a potato bug (not something I want to put in my mouth) or perhaps a chubby dragon fly. He’s holding his little hands together ala Mr. Burns saying, “Excellent.” This one is watermelon flavored. Which is a good summer flavor.
It’s tasty. Very sweet, not at all tangy. When you’re not eating it, it sits back on top of the jar easily or just set it upright. It’s little abdomen glows when you press the button. The whole jar is nice clear plastic, about the size of a large baby food jar. The plastic label comes off it quite easily so it’s a completely unbranded jar with a light on the top (and a few non-functioning air holes).
I was most interested in finishing the candy so I could see the inner works of the LED. It wasn’t easy once the candy was dissolved down to the base. This is not easy stuff to crunch when it’s so close to the batteries and light. The LED itself is encased in some tough plastic. The LED itself is white, not green like the candy (which makes sense because the pops are available in some other flavors that were of no interest to me when I picked this out and have since forgotten).
So now I have a jar that’s great for putting change in and I can actually tell what’s in there without turning on the lights. Maybe I’ll keep it in my purse.
The jar is slightly bigger than the Buggin’ Glow Pop one and has a little purple flip top. Inside the jar are oodles of little compressed dextrose candies. (Like SweeTarts.) They’re shaped like little bug characters, vaguely related to the pictures on the label.
It’s a little disconcerting that these look like Flintstone’s Chewable Vitamins. Luckily they don’t taste like them. The candies come in three colors and flavors:
The flip top has an inner thin foam liner that can be removed so that the air holes actually work and you can put bugs in the jar.
These were both cute and fun and I’d buy either again if I had a kid and back yard to share them with. They were a little pricey at the Dollar General (um, a dollar each) but perhaps you’ll find them cheaper. As summer is coming up, candies that support kid’s curiosity and non-programmed play should have a place in most homes. Either one might make fun favors for a themed birthday party or tiny take-along item for a camping trip.
Friday, May 4, 2007
This is a new level of portability for tape shaped gummi products. Capitalizing on the bubble gum tape dispenser (with the ultimate application being the Bubble Roll Message Maker) this little plastic disk holds six feet of candy.
Hubba Bubba introduced these in two flavors: Sour Blue Raspberry and Shocking Strawberry. Though the product calls itself gummi, it’s looks more like Red Vines from the ingredients: Sugar, Corn Syrup, Wheat Flour, Corn Starch, Partially Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Malic Acid, Apple Juice Concentrate, Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Mono & Di-Glycerides, Red 40.
There isn’t any gelatin in there, which is what I consider a defining ingredient of gummis. To continue that thought, jellies use pectin or corn starch, licorice or vines use wheat flour.
Naming aside, the dense roll unravels to reveal a long and flat tape with a coating of sugar and flavor on it (a little sour bite) which keeps it from sticking to itself. The chew is pretty dense and leathery, like a rather dry Red Vine.
I found the package frustrating, as the cutter didn’t really cut, it just held the tape in place while I stretched it until it split and broke. Of course it would also scatter bits of the sugary coating around as well. I guess they’re worried about giving sharp objects to kids. I guess they’re not worried about stuff getting in my keyboard. Or maybe they have a co-marketing deal with those compressed air can companies.
The candy is tasty but the novelty of the roll in a pack you can put in your back pocket isn’t well executed. These remind me of a bunch of different products, including the Sour Punch Straws and the unbranded stuff you can get in the bulk bins at the grocery store. Basically there are better values out there, however, if you’re looking for a light candy snack, especially for kids that involves some portion control, this might be fun.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Skittles are insanely tasty little morsels. Rather like little bits of Starburst covered in a candy shell. Skittles were first introduced in 1974 in the UK and parts of Europe. They spread to the States as an import for a while and then in 1981 Mars began making them in the States.
Obsessive folks (perhaps I’m one of them and speaking from experience) like to divide up the colors and eat them. I usually eat mine in pairs of same flavors, but when it comes down to the end of the pack, there are certain acceptable combos (all the citruses can be paired and grape and strawberry can go together ... strawberry and lemon are also acceptable but never ever put orange and grape together).
Original Fruit Skittles
While the Skittles website asserts that the flavor distribution is random, I’ve always felt that there were fewer green and purple ones in most bags. But as you can see from the photo, it’s just the green ones that seemed slighted in this mix (and I’m not going to complain). I took copious photos of all of the bags as well, so if you’re curious they’re here.
You might want to partake of some of my favorite Skittles commercials: Man with Beard, Skittles Leak, this one is from the previous campaign (one that I think captures a bit of the wonder of candy and magic better) and the original with great costumes ... oh, wait, those aren’t costumes, that’s what we used to wear back in the day.
Wild Berry Skittles
These have been around for a long time, but I never really noticed them. I never saw a reason to get anything other than the regular Skittles. All of the flavors were great. Sure I ate the grape ones last, if at all (always share!), but they were one of those candies you can eat in a dark movie theater without having to spit out mistakes.
Wild Berry Skittles come in a super purple pack, so there’s no mistaking them at the store (not like the M&M Pirate Pearls and M&M Almond). The colors look vaguely familiar, but without the vibrant orange and yellow. Instead they have a mousy pink in the mix which just makes them feel bland.
Not enough of these flavors are actually berries and berries as a mix aren’t that interesting to me.
Rating: 6 out of 10
As I was looking through a bunch of old commercials for Skittles online I realized that this was another flavor mix that I completely ignored. However, part of that may be that the flavors were different back then. The original mix of Tropical Skittles included two different flavors: Passion Punch (Blue), Mango Peach (Orange), Strawberry Watermelon (Pink), the new flavors are noted with an *.
I loved the look of these spread out on the table but again the proportion of “tasty” ones was too small to warrant buying the whole bag. (How long before Skittles goes the way of M&Ms and you can special order flavor mixes?)
Rating: 6 out of 10
Smoothie Mix Skittles
I’m not sure if a consumer wrote to Skittles and said, “I love your chewy little morsels, but could you make them with less flavor? I just can’t take it.” And of course being capitalists wishing to capitalize on all corners of the untapped Skittles market, they did.
Smoothies in real life are great. They’re like shakes only made with lots and lots of fruit. At least when I make them that’s how they taste. Some folks put yogurt or ice cream or sherbet in there, so I guess that’s where the watering-down of the flavor comes from.
These are just too bland. Maybe if I’d just come out of a coma these would be good for easing me back into the world ... or might put me back into a vegetative state.
Rating: 5 out of 10
UPDATE: Smoothies are discontinued.
While all the other bags were virtually identical in format (same size and weight and materials) this bag is different. It’s a little shorter than the others and made with a much thicker plastic (that’s annoyingly hard to open). I’m guessing it’s because these are rather different Skittles. Instead of all the sour being locked up under that candy shell, here it’s on the outside of the shell in a sparkly sanded coating.
The chew towards the end on all of these seemed grainier than usual. I don’t mind that as a feature though. I don’t like how messy these are. I like to line up my Skittles on my desk in little lines of each color as I dump small amounts out. These leave a dusting of sour on the desk. A word of caution as well, don’t ever get the sour powder in your eyes. It’s also very easy to just suck the sour off the outside, though it tastes the same on all of them, it also seems to lead to more tongue damage.
Rating: 7 out of 10
POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:04 am
Friday, April 27, 2007
I tried the Dove chocolate last year and was pleased with it. It’s kind of a slick chocolate, both in packaging and in texture. They market this as silky, and I’m not sure if it’s the level of fat in it or the size of the particles of cocoa solids ... or perhaps both.
While I’m not that keen on the plain bars, I got a note from some marketing folks offering me some of their other products and I figured, “what they hey!”
The Dove line is built around their plain dark and milk chocolate, sold in single-serve bars and the more popular “Promises” which I think of as a hybrid of Hershey’s Kisses and Perugina Baci (pure chocolate plus a little note in the wrapper).
These aren’t called anything ... just Smooth Milk Chocolate with Caramel. The bronzy foil holds a little rounded chocolate square with a filling of a caramel-like goo.
The wrappers also have little notes inside. Mine said things like Smile at yourself in the mirror and Sing along with the elevator music ... honey, I don’t need my candy telling me to sing out loud in public. I’m sure the folks at the Ralph’s on Glendale Blvd. are well aware of me belting out the 80s tunes when I visit and would probably hide these candies from me if they knew what they were telling me to do.
The chocolate here is smooth and creamy, perhaps a little sticky and sweet. The caramel filling doesn’t really have enough of the true caramel qualities I like, such as a burnt sugar taste or soft chew. I wanted more salt. But the whole thing is tasty and certainly worth the price of admission (free with my comp). But the thing that’s most appealing to me was how photogenic they were.
6 out of 10
The second item that’s much more up my alley is the Smooth Milk Chocolate Covered Almonds. I think the publicist who sent these to me intended to give me the dark chocolate ones, as there were two bags of milk chocolate in my little box. Oh well. The almonds are rather good, not as large and choice as the Trader Joe’s version that I often pick up, but there wasn’t a bad one in the bunch. They’re nicely toasted and crunchy. The chocolate is sweet and offsets the almond’s toasty flavors pretty well.
7 out of 10
At a regular price of $3.50 a bag, I don’t think I’d get these, except maybe if I was stuck in an airport and looking for something to bring on the plane. Both bags are easy to open and reclose, which is always a plus. I would probably pick them up on sale if I could get them for something like $2.50 though.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
The brand Gandour heralds they have the ingredients for happiness. Those ingredients include shea butter. Okee dokee.
The chocolate filling is rather firm, a little salty and pretty creamy. It’s not very chocolatey, more on the fudgy side. The crisp wafers are fun, though a little dry. The whole thing reminded me of the Happy Hippo, though there’s no hazelnut in this creme paste filling.
6 out of 10 (Halal)
This one is sporting a sassy jungle green wraper and woodsy font. Inside is a stack of wafers and creme then some caramel and crunchies with a mockolate coating.
It’s a big old jumble not jungle inside the package. The lumpy crispies and mockolate don’t quite get a good grip on the caramel and wafer center. It just doesn’t work for me. There’s too much mockolate and not enough caramel.
4 out of 10 (Halal)
M&M knock-offs made with mockolate. These were kind of a hybrid in size between Smarties and M&Ms. They’re bigger than M&Ms but thicker than Smarties. The colors were vivid. Though the package showed red, blue, yellow, green and orange, I only had orange, red and green in my bag (which held 17 morsels). The mockolate was less milky than the other products and passably good. It actually tasted better than Garfield’s Chocobites. Kind of smoky and rounded, though not quite the smooth mouthfeel of cocoa butter chocolate. For a treat for little kids, I guess these would be just fine, but I could probably only bring myself to decorate a cake with them.
4 out of 10 (Halal)
This is one that I had no clue about judging from the name. But the description and image on the wrapper seemed pretty agreeable. A biscuit bar with caramel and a chocolate flavored coating. So it’s like a Twix! The bar was just a little flatter and a little shorter than a Twix, but it’s kind of fun that they sell these smaller portions. It looked pretty good, with the same rippled appearance on the coating.
The inside was a lot different from a Twix. Instead of being a very dry shortbread, this one was a little salty and reminded me of a dense Ritz Cracker plank. The caramel was not chewy or gooey here, just a sweeter texture between the cookie and mockolate (and not always there either). The whole thing had a rather strong “butter flavor” to it.
5 out of 10 (Halal)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.