Tuesday, February 20, 2007
I’ve been more pleased with Russell Stover over the years. It could be that my tastes have mellowed or it may be that Russell Stover is making better quality product, but they’re still not a go-to brand for me. What really surprised me is their move into organics. So I picked up their Organic Pecan Delights just before Valentine’s Day. They come in a peg bag that’s all green and matte looking with a little burst of rich gold for the “organic” banner. It’s also heralded as “gluten free” which I would love to hear if I were someone who was hunting in the candy aisle for something I could eat.
Pecan Delights are a pecan cluster with caramel covered in milk chocolate. All ingredients are organic, except maybe the sea salt and it’s unclear if the soy lecithin is.
These are upside down. The caramel is on the bottom, the nuts (in pieces, not halves) are on the top and the whole thing is covered in chocolate. Don’t worry, it’s not that big of a faux pax as candy constructions go.
They’re a little small but a nice barely two bite piece of candy. The nuts are fresh and the caramel is decent. It’s chewy and not too soft or sweet. The chocolate on the outside is a little odd, it’s not quite the European powdered milk taste, but close, with a slight gamey quality to it. (It reminds me of the Thompson’s Organic Milk Chocolate.)
Overall they’re not my favorite pecan caramel cluster I’ve had, but I did finish the bag (it was only 3 ounces total), which is a testament to their freshness. The ingredients label is much more comforting than some other Russell Stover goodies, so there is that consolation. I wish they came in dark chocolate, but for a first step into organics they’re no-compromise. They also have their rather good coconut bar available in their organic line (also only in milk chocolate). If price is the object and not the organic status, stick with See’s.
On a completely side note, Russell Stover is having a big clearance sale on their Valentine’s candies on their website. So if you’re ga-ga over their Coconut or Strawberry Hearts, this might be the time to stock up.
Everybody has a different name for caramel nut clusters covered with chocolate. Sanders Candy, the Detroit-based candy and fudge sauce company, calls theirs Cashew Titans. Pretty good name, if you ask me.
These are compact candies with a nice layer of cashews on the bottom, a dollop of caramel and milk chocolate enrobing the whole thing.
The cashews are fresh and crunchy, though I could use a hit of salt on them and perhaps a few more. The chocolate was okay, very sweet but nice and creamy. The caramel has a good chew, soft and not too sticky but lacking a dark caramelized flavor that would match so well with the buttery crunch of the cashews.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Sanders also sent me some of their Caramels to try as well (and some other goodies that I’ll cover in a few weeks). This box of milk chocolate covered caramels were absolutely lovely. Yes, the plastic tray that anchors them in the box isn’t as classy looking as pretty little fluted cups, but I have admit that they looked glossy and flawless when I opened it.
It’s only your imagination that these look darker than the Cashew Titans, I think it’s the dark chocolate striping that makes it look darker. It certainly tastes like the same chocolate.
The caramel is smooth and without the cashews does hold up well on its own. The chocolate is sweet and I find it just a little too much for the caramel, but some careful nibbling around the edges creates a more ideal ratio (I do this with a lot of candies, as far as I’m concerned the coating on a Heath bar is disposable).
I can’t eat many of these at once, so far two has been my limit. But with a few pretzels as a crunchy and salty complement make for a tasty dessert. The price on these, for handcrafted candies is pretty good though and I’d certainly want to try one of their dessert shops if I were in the area.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Monday, February 19, 2007
I’m a little sick, just bronchitis, nothing to block my enjoyment of candy but I’m a little tired. I’m spending more time on the computer and just read an interesting article about some of the benefits of gum to help build memory or as a delivery method for supplements. (Link to LATimes.)
So I thought I’d profile a few gums today, just in short because, well, it’s just gum.
I picked this Cool Cola Hubba Bubba up at Munchies here in Los Angeles. I rather enjoy cola flavor, though I rarely drink soda. This gum is from Israel and I can’t tell you what the label says beyond the flavor.
The chew is soft like Hubba Bubba but has a really good rounded cola flavor, complete with a tangy lemon element and the spicy cola notes. The flavor doesn’t last very long, but as it peters out it does taste a bit like old cinnamon gum, which isn’t unpleasant at all. The bubble blowing is pretty good too. I can’t say that the color is as appealing as regular pink bubble gum, but the size of the bubbles can be impressive. While I wasn’t a huge fan of this, I really think it should be marketed in the US, it fills a gaping hole in the flavor range of our bubble gums.
(A little housekeeping note, I like to put on some lip balm before blowing bubbles to keep the gum from sticking to my lips.)
Rating: 6 out of 10
I bought this gum in a Family Guy tin with Stewie on the front last summer at Powell’s Sweet Shoppe. It mostly bought it for the tin and this one was the least offensive of the Family Guy sayings there. (Not that I don’t like Family Guy, but this is a family-friendly blog.)
The little gum pieces are as cute as can be, light orange and shiny. The flavor says it’s orange, but I’d call it a juicyfruit plus orange. It’s not very strong gum and not really that good. It sticks to my teeth (I have fillings) and doesn’t last very long. But I liked the tin and will find something to stuff in there at some point when I bring myself to finish the gum that’s probably all tacky and stuck to the bottom now.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Talk about your unimaginative names. Cafe Coffee Gum! Whee!
I picked this up because I was actually curious about the new Wrigley Kona Coffee gum, but I’m not gonna buy that, because it’s got artificial sweeteners in it. So when I saw this, and that it had sugar, I figured it was destiny. And though I make fun of the name, the package design was rather pleasing.
It’s not strongly flavored, but rather nice and mildly sweet coffee-flavored. The flavor doesn’t last very long and when it peters out along with the sugar it’s rather musty tasting. But swapping for another piece solves that problem. I can go through a pack of gum in a matter of an hour that way.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Friday, February 16, 2007
A long time ago there was a taffy called Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy. It was not Turkish and it wasn’t even taffy. But it was made by a family named Bonomo. Though the candy behaved like taffy (it was smooth and chewy) it actually contains egg whites like a nougat (Bonomo even referred to it as a “short nougat”) and was even baked. The Turkish part of the name made some sense, as Albert Bonomo did come from Turkey. But the family admitted that they used the name because it sounded good.
The taffy was a great all year treat because it didn’t melt like chocolate or caramel bars. Though it comes in a single large bar, a little chill and a smack on the edge of a table and it would shatter into bite sized pieces.
In 1980 Tootsie Industries bought the brand and then discontinued it in 1989 citing low sales.
Just as the Marathon caramel braid bar has its stand-in with the Curly Wurly, so does Turkish Taffy. It’s known as Doscher’s French Chew. It also comes in the same flavor array as Turkish Taffy did: Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry & Banana.
I don’t remember Turkish Taffy well enough to say that it’s an adequate replacement, so I’ll just talk about the chew on its own.
The bars are nice and big at 1.62 ounces each. You don’t have to chill the bars to break them but it helps. Sometimes I would just bend them in one direction slowly, then reverse direction quickly to cleave a good piece off.
They’re not quite as soft as something like Laffy Taffy or Airheads (totally different texture as well) but they’re less sticky than Salt Water Taffy. The egg whites and density gives it a lasting, smooth chew.
Vanilla - sweet and plain so it’s the texture here that’s the star.
Chocolate - tastes like eating chocolate cake batter. The chocolate isn’t very rich or creamy or deep.
Banana - a wonderful fake banana tastes that lasts all the way through the chew.
I definitely enjoyed this chew, it’s pretty smooth and not the least bit sticky on the teeth. I don’t see myself buying it very often but I liked the Banana much better than the Laffy Taffy version (which has a more latexy feel to it). Doscher’s also makes a Strawberry chew.
Doscher’s is a small factory in Cincinnati, OH. They also make candy canes and other chews. They’ve been around since 1871. They sometimes make seasonal flavors like Green Apple for Halloween.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
This, I think, is the last of the candy I picked up on sale after Christmas. This was from Target during their 75% off phase. While I wouldn’t pay $8.00 for it, I was happy to pay $2, if only because I thought the jar was pretty cool. (Real glass jar, but the lid is clear plastic with a stainless steel rim.)
Peanut Butter Caramels candy, I figured, would be rather like the molasses peanut butter kisses that I like (and so many others loathe) that are sold around Halloween in orange and black waxed wrappers.
What’s especially pleasing about these is that instead of being wrapped in an opaque colored wrapper, these are in clear cellophane. You can see just what they are, a big O of caramel filled with a little spot of peanut butter.
It smells like peanut butter and tastes like it too, with a good salty, woodsy, nutty, creamy flavor ... and after you chew for a while the peanut butter dissipates and the soft chewy caramel with its buttery and caramelized sugar tones kick in.
I liked them. I like the simplicity of them, I liked the packaging. The ingredients were all natural. I loved the price. I might pay $4 for these, but I truly doubt I’d take the plunge at $8.
ALLERGEN STATEMENT [from the package]: this product may contain or have proteins derived from milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts and/or soybeans. (emphasis mine) ... wow, talk about covering your bases! (And maybe they need to keep their factory a bit cleaner!)
Monday, February 12, 2007
I don’t actually have much to say about these Marshmallow Hearts except that I was surprised and pleased, especially after the tragically untasty experience of the SpongeBob SquarePants Yogurt Covered Raisins last week (also made by Frankford).
I didn’t realize that these were made by the same company, which is probably a good thing. And now Frankford has redeemed itself in my book and is no longer a “bad candymaker” and only an “uneven candymaker” ... one more in either direction and my opinion will be cemented.
I’m not a huge consumer of plain marshmallows, but I have to say that these are adorable and just the right size (about 2/3 the size of a regular marshmallow). A few of these floating at the top of a cup of hot cocoa seems like it’d be a nice way for a parent to give some unconditional love or a sweetheart to give you a little unexpected treat.
They’re vanilla flavored, not strawberry (as I feared before I read the package). They are pink on the outside, so there is some food coloring in there, and yes, it does have a slight bitter aftertaste for me. If you’re not one who’s prone to that, then hey, no problem for you. I didn’t notice it at all when combined with hot cocoa, just when eating them by themselves. I preferred them a little stale, so they were chewy on the outside but still soft inside.
Note: Made in Israel ... however the package doesn’t rate them as Kosher.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
There are quite a few candy craft kits out there. I often see candy jewelry kits at the 99 Cent Only store, but haven’t picked one up before because the packaging made me doubt that it was manufactured in this century. This little heart box/locket on the other hand looked bright, clean and inviting.
The “Be My Love” Edible Jewelry Kit has four compartments with three different colors/flavors of candy beads and a single white charm. The kit also features a cord to hang the whole kit from your neck (or doorknob) and an extra three feet of cord in a little bundle inside the box. The ingredients/nutrition label on the back of the package can be torn off to reveal a gift tag.
Though there’s a whole yard of cord in there, the beads only add up to about 12” of coverage. However, a careful crafter can use knots (like the way pearls are strung) to space the candy beads out and still make it feel full.
As a candy, they’re not bad, in fact they’re very cute. The beads have a glossy panned coat of colored glaze that really makes them sassier looking than their simple pastel pressed dextrose kind on those elastic strands.
Pink is strawberry
Most bags of candy necklaces give you more candy than this little package does. However, the fact that the kid might be occupied with a craft before munching on the candy is rather attractive as treats go. The candy is also much better than some of the super cheap candy necklaces I’ve bought at the dollar stores, so I guess you get what you pay for. The little box is also nice and practical for keeping things like small barrettes or things like paper clips and thumbtacks later. (Of if you have a child who likes Polly Pocket, this could be a shoe keeper!)
Friday, February 9, 2007
Dove Jewels are a mid-range Dove confection packaged for Valentines. Inside this little red reflective cube were individually mylar wrapped chocolates. There were six varieties (two of them just solid chocolate). The packaging is attractive and the description of the candies is compelling. I’m not a huge fan of Dove chocolate, but these looked like an interesting option compared to the heart-shaped boxes I already reviewed this week.
Raspberry Truffle (magenta wrapper) - an oval shaped piece in dark chocolate. The truffle center was soft, a bit salty. On top of that (or maybe on the bottom) was a bit of raspberry jam. It didn’t have much zazz, so I didn’t catch more much more that indicated this was raspberry than a few authentic seeds.
Caramel Espresso (gold wrapper) - an oval shaped piece in dark chocolate, this had two components, a flowing caramel on the top of the center and a firm truffle-like espresso chocolate on the bottom.
Chocolate Mousse Truffle (purple wrapper) - an oval shaped piece in milk chocolate. It’s the one pictured above bitten in half. It’s sweet and mellow, not terribly chocolatey. The center has a bit of a salty taste to it that keeps the sticky sweet milk chocolate under control. A little hint of coconut flavor in the center.
Cashew Almond Crunch (green wrapper) - a round jewel piece in milk chocolate. It has a rather firm center with lots of bits of cashews & almonds and some sort of crunchy, perhaps hard nougat, stuff. This was the winner in the package (well, it’d score even higher if it was in dark chocolate), however, by the second one I had a sore throat.
While the packaging was elegant for drug store fare from Mars and of course different from the cheesy and dated heart boxes, I still wasn’t blown away by the Dove chocolate itself. I find it a bit too sweet and waxy without much chocolate bang. I did appreciate that the flavor combinations were a bit more adventurous than the usual mint, coffee, blah.
As an after Valentine’s purchase, getting these for $2 or so is probably a great deal (better than an Elmer’s box) as far as quality goes but at pre-Holiday prices, for less than $10 you can get some really good See’s candies (in whatever assortment you think will please your honey) made with Guittard chocolate and fresh, mostly natural ingredients (I think some of their fruity items use artificial colors).
I know some folks are very fond of Dove but it just doesn’t have that zing for me at this price, this was the biggest ticket item I bought for my grand Valentine’s Week (granted, all those other high-end boxed chocolates were gifts) so it did have some high standards to meet.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.