Wednesday, December 28, 2005
My site designers/programmers Susie & Travis (from Hop Studios) sent me a bag o’ treats a few months ago from their trip to Singapore. I don’t really have any specs on the candies since it was a mix, so here’s a sample of what they looked like:
It took me a while too steel myself for trying so many mysterious things, but I’ve finally plowed through most of the treats. Some were just variations on the candies we have available here, different kinds of mints (chewy, hard, soft), coffee hard toffees, ginger chews (made in Indonesia) and of course fruit hard candies. Some were rather normal, based on the ubiquitous citrus fruits but a good number were curious.
Durian and Tamarind top the list of scary candies. I’ve heard horror stories of Durian, which is rather common throughout Southeast Asia. It’s a sizeable and formidable looking fruit and I’m told an acquired taste for outsiders (and some who’ve grown up there have never been fond of it). It’s a divisive fruit, actually, as so many people can’t stand it because of its rather pungent odor, it’s not allowed on public transportation in many large cities.
The durian hard candy is probably just as much an acquired taste and not one I’m likely to accomplish. This hard candy tastes okay at first, a little sweet, a little tart and then rather like boiled shallots. Yes, onions or garlic or perhaps a little like Slim Jims.
The Tamarind, which I’ve never had and is surprising as I live in Los Angeles and it’s all over the place, was actually nice. It’s a little toasty, rather ordinary after all being so worked up about trying that.
The most curious one was the Creamy Corn. It tasted just like it sounds. Like creamed corn. Only in a hard toffee instead of running on my plate into my fried chicken. I have to say that it was very faithful to the name, and I ate the whole thing and was fascinated by it, but I can’t say I enjoyed it. It’s rather like eating the Buttered Popcorn Jelly Bellies. It’s a novelty, not a pleasure. At least not for me.
Mango was actually really nice, better than any other mango candy I’ve had, probably because they did more than make it taste like peaches. There were a few mango flavored ones, but the best overall were the ones branded Lot100 (the Blackcurrant was good, too). It had a nice pine essence to it, which is one of the things that I find so interesting about real mangoes, they have a woodsy flavor to them.
The best one was called Great Monster and I think was simply an orange hard candy. Simple, tart and zesty.
I had high hopes for those labeled barley sugar candies, but they didn’t really taste like the barley sugar I know of here in the states. They were nice, especially the lime torrone one (which was not at all like an Italian Torrone).
There are still a few I haven’t tried, but give me a few more days to get my courage back.
Rating - 6 out of 10 overall (some higher some lower ... it’s an average)
Friday, December 16, 2005
Name: Ribbon Candy
When I was a kid I used to buy ribbon candy for my mother for Christmas. It was pretty stuff but I never remembered it being very good. I think part of the problem is that most people put it in a dish or some sort of display for the holidays and it gets all sticky.
Ribbon Candy is simply hard candy flattened out into long ribbons and then folded up like little puffs and twists. They’re usually pretty colors and often flavored according to those colors. This box contains a mix of minty and fruity flavors. The box also has a beautiful photo of the candy on it. The stuff inside doesn’t look quite like that.
First, the ribbons are not uniform. The doubling of the candy strips to form the loops was rather inconsistent and the ribbons weren’t flat, so I’d set them out to photograph and they’d rock. Second, they were not glossy and luminous like the box. I know that they have been in the past. I know the stuff I used to get for my mother looked like it was spun glass. I don’t know if it’s because this is a bad batch or that it’s just not as good anymore, but mine looked milky and dull. Only one was broken, so I was pleased that the poor box wasn’t handled poorly.
The candy itself is kind of neat to eat. Messy, but pretty interesting. You can’t just break off a little loop, it seems for each loop that you want the other half is pulverized into shards as you break it off. We’re all used to the dense sugar of the hard candy, but the wafer thin ribbons rather melt on your tongue. The flavors are ordinary and sweet, no tartness in the citrus flavors. The plain white one was cool because it was vanilla. There aren’t that many vanilla hard candies out there. The oddest thing was that the red and green striped one was some sort of strange mint. A toothpaste mint, which I’m guessing is a blend of spearmint and peppermint but tastes a little too much like toothbrush for me.
You can read more about F.B. Washburn and Sevigny’s at their home page. But here’s the part I liked best:
Did you know that there’s a “ribbon candy business” and that it was so consolidated now?
The other interesting thing is how low in calories these are. A full ribbon, which is a little over an ounce and looks huge is only about 60 calories. So if you’re looking for a little holiday indulgence that won’t fatten you up so fast, a couple of ribbons instead of a piece of pie ala mode might save you about 300 calories. It’s actually kind of nice to have with a little tea and the calories probably end up being lower consider that much of it shatters into microscopic shards that you’re more likely to inhale than consume.
Rating - 6 out of 10.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Name: Coconut Slice
I’ve seen this a few times while in the 99 Cent Only store. My neighbor, Robin, won $99 worth of gift certificates to the store, so on our recent shopping trip I was a lot more adventurous with my choices (cuz it was really free).
This candy is basically a coconut slab, kind of like a fruit rollup ... call it coconut leather. The different colored strips might actually be flavored. I detected a little bit of raspberry in the red stripe, but really couldn’t tell the difference between the yellow one and the white one.
The coconut is chewy and not too sweet. If you like coconut and don’t want to bother with all that other stuff like nuts and chocolate, this is the stuff for you. Two grams of fiber in each bar but it does contain about 5 grams of saturated fat (that’s the coconut oil).
Tom’s isn’t really known for their candies, more for their nuts and snacks. They seem like rather a niche company (based in Georgia) and I don’t often see their products here on the West Coast except for the nuts, and those are usually at convenience stores on the highway.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Name: Overload Peanut Butter Cups
In my mind, there is no more perfect melding of chocolate and peanut butter than the Reese’s Miniature (yes, the minis are better than the full-sized cups). I do not pursue anything above that, but in the interest of fairness, I’m giving these Overload thingies a chance to prove themselves.
Overload is three peanut butter cups, each a slight variation on the tried and true original. One with balls of Butterfinger crisps tossed on top, another with some sort of fake m&ms (called ‘candies’) and the last with Buncha Crunch, which are just chocolate covered crisped rice like a Nestle Crunch bar.
First, when I pulled the tray out of the package, I could see that there was some sort of industrial accident. There were little ‘candies’ in ALL of the peanut butter cups and the ‘candies’ one had some buncha crunches in it. So much for segregation.
The chocolate is smooth and sweet, if perhaps a little more of it than a standard Reese’s cup. The peanut butter center is a little smoother than a Reese’s which is neither a good or bad thing, it just is. I kind of like a little grain to my nut butters, but that’s me. It was salty and very roasty tasting. The Butterfinger mixed in with that is a really good combo, a nice variation of smoothness, sweet, a bit chewy later with the Butterfinger and a lingering salty tone. The Buncha Crunch also has a nice texture to it, but in my mind it’s not quite enough crisp to make it through the cup. The ‘candies’ one is just kinda silly - is it the color that’s suppose to impress me or the texture of the candy shells? It’s by far the most chocolately, but the peanut butter part gets kind of lost without a texture to set it off.
These don’t even come close to most other peanut butter and chocolate products for me. The variety was, however, a welcome change when you’re buying a King Size item.
Rating: 5 out of 10 for ‘candies’ and Buncha Crunch and 6 out of 10 for the Butterfinger
Monday, October 3, 2005
Some folks have written or commented that I try other candies and ask why some haven’t been covered here. With only a few exceptions this blog contains candies that are new to me. But I recognize that not only is the world a finite place but that I’m also excluding a lot of fine candies that you may not be familiar with on the blog.
So, I’ll try to catch up with some tried and true candies or just new iterations of old favorites with this new feature: Short & Sweet. Just a brief on the candy and my rating and hopefully a photo.
After the recent introduction of the Nestle Crunch with Caramel and the Hershey’s with Caramel, someone suggested this bar. I hadn’t had one in years, so it was back to the store. The bar is a European style milk chocolate with four creamy caramel filled sections. The chocolate is very sweet and milky and the caramel has a good burn sugar/salty taste to it. Not a true chewy caramel, it’s a good balance for the sweet chocolate.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Name: Mega M&Ms
Just a larger sized morsel of chocolate, the Mega M&M also sports a different range of colored shells. The oddest part about these candies is that the colors reminded me of 1986. I don’t know why, I’m not sure that they were fashionable colors then or not, but they remind me of college. My college colors (they were Green & Gold) aren’t even among these, so it doesn’t even make sense.
Aside from that they’re just big M&Ms. Imagine a Peanut M&M without the peanut and you’ll have a mega. The thing I miss in these megas is the ability to cleave the shell off with my eye teeth. Maybe I just need more practice.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Name: Orange Cream Kisses
These are quite the little cuties and fill a niche that I’ve not really seen before in mass-consumer candies. You know, flavored white chocolate. The only other flavored white chocolate candy I can think of are those pastel misty mints. They smell a bit like aspergum (I’m sorry, I compare a lot of orange flavored things to aspergum, I blame my mother for giving me the dastardly stuff when I was a kid), but have a good approximation of a creamsicle - creamy white chocolate with a hint of orange essence.
I think they’d be fun to eat with cookies or within a mix of other Kisses, but I can’t imagine eating a whole bag of them.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
I know it seems odd that I’ve never had a Rocky Road bar before, but I’ve never been much of a marshmallow fan. To me the best thing about marshmallows is that they’re a dessert you can make on the grill. If marshmallows disappeared from the earth, I’d probably only lament the loss of Rice Krispies treats.
But, I thought it was high time I gave it a try - after all, how did I know I wouldn’t like it? First, the package is just fantabulous. It’s flashy red mylar and the lettering is bold and you can spot it easily from 20 feet. No wonder, it’s a big bar. At 1.8 ounces and the size of a tree limb, it’s a sizeable purchase for 75 cents.
The bar is rather unappealing when pulled out of the package, but really, when you look at most candy analytically it’s unattractive. I first pulled the bar apart for the photo and the sugary smell is just fantastic. It’s like putting your head into a box of Count Chocula.
The marshmallow isn’t overly sweet, but it’s foamy and has a good rubbery pull to it. The chocolate coating though is very sweet and the cashews are rather hard to discern. The mixture of textures is the real treat in this bar, with a real focus on the marshmallow, the light airyness of the bar sets it apart from just about everything out there. I hardly feel like I’ve eaten almost two ounces. It still hasn’t changed my mind about marshmallow in general, but I can see why it’s such an enduring favorite.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
On my quest to find a good consumer coffee-infused chocolate bar, I found this at Target recently. It’s not quite mass-marketed but at least it wasn’t prohibitively expensive.
The package heralds the candy as a “Truffle Bar” but it really doesn’t rise to that level at all. As far as I know, a chocolate truffle is a mixture of chocolate and butter and/or heavy cream. It’s usually dipped in chocolate because it’s gooey but may be rolled in cocoa to keep it from sticking to things. The fascinating thing about a chocolate truffle is that it’s more fat (often) than chocolate, but this fat helps to highlight the intense and subtle flavors of chocolate in ways that a higher cocoa solids bar is not able to. This bar had no such center. The center was slightly softer than the plain chocolate outer shell, but more like a Frango than a melty chocolate cream.
The coffee flavor in the firm center comes from “Turkish grind decaffeinated [coffee]”, which probably explains the graininess of the center. The bits aren’t big enough to be considered crunchies but large enough to interfere with a smooth texture. Of course being decaffeinated means that there won’t be much of a problem with eating this bar before bedtime.
Overall the bar is a little sweet but has a nice chocolately flavor and a really good punch of coffee once it melts on the tongue. The chocolate and coffee blend well, with good woodsy notes and a slight acidic bite.
It’s not my dream coffee bar though, so I’ll keep looking. (I’m not sure what I’m looking for, but it’s been a fun quest.)
Rating - 6 out of 10
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Both Hershey and Nestle recently introduced their standard chocolate bars now stuffed with a caramel center. If they could stuff two different candies into one, I can stuff two bars into one review.
Hershey seems to have changed their chocolate recipe. Maybe it’s like the New Coke. Many of their products, including their limited edition line are sporting something they call “Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate” but here it’s called simply “Creamy Milk Chocolate.” It’s definitely different than the chocolate I’m accustomed to in my Kisses.
This is a four segment bar with a little filling of soft, flowing caramel. The chocolate is very sweet and doesn’t really smell like much, but the caramel has a nice toasty scent to it. It’s rather runny, so instead of biting each segment in half, I’d recommend stuffing the whole thing in your mouth. It’s got a little salty tang to it, but mostly it’s a very sweet bar.
(After writing all of this I realized I should probably pick up some Rolos and find out how different this bar is from them.)
Since the Crunch bar is the centerpiece of the American Nestle brand, it only makes sense that they’d put caramel inside of it eventually. This bar has three beefy segments. The bottom layer of chocolate is very thick, about half the height of this bar and contains a good amount of crisped-rice crunchies. The rest of the chocolate coating does not have crisps in it.
This caramel center is less runny than the Hershey’s but is immediately saltier. I checked the label and it has twice the sodium content of the Hershey’s. The salt is actually a nice counterpoint to the exceptionally sweet Nestle chocolate. The crisps really aren’t as dense as you’d find in a regular Crunch bar, which is kind of disappointing. This bar had a bit more of a cardboard flavor to the chocolate and it was so sweet that it made my throat hurt. Though I love Nestle’s European chocolate, I really don’t care much for the American stuff because of the lack of chocolatey flavor to it.
If I could, I’d put the caramel from the Nestle version in the Hershey version and call it a great bar. As it is now, both are good bars but nothing mind-blowing for me. The Five Star bar holds my heart right now for caramel bars.
Ratings - Hershey with Caramel - 7 out of 10
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.