Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Based in Southern California, Sugarfina brings a chic aesthetic to all their candy with their minimalist packaging in robin’s egg blue and square formats. The candy is sold in “bulk” that is, it’s repackaged by them and sold in an array of different weights. They have created a superb curated list of candies. Some you’ll recognize, but their biggest selling point is an array of exquisite European candies that I’ve never seen sold anywhere else.
Candy is sold in little boxes of different weights or in mixed boxes (they call Bentos) that make excellent gifts. Their team truly understand that candy should appeal first to the eye and then to the rest of the senses.
I still get plenty of offers for free candy samples, but lately it has to be something pretty special to get me to bite. But when you see this list of candies, you’ll see what got me interested. Today I’m presenting the assortment of gummis (and one jelly candy). All of the gummis are from Germany and most feature natural colors.
Bitty Berries is a mix of three different gummis. There’s a large raspberry looking gummi that has a rather raspberry flavor. Then there are three smaller berries, kind of like petite blueberries that are different colors and flavors. The light amber ones are like a white grape juice flavor, lightly tangy but with a black currant note to them. The pink version is and the purple is like a jammy raspberry. Blueberry, Raspberry, Blackberry, Cranberry and Bilberry.
They’re just exquisitely beautiful. Even when I wasn’t interested in eating them, they were just too cute to look at.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Champagne Bears come in two colors: a soft peachy pink and a lightly yellow clear. The clear is like a clean apple juice flavor with a light peppery note. The peachy one is, well, much the same. I couldn’t really tell them apart except that sometimes the pink one seemed to be a little more raspberry flavored. They’re firm and intense. They’re well formed and held their shape well, even though they were jammed into their little cube.
I liked them, but didn’t think that they were anything better than the new juicy Haribo. But I do like the colors and think that for a special occasion, they’d be a nice favor.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Sugar Peach Sweethearts - I was pretty scared of these. They smelled strongly of peach, not in a bad way but in a strong way. They were so strong that I had to take them out of the bento box and sequester them by themselves so as not to contaminate the chocolate pieces they were co-mingling with. So I was afraid that they’d be overwhelmingly chemical tasting.
Quite the opposite is true. They’re little miracle pieces, on the tongue they actual feel for a moment like a real peach. The texture of the sugar sanding is velvety like the fuzz of the peach. The flavor is at once tangy and fruity and honey-sweet and floral and woodsy, like actual peaches. There’s no weird artificial coloring in there to give it a metallic aftertaste. They’re a bit more tart that I’d probably like if I were to eat them by the handful, but as a little refresher on a hot day when I have a dry mouth, these are unbeatable.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Queen of Hearts were billed on the website as three different flavors: pineapple, grapefruit and black currant. They’re also three different sizes of hearts. So it’s a lovely looking combination, although the largest heard gets folded over a bit inside the little cube.
Pink was indistinct, but reminded me enough of pineapple to make me think that’s what it was. Slightly floral with a tart bite and a crisp flavor to it. It was more like canned pineapple though not as syrupy.
Clear tastes like peach. I’m not sure what flavor it was supposed to be, I was hoping it was the promised grapefruit, but it was tangy and a little peppery. (I did notice that the peach mentioned earlier were very strong, I was wondering if the flavor migrated from the more delicate grapefruit.)
The dark one was definitely black currant. It was strong and had notes of wine and deep boiled cherry.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Cuba Libre is simply amazing. It’s a cola gummi, so far so good, with a little softer bubble of rum within. It’s stunning. The cola flavor is spicy and tart, a mix of nutmeg, cinnamon and perhaps a little warm kick of ginger but nothing overt and then the acidic bite of lemon. The rum is sweet and a little on the caramel side. I’ve never seen these anywhere else, and I can’t believe they aren’t being imported and sold in the US by the cargo container as it is. If there’s a reason to order from Sugarfina, it’s the Cuba Libre gummi.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Minty Polar Bears are downright weird and I’ll go ahead and warn you that they’re not mint. They’re like a bubble gum flavored mentholated chewy cough drop. The first note on the tongue is a little tartness then a huge whiff of what I can only describe as acetone (which I sometimes get confused with banana flavoring). Then there’s a menthol hit, a little more of a sort of mild lime flavor and the bitterness of that zest. It all ends with a slight queasy feeling.
I’ve had eucalyptus gummis before and liked them quite a bit, so I was hoping for something like that. I find them curious enough that I continue to sample them from time to time. But I never feel like I want to eat another one, just that I should.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Heavenly Sours are little stars, comets and crescent moons in fruity flavors. They’re sour sanded and come in lovely naturally tinted colors. They’re not actually gummis, they’re jellies. They’re made in the US, not in Germany like most of the other gummis from Sugarfina. They’re tart and have nicely distinguished flavors. Orange is a zesty and tart orange. Lemon is wonderfully sour. Blue is raspberry and a little overdone. Red is cherry and is, well, cherry.
Rating: 7 out of 10
As a thank you gift or something for someone who has everything, this is a great option. It’s not cheap, so it’s not something I’m likely to treat myself to very often. They also have lots of themed boxes and kits, so it’s easy to pick for Coffee Lovers, Licorice Aficionados, or Caramel Fiends. The large bento boxes with 8 x 4 ounce boxes of treats are $50. By the pound, the candy is $17.50.
They do a good job of labeling for allergies as well, even if they won’t tell me who make those Cuba Libre gummis.They’re currently only available via the web, but there’s talk of a store in the future here on the west side of Los Angeles.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
It seems like most of the new products I’ve been reviewing are new morsel versions of existing items. (I’m still trying to get the trademark of Morselization.) Today I have Airheads Bites from Perfetti Van Melle.
The category of candy known as Airheads has always been a bit of a curiosity for me. If you’ve never had them, they’re small, flat bars of tangy chew. They’re not taffy or a chew in the same sense as Starburst or Mentos. One of the main constituents is dextrose, which is the same stuff you find in SweeTarts. They really are just soft, chewy SweeTarts.
They come in watermelon, blue raspberry, cherry, orange, and lemon.
The ingredients are interesting:
I had to wonder, after looking at them, what makes them different from Skittles or Starburst? Well, they just are.
The pieces are rounded and rather flat, so they don’t roll around. The coating is shiny but more like a jelly bean’s grainy sugar coating that’s polished than the crunchy sugar shell of a Skittle. The real difference here is the center. It’s pure Airhead. The chew is stiff and grainy but immediately flavorful.
Orange is sweet at first then very tangy and descends into a pleasant and consistent grain before dissolving quickly.
Watermelon is green and quite vibrant. Again, it starts sweet and then gets tart and slightly more artificial. They all dissolve away very quickly.
Blue Raspberry starts very floral and doesn’t get as sour as they others, but is more like a bubble gum flavor.
Lemon is yellow and is weird at first, with a strong household cleaner note that then becomes a rather standard lemonade mix flavor.
Cherry is quite normal and reminded me a lot of Life Savers. It reminded me that I’m getting to like cherry more than I did 10 years ago.
Overall, they are tasty little bits and far easier to eat than the ordinary Airheads bars. I liked the flavor diversity in the single package. I found mine at 7-11, so they’re out in stores now. They come in another version called Airheads Bites Berry.
I was sorry to see that these were not for vegetarians (gelatin). I was also a little surprised to see that they’re made in China, as the factory for Airheads is in Kentucky. Maybe they’re just trying out the product and will make them locally if they’re a hit. There was also no mention of allergens on the label, so I don’t know about gluten for those concerned.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
The newest flavor addition, which I mentioned in a roundup last month, is Bubble Gum Flavored Peeps. As you might expect, they’re pink. They’re also Peep shaped, not bunny shaped or bubble shaped. Even though they’re little baby chicks, they’re considered a year-round flavor.
Just Born bills them as having that “classic bubble gum taste.” Which of course leads me to examine what that flavor actually is. Well, since there’s no natural item, like a vanilla bean to consult, the recipe varies, but generally bubble gum is very mild wintergreen, sometimes with a little fruity banana and vanilla flavors thrown in.
The Peeps come in a row of five conjoined chicks. They’re pink, which isn’t surprising at all, except for the fact that they’re colored all the way through. This ruins it completely for me.
The flavor is mild and actually goes really well with the sweet, aerated gelatin. But the artificial coloring (Red 40) has a bitter, metallic aftertaste for me. So the first bite is great, but shortly after it begins to dissolve, I have a bunch of bitter goo in my mouth.
I’m really disappointed they had to use so much coloring for these, most of the other Peeps they sell are uncolored in the middle (except for the chocolate coated ones). I’m sure that folks who don’t react poorly to Red 40 and also enjoy the slightly medicinal flavor of bubble gum will go wild for these.
Monday, April 29, 2013
Nestle is continuing their expansion of the confectionery line for Skinny Cow. The dairy dessert brand is now a candy brand as well. They started with wafer bars, which were passable, but contain a poor listing of ingredients.
These single serve packages of Divine Filled Chocolates have only 130 calories, but that’s to be expected because it’s only 1 ounce of candy. The wrapper describes the Peanut Butter Creme variety as velvety milk chocolate and delicious peanut butter creme.
As a treat, they’re lovely. The pieces are well sized and really attractive. If you lined them up on a plate, you’ll really feel like you’re getting a treat. So kudos to Skinny Cow for recognizing that part of candy is the beauty of it.
The ingredients list is long and the filling isn’t really peanut butter, it’s more like a peanut syrup, as it’s a combination of peanuts, corn syrup, sugar, dried milk and palm oil.
They smell sweet and nutty, not that unlike a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. The chocolate is soft and has an easy bite. The center of the chocolate has the thinnest possible strip of peanut butter creme in it. The chocolate is very sweet and milky, without much of a distinctive chocolate taste. The peanut butter creme is salty, that’s what I got at first, an intense amount of salt. There’s 80 mg in the package, which is a lot for only one ounce of candy, but really stood out because it was only in the filling. The peanut butter is gooey and melts right away because it’s mostly sugar, not peanuts.
I actually prefer the wafer bars, even though they’re not covered in real chocolate, because they have a lot of texture to them and feel more like a snack. This feels like a tease, it’s pretty but it doesn’t live up to the expectations that it’s going to be decadent or filling. There’s so little peanut butter in there and it’s only one ounce, the package has only 1 gram of protein. For the same calories, you could have three Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Miniatures (44 calories each, almost 1 gram of protein each).
I really don’t understand paying so much money for so little candy when it’s of poor quality. I’d say get something like the Q.Bel Wafer Bars or just have some Reese’s Miniatures (if you can stand to have the whole bag in the house).
Monday, April 22, 2013
The new Life Savers Gummies Coolers are billed as Your favorite refreshing drink flavors have joined the Life Savers family.
The package has some nice cool pastel tones on it and an odd assortment of flavors. The Cooler name made me think of the Sour Patch Chillerz, which were infused with a little bit of menthol to give a cooling quality in the mouth. But the reality is, they’re just chilled drink flavors ... though not flavors I would readily order (there are no lemonades).
Cherry Limeade is the deep red. It’s an interesting mix of that classic Life Savers cherry and a little hint of citrus zest. I would have preferred more of the lime, but I appreciate that it wasn’t overly sweet and it certainly packed a lot of flavor in there.
Raspberry Iced Tea was the pale pink one. It’s funny to see two raspberry flavors in one bag. This one tasted like raspberry. I didn’t detect any tannins from the tea but there was a well rounded raspberry flavor that got both the floral note, a blush of tartness and a hint of the seeds.
Fruit Punch is probably orange. It tastes like fruit punch. Not much else to say except that I like it when my fruit punch doesn’t have quite so much artificial coloring in it, so at least this version had a little less of that bitter red in it. It didn’t make me like it any more than if it was bitter.
Blue Raspberry Slushy was blue. The raspberry flavor was sweet. That was pretty much it. It was sweet and a little soapy from the floral notes of the berry. There was very little sour to go along with it.
Watermelon Breeze was light green. I think this was just watermelon flavored, as I could detect no other note of breeze in it. The watermelon was definitely on the green side of the flavors, more about the tart note that you get when you eat close to the rind than the sweet and floral flavor of the center of the melon.
The diversity of the flavors was lacking, but then again, all of them were good enough that I’d eat any placed in front of me. The intensity is good and I enjoy the shape quite a bit. But on the whole, the flavor set just didn’t thrill me. Of the Life Savers line of gummis, I prefer the Sours best, mostly because of the transcendent tangerine.
Friday, April 12, 2013
The Nut Goodie is made by Pearson’s and debuted in 1912, one of the oldest combination candy bars still in production. Though they’re still mostly a local candy in the St. Paul, Minnesota area, they are found at specialty stores around the country. One of the notable things about the Nut Goodies (a maple cream covered with peanuts & chocolate) is that they’re made with real chocolate. There are a lot of regional candy bars that somewhere along the way (or maybe they started out that way) ended up with cheaper “chocolate compound” (basically, mockolate).
Pearson’s is busy celebrating their 100th anniversary with some special events, including the first new spin-off of the Nut Goodie, the Pearson’s Sea Salt Caramel Nut Goodies. (I’m not sure why this version of the candy gets a plural on the package.)
The new Sea Salt Caramel Nut Goodie – made with real milk chocolate, Virginia peanuts, sea salt and caramel – marks the first permanent line extension in the Nut Goodie’s 100-year history.
It’s a very simple candy, which makes me wonder why there aren’t more of these on the market. A caramel pattie covered in peanuts and milk chocolate. Dead simple, but not easy to find.
The caramel portion is soft and chewy, almost the point of flowing. When they said sea salt, they weren’t kidding though. This 1.75 ounce candy has 220 mg, which is about twice as much as necessary. The nuts, as promised, are fresh and crunch and actually have that distinctive “Virginia” flavor which is a little more earthy and less green than other varieties. The chocolate is sweet but much richer with a stronger cocoa flavor than I expected. It was a welcome component to the piece. Really, my only issue with this is the too-salty caramel. I recognize that my low-salt lifestyle has made me much more sensitive to this, but I still think that the level, for a non-savory item, is just too high.
I liked the package, I liked the concept. I hope that Pearson’s considers a regular caramel instead or at least in addition to this.
Monday, March 18, 2013
Here are a few Easter candies I bought but I’m not going to get around to doing a full review.
I was actually out at CVS looking for the Cadbury Hollow Bunny that I noted in my roundup of products for 2013. (I was hoping it was on sale, because the first time I saw them, they were $4.79 for a 3.5 ounce bunny and I didn’t really want to fork that over for Cadbury chocolate.) While looking though I spotted this bag, which reader Kate mentioned was available last year.
They’re pretty and feature good quality milk chocolate. These were a little softer in texture and had a silky melt. The coconut mixed into the chocolate is crispy, though it does become chewy after a while. It’s a nice combination of textures and flavors. I found the coconut a little too, I don’t know, difficult to get out of my teeth. Still, I manged to finish the bag within 24 hours, so I must have liked them. I’ll still go for the Milk Crisp version over this.
Rating: 7 out of 10
I found Ferrero Tic Tac Bunny Burst at Target with all the other little Easter Basket stuffers. I didn’t see a press release on this, so I didn’t know it was coming out. Further, there’s no listing on the package or anywhere I can find on the internet that says what flavors are actually in the Bunny Burst.
The green is pretty easy to figure out. It was green apple. They’re sweet and tangy, with a very sweet, odd aftertaste. I didn’t care much for it and was hoping for better in the lilac colored ones.
The soft purple is a bit of a mystery flavor. The ingredients list dried apple, dried grape, dried acerola (West Indian Cherry) and dried lychee. So I’m going to call this one tropical. It has a light green grape note, I also tasted violets along with a floral melon and vague medicinal cherry note. At one point did think about lychees, as well. It’s interesting and unique. Not really what I’d call good or refreshing, but I didn’t notice the weird sweet and metallic aftertaste with this one.
They’re made in Canada and contain carmine, so they’re not suitable for vegetarians.
Rating: 6 out of 10
I bought this pair of Cemoi Classic Creamy Egg (Milk Chocolate) at Cost Plus World Market. I was actually hoping to find a dark chocolate version, perhaps more upscale, of the classic Cadbury Creme Egg.
This is not that. I can’t give it a full review because I didn’t actually eat it. Both were sticky and oozy under the foil wrap, though I made my choices from the box at the store very carefully. I opened both and found overly sweet, grainy fondant. The chocolate was marginal, it was all just very sweet and unappealing. So into the trash they went.
Rating: 3 out of 10
I reviewed the Snickers Peanut Butter Squared before when they came out. The Snickers Peanut Butter Egg is the same construction, only in hemispherical ovoid shape. It’s a little different because it’s molded instead of being enrobed. Of course the domed shape also means different bites have different ratios. But overall I noticed more caramel in it. The chocolate and caramel and peanut with peanut butter is a nice combination. The salty peanut butter keeps it from being too sweet. I enjoyed it more than the Square thing. I also reviewed the Santa version of this which also has different proportions because of the shape of the mold.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Friday, March 15, 2013
Russell Stover is a fixture at American drug stores at Easter with their large variety of single serving Easter eggs. New this year is the Russell Stover Cookie Dough Egg.
This new egg follows the same sort of construction as the Red Velvet Santa first spotted for Christmas (also available as an egg). The center is an actual flour-based dough. Unlike other fondant centers which are just whipped up sugars, this one is a bit more complex. Here’s the ingredient list (forgive me for any transcription errors, it’s green printing on a cream background):
So, instead of a short list, this is long and includes lots of flour, so it’s not gluten free. It also contains high fructose corn syrup a few times, which is disappointing because Russell Stover, while not being top of the line, is usually filled with plain old sugar and corn syrup. This is what happens when candy makers start adding bakery items. Unlike actually cookie dough, this has no egg products.
The egg looks like many of the other milk chocolate Russell Stover varieties. It’s on the flat side, and has two rows of glossy ripples. It’s about two inches long and one and a quarter inches wide.
The bite is soft and the center is, well, doughy. It’s not dry but not quite as moist as I expect. It has a grain to it, with the sugar being noticeable and I might have detected a little salt as well. The flour taste is not noticeable (sometimes real cookie dough can taste like raw flour).
Unlike cookie dough nugget products, this has more of the satisfaction of eating a spoonful of dough. The chocolate chips didn’t do much for me, but the milk chocolate coating was smooth, creamy and a sweet complement to the dough. I’d prefer a dark chocolate version, as I put dark chips in my cookies. It’s similar to their Brownie Egg (which it turns out, I’ve never reviewed), but naturally less chocolatey.
It’s a good rendition of cookie dough as a candy. I don’t know if I’d grab this over something like their marshmallows or the Pecan Delight, but I know there are some folks who will really appreciate this.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.