Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Sometime about a year ago I picked up some Root Beer Puffs, which were like buttermints but flavored like the soda. A few weeks later I got a note from a company called Red Bird Brand that makes candy puffs in a huge variety of flavors. It took me quite a while to find them, but I did pick up Soft Assorted Puffs at the 99 Cent Only Store that includes 15 different flavors. (Though perhaps not always in the same bag.)
The flavor variety is, well, extraordinary: Peppermint, Cherry, Lemon, Green Apple, Wintergreen, Strawberry, Orange, Grape, Peach, Blueberry, Butterscotch, Watermelon, Cream Penny, Cotton Candy, Passion Fruit. There’s a menu guide on the back that shows the key for the combination of colors and stripes. There are about 25 candies in the bag, but the flavors were not distributed evenly.
One of the differences between this style of Puffs and the traditional Buttermint of After Dinner Mint is the size. These are quite large, at about 1 inch across and all of them are individually wrapped. (No more candy dish with the stuck together.)
Cherry was bold and easy to spot. It’s a flavor that’s both heavily scented and with a light tartness to it. It was smooth and had a good melt, but overall, it’s not usually my favorite though at least this didn’t have a lot of red coloring in it.
The flavors not in my bag: Peppermint, Cotton Candy, Passion Fruit and Orange.
For the most part I didn’t like the fruity flavors. The others like butterscotch and wintergreen were more to my liking, even the unflavored Cream Penny were pleasant.
The puffs themselves are quite nice, I liked them more than the variety package. There’s a floral, sort of honey note to them. But they’re also quite cinnamony. I wouldn’t call them hot though, it was a nice heat but they never approached anything like the fire of an Atomic Fireball.
The cinnamon smell is strong, even when they’re in the package, so I had to keep them separated from other candies.
The package for the Assorted Puffs said it was Gluten Free, they’re also Kosher Pareve and appear to be vegan ingredients.
It was strange that I didn’t get the classic Peppermint in the Assorted mix, which is what Red Bird Brand is known for. Overall, the texture was good, they softened up nicely. The package mentions that they’re rather hard when they’re first made, but if you prefer a softer puff, to open the package and wait ... it was true. After a couple of months, mine reached the melt in your mouth texture that I was expecting.
Monday, October 21, 2013
After experiencing the lackluster Super Caramel Apple Blow Pop last week, it’s a wonder that I was still looking for the Candy Corn Super Blow Pop. An astute reader said that Walgreen’s was carrying them (which is where I found the Caramel Apple version) so I tried what I call the Super Walgreen’s in Hollywood. It’s near the Arclight Cinema/Cinerama Dome and Amoeba Music, so it was easy to find a reason to be over there this weekend. The store is like a movie set of what a Walgreen’s should be (and maybe it is used as a set for their commercials). The cosmetics have LED lights on each shelf, the aisles are wide and they have a snack bar and prepared sushi in a refrigerated section. And of course there’s a huge candy aisle that’s both clean and has a wide selection. It bears virtually no resemblance to the Walgreen’s where I usually shop in Echo Park, which isn’t even 5 miles down the same road. (Though the staff at both is quite good, no complaints.)
Their seasonal aisle had a good selection of the specialty Halloween items (though not as much bagged candy as other places like Target or KMart). I found the Super Blow Pops there on sale at 50 cents each, so I bought two. Instead of an opaque printed wrapper, this version of the Blow Pop uses a clear wrapper to show off the candy inside, something I’ve not seen them use on the Blow Pop line before. There are only two colors on this, orange and yellow ... there’s no white top on the layers.
The candy part of the Blow Pop is just like the flavor of the Charms Candy Corn Lollipops. It’s a mellow, salty sort of butterscotch without the creamy texture. I found these far brighter and more fun to eat, as the colors were sparkly, unlike the Caramel Apple version which was downright depressing with its brown and dark green. However, the sparkle in this case was created by adding some air to the hard candy, this can create sharp areas as it dissolves. Because the pop is so large, this meant I had a couple of sore spots on my tongue by the time I finished.
The gum at the center smelled terrible, just like the Caramel Apple version. There’s some sort of caustic chemical scent to it and the chew is stiff at first. Biting it sounds like tearing a phone book, a multitude of ripping layers all at once. It softens up and in this case, the flavor is pretty bland. It does become a bubble gum eventually, for a few minutes there’s a right balance between flavor and sugar before it all gives up and becomes like a wad of chewed paper. I’m not sure what flavor the gum is supposed to be, it’s not green apple, it’s not colorful ... it might have been butterscotch.
The initial experience was probably better than any other I’ve had with a Blow Pop this year, but that’s not saying much. But I’ll go ahead and give this a positive review, if you want a jumbo butterscotch Blow Pop, this would be the lollipop for you. It’s pretty, it’s pretty cheap.
Charms pops are made in a nut free and gluten free facility, but always check the labels or call the manufacturer if you’re in doubt.
Monday, October 14, 2013
If you like Charms Blow Pops and thought to yourself that you’d be happier with just the candy and not the gum, they make that. They come in rectangular foil packs called Assorted Charms.
There are five flavors: Cherry, Strawberry, Lemon, Lime, Green Apple, Orange, and Raspberry and 10 pieces in the package. They’re not necessarily distributed evenly among the flavors. I got three cherry and three lime while I only got one lemon, one green apple and one orange.
The fun things about Charms are that they’re square but have a little dimple in the center, and that they’re individually wrapped. So they’re less likely to end up as a sticky single piece like Life Savers. (Of course there’s no pineapple or tangerine in their flavor assortment.)
I’ve seen old candy ads that show that they used to come in single flavor packages, but the only way they sell them now is in the mixed flavors.
The pieces are just shy of 3/4 of an inch square.
I like the individual wrappers, as I’m the kind of person who likes to eat the flavor I want, not the one dispensed to me. It’s actually pretty easy to dump them out of the packet without tearing it, and then put them back.
Orange is nice, well rounded, a little tart but not very complex. Raspberry was good, it’s very floral with an overall soft flavor and a hint of tartness. The Cherry is like time traveling to the 70s for me. It’s not quite as “black cherry” as Life Savers, but of course has the same taste as the Cherry Blow Pop. Strawberry is interesting, as it’s pretty uncommon flavor for hard candy. I didn’t care much for it, it was more like a watery popsicle than jam. Lime is quite citrusy, though not very sour. There’s a lot of zest to it, and even a note of bitterness. Green Apple was nice, it was extremely mild at first, but then warmed up with a lot of juice notes. Lemon was a little too tepid for me, I was hoping for something like a sour ball but it had more sweetness than tart/zest notes.
There’s a lot to like here about the simplicity of the candy. The flavor assortment is different from Life Savers, though I can’t say that they’re better or worse. The packaging is truly charming and simple. The package holds only 1 ounce, so you can’t really feel too bad for chomping through all 10 pieces. There’s no nutrition label but hard candy is usually 95 to 100 calories per ounce ...so these are unlikely to be more than 100 calories per package.
There’s no info on the package about allergens, though other Charms products are gluten and peanut free (but please check before consuming).
Monday, September 9, 2013
Candy Corn is brilliantly simple and captures the essential nature of corn itself very well. Corn (I mean dent corn, not the fresh-eating sweet corn) is ubiquitous and exceptionally versatile; it can be used to create oil, sweeteners, cereals, starches, feeds and even plastics.
Candy Corn reflects that versatility well, in that it looks like food, but it is much better at boosting the appeal of other foods as a decoration or merely a side dish to more appealing things. Like corn in our everyday lives as North Americans, it’s everywhere at Halloween. Candy corn is a fondant, and fondant is basically a butterless, chocolateless fudge. It’s just sugar and corn syrup, sometimes flavored with a bit of honey and sometimes held together with a bit of gelatin or egg white.It’s kind of sad that candy corn has become some sort of punchline to jokes about reviled foods, but it must have lovers or at least likers, or else candy companies wouldn’t make so much of it.
Wrigley’s seems to have latched onto the seasonal quality of candy corn for their new Starburst Original Fruit Flavored Candy Corn but discarded most of the other qualities of candy corn. They’re brightly colored, fruitly flavored unlike normal candy corn. The only thing that remains is the triangular shape and layering of colors.
Each candy is three tiers of one of the Original Starburst flavors: cherry, strawberry, orange and lemon. All have white tips, light centers and dark bases.What’s particularly odd about them is that they’re flavored the same on all levels. At the bottom of the bag was a bunch of the little white tips that had broken off and they were absolutely just as flavorful as the colored bottoms. The other thing is they’re not a traditionally “flavored” mellocreme. The others that I’ve had are usually light - maple or cocoa flavored perhaps, or with mild fruit essences. The Starburst Candy Corn is going for true Starburst juicy flavor - sweet, fruity and tart.
Cherry was the darkest red. It tasted quite strongly of that artificial cherry that Life Savers and Starburst share. There’s a sharpness towards the end and an overall pleasant tartness. The texture is good, it’s soft and though it doesn’t quite melt in your mouth, it’s smooth. The flavor lingered, again, medicinal and artificial.
Strawberry was pink and had a similar sort of medicinal quality like the cherry. It wasn’t floral or jammy, just artificial tasting.
Orange was like a creamsicle, sweet but tart enough that it had a sort of aspergum finish to it. This too had a lingering aftertaste, kind of like yogurt or soured milk.
Lemon was probably the most successful, but that’s not saying much. The lemon had a hint of zest but mostly was like a lemon sherbet flavor.
On the whole, I found them a pleasant experience, but I was left wondering why I was eating them. I didn’t like the flavor variety, the aftertaste was odd and the tartness distracted from what is usually a very mild and comforting candy. I think to celebrate the season, I’ll just form my regular Starburst Chews into little triangles and enjoy them that way.
Starburst has really extended their fruit chew brand in a lot of ways. There are or have been jelly beans, lollipops, drinks, gummis and now mellocremes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Starburst gum, red licorice type chew or chocolately Tootsie Roll styled product. Only time will tell.
The ingredients do not list any eggs or gelatin, which I found surprising. It does list confectioners glaze, which usually means shellac so it’s not a vegan product.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Maria Sharapova, one of the top tennis players in the world, launched a line of candy last year, called Sugarpova. (She even briefly tried to change her name to Maria Sugarpova for the 2013 US Open, but ended up not participating due to a shoulder injury.) The new candy line is made in Spain by the confectionery company Fini. There are over a dozen different candies in her line, all sugar candies like gummis and chews, with fun names like Flirty, Sassy and Chic.
The logo on the front of each package is a pair of lips. The packaging and candy shapes have little to do with tennis, except for the gumballs. I’ve actually tried these gumballs before in a larger size, but only in the traditional yellow color. (See the original review here.)
I ordered the candy online from an eBay sports equipment store, the bags are priced rather steep at $5.95 for only 5 ounces. That calculates to over $19 per pound, which is pretty absurd for sugar candy that’s not made from special ingredients like all natural flavorings, non-GMO corn syrup or organic sugar.
Sugarpova Sporty Mix Bubble Gum come in five color/flavor combinations: orange, pink, yellow, blue and green. The pieces are about .75 inches across (about half the diameter of the jawbreaker version I tried previously). They’re also available separately, in Pink and standard Tennis Yellow. I chose the mix so that I could try as many flavors as possible.
The gumballs are made with sugar, no artificial sweeteners. One of the colorings is carmine, so they’re not appropriate for vegetarians.
Yellow is lemon-lime and is rather bland for the most part but with an oddly strong zest note to it. There’s a grainy filling inside the ball, but that just seemed sweet to me.
Orange is quite mild, it’s sweet with the only burst of real flavor coming from the sandy filling, in this case, it was tart.
Blue is raspberry and quite nice for a berry flavored gum. The floral notes are a bit perfumey, but it also has a lot longer lasting flavor than some of the others.
Pink was difficult to discern completely, I felt it was a pink lemonade flavor, it was different from the lemon-lime, it was more like a standard lemonade drink mix, a little tangy and less zesty.
Green was watermelon. I didn’t care for this at all, it had the requisite melon and cucumber notes, but was far too sweet overall.
The chew was good, the sugar melts away pretty quickly and the chew is pretty soft and easy to blow bubbles. Eventually, though, after about twenty minutes of chewing, there really is nothing left of the flavor or sweetness and it becomes too stiff for chewing or bubbles.
There are three different styles of gummis in the package. One is the standard fruity gummi, one is what I’d call the yogurt style gummi, which is usually opaque and pastel, and the third is the foamy base gummi, which has a bit of marshmallow in it.
The gummi octopus was fun because they were multicolored and each color was a different flavor. So they’re similar to gummi worms. Each piece had three flavors or so, something in a range of lemon, grape, strawberry, raspberry and cherry. It’s all soft with a good texture though the flavor was far more mild than I’m accustomed to with Haribo or Albanese.
The flat swirly fish are what I’d call the yogurt style. There’s a creamy component to the flavor. The pink version was like a strawberry cheesecake flavor. It was sweet and had a creamy note along with a tartness. The floral flavors of the berry were less jammy than some other clear gummis. The green version was similar, milder than a transparent version, with a vague green apple flavor.
The foamy base gummis looked like sharks. This is a popular candy, a lot of different gummi companies make a version of these. This is a very flavorful version, soft and chewy, the marshmallow has a strong vanilla flavor and the blue shark top is strawberry. The other red and blue whale looking gummi was similar, except that the domed center had a softer goo inside - not a full syrup, just a softer jelly center.
The sea turtles were about the best of the bunch, vanilla base and flavored gummi tops. The orange was like a creamsicle and blue was a nicely rendered raspberry.
Fini is a nice, mid-range brand of sugar candy sold rarely in the United States under their own brand. You can find them in bulk bins, mostly as sour sanded, fruity licorice ropes and tape. But there’s nothing to merit the price of these though the packaging is decent enough. As far as Sugarpova goes, they’ve done a good job curating a specific set of candies and packaging them in a way that makes them appealing. But aside from the gumballs, there’s very little unique in the candy line otherwise.
The gummis and gum are gluten free. For those people who are sensitive be careful to read the labels on all the packages, as some varieties do contain wheat and soy.
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.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.