Friday, November 04, 2011
When I heard that Jelly Belly was making chocolate covered jelly beans, I simply assumed that mint would be in the initial mix. But when I tried my first box of them, it was all fruity. It makes sense that mint would be sold separately, as they can overpower other flavors.
I found the new Jelly Belly Mint Jelly Bean Chocolate Dips on sale at TJ Maxx. They were a much better deal than I usually see for the Dips, only $1.69 for the bag. They look like an ideal candy for snacking at the movies. The fact that they’re a chocolate covered jelly candy means that they’re a bit lower in calories than a regular chocolate bar. It’s only 106 calories per ounce, instead of the typical 140-160 calories per ounce for straight chocolate products.
The Dips are rather interesting because they’re just the center of a jelly bean covered in chocolate, there’s no candy shell. This creates a smoother experience, but there is a more subtle experience. Gourmet jelly beans are usually constructed of two parts - the lightly flavored center and the intensely flavored shell.
They’re beautifully panned, the chocolate coating is consistent and shiny. They smell like dark chocolate: deep and slightly smoky. The chocolate turns creamy very quickly when I chewed the beans. The center is firm and chewy, but has not hint of the grainy coating that typical sugar shelled jelly beans have. The mint comes out quickly, it tastes like a peppermint and spearmint mix. But the longer I chewed, I started getting another flavor - the sweetness of the chocolate dissipated and suddenly it was tangy. The jelly center has citric acid in it, so instead of being like the a chocolate covered Spearmint Leaf, there’s this weird tartness. It’s like there’s a mojito note to it, without the citrus zest. Or a cough drop.
I just didn’t like it. If I kept eating them, the aftertaste didn’t get a hold of me until the last one was left ... but that’s no way to enjoy candy. I’ll stick to Junior Mints or for this candy, the fruity flavors.
Monday, October 24, 2011
I picked up this cheap box at Rite Aid a few weeks ago because it was on sale for 75 cents but it’s not the first time I’ve purchased them. I picked them up on sale before, about three years ago when I took these photos. No, the packaging hasn’t changed. In fact, the copyright on the box says 1999 (but the expiration date for this box was December 2011).
I’ve never heard of the brand La Pone which is a division of Kings Candy Company. But I figured Jordan Almonds are all kinda the same.
I was encouraged that these were Thin Shell, as sometimes the sugar coating is so thick as to scare me that it’s really a candy encased rock.
The sugar coated almonds come in a variety of soft pastel colors: pink, yellow, orange and green plus a bright pink. They’re shiny and huge. At first I thought it was because the almonds were really big, but it turns out that the shell is really thick. So thick that I have to wonder what their regular non-“Thin Shell” version is like.
They were hard, definitely not something to just mindlessly crunch away at. The shell is sweet, but not sticky or sickly. The nuts are fresh and chewy but not quite crunchy. I didn’t get any fake flavors like a lot of vanilla or almond extract, though an unnamed artificial flavor is on the ingredients.
The shell made me nervous, and I’m not good at sucking on things until I can crunch them. They’re pretty cheap, even at regular price which seems to be about $1.25 when I’ve seen them. It’s a nice snack that cuts down on the overall calorie load of plain nuts (almonds area bout 160 calories per ounce, these are 127 calories per ounce). The shell definitely kept me from gobbling them up too quickly.
The colors are inoffensive. This sort of packaging isn’t quite right for weddings or favors, but as a sort of way to bring back that wedding feeling they’ll do in a pinch.
(Also of concern in the ingredients is flour, so this is off limits for gluten free folks. They’re Kosher and otherwise vegan as long as you’re good with artificial colors and titanium dioxide.)
Friday, October 21, 2011
So I’ve tried the Zachary Thick Mints and the Zachary Mini Mints. Today I have the Zachary Thin Mints. This is probably where I should have started, as this is the standard set of ratios that all other peppermint fondant and chocolate candies should be judged against.
The Zachary line of candies are very well priced. They’re often sold at dollar stores and other discounters. I happened to find my set of both the mini mints and the Zachary Raspberry Thin Mints. They were on sale for 79 cents for a box that holds 3.5 ounces. That’s the same price as a regular York Peppermint Pattie. Kind of a crazy comparison.
The boxes are small and rather nicely designed. Spare but they provide the essential protection of the stuff inside and have a bunch of information on them that they’re obligated to carry like ingredients, and nutrition facts and include the notation that they’re made in the United States (which York Peppermint Patties can no longer say).
Inside the Thin Mints are in a little tray. It has two sections, kind of misleading about the amount of candy, especially when compared to the similarly priced Haviland Thin Mints that have 5 ounces in a box and all natural ingredients.
There were 12 mints in my packages. Yes, the two sections are uneven. One holds 5 patties and the other 7 patties. I have no idea why it’s formatted that way.
The Peppermint Thin Mints are rather ordinary. They’re small, about 1.25 inches in diameter, like little coins. My mint ones were in good condition with very few scuff marks.
The fondant is soft, almost chewy. It’s like a cross between the gooey center of a Junior Mint and the softer center of the Haviland. They’re not strong, just an all around inoffensive mint. The peppermint is clean and doesn’t really overpower the mild semi-sweet chocolate. It’s like eating a handful of baking chips. It’s not extraordinary chocolate, a little on the gritty side but real.
The second version is the Raspberry Thin Mints which I thought were going to be just raspberry flavored fondant. Nope, there’s mint in there, too.
These were horrid. The raspberry was fake and floral and tasted like the purple coloring. Then there was the slight tangy, jam flavor in there ... all capped off with a refreshing burst of mint. The chocolate coating was mercifully stronger here, perhaps picking up on the woodsy notes of the raspberry. It was just a terrible mix. I don’t think mint goes well with berries or even citrus (I know, Mojitos are a mystery to me).
They’re not for vegans - there’s milk and eggs in there. There’s no gluten statement on the package but no actual wheat ingredients - proceed with caution.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
I bought these Bubble Gum Cigars while on vacation last month, mostly because it’d be so longer since I’d seen the full array of the flavors in quite a long time. They’re made by Concord Confections in Canada which is now owned by Tootsie. (They also make Dubble Bubble Gum.)
I picked out three of them, in a standard array of colors orange, green and yellow. Each has a special name on the band, which is smaller than the standard cigar band (so I can’t wear it as a ring, even on my pinky). The wrapping is simple, just a clear cellophane sleeve, all were fresh and pliable (though if you’ll notice I dropped the orange one and it broke into pieces).
Cigars have faded a bit from pop culture, but starting sometime in the early 20th century it was common to celebrate a new baby with a gifting of cigars to friends (mostly by the father to friends, coworkers and contacts). As something that children today are aware of, it’s kind of an anachronism, as I know I can go months without even catching a whiff of the scent of a cigar, much less actually seeing someone smoking one. The relationship between real cigars and bubble gum ones is so far removed, I don’t think anyone can say that they actually improve the opinion folks have of tobacco. The reverse is probably true, the shape and association of a cigar with a children’s chewing gum is more likely a hindrance to sales.
El Bubble is green and Apple Flavored. I admit that I’m kind of a gum purist. Chewing gum should be mint, cinnamon or that Juicyfruit flavor ... and bubble gum should be bubble gum flavored. None of these cigars is actually bubble gum flavored (I couldn’t find a pink one). The apple is actually rather more on the actual apple juice flavor side of things than tangy green apple. It’s sweet and light. Even after the sugar fades, it’s not offensive or even very strong at all. I don’t think anyone sitting near me would recognize the flavor.
The gum is soft and easy to chew. It’s gets very soft and grainy quickly, kind of made my mouth fill up with saliva. But a little chewing and the gum firms up into a stiff enough piece that makes decent bubbles.
Gold Dragon is yellow and Banana Flavored. Banana is a rare flavor of gum in general, so it’s nice to find. I’m sure there are some sort of Freudian/Mae West jokes about cigars and bananas, as well. The chew is soft and sugary with a mild and sweet banana flavor. Eventually as the sugar fades the flavor is much more artificial and caustic. Bubble blown at this point end up filled with noxious vapors like walking into a poorly ventilated nail spa.
Wild Tiger is orange and Orange Flavored. It’s a purely sweet affair here, sickly sweet with only a touch of orange flavoring. Don’t worry, it’ doesn’t taste like Aspergum, that would be too intense. Instead it’s more like some sort of sugar paste that was next to something orange flavored at one point.
They’re a fun little piece of gum, mostly inoffensive and colorful. They could easily just be little rods of gum or tubes ... but the idea of the little bands and their colorful names is the one bit of novelty here I enjoyed. The gum itself was passable, but I’m sure something that kids would chewy like I do ... just long enough to get the sugar out, then blow a few bubbles and move on.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
The Meiji Creamy Marshmallow Chocolate has been around for a while in Japan, though it’s not easy to find in stores in the United States. I happened upon a display of them in Little Tokyo and got the last one on the shelf.
The first thing I have to ask about this bar is why we don’t have anything like this in the United States?
The bar is very simple, a single serving of milk chocolate in bar format with mini marshmallows dotted throughout. In North America we have plenty of options for chocolate covered single marshmallows (Rocky Road, various seasonal novelties) but nothing with this specific ratio.
The bar is nicely boxes, like many of Meiji’s other candy products. Inside the sturdy paperboard box is a mylar pouch with the bar in it. Mine was in excellent condition - no scuffs, not even broken.
The bar is thicker than the standard Meiji Milk Chocolate bar, and has lightly defined sections.
The bar has varying amounts of the little marshmallows in it. Around the edges, it was hard to find marshmallows, but deeper into the bar, they were quite dense. The marshmallows are small, about the size of a pencil eraser or a green pea.
The chocolate is not quite the same formula as the classic Milk Chocolate Meiji bar, which is too bad, because I really enjoy that bar. This bar is technically not even chocolate, as it contains some other vegetable oils in addition to cocoa butter, such as sunflower, shea nut and illpe butter. This gives the chocolate a smooth melt, but a very cool feeling on the tongue. The flavors are dominated by a dried milk dairy taste. The marshmallows are soft and bouncy, a little tacky and chewy around the edges of the bar.
My disappointment with the bar is with the chocolate itself. I was fully expecting the deep, smoky Meiji Milk Chocolate that I’ve tried before. What I got was a little less than that, and when paying the full import prices, it’s a little steep. Next time I’ll just get the milk chocolate bar and some other marshmallows and do the rest myself.
Still, there’s something to be learned here .... there’s a product out there that our confectionery giants are neglecting. (Though it could also use some little salty pretzel bits to complete it.)
Friday, September 02, 2011
Wonka has a strong tradition of sugar candies, as the brand originated with Sunline, makers of SweeTarts, Pixy Stix and Fun Dip (Lik-M-Aid). One of their legacy candies is Laffy Taffy. It’s just fruity taffy with the added bonus of a joke or two on the wrapper.
Back when I was a kid Laffy Taffy was known as Tangy Taffy and was sold in large flat bars similar to Jolly Rancher Stix (well, bigger than that). They came in intense and artificial flavors like Green Apple, Watermelon and Banana. After the Nestle takeover of Wonka they made some changes, like dumping Wacky Wafers (photo) and changing Tangy Taffy to Laffy Taffy.
Laffy Taffy still comes in bars, but the most common product I see are these little two inch long pieces. Each piece is about 35 calories and is two bites. They come in tubs and of course are a staple of pinatas and Halloween bags.
They’re soft and usually take on the shape of the package, but they’re very easy to get out of the plastic wrapper once opened. It’s a true taffy, there are no egg products in there like Bonomos or Doschers taffy have. There’s a touch of oil, so they’re not completely fat free (about a half of a gram of fat per piece).
Strawberry is pretty, very pink and fragrant. It’s like cotton candy or lemonade. The flavor isn’t very strong, lightly tangy and sweet with a well moderated fake strawberry flavor. There are little snaps of salt and tartness throughout. The chew is long and steady and quite smooth.
Banana - this is an intense fake banana candy. The banana is intense enough that it gave me a cool feeling on my tongue, similar to the effect of nail polish remover in both the tingling and the strange caustic scent. I like fake banana, so the sweetness and weird artificial flavor was fun for me. Your mileage may vary.
Sour Apple - if they called this green apple, I don’t think I’d have much of an issue. However, with the word sour in there, I have certain expectations, such as tartness. This was not sour. It was not even particularly vivid, just a mild fake green apple flavor. The texture is smooth and chewy and there’s a strange salty note to it that bugged me in this instance.
Grape is purple and the taffy version of a grape SweeTart. It’s zippy with a purely artificial flavor that’s a cross between grape juice, straight malic acid and pen ink.
The jokes on them are true groaners like “How do billboards talk?” (Sign Language!) and truly poorly written ones like “What kind of chain is edible?” (A Food Chain!)
I’ve grown out of these, for my fruit chews I prefer something a little tamer and friendly like Skittles. But these have the advantage of being vegetarian (no gelatin) over products like Starburst or Bonomos. They’re Kosher; there are no nut or gluten statements on the package.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Chewy, fruity and soft red licorice is just the thing on a hot summer day. It travels better than chocolate and of course the tart and fragrant flavor can give a little burst of thirst quenching without all that pesky drinking.
I picked up this package of Halva Strawberry Finnish Soft Licorice when I was at the ISM Cologne candy far earlier this year. I knew that they sold it at Cost Plus World Market here in the United States, so the brand gets around. The Halva brand is widely sold in Finland and is generally affordable but not necessarily gourmet.
The package is nicely designed, the format reminds me of the classic box of raisins. The stark and modern design uses a lot of white space, a bold photo of the candy (that actually looks like the candy) and some brief descriptions.
Each strip is about one and a half inches long and are soft and pliable, quite shiny. They have a coating of beeswax and oil, so they’re a little greasy. They’re slightly translucent and a light shade of red.
They don’t smell like much, but once I bit into them I got a lot of other sensory input. The texture is soft and chewy, though a little gummy and doughy. The strawberry flavor is nice, it’s very smooth but mostly middle of the road, not deep and jammy like Panda Strawberry Licorice and not crumbly and artificial like Twizzlers either. It’s satisfying in the sense that it fills me up, but irritating that it sticks to my teeth. The red food coloring has no perceptible flavor, so I enjoyed that part. The light tartness kept it all from feeling like it was too sticky.
The base of the candy is made from glucose-fructose syrup and wheat flour. In case you’re wondering if glucose-fructose syrup is pretty much the same thing as high fructose corn syrup, it is except that it’s probably not derived from corn. Use of glucose-fructose syrup is quite rare in American candies, not because of some high standards candy makers have or any health reasons for shunning them. Simply put, many of the sugars that candy makers choose are because of the way they perform physically and chemically. In a soda, HFCS will sweeten and bulk just the same as sucrose. But in a caramel, the free fructose (it’s bonded to a glucose molecule in sucrose and isn’t unbonded until well into the heating process of caramelization) will not work at all as the sole sugar. In the case of a wheat based chew like red licorice, it turns out you can use glucose-fructose syrup quite nicely.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Their tins are always quite smart looking and I rather liked the simplicity of this one, just a smaller version of the standard set by Altiods. The embossed top flips open to reveal the candies inside.
The tin says that the “mints” are made with real Canadian maple sugar. The full ingredients are: pure cane sugar, maple sugar, natural flavor, calcium stearate and malic acid. There are thirty in a tin, which holds less than an ounce, .85 ounces.
The candies have a polished yet rustic look. They’re shiny and sharply stamped with a little maple leaf in the center. But the texture and color of the candies is a little mottled, it’s not a bright white and has little caramel colored flecks in it.
The scent is definitely smoky and like toasty maple syrup. The flavor of the candies though was a bit different from what I was expecting. It is a combination of all the flavors that are listed in the description, they are mint, they have maple sugar in them and blueberry flavor. It’s a riot of flavors. Not a “burn my tongue down” riot, but the kind that pulls off my backpack and steals my books kind. The blueberry is tart and floral, the maple is rustic and woodsy ... so far so good. But the mint is cool and minty with a little note of eucalyptus. It’s like a blueberry cough drop made in some sort of colonial re-enactment apothecary shop.
I liked the straight ahead Maple Ice Mints, so I’ll have to stick with those, because these are just not for me. But I’m also not very happy with the combination of mint, lime and white rum that are used to make a Mojito. So if you’re down with mojitos, maybe you’ll be down with Wild Blueberry Maple Ice Mints.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.