Wednesday, August 2, 2006
Part of the reason for the stop in San Francisco on my recent vacation was to experience the Ferry Terminal Marketplace. It’s home to a bunch of artisan food companies, restaurants and other people associated with the food crafts. Plus, on Saturdays there’s a farmers market.
There are a couple of sweets locations in the Ferry Terminal including a Scharffen Berger store and Recchiuti Confections but for this trip (I’ll be going back again in September) I thought I’d look at Miette Patisserie.
The store is drop dead cute and reminds me of a forties/fifties-era cookbook. They had a huge selection of cakes and hand-held pastries. But I was interested in candies, of course. There was a large display of handmade lollipops which looked gorgeous and came in sassy flavors like cotton candy, grape and pink lemonade. None of the flavors were marked and the colors weren’t enough for me to discern the code so I passed them by for now.
Instead I was attracted to their Parisian Macaroons (which are not the coconut ones we’re most accustomed to in the States). These macaroons are a hazelnut or almond and egg white based cookie with a filling of some sort. Like a super decadent sandwich cookie. They were $1.50 each ... a little on the pricey side so I didn’t taste one of each flavor (I think there were six varieties).
I picked out:
Hazelnut: a vanilla cookie with a rich nutella-style filling. Sweet and rich but still light and flaky.
Rose Geranium: a delicately floral flavored cookie with a buttery light cream filling in the sandwich. My favorite.
Vanilla: a little sweeter because there was no strong flavor to balance it, but quite nice after a long walk and pleasant lunch.
By the register they also had three large jars of handmade caramels wrapped in wax paper. They were two for $1 so I had two of each.
Vanilla & Lemon - the wrappers were identical and I’m sorry to say that they all tasted the same. The caramels were nicely soft and sweet and of course had a wonderful slightly burnt sugar taste.
Fleur de Sel - a little darker tasting and with a nice warming sensation of instant salt. Instead of a regular caramel with a little series of grains of salt on the surface as I’ve had at other places, here the salt is completely integrated. The salt really brings out the caramelized notes, but it’s also a bit strong and made my throat sting.
UPDATE: A kind reader, Dan, has informed me that these are made by the Little Flower Candy Company, which makes sense based on the flavor array.
I’m sure their cakes are great and there’s the added bonus that they use organic ingredients whenever possible. Not that something like that makes a pastry more wholesome or anything! The macaroons can be ordered on their website, but not the caramels or lollies. The items are pricey, as is usually the case with labor intensive items. Overall I think I prefer the caramels and macaroons from Boule but since San Francisco doesn’t have a Boule, I can see myself stopping in here on my next trip for a little something to eat. I’m especially interested in trying their Lavender Shortbread (I know, I’ve totally diverged from candy all of a sudden ... I was on vacation!).
Tuesday, August 1, 2006
One of the problems with getting “preview” candy from a trade show like All Candy Expo is that I never know what it’s actually going to look like in stores. One of the new products that I thought was pretty cool in concept was a new flavor assortment from Jelly Belly called Soda Pop Shoppe.
The flavor assortment includes: 7 Up, Dr. Pepper, A&W Root Beer, Orange Crush, and Grape Crush. What I find a little odd about this soda pop assortment is that there’s no cola in it. But it seems that the variety is determined by some sort of flavor licensing from the Cadbury Schweppes people.
I got this little 3/4 of an ounce packet as a sample, but the fun part about these is that they’re going to be packaged in soda bottles (1.5 ounces in a bottle). Sounds like a good way to share and to reseal them.
7 Up: a nice lemon lime with a good zesty hit at the front that gives it a slight bitter bite. There’s no tangy component though.
Dr. Pepper: I’ve never been a fan of Dr. Pepper (or Mr. Pibb) but these seem to taste pretty faithful.
A&W Root Beer: these look almost like the Dr. Pepper, so be careful. Nice root beer flavor with a little creamy finish to it, like a foamy head.
Orange Crush: This one’s a real winner. Tangy with a slight effervescent quality and a nice fake orange flavor.
Grape Crush: a little too sweet and not tart enough for my tastes, but then again I outgrew my appreciation of grape soda when I was twelve.
I’m a little confused if the A&W Cream Soda flavor is supposed to be in this mix or not, but it would sure fit well, but I wouldn’t miss it if it doesn’t make it.
These should be available in stores next month and might make nice stocking stuffers for Christmas. I like all of the flavors in here except for the Dr. Pepper, which could easily be plucked out and set aside for someone else. I think the real surprise flavor here is the 7 UP which was far more complex than I’d figured it would be.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
If you’ve ever been in a Trader Joe’s, you’ve probably found the candy overwhelming. You may also have found that they have a lot of house-branded products. Luckily they’re inexpensive enough for you to shrug and throw it in the cart and give it a whirl. I’ve had a few bad experiences, but most are pretty darn good.
I’ve resisted these lilac foiled bars for a long time. They looked a little dowdy to me, and I’m all about the hot new candies. They come in a three pack - each bar is a single portion, so it’s easy to stockpile them, but also to have an immediate fix.
The Dark Chocolate bar is smooth and shiny and smells a little smoky and sweet. It has a nice melt, but a smidge of grain/chalkiness. It’s not too sweet and has a slight dry bite to it.
Overall, it’s a good deal and the size of the bars (1.75 ounces) makes it easier to tuck them in your bag for later indulgence instead of a larger 3.5 ounce ones that you often see. Still, if I were looking for fully satisfying indulgence I’d still go for a Chocovic and I also enjoy the Trader Joe’s Organic Dark Chocolate with Pecans and Raisins.
Monday, July 24, 2006
If you like Haribo’s Happy Cola gummis but wish they were more like real soda and gave you burps and such, wish no more. Fizzy Cola not only has a the nice spicy cola bite, it also has a sugary/tart sanding that gives it a sassy, fizzy feeling.
I always thought that the Haribo Happy Cola bottles were a little tame. Sure, they tasted like cola, but they also tasted a little ‘flat.’ These little gummi bottles are the best candy I’ve had that capture the soda experience.
That said, I’m not really that big a fan of soda.
Since they are a little gassy, I can’t gorge myself on them without negative feedback. So in that respect they’re good for helping me to monitor my intake. I doubt that other people have the same issues I do with them so I’m still giving them a good rating because they are quite different from other candies and cola is an underutilized flavor in the candy world.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Everything’s better when it’s big!
These are big Smarties. Yeah, there are two rolls of Smarties there in the picture. One is a regular sized roll and the other are the new gigantor Smarties.
Each Mega Smartie is the same diameter as a quarter and tastes suspiciously like a regular Smartie. (Yes, those are Mega Smarties with regular Smarties on top to show scale ... Mega Smarties do not come with hats.)
Really, there’s very little difference except that for the first time I was able to taste the actual vague flavor of each of the Smarties colors. Not that there’s a lot of it. Not that I want a lot of flavor in my Smarties. They’re plesantly sweet and tart and dissolve quickly on the tongue. If I have any complaint with the Mega Smarties, it’s that they’re not quite as crumbly. There’s something so light and chalky about the demi-Smarties that allows them to enter the bloodstream instantly.
If there’s one thing to recommend Mega Smarties, it’s because they’re now in a single-serving package, you should be able to find them with other candy bars instead of in with the bulk and fun sized bags. I usually only pick up Smarties at Halloween, because that’s the easiest time to find them in the large bags ... see how clever they are!
(The weird thing is that I didn’t know what to call these. The label just refers to them as Smarties with no reference to the size. The Smarties.com website doesn’t say anything about Mega Smarties even existing.)
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Aji Ichiban is a chain of stores that sells dried and cured fruits as well as candy by the pound.
I went to the location in Chinatown in New York City while I was there. The store was kind of small and the woman behind the counter barked at me when I took some photos. This one was taken from the street. I actually think they’re doing their customers a disservice when they can’t take photos, because that’s the only reason I know what some of the candy is. It’s marked in the bins, but not on the wrappers.
They have a large selection of bins that contains individually wrapped candies or salted fruits or nuts and rice snacks. There are even samples of the fruits by the bins, but I made the mistake of taking what I thought was dried ginger and it turned out to be a salted plum. Quite a shock and made me parched instantly.
It’s not a huge store, but then again, they don’t have large tubs of everything. A third of the display space is for snacks and dried fruit, the rest is candy. Most of the candy is a mix & match by the pound, but some of it you could buy prepacked.
I liked just about everything in this mix. I chose carefully, so this is a good sign about the way that the packages are marked. Some have English on them, most are just pictures and sometimes the bin they were in at the store had some clues about the contents. Items came from all over Asia, some marked from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Japan.
I got some super fizzy sours, something called Zour Bomb, which was a cross between a cola flavored hard candy and a Zotz. However, partway through it got a minty flavor to it that kind of turned me off. The outside was dusty looking and super sour, then a hard candy and then the inside had another reservoir of sour. It also came in Lemon which was excellent.
Another was a little orange packet called Sour + from Lot100. It had little orange faces on it making sour impressions. It was a gummi, soft and about the size of a gumdrop with a sugar sand on it. Whoo, it was sour to start, then the soft gummi had a nice orange flavor to it. I would definitely buy these again. I wonder if they come in pineapple. That’d be cool.
Lot100 also had a nice Cola hard candy. It looked a little odd in that it was a plain red hard candy. It tasted like cola but had a slight hint of cinnamon.
Not everything from Lot100 was a hit - I had a rather promising Mango gummi that just didn’t quite hit the right balance. The texture was fantastic, plump and moist with a nice tart note but the mango “flavor” was less “pine meets melon” and more “burnt rubber.” Too bad.
Kasugai had a good assortment of fruit gummis, which I’ve reviewed before. I picked up Litchi and Muscat this time. They’re called super juicy on the label and they are plenty soft, but the litchi was a little flavorless and almost like a Turkish Delight. Muscat smelled wonderful and had a bit more complex flavor, something like white grape and orange blossom.
There was also a line of Milk candies that had calcium in them that came in interesting flavors like chocolate, vanilla and also red bean. They had an odd, firm, fluffed latexy quality to them, kind of like Hi-CHEW. I have no idea how much calcium is actually in it, but they were super soft and very satisfying. The vanilla was a little bland and the chocolate was kind of like a bouncy Tootsie roll, but I really liked the red bean. I mean, I really liked it. I’m sorry they’re gone now.
I picked up a few tea flavored candies, one from Thailand called Didi Honey Lemon Tea Candy was particularly nice. Only slightly tart, there was a nice play between tea and honey in there. The other brand was Cister from Malaysia wasn’t as pleasant looking (brown) but had a much stronger tea flavor and some mint thrown in (which made it taste more like a Ricola drop).
Another assortment were called S’Creams and were just hard candies with a milky swirl to them, kind of like Lifesaver’s Creamsavers. They were pleasant enough, with a Werther’s-like crunch if you bit them but a good tangy hit too to keep them interesting and satisfying. I picked up Orange, Strawberry and Melon.
There were a few flavors of these, I picked up Pudding Marshmallow, Grape Marshmallow, Mango Marshmallow and then two that have no English text on them - one has purple on its wrapper and the other has pink.
Mango Marshmallow - shown above - sucked royally. I had two of them, I at that bite of one and I gave the other to Amy, who promptly spit it out in my trash can. Why is it bad? It just is ... don’t make me think about it.
Pudding Marshmallow - it looks suspiciously like Mango, but thankfully is quite nice. It’s a marshmallow with a little lump of creamy, dulce de leche tasting filling in the middle. Not quite fudge, not quite creme, but pleasant and a little artificially vanilla tasting but with a tasty hit of salt.
Chocolate Marshmallow - there was no indication what this was, just a pink wrapper. The chocolate was a cross between frosting and a Tootsie roll. Not as good as the pudding one, but I liked it.
Grape Marshmallow - hmm, it was okay, but the grape filling was like cheap jelly and it just didn’t appeal much to me.
Basically, Aji Ichiban is as much of an adventure as you want it to be. You can grab a pound of simple mixed candies that you know and love or you can push the boundaries of your taste experiences and just shovel them into your bag blindly and see what happens.
I think the candy is horribly expensive for pure sugar stuff - $10 a pound is way up there even for the fancy fruit candies from Italy that I see at Zabars or something. But the variety is pretty special and with no minimums and the ability to mix and match is a huge plus. You can also order online, but there’s a half-pound minimum with most candies and of course the selection is limited. They have stores in several large cities across the edges of the United States, but they don’t have the addresses on their site.
Friday, July 14, 2006
There’s nothing wrong with Tic Tacs. They’re a great mint. Smooth and soft on the tongue, with a complex taste that’s more than peppermint - it has a little hint of licorice or menthol or something that sets it apart from others. Tic Tacs don’t need to be mintier. They’re exceptionally durable too and I’ve eaten plenty found at the bottom of my purse and have a box of cinnamon Tic Tacs in my car that have been there for two and half years.
But Ferrero is a little behind the curve on the whole “extreme” thing and they went and introduced Bold! Tic Tacs this year. (Come on, how long have Altoids been popular?)
So here I am with a slightly different Tic Tac. Out of the little box they look exactly the same (in fact, that photo has one of each ... can you tell which is which?). The box, however, is a lovely cobalt blue and a little more streamlined. So it’s less stackable than before.
The mint itself doesn’t seem any different at first. You pop it in your mouth and it’s lightly sweet, lightly minty. Then it starts to grow. Really, it’s a pretty strong mint, strong enough to freshen your breath with just one. See! It’s like being a low calorie mint - half the calories satisfies!
I prefer the mellowness of the classic Tic Tacs and I hope they don’t stop making them. The Bold! line also includes a Fruit version, which I didn’t bring home, but I wanted to note that the candies in there are also white. Way to confuse people! Anyway, there’s a very nice timeline about Tic Tacs on the website (there are two versions ... look at the real one).
So, if I approach this product as if I’ve never seen a Tic Tac before, these are very good. Mellow, strong and the mint certainly lasts. The packaging is nice for dispensing and a recognizable color and shape.
This product was made in Ecuador.
(As a side note, does anyone else remember Dynamints? They were sold in a horizontal clear dispenser box and were pretty much the same as Tic Tacs. Here’s a photo and here’s a commercial from 1978. They were made by Dentyne.)
POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:28 am
Thursday, July 13, 2006
When I was in New York earlier this year I took a trip down to Chinatown where I prowled the aisles of several grocers in search of candy. Much of it was familiar stuff I’d seen before ... and stuff you’ve seen too like M&Ms and the occasional plain UK KitKat.
But one of the thigns that I was compelled to buy was this package from Chocolat NY called Feel Envy. They look like the Kitten Tongues I’ve seen before. These are packaged in a rather tacky-but-trying-to-be-upscale and I pretty much dig it.
The one I picked out (there are several varieties in the line) that said it was rich milk chocolate featuring a blend of Vanilla and coconut flavor.
Most of the front of the package was in English, with all of the reverse in Japanese.
The top of the box flips up to reveal more of the embossed faux-croc cardboard in the oh-so-lovely purple and the acid green matte texture inside. Four little compartments hold three pieces each.
There little paddles of chocolate, each is individually wrapped, in clear cellophane with more of the black butterflies on it. The little paddle is all milk chocolate with a little swirl of white/coconut chocolate on one half.
The milk chocolate is pleasant, but has a strong flavor of dried milk (the second ingredient is whole milk powder). You’d think it would have more than a trace of calcium for all that milk! After getting over that there is a distinct coconut flavor it the chocolate and a few little coconut bits.
The packaging is cute, if a little bulky, but keeps the candy fresh and makes it easy share. It’s a bit expensive as well for the product quality (about $16 a pound) but a nice novelty item or stocking stuffer.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.