Thursday, July 26, 2007
There’s a movie coming out this week called The Simpsons Movie which is based on some long-running cartoon also called The Simpsons. (Yes, I know you know who The Simpsons are!) I live in Los Angeles and we’re blessed with two live-action promotions for the movie ... they’ve turned two 7-11 stores into Kwik-E-Marts. It’s kind of fun, you can go into the store and see dimensional cut outs of your favorite characters and partake of a few of their favorite fictional foods. This means Buzz Cola, Krusty-Os and those pink glazed & sprinkled donuts are actually available.
Sadly, there is no candy actually associate with the series, but I did pick up these Simpsons Fruit Snacks, which have been out for a few years. (If you want other candy content from The Simpsons, check out
Jamie’s awesome list with videos!)
The Simpsons Fruit Snack is about as lame as a product you’d expect to find if you really lived in Springfield. The package is nice and happy and says things that are totally true like “mixed fruit flavor”, “no preservatives” and “made with real fruit juice” and sports images of the Simpsons kids: Maggie, Lisa and Bart.
But once the package is open and not in view there is absolutely nothing “Simpsons” about these. They’re shaped like little fruits ... not little characters.
So I decided that I just wasn’t working hard enough at this ... that I wasn’t taxing my imagination and decided that they ARE Springfield characters ... if you really work at it. (The illustrations below may require a bit of squinting to make it work.)
Orange: Apu (on those formal occasions when he wears his turban)
The promise of the package and the Simpsons tie in aside, the flavor of the candies is pleasant. They’re a gummi (with gelatin), but extremely soft. I was happier once I let mine sit out for a couple of days. They do have a full days allowance of vitamin C and they do have fruit juice as the first ingredient (just as those Scooby and Hello Kitty snacks had real fruit juice). So for a friendly fruit gummi, they’re a pretty good deal for $1.59. Not really flavorful, just, well, pleasant.
Other irritated opinions about the lack of relationship between the Simpsons and the fruit snacks: Taquitos.net, Amazon.com & VeganCore (may be a different version of the snacks that didn’t have gelatin though).
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Once upon a time the 3 Musketeers candy bar made sense. Back when it was first introduced in 1932 it was actually a set of Neopolitan bars. One was a vanilla fluff, one was a chocolate fluff and one was a strawberry fluff. In 1945 all three segments were switched to the chocolate fluff. Then sometime later (I think in the late sixties) it was formed into a single bar as we see it today.
The current 3 Musketeers bar is supposed to taste kind of like a malted milkshake. A chocolate outside and a chocolatey malted milk fluff inside. Though it’s not malty enough for me (and they long ago dropped that marketing aspect), the bar is very popular, especially among dieters who like the heft and satisfaction but lower fat (though it does still contain 260 calories at 2.13 ounces). The package even mentions that it has “45% less fat than the average of the Leading Chocolate Brands.” The commercials lately feature skinny women at the office and movies.
So that brings us up to today where 3 Musketeers is finally extending their line of bars, not by looking back to the glory days of Strawberry but forward to the cluttered field of Mint and Dark Chocolate.
The new 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate is a very attractive set of bars. The package weighs significantly less than its chocolate progenitor at only 1.24 ounces but boasts two Musketeers inside. Dark Chocolate coating with an appealing and clean looking white fluffy filling. (I was afraid it was going to be pink or green or have sparkles.)
I rather like bars that come in smaller portions inside the pack. I like it in my Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, I like it in my Goldenberg Peanut Chews and I think it was the right move for 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate.
I’m not a huge consumer of 3 Musketeers, I prefer them in the miniature size but sometimes I’ll eat a frozen one. So with that in mind I bought two packages of the 3 Musketeers Mint and froze one.
The room temperature 3 Musketeers are nice. They have an easy bite and an appealing sort of spongy give like the regular 3 Musketeers. However, my first impression after the nice dark chocolate shell is SALT. Then comes a light hit of peppermint, but really it tastes salty to me.
So I went and found a York Peppermint Pattie, just to see what the salt content is on that (and figured, what the heck, I’ll take a photo of it and really compare the two candies). The 3M (I just can’t keep typing that long name) has 65 mg of salt (3% of your daily value) ... that’s 52 mg per ounce. The York Peppermint Pattie has 10 mg in a 1.4 ounce pattie ... that’s 7 mg per ounce. So let’s see ... that’s more than 7 times a salty.
Maybe that’s the new fad 3M is starting here. They’re going after the crowd that enjoys artisan sea salt caramels ... it’s the new rage ... salted mints! (Hey, it’s been working for Licorice for a long time!)
Okay, all that aside, I enjoyed the salty difference. It didn’t feel cloying and sticky like some peppermint creams can. There was a bit of a grain to the fluffed center (as there is with the regular 3M bar). But since I had the York PP sitting nearby, I had to have some of that as a side by side comparison. The YPP is smooth and has a very noticeable minty blast, much more noticeable than the 3M.
However, upon taking the 3M out of the freezer, I noticed that the salty flavor wasn’t quite as apparent and the actual cold supported the cooling mint quite well. Freezing it though does make the center a little tacky and chewy, not really a selling point for me.
So, if you like a really strong minted bar, this isn’t for you. It you dig a really subtle hit of mint and perhaps need to recharge with some electrolytes (salt) this may be a pleasant change. Also, because this bar weighs less than the regular 3 Musketeers, it’s only 150 calories but still really quite satisfying. (For reference the slightly heavier York Peppermint Pattie is 160 calories).
3 Musketeers Mint have egg whites in them so are unsuitable for vegans. They are Kosher though ... may contain Peanuts.
Monday, July 2, 2007
Twix is one of the most popular candy bar brands in the country (and mighty popular in Europe, to boot). About 43 million are sold each year (source). There are quite a few different versions and limited editions that have come and gone over the years.
It was kind of an odd process. I submitted an email through the Contact page on the Twix website and two days later I got an email (referencing Peanut Butter M&Ms, which really confused me, because if I asked a question about PB M&Ms, it had to be over a year ago when I was trying to find out if they still made Crispy in the States) with a reference number and their toll free hotline. I called the number and gave them the number and they confirmed that there will be no more Peanut Butter Twix once supplies currently in stores and warehouses run out. (This would be the appropriate time to pick up a box at your local grocer when they go on sale for three for a dollar and then sell them for $2 each on eBay.)
The only difference between these two products is the cookie in the center. The original Peanut Butter Twix has a vanilla cookie (like the regular Twix) while the new PB Twix has a chocolate cookie (like the Limited Edition Twix Triple Chocolate).
This is how I feel about this bar ... it’s trying too hard.
I got a hold of the classic Peanut Butter Twix and did a side by side comparison.
I like the Peanut Butter Twix, not a lot, but enough to finish the bar on hand. The peanut butter is definitely the main attraction here. The bar isn’t very sweet and the cookie gives it a nice texture without doing much else. The chocolate, well, keeps things together.
The Twix looks the same from the outside. The cookie isn’t quite as crispy and satisfyingly crunchy. The peanut butter seems to be lost in the Hydrox-style cookie (no, not Oreo, I’m saying Hydrox for a reason). It all tastes like bad frosting. Not like peanut butter, not like chocolate. It has a nice salty balance and isn’t too sweet, but it just doesn’t have much going for it as a candy. I hate to say it, but when I eat this, the word that comes to mind is unctuous. I mean this in both senses of the word ... it’s kind of oily and it’s also kind of insincere and smug.
Now, if you’re a Twix fan, you’ll probably want to ignore everything I’ve written here. I’ve never actually cared much for Twix. Sometimes I’ll eat a miniature as a reminder to myself that I really don’t like them. I don’t know why. All the elements seem like a good idea. Is it just me, or do Twix always become a melted mess in your fingers too? I don’t have that problem with most other bars.
If you’re a fan of the traditional (and you should really try this one before you go getting in an uproar) then you should probably call Mars or send them an email to let them know how you feel.
Friday, June 22, 2007
After a recent writing session on a new play (for Script Frenzy) I stopped at the 7-11 near the coffee house where I was holed up to see what they had. I didn’t see much new, except for these gargantuan Tootsie Pops.
I picked up two, in my favorite flavors, Orange and Grape and thought I’d compare them to the classic sized ones.
The big ones are .85 ounces and regulars are .60 ounces.
I did try to compare the center of the Tootsie Pops, in case the hard candy proportion was the only difference. As far as I could tell, there was a slightly larger amount of Tootsie Roll at the center of the .85 ounce one but it was consistent with the larger amount of hard candy ... so they got the proportions right.
But here’s the thing ... there’s nothing wrong with the size of the regular Tootsie Pop. In fact, it’s darn near perfect. It actually fits inside my mouth. Not that the .85 ounce one doesn’t, but the problem is that I can’t put it between my cheek and my teeth. Maybe with some careful, long-term stretching, but then I’ll probably be left with Tootsie-Jowl. The other complaint is that the jumbo pops are wrapped in some sort of plasticized paper instead of the classic waxed paper. While this may provide a better seal on the candy (I think they hot melt it to the stick or something) this makes it frustrating to open and the wrapper simply cannot be used to wrap back around the partially eaten pop ... it just pops open unless you use some tape on it. (I usually save the wrapper to wrap up my stick that may be, well, sticky, and put it in my bag until I can dispose of it properly if need be.)
I love Tootsie Pops, they’re an ideal summer candy, as they have no melting issues but still offer a sightly chocolatey flavor.
My ranking of the current flavor offerings:
Your mileage may vary. I give the traditional Tootsie Pops a 9 out of 10 ... the new jumbo sized ones get a 7 out of 10 ... yeah, size matters. Tootsie Pops also come in miniatures, which look about the size of a Dum Dum pop. I’ve had them before, I tend to pull the stick out right away and crunch it up (rather like the old Tootsie Pop Drops). Read more about the history of the Tootsie Pop at their site and their TV spots.
Here’s the classic one:
Here’s the new one:
Which do you prefer?
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Sometimes I wonder if these energy bars are really better than plain old candy bars. Back in the depression candy bars were meal replacements. Many were packed with nuts and over two ounces, which made them a pretty cheap source of satisfying calories at a nickle.
Of course the object these days is not the maximum number of calories per ounce, but how good the nutrition profile is.
When I want a little lasting energy & snack, I usually reach for some sort of nutty bar, as they tend to have a good amount of protein. Payday bars are always dependable. But I’m also a fan of Lara Bars, which are basically mashed up almonds and dates with a few spices thrown in. At about twice the price though, I often grab the Payday ... and I don’t feel that bad about it.
This sounded familiar. In fact, it looked familiar ... very familiar. The Take 5 features pretzels, caramel, peanuts, peanut butter and milk chocolate. Wow, not much difference there ... even in the ordering of the elements.
Well, Twisted was $1.29 and a Take 5 is $.89 at the 7-11.
I’ve reviewed the Take 5 before and I stand by it. It’s a good bar with a lot of variety of texture in it, not too sweet and because it’s in two pieces, it’s easy to have a little now, have a little later.
The Twisted bar is merely a Tiger’s Milk bar covered in weak chocolate with a pretzel thrown in. It smells like baby formula. It seriously tasted like I was chomping on vitamin leather or something. I often enjoy things that are rather unpalatable, just because I’m fascinated by all the different flavors there are and maybe catty things I can say about it. I didn’t enjoy this, even for the prospect of reviewing it. Luckily the two piece format of the Take 5 meant that I had a palate cleansing second piece at hand.
So you might feel like you’re doing the right thing when you eat this lower calorie version of a Take 5, but you’re certainly not going to enjoy it.
I have to admit that it’s probably unfair to match a candy bar with an energy bar ... but hey, that’s the breaks. They started it by packaging it to look an awful lot like the Take 5.
For some other balanced reviews of snack bars, check out I Ate a Pie’s special roundup from earlier this year.
Friday, June 1, 2007
Following up on yesterday’s Starburst Sour, I thought I’d tackle some real sour stuff. I found Sour Extinguisher at the 7-11 a few weeks ago and thought it was a cute idea. There are three different flavors with different levels of sour along with an “extinguisher” that puts out the sour burn.
The first thing I noticed was that the “randomness” of my bag meant that I had an overwhelming number of yellow candies. (The bag makes mention that the assortment may vary, it also makes mention of the chance of mouth irritation.)
The candies break down this way:
Tangy Tangerine - a mild sour ... (6 candies)
The little candies look more like pieces of lumpy gum. They’re matte in color and don’t smell like anything.
The Tangerine is nice. A little firm to chew, not quite a Chewy SweeTart or Skittles, it’s more like a Razzle that never turns into gum. Lemon is quite tart, but actually has some really good authentic lemon flavors in there, even a little bitterness that makes it taste like a freshly shaken lemonade. Lime is very sour, so much so that it takes a while to get to the actual flavor. Again, it actually tastes like lime eventually.
None of them was so sour that I had to reach for the Extinguisher but I pretended with some Lime anyway. The Raspberry was definitely sweet and it definitely smote the sour. The flavor was pretty bland, kind of like cotton candy.
The texture of the candies as a whole isn’t really my idea of great. They’re crumbly but never really chewy and then they disappear. I’d give them higher marks if I didn’t feel like the texture was due to being in the sofa cushions for several years. As an interactive candy that you really need to look at what you’re eating, it’s a fun idea, especially for kids who crave these sorts of things. I found, if nothing else, they really got my mouth watering.
UPDATE 6/9/2009: Big BOING, the company that developed Sour Extinguisher, sold it to American Licorice. It was relaunched in January 2009 with two flavor sets. Full review here of the new Chewy Extinguisher Sour Citrus & Chewy Extinguisher Sour Fruit.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
The story of how LifeSavers were created is one of those classic happy accidents. They came about in 1912 when Clarence Crane was looking for a candy to sell in the summer when chocolate was difficult to store. He concieved of a hard mint and engaged a pill manufacturer to make them for him. They found that the candies were easier to make if they were donut shaped and thus the candy and name Lifesavers was born.
The Five Flavor LifeSavers are not a compressed dextrose candy, instead they’re a boiled sugar candy. While the Pep-O-Mint was going strong, the fruit flavored versions were introduced in 1924 as simple hard candy disks. In 1929 technology caught up with demand and LifeSavers got their holes. The original fruit roll was all citrus - Lemon, Lime and Orange. In 1935 they became the Five Flavor Roll with Cherry and Pineapple joining the mix. And that’s how it was until 2003.
Then the internet mucked it all up. Wrigley’s, who now owns LifeSavers, decided to change up the flavors in the roll because they thought that the old flavors were hurting sales. So they let voters add their voice at their website. I think this was their first mistake. First, you could only vote for the flavors on their list. Second, they were only polling those people who visited their site ... I’m sure the great majority of LifeSavers consumers do not visit CandyStand.com, which appears to be designed for kids.
But I digress. Or ramble. And will continue to ... this is just one of those posts.
I had a yard sale over the weekend and my neighbor Robin brought some stuff over, which included a bunch of stuff from her desk that included a roll of LifeSavers. I, of course, wanted them. They looked like the original flavors (you can tell because it doesn’t have the purple stripe) but I wasn’t sure because it listed CandyStand.com.
I took them up to the Candy Blog labs for a look and found that they were in fact the original Five Flavor roll (the ones pictured above, not here to the left). They were not in great condition, as hard candies often get milky looking after about three years. But there they were, the original Five Flavors: Orange, Lemon, Cherry, Pineapple and Lime. They were stuck together and stood up easily for the photo. The package also spells out the word Five, and important distinction.
The new roll heralds that it has NEW FLAVORS! though it makes no mention of what they are. I understand not mentioning the flavors on the old roll, they’d been around since 1935 ... LifeSavers, a part of living.
The new roll also saves copoius amounts of ink by calling itself 5 Flavors, thus saving on those icky and expensive letters.
The flavors, in case you’re wondering are: Pineapple, Blackberry, Cherry, Watermelon & Orange. (This article points out that Orange was dropped in ‘03 in favor of Blackberry, but it appears it was quietly restored ... or maybe that’s the new flavor they’re talking about on the package.) It could also be because Nabisco sold LifeSavers to Wrigley’s in 2004.
Raspberry is good, nice and fruity with a good wine robustness. Watermelon is nice, fruity and floral. And of course the original pineapple is a glorious song that I hope will never end, orange is dependable and citrusy and cherry continues to be the epitome of medicinal-tasting candy. The old flavor set held one candy I would always give away ... the new one has three I don’t care for. I can’t just buy a LifeSavers 5 Flavor roll for orange and pineapple.
The saddest part of the whole LifeSavers story is that they stopped making the single flavor rolls that I loved so much. Tangerine was simply marvelous. More juicy, more zesty and more tangy that the simple orange, I could eat a whole roll in one sitting, no matter how long I was sitting down. While I might complain at the loss of flavors, I do have to applaud them for putting more in a roll. (I believe the old rolls used to hold 12 candies, the newer ones hold 14.) I might have to switch to Tropical Fruit as my go-to roll ... I wonder how much they’ve mucked that up lately.
Note: LifeSavers are now made in Canada. They also don’t have those little green strings that help you start a roll anymore.
UPDATE 2008: LifeSavers are now: Watermelon, Pineapple, Cherry, Raspberry, Orange ... so blackberry is now raspberry but pretty much looks the same.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:56 am
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
The dark trend continues. If it can be made dark, it will be made dark. So it is written in the marketing analysis ... so it is done.
Hershey’s brought out the Kissables with a huge marketing blitz in 2005. They’re tasty little hybrids of Hershey’s Kisses and M&Ms. There’s no way they’re ever going to shove a peanut in the center there, but they can easily make them with Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate so they have. For a while they were showing off Hershey’s Special Dark Kissables in large bags, they’ve finally made it to the single serve bags, so I thought it was time to give them a try.
The wrapper is a pleasing brick-maroon color that evokes the feel of rich chocolate. The little candies come in four colors: lavender, maroon, dark purple and brown. Not quite as sassy feeling as the Kissables ... not even as many colors. They feel morose, a little depressed.
They have the nice light crunch of the Kissables and a good creamy dark chocolate center. They’re a little chalky tasting, only a slight bitter hint towards the end, but generally very sweet.
I decided I was obligated to compare them to the Dark Chocolate M&Ms.
M&Ms come in more colors but the dark chocolate inside is just as sweet, but a little mellower overall. The Special Dark Kissables seem a bit crunchier, a bit more chocolatey. Neither wows me with their complex chocolate taste. They remind me of Sno-Caps, but with less mess and more color (not that it would matter in a dark theater).
Both dark chocolates contain milkfat and lactose, so are not appropriate for those who shun dairy. The M&Ms give you 1.69 ounces per package, Kissables only 1.5. The Kissables bag is plasticized, the M&Ms are only a glossy paper.
After sitting here with both in front of me, I found myself reaching for the Kissables more often. They just felt creamier, less chalky and a little richer, so they get one point higher than the Dark Chocolate M&Ms did.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.