Thursday, August 16, 2007
Way back in the day there was a cute little candy called Tart n Tinys. They were tiny little pellets of tart candy, kind of like SweeTart, only sold in a small cigarette-pack-sized box that dispensed the candies from a little slip-tab at the top. (Nerds are still sold in this format.) They were made by Willy Wonka Candy Company, which was founded by Breaker Confections in 1971 just in advance of the feature film, Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. The book (called Charlie & the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl was published in 1964 and already wildly popular as was James and the Giant Peach which came out in ‘61.)
The Wonka line of candies were largely a marketing invention, the only candy in the original line up of confections that was actually mentioned in the book were Everlasting Gobstoppers.
However loosely tied Tart n Tinys were to Wonka’s imagination, I loved them. The little chalky pellets were fun to sort and stack, simple to share and easy to portion. The original flavors were Cherry, Lemon, Lime, Grape and Orange. The texture always seemed a bit smoother than SweeTart, which had a chunky and gritty texture (which I also appreciate).
In 1988 Breaker Confections sold the brand to Nestle. Nestle eventually made some changes to the candies, mostly because they had also recently acquired the Sunline brand of SweeTart confections in their takeover of Rowntree (who bought Sunline in 1986). Sunline products (SweeTart, Sprees and Bottle Caps) were then branded under the Wonka label as well. In the early 1990s Tart n Tinys were reintroduced with a new colorful candy shell (more like mini Spree than mini SweeTart now). The most interesting part of the candy shell addition is that the grape ones were no longer purple, they’re now blue (but thank goodness they’re not the blue punch flavor of SweeTart).
The new candy coated variety were also a little rounded, so they roll. No more stacking. But I have to admit they were fun to look at, and probably a little easier to sort even in dim lighting conditions.
So, you may have noticed that I started this post with, “Goodbye.” This is because Nestle has decided to discontinue both Tart n Tinys and Chewy Tart n Tinys.
It makes sense that Nestle thinks that the line is redundant (as I found with the head to head comparison between the Chewy Mini SweeTart and the Chewy Tart n Tiny) to products they already produce. The marketing on them was never particular strong, they don’t do seasonal editions (no pastel Tart n Tinys for Easter, no red & green for Christmas) so it’s easy to see why people have not responded to them as much as other products like SweeTart, Sprees and Runts.
I’ve enjoyed Tart n Tinys since their introduction but rarely buy them simply because I never find them in stores. Runts have been more available, even in the movie style box. I don’t think I’ve actually bought Tart n Tinys in five years for this reason. How successful can a candy be if you can’t find it in the first place? There are still a few online vendors who still have inventory left, so if you’re a fan, get ‘em now!
UPDATE JUNE 2015: Leaf has revived Tart n Tinys in their original format of the uncoated cylinder shape.
The flavors are a little different: blue raspberry, grape, orange, lime, lemon and cherry. They’re still making their way around stores, I found mine at Dylan’s Candy Bar for $3.49 a bag, which is too steep for what is cheap candy, but they should get wider distribution eventually.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Oh, the lovely commenters here are blessed, blessed friends to have told me of this Mentos assortment ... the assortment of my dreams!
Citrus candies are my absolute favorite and of course the Pink Grapefruit Mentos are divine. There are parts of the world where you can get these, Mentos Plus Citrus Mix. They’re fortified with Vitamin C and come in an assortment of three flavors: orange, pink grapefruit and lime.
At first I was thinking, Lime? Why not Lemon? But they pulled it off, a Lime as spectacular as Pink Grapefruit is. It’s zesty and slightly bitter but doesn’t give me any images of housecleaning products. Just clean, clean limes.
Orange was nice and juicy. Not quite zesty enough for me, but far and away better than the American Orange Mentos that we get in the regular mixed Fruit roll here.
Here’s another curiosity from the label. The Fuji Apple ones I reviewed didn’t have gelatin in them (and were halal) but mentioned Gellan Gum. This box has no gelatin or gellan gum, instead lists starch and gum arabic as the thickeners. It also bears the halal seal. I find it amazing that Mentos have so many different recipes worldwide. (This package also contains 2.5% fruit juice.) If you don’t have any problems with sugar these look like they’re vegan (no beeswax or insect-derived colors) but please read all labels as I’m finding that this may not be the case with every package.
The package is about 1.5 ounces (42 grams) and I counted 18 pieces in the box. The vitamin C content is 4 mg per piece.
These should definitely be made available in America. If they’re not going to give us rolls of the Pink Grapefruit, they should really include them in a mix like this. They’re just so darn pretty, too. Repackage them for weddings in little clear boxes to show off the delicate pastels and they could knock Jordan Almonds out of favor.
Special thanks go out today to Santos for bringing me these three lovely (if now empty) boxes of Mentos. These were made in China for the Philippines. I think they also sell them in Australia. Has anyone else spotted them for sale in their area?
Monday, July 9, 2007
It’s been well over a year since I had my first Pocket Coffee. They’re not easy to find in the United States, so I’ve been looking for an adequate locally-found replacement. I tried the Anthon Berg Coffee filled chocolates as well, but I haven’t been able to find just the espresso ones (the other flavors are a little too sweet for what I’m looking for in this case).
So I was quite excited when I saw these at Trader Joe’s, Espresso Chocolates. The package says that they’re “Rich, Dark Chocolate filled with Liquid Espresso Coffee.” Exactly what I’ve been looking for.
The package holds 3.88 ounces, and by my count, that’s 11 or 12 individual pieces (I can’t remember how many I ate ... except for “all of them.”)
The pieces are about the same size and shape of Pocket Coffee (or Mon Cheri) with a pleasant little wood grain on the top. Like it’s a log filled with espresso ... you know, the kind that you find in the Black Coffee Forest.
The chocolates are gorgeous and all were prefectly formed with no cracks or bleeds. Unlike the Pocket Coffee, these have no internal sugar shell (though they might form one eventually ... see above where I admit that I’ve already eaten them all and can’t experiment). The ingredient are: Cocoa Mass, Wheat Syrup, Sugar, Lactose, Cocoa Butter, Espresso Coffee, Soy Lecithin. Now, I suspect that the Wheat Syrup and Espresso Coffee are the syrupy filling (as I can’t imagine Wheat Syrup integrating well with chocolate and the Espresso filling is definitely sweet).
The filling is thicker than espresso, it’s woodsy and tangy and has a good coffee flavor but also some other notes rather like molasses or barley. The chocolate shell is sweet and tasty.
I’m not quite sure who makes these for Trader Joe’s, but the box says that they’re made in Germany, so I don’t think they’re made by Ferrero (the ingredients aren’t quite the same either). The package is very kind to list the caffeine content: 22 mg for a serving of 4 pieces. Compare that to a small cup (6 ounces) of brewed coffee which has 100 mgs. Sleep easy and have one in the evening!
Notes from the box:
While it recommends one bite, I like biting off one end and holding it upright, drinking the syrup center, then eating the chocolate. Melting them in your mouth is a completely different experience, because it reverses things and you get your chocolate first and an espresso chaser.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
One of the things that I was attracted to at the counter of the candy store were these pretty and classic chocolate bars. They came in four varieties: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate with Almonds and Sugar Free Milk Chocolate (on a different display).
They’re all 1.8 ounces and the ingredients are promisingly short: sugar, milk, cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, soy lecithin and vanillin. They were all priced $1.25 each.
The other bar (not pictured) was the Milk Chocolate with Almonds bar (it looked just like the Milk Chocolate bar). It’s similarly sweet and has a wonderful scent of almonds. The almonds are whole, if a little small. Crunchy and a good counterpoint to the very sugary chocolate. The pieces are nice though, easy to break off a third and chomp it whole or maybe three bites.
The Mickey Dark Chocolate Bar was stunning when I took it out of the package. The glossy squares and nicely detailed relief of Mickey’s head definitely has appeal. It smells nice, a little more on the cedar side of woodsy than coffee. The ingredients on this one lists butterfat. It’s pretty smooth but very sweet for a dark chocolate. It’s kind of “watery” on the tongue, reminding me of the Royal Dark Cadbury Mini Eggs that came out this year ... kind of like a pleasant cup of hot chocolate.
The sweetness leads me to believe that some kids may enjoy this, and if they don’t their moms or dads won’t complain about having to eat the leftovers themselves.
I give the whole set of bars a passably good 7 out of 10, good portion control at 1.8 ounces, easy to share, decent price for a branded item and Kosher for those who are looking for that. I appreciate that the candy has the Mickey brand on the inside and the outside.
Much of the candy is rather mainstream fare, and though I couldn’t find any chocolate mint patties or minted chocolate, I did find the Mickey Mouse Creamy Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Patties. They were a little more than the other pre-packaged candies at $1.50, but they were also 2.7 ounces. The packaging is kind of retro, kind of islandy. The Mickey on the package is the old-fashioned Mickey who is all pupil and has no whites in his eyes.
Inside is a little plastic tray with two chocolate dipped coconut patties in the shape of Mickey’s head.
These are hefty huge patties! Each weighs approximately 1.35 ounces, a good sized portion of candy on its own. The chocolate doesn’t coat the top, but you can’t tell from the photo that it does cover the bottom.
The star here is the soft coconut pattie itself. It’s creamy and soft and of course coconutty. It smells like summer. The coconut is chewy and only slightly fibery, a bit smoother than a Mounds bar, but also a bit sweeter.
The chocolate takes a back seat, which is fine. It’s not great chocolate like that on the Chocolate Dipped Pretzels, but it makes the candy attractive and it’s real, which is always a selling point.
The package does say that they were made in a “nut free environment” (except for those coconuts, which I guess are technically a fruit). Not Kosher. I give them a 7 out of 10.
These little M&M-like candies are called Chocolate Spots and came in a peanut variety as well. I went for the traditional “candy-coated Milk Chocolate”. As I was looking for a package that wasn’t crinkled and sticky, I noticed that all the bags felt like the contents were “grainy” instead of smooth.
I did my best to pick one from the bottom that looked crisp and had the best feeling contents, but when I got home and dumped them out, it was quite apparent that my attempt was not successful.
I know that many small children aren’t particularly choosy about their chocolate, and bless them for that. If I were a child and told I could only pick out one item from this store and this is what I got, I’d be in tears. The chocolate tastes like the wrapper smells, like plastic. The candy shell is crispy, yes, but only masks the burnt flavors of the chocolate. Think of those awful burnt unpopped kernels of popcorn and maybe the filling of a futon that’s been stored in a damp basement for the past few decades. I should have known that they were going to be bad when I read the list of ingredients ... which included PGPR (granted, I still love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, which now include PGPR, but it’s certainly in spite of it that they’re good, not because of it).
Honestly, I think I’m going to package these up and send them back to Disney. I might accept such quality from the 99 Cent Only Store at a fifth of the price, but not from a big company that prides itself on the experience of the brand. 1.8 ounces. I’m giving them a 2 out of 10. Not Kosher.
How difficult would it be to simply have a Disney branded M&M? The candies would have little characters on them instead of Ms (like the Pirate Pearls had little skulls and swords). Or ... don’t bother with M&Ms and get some GOOD candy maker to do two different sizes and kids could make their own Mickey heads with large and small candy lentils.
I’d kind of hoped, as with the Disney Spots, that this Pecan-Caramel Cluster would have a cutesy name, like Lion King Paws or Chewy Manes ... But clarity is always a good thing. In fact, besides the image on the package of Simba and Nala, it doesn’t say a single thing about The Lion King. I guess in a few years these could be branded for a more popular Princess or perhaps some tie in with Ratatouille.
The package says they’re “Crisp Pecans drenched in Creamy Caramel, smothered in delicious Milk Chocolate.”
And so they are.
These were far better than the Nestle Pecan Turtles I had earlier this year. Fresh nuts, the right texture for the caramel. The chocolate wasn’t the best in the world, but at least it didn’t detract. A winner.
2 pecan clusters, 1.5 ounces total. Not Kosher. $1.25 9 out of 10
Overall, the packaged stuff was pleasant and by theme-park standards, a good value. Just stay away from the Chocolate Spots.
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.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
They’re simply a little nibble of licorice covered in a thin sugar shell. Rather like a Jordan Almond, the shell is added in a process called panning, where a sugar syrup is added to the little licorice bites and tumbled and dried and then colored. Good & Plenty come in only two colors, pink and white. (Most other licorice pastilles come in pastels or bright colors, like the version made by Jelly Belly Confections.)
Most licorice pastilles are expensive, but Good & Plenty are surprisingly affordable, probably because they don’t have as much of a candy shell as some others.
The flavor of Good & Plenty is more complex, I think, than some of the European pastilles. First, the sugar coating doesn’t completely contain the licorice flavor so when you stick your nose into a movie-sized box of Good & Plenty and you get a woodsy whiff of anise. The sugar shell isn’t very crunchy, in fact, it’s a little grainy, but it works pretty well for Good & Plenty, letting the flavor permeate. The licorice itself has a high sweet overtone and then the molasses hits, dark and slightly burnt and with a light salty bite. After it’s gone there’s a lingering sweetness and clean licorice/anise flavor ... until you pop the next few in your mouth.
For this review I tried both the new Fresh from the Factory Good & Plenty and a rather fresh box from the convenience store near the office. There were a couple of differences. The molasses flavor seemed a little more pronounced in the FFTF&P and the sugar shell seemed a little softer. The still-fresh-in-the-box Good & Plenty had a mellower, more licorice-intense flavor and a slightly stronger shell. (It might have been my imagination, but the FFTF ones also looked a bit plump.)
While some of the other Fresh from the Factory offerings seem a bit steep in price, the Good & Plenty version, in a 4 pound tub is a bit better deal for $25 ($6.24 per pound). The window to order has closed at the moment (though I believe they’ll cycle through again). Good & Plenty in bulk on the internet is $3.90 a pound for 5 pounds ... or $3.24 a pound for 10 pounds, so it’s not like there aren’t deals out there.
I’ve found the sealed plastic peg bags sold at the grocery or drug stores are the freshest, the boxed Good & Plenty can be tough. But then again, I like mine tough, the candy shell is more crackly and of course it takes longer to eat. While I love Good & Plenty and it’s one of the few candies that I still purchase on a regular basis even with all the other stuff I have to get through, sometimes I prefer the crisper shell of the European varieties (but not the steep price).
Good & Plenty is one of America’s oldest continuously produced candy brands, here are a few moments in their corporate history:
1983 - Leaf and its brands is sold to Finnish company Huhtamaki Oy
Though the company has changed hands a few times and even moved factories (at least three different locations that I know of), the packaging has stayed pretty much the same. A little box with Good & Plenty candies pictured on the the outside and the name inside a circle ... when I was a kid it had a black background, now it’s a purple one. The black, pink & white color combination is often known as “good & plenty” in crafting and decorating circles. Somewhere along the way it dropped the more formal “and” in favor of an ampersand, probably when they became part of Hershey’s.
For many years Good & Plenty was also known for their cartoon mascot, Choo Choo Charlie. I found this video on YouTube of an old commercial:
These sorts of ads are probably not going to be around any longer, advertising candy to children is going away. Though candy offers empty calories, it does have some highlights. Candies like Good & Plenty make it easy for kids to share, learn portioning and resealable boxes reward self-restraint. Many boxes were also pretty versatile ... you could shake your box as a percussion instrument when it has candy in it and when empty, you can blow into it like a reed instrument. The current boxes don’t have the tucked tab design that do that ... the day they got rid of those was the day the music died.
Good & Plenty is made with wheat flour so is unsuitable for those with wheat allergies or gluten-intolerance. It’s also colored with Carmine derived from insects and therefore not suitable for vegans. Good & Plenty are certified Kosher.
Candy Addict’s Twizzler’s FFTF review (I totally agree with everything he said)
Good & Plenty is listed as one of the top arousing scents for women (yeah, if you’re looking for some lovin’ splurge for the super-scented Fresh from the Factory).
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
As a kid the best caramels I ever had were the ones that my grandmother would make every holiday season. They were large, two bite caramels usually studded with nuts. She’d make them fresh in large batches and give our family a large tin of them. They were the size of my thumb (my adult thumb, not my child-sized one) and wrapped in twisted wax paper.
Dense, firm and chewy they were the perfect combination of sugar and butter. Later, for my sixteenth birthday my grandmother gave me the recipe (along with a candy thermometer, which I still have). A simple concoction of sugar, corn syrup, evaporated milk and butter, it was the careful boiling that made all the difference. I’ve made a lot of caramels since then. No two batches are the same (though hers were always consistent).
For years I looked for a mass-manufactured version that would satisfy that desire for some chewy burnt sugar and dairy fat. The closest thing I ever found were See’s caramels, but those weren’t easy to come by when I lived in the far recesses of Northern California. Kraft caramels, while interesting don’t have that chewy pull and a rather bland flavor. Marathons were long gone, Rolos are too runny and don’t even get me started on the sauce bar known as Caramello.
Enter the Storck Chocolate Riesen, a popular candy in Germany and later covered in chocolate and introduced in the United States. Sure Grandma’s caramels were plain and these were chocolate, but the essential texture was there. I found them for the first time at the Canned Foods Warehouse in Eureka, CA. Those were the days where I was on a limited budget but still found some discretionary cash for such indulgences. Riesen put me over the moon when they had them in stock.
The caramels are individually wrapped, a dark and chocoatey caramel covered in dark chocolate.
They smell luxurious, like sweet chocolate. One bite and there’s a soft and slow chew as the chocolate melts and the dark burnt flavors the caramel start to burst through. The caramel is smooth and rich and not even terribly sweet.
Riesen are still made by Storck in Germany, who also make the indulgent Toffifay, creamy Werther’s, sassy Mambas and elusive Merci. In case you’re wondering, Riesen means “giant” in German. I wonder if they also make a plain caramel, I’d love to try it.
If you’re someone with a real chocolate jones but on a limited diet, this might make a good indulgence. The candies are individually wrapped, so it’s easy to parcel them out for portion control. Yes, three of them have 170 calories, but only 6 grams of fat that belie the deep and satisfying chocolate experience. Instead of gnawing on something that just leaves you unsatisfied, why not have a long-lasting creamy chew?
They should really make these in single stack-packs like they do with Mambas. I would probably buy these much more often if I could find them with the other candy bars instead of the peg bags at the grocery/drug stores. The caramel is above and beyond anything that you’d get in a Milk Dud (and these have real chocolate on them) or Snickers bar.
These caramels do have whey in them (and other dairy products) so I’m not sure if it’s processed in a vegetarian manner. Yes, I bought these at the 99 Cent Only store, but they have an expiration date of 2/2008 on them ... they were definitely fresh.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.