Monday, December 12, 2011
When I was a kid and candy was hard to come by, there was always the old standby of cough drops. I grew to love Hall’s Honey Lemon Eucalyptus drops as if they were decadent candy. Of course they are, there’s little that’s nutritional or therapeutic about them. But sometimes it’s a small pleasure that lifts the spirits when you have a cold.
My favorite cough drops as a kid were Pine Bros, which were about as old school as they come. They weren’t like the standard hard candy lozenges, instead these were a glycerine pastille, similar to Grether’s or Dr. Doolittle’s. The ingredient they all share is glycerine, which is viscous and has soothing properties as it can coat irritated membranes.
Pine Bros Throat Drops and I were born in the same city, about a hundred years apart. Once I moved to the West Coast from Pennsylvania, I couldn’t find Pine Bros any longer. Part of it was that Pine Bros, which was made by Life Savers between 1930 and then Life Savers was bought out by Leaf (I believe they were manufactured outside of the US for a while and the formula changed) then when Leaf divested in 1998 a company called IVC picked up the Pine Bros name. By 2005 they were gone.
The word softish is perfect for these. They truly aren’t hard or soft, but have a great squishy quality. The pieces are nicely formed and comfortable for the mouth. The pieces are about three quarters of an inch long and have a little indentation in the bottom, which I believe is caused by the piece shrinking a bit due to evaporation as it cures in its mold.
The flavor is mild, a combination of a jammy wild cherry flavor and a little hint of honey (though there’s not actually any in there). The flavor is rather similar to blackcurrant with its deep wine notes. It’s more floral than many other cherry candies and because they’re colored naturally (with elderberry juice) there’s no weird aftertaste.
Most cough drops are hard candies, but these are soft, pliable yet tacky and stiff and pretty much impossible to chew up. They’re not quite bouncy like a gummi (which contains gelatin, which is a protein) but still have some of that firmness. The other great thing is because they’re so smooth, there’s little danger of sharp voids like some cough drops can have - so no little cuts or scrapes inside the mouth.
I picked up the Value Size not because of its value but because it was the only format available. It holds 32 drops for $3.49 (2.38 ounces) while a little tin of Grether’s of a similar quantity would be about $10.
If you always wished that Grether’s came in Wild Cherry and at a fraction of the price, Pine Bros may be the solution for you.
The package is new and sharp, but still has a classic feel to it. The color coding is similar to the boxes I remember as a kid. Cherry came in a deep red box, Menthol was in Blue and Honey was in a deep amber. The new packaging is a bit brighter, with more of a mustard yellow.
The ingredients are listed as a medicinal product, not a candy. My Pine Bros Throat Drops were also taxed, so were not considered food so do not have any nutritional/caloric information.
The pieces are beautiful little amber drops. They actually remind me of true amber. They sound like it when dropped and feel lighter than they look they should. But they’re a little weird. They’re not like I remember them.
The package smelled quite a bit when I opened it. Not just like honey but like roses, like a jam made from rose petals, so it’s a very sweet, syrupy rose scent. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s not the toasty and more cotton candy notes I was prepared for.
The texture is smooth, the melt is wonderful and they truly are soothing for a throat a bit raw from the drying and dusty Santa Ana winds. But the flavor, which I was hoping would be mild and sort of fleeting is rather stubborn. It tastes, well, old. Like old flowers, old tea ... not fresh. I actually found myself reaching for the Wild Cherry ones.
There are two other flavors that Pine Bros is hoping to bring back: Licorice and Honey Lemon. So here’s to hoping that it’s actually Honey Lemon that I love so much and that my favorite will be restored. But I also have high hopes for Licorice.
They are made in the USA in a facility that also processes peanuts and tree nuts. They’re not listed Kosher but the non-honey versions should be considered vegan (unless the glycerine was from an animal source, which is pretty rare because it’s so much more expensive).
I’m not planning on reviewing cough drops on a regular basis, but now’s a good time to ask: what cough drop do you eat like candy? (My other favorite is Thayer’s Slippery Elm, which also has a dreamy smoothness with the flavor of maple sugar considering it starts out looking like a small tablet of rabbit food.)
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
At Christmas one of the great gifts is an excessive version of something mundane but much-loved. For candy this means colossal proportions. Oh sure, you could just get a wholesale sized bag of M&Ms or Skittles. But there’s something special about a version that’s substantially larger than the norm: Giant Hershey’s Kisses, Giant Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars, World’s Largest Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Giant Candy Canes and Giant Gummi Bears.
Mars is in the game this year with their Snickers Slice n’ Share bar. This year it’s exclusive to CVS stores. I found mine after going to several stores and it was even on sale for $7.99, regular price is $9.99.
The Snickers Slice ‘n Share is 16 ounces, while a standard Snickers bar is 2.07 ounces (so 8 times bigger). It’s also 9 times the price. The best value is probably to buy the snack size, which are about $1.25 for eight little bars totally 5 ounces - which comes out to $4.00 a pound instead of $7.99 a pound. But that’s simply not magnificent enough for gifting or wowing your guests. (See this 1925 ad for Oh Henry! that features the suggestion to slice and serve.)
The bar is protected in a paperboard tray and came out looking pretty good. It’s 9.5 inches long, about one inch high and 2.5” wide. A standard Snickers is only 1” wide.
There’s simply no way to depict how massive this thing is with photos because it’s dense and heavy. Honestly, I expected one pound of candy to have a bit more volume, but Snickers are certainly compact.
Like the old advertising slogan, this Snickers is packed with peanuts. The caramel envelops them completely and they’re jam packed in there all the way through the bar. The caramel and nougat layers are completely distinct and the chocolate is very thick, especially on the sides and the ripple on the top. It does flake off easily, but usually in big chunks that are easy to pick up and pop in your mouth.
The serving size suggested is a 1 inch slice (which is about 1.75 ounces - less than the 2.07 ounce regular bar). I found that to be a bit too thick and unwieldy, so I usually went for something about a 1/2 inch slice. It slices quite easily without falling apart, as long as you have a good, wide knife. A butter knife or steak knife are too small and narrow. A chef’s knife or even a clever does a much better job. Anything less than a half an inch though and the piece will not hold together well.
Also, I found that cutting straight down, with even pressure (chopping) was better than trying to angle it. The pieces came out cleaner and with less chocolate loss.
I loved the bar. I actually think I enjoyed it more than any other Snickers I’ve had in years. The peanuts were fresh, the caramel was thick, distinct and chewy plus the nougat was soft, slightly salty with a nice peanut butter toffee flavor. The layers are much more defined and folks who like to eat particular parts separately will have a great time.
Giant candy has always struck me as the kind of gift a kid would give to a parent or other relative. Not that I’d complain if my niece or nephew came me a giant version of a beloved candy. It’s a way to make a favorite special. But they’re not for everyday consumption. The specialness of the price assures that. But I expect because it’s under $10, it should find its way into many stockings this year, or because of its size, it will be adjacent to the stocking ... and featured heavily on early nights of Hanukkah.
The bar has all the same ingredients as the smaller versions. It’s hard to compare the nutritional value because of the difference in serving sizes, but the calories per ounce are greater for the Slice n’ Share than the regular size, so I’m going to guess that there’s more chocolate per bite on the small one since that’s where the densest calories are.
At a certain point something so large that it requires implements ceases to be candy. Candy is ready to eat, requires no knives or assembly.
The package warns that there are traces of tree nuts and wheat, plus it contains eggs, soy, peanuts and milk. Mars does not use fair trade or certified ethically traded chocolate for this product (though they’re working on it - their Maltesers malted milk balls will be Fair Trade next year in the UK).
UPDATE 12/5/2012: Snickers Slice n Share are back in stores for the holidays. They’re found in a much wider array of stores, I’ve seen them at Target, CVS, IT’SUGAR and a few others as well as on internet stores. Discount chains usually have them for $10-12, while the other stores like IT’SUGAR have them for about $20.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Cadbury Adams, makers of Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids have introduced a new product to their line of jelly candies. Sour Patch Kids Berries are a variety of four berry flavors of the classic chewy jelly candy covered in sour sand.
There’s no mention of this product on the Sour Patch Kids website, and the package is rather scant with details as well. There are four colors for the candies, but there’s no mention of the flavors. I think they’re: Cherry, Blue Raspberry, Strawberry and Grape.
The regular Sour Patch Kids come in four flavors: orange, cherry, lemon and lime. The Sour Patch Fruits come in watermelon, orange, lemon, lime, grape and cherry. Then there are the individual flavor packs like Watermelon, Peach and Cherry. It seems like cherry gets a lot of attention from the Sour Patch family, here it is in three different assortments plus a package all of its own.
Sour Patch Kids are a simple construction, a firm jelly candy is molded and then coated in a sweet & sour sand. They’re small, so one is a good bite.
Grape (Purple) is a great sour flavor. This grape is just like a jelly version of Pixy Stix or SweeTarts. There’s a lot of fake grape flavor to go along with the sour.
Cherry (Red) is as I expected, tart and sharp with the strong woodsy notes then sweet and a little on the medicine side, especially as the food coloring kicked in.
Strawberry (Pink) this was the flavor I wasn’t quite sure about. It’s soft and floral and more delicate than the others, perhaps even a little citrusy.
Blue Raspberry is a well rounded flavor. It’s quite tart at first then morphing into a sweet and floral berry flavor that’s reminiscent of the Swedish Fish.
Here’s something that’s been bothering me for years. Sour Patch Kids don’t look like kids. They don’t look like much of anything except maybe shaving brushes. There are little characters on the package, but I’ve never quite been able to make them out. Jelly Babies manage to look like their little characters on the package, so I know the molding technology allows this. Even Swedish Fish do an excellent job of looking like little fish.
It’s interesting to see a new mix of flavors for the Sour Patch Kids, even if the actual flavors are not new. There’s nothing earth shattering here or innovative, just a limited mix that might appeal to folks who don’t like the citrus flavors in the regular Sour Patch Kids or Sour Patch Fruits.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
It’s their new Air Delight Aerated Milk Chocolate. I’ve already covered the Air Delight Kisses, which were sent to me by the National Confectioners Association back during The Sweets & Snacks Expo. The bar was supposed to go on sale shortly after that in June nationwide. Believe me, I tried to find it. Southern California may be the first for movie premieres, but we’re often the last for candy rollouts. I tried Walgreen’s, RiteAid, Target, Ralph’s, Gelson’s, Von’s and CVS. Eventually, by mid June the Kisses showed up at the drug stores, but I still couldn’t find the bar. Even more frustrating, the CVS store I was in was advertising the bar on their PA system ... but didn’t actually have it in stock.
I finally found it the other night at a different CVS, and on sale (buy 2 and get 1 free).
The package describes the bar as:
Finally, an end to the effort! I bet you didn’t think about how much effort it actually was to melt things in your mouth. You know, the opening and closing and then application of heat. All of that is solved with this new chocolate bar ... it’s so light, it practically inserts itself into your mouth. Wait, no. No, it doesn’t. You apply the exact same effort, except for the possible fact that this bar weighs 1.44 ounces instead of the 1.55 so it is actually a lighter bar.
The bar is thick but also a bit more narrow than the standard Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar. Both bars I picked up were unbroken and unblemished. They have six narrow segments that cleave off easily to reveal the little air bubbles within.
Since the bar is aerated, the snap and bite is softer. It’s not that it’s melted or anything, it’s just quieter or something. It does seem to melt quicker and has a stronger scent (perhaps because of the increased surface area on the exposed surfaces). The flavor is undeniably Hershey’s Milk Chocolate. If you don’t like the sweet, caramelly and tangy flavor of Hershey’s, you’re really not going to like this. The fudgy cheesecake flavors are more noticeable now that the texture matches that more closely. It’s really filling, I was surprised. I took each section as two bites and took quite a while to eat it. It felt like a lot more chocolate than 1.44 ounces.
As far as the success of Hershey’s aerated bar, I’d say they’ve done a great job. It’s exactly what you’d want if you wanted a bubbly Hershey’s milk chocolate experience. I found it far too sweet and gave the back of my throat that “acidic burp” feeling. So if you’re looking for a satisfying actual chocolate experience, you might want to step up to something a little higher quality. But if you’ve always wanted a Nestle Aero bar that you can buy at your local store without the import premium, this may be your thing.
This bar was made in Mexico. There’s no allergen statement anywhere on it (though it does actually contain dairy and soy, so you know those for sure).
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Wrigley’s (part of Mars) has quietly released a new variety of Skittles called Skittles Blenders. They feature blended fruit flavors.
The package is bright yellow with sky blue accents. I’m not sure if Blenders requires an exclamation point at the end or a tornado like the package shows. Unlike the Crazy Cores introduced about two years ago that have contrasting flavors for the shell and center, these flavor combinations are completely combined.
The package smells a lot like the Tropical Skittles at first.
Blue - Melon Berry Burst (tm) - the aqua blue Skittles have a distinct flavor that’s just like Tropical Punch but tastes nothing like the melon or berry mentioned in the name. It’s tangy and certainly vibrant.
I’m underwhelmed by this new version. There were two flavors that I picked out to eat, which left 3/5 of the package uneaten by me. I have nothing against the invention of new flavors or new flavor combinations but the fact that all of these are trademarked leads me to believe that there were more intellectual property lawyers involved in the creation of this candy than actual candy makers. I wish Wrigley’s/Mars would just stick to really great flavors instead of these strange mixes. They make a Citrus Mix for Australia, why won’t they give those a try in the United States?
The package states that they are gluten free and gelatin free. It also reminds you to do your part and dispose of the wrappers in the trash. Skittles are fortified with vitamin C and a package 40% of your daily recommended amount.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
There’s a part of me that thinks that marshmallows aren’t candy at all. It’s probably because the traditional dusty marshmallow puffs are sold in the baking ingredient aisle in big bags instead of single serving packets.
But maybe I should rethink that; it appears that Campfire has. I spotted this little 1 ounce bag of Campfire Mini-Marshmallows at the CVS at the beginning of summer and thought it was a fun idea. Sure they’re far more expensive than the big bag a few aisle away. This was 50 cents for one ounce and the big one pound bag is about $2 - so maybe I’m a schmuck. (The same applies to plain chocolate bars and chocolate chips.)
While the bag only holds one ounce, it looks pretty bountiful. The packaging is just a miniature version of the large bag but does mention prominently that it’s a gluten free food. It also says “naturally fat free” and while that’s natural, some of the other ingredients aren’t, like the artificial flavor and tetrasodium pyrohosphate.
It’s a boy with a marshmallow head wearing a little backpack and yellow shorts. He’s waving and I guess that’s all okay. But he’s also wearing a navy blue tee with a flaming marshmallow on it. I suppose it’s like any other kid with a Metallica concert tour tee, but it’s a little skewed by the fact that we do actually consume fire roasted marshmallows more often than fire roasted human skulls. (If the research I did is true.)
There’s not much else to say except that these are teensy little marshmallows that I associate more with winter than summer. They’re the perfect kind to toss into a cup of hot chocolate. For roasting over a campfire, well, they’re too small however for a microwave version of S’mores they might do well. As an easy to eat treat they’re pleasant but that’s about it. Like most grocery store marshmallows, they have a powdery starch coating. They smell sweet and a little like plain vanilla (but not very complex like a good vanilla bean).
They’re squishy and a little fleshy and yield a good chewy bite. I prefer mine a little firmer, so I left the package open for a week or so until they were firm and dry. Since they’re so airy, an ounce feels like a lot and if they’re savored properly it’s a good diet candy since there’s less than a hundred calories in a bag. (With regular sized marshmallows it takes about 4 to equal one ounce.) If you need a quick marshmallow fix and a big bag of the giant ones is too much, well this is a good option. They’re probably fun to add to other snacks, like trail mix or popcorn at the movies.
Marshmallows are made with gelatin so are not appropriate for vegetarians. They say they’re gluten free but no other allergen status like nuts or dairy is mentioned on the package
Friday, June 25, 2010
The Peter Paul Mounds bar is a classic. It’s a simple moist coconut center covered in dark chocolate. The bar was introduced in 1920 by Peter Paul in New Haven, Connecticut and quickly became one of their best sellers. Though Peter Paul made other bars over the years, the only two that remain are Mounds and the sister milk chocolate and nut bar, Almond Joy. In 1978 Peter Paul merged with Cadbury and then in 1988 Cadbury sold it off to Hershey’s, who continues the production today keeping the Peter Paul name on the product.
The candy is rather like a long version of a chocolate you’d find in a mixed box instead of a candy bar. The format of two pieces in a single package goes back to the 40s and remains today even though the wrappers have changed over the years. It’s one of the few bars that still has the little paperboard tray, and I must say that I appreciate it when it comes to getting the candy out and the fact that mine nearly always look pristine.
The dark chocolate coating is simple, with some slight ripples on the top. The pieces are rounded and have a great feel to them - easy to get out of the package, easy to bite and with two pieces it’s easy to share.
The dark chocolate can’t contain the coconut aroma. It’s a fresh and clean smell. The bite of the chocolate is good, it’s thick enough to hold the coconut and there are never any little leaky spots. But it doesn’t flake off or make a mess. The coconut is soft and chewy, moist and rather sweet at first. The dark chocolate keeps that sweetness from feeling too sticky and adds a woodsy and dark cherry note to the whole thing. The coconut has a long chew and usually tastes very fresh, though often not much more than that (no grassy fresh notes).
It’s a great combination and it endures because of its simplicity as far as I’m concerned. It’s one of the few candy bars that I still pick up on top of all the other candy eating that I do. I wish the ingredients were a little “purer” as there are things like hydrolyzed milk protein and PGPR in there that I can’t recall eating as a child.
And of course no discussion of the Mounds bar would be complete without a mention (and inclusion) of the classic jingle “Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut, Sometimes You Don’t.”
Friday, March 26, 2010
In my attempt to try everything this Easter I bought some pretty stupid candies. The Jumbo Gum Ball Eggs are pretty high up there. It wasn’t so much that it’s a stupid purchase (it was only 99 cents) but that it’s a stupid product.
But let me go backwards a bit. I have a definition for candy. It’s kind of long and includes a list of criteria. One of them is that the product needs to be ready-to-eat. This means it doesn’t need assembly (though might benefit from it) and doesn’t require implements or tools, especially ones not provided.
They are 2.25 inches tall and weigh about 1.75 ounces each. Yes, they’re hollow but they’re about a third of an inch thick.
A gumball the size of a small chicken egg requires tools. I used a saw.
I was able to stand on one of them without smashing it. After chewing the slice I’d cut off the top I did manage to smash and pull apart the larger piece by stomping on it and then prying it apart. It’s tough stuff. The package says that a single serving is half an egg, but of course gives no clue about how to sever it yourself.
The candy shell is thick and crunchy and the gum inside is rough and leathery, kind of like playing with thick rawhide. It smells slightly like Juicyfruit gum. The overall flavor is sweet with a light fruity and tangy note that disappears quickly as the sugar dissolves with chewing. The flavor is inconsistent and has cinnamon and bubble gum notes from time to time. It’s an all sugar gum, which tend to lose their flavor quicker than the artificially sweetened ones. That’s fine with me, I like to chew mine up, make a few bubbles then toss it out and put in a new piece.
It does work as a bubble gum, but certainly not very well.
They’re fun to look at and would make nice decorations. For a child they’d be a frustrating mess. If you lick it the blue colored shell will run (and could stain clothing or upholstery). A parent or older child would need to help with creating manageable bites - so really I don’t recommend this for anyone under the age of 14 and of course must caution folks when using tools like saws or a serrated knife to cut this open.
Again I come back to saying that these are probably better than plastic stuff for decorating, though obviously they’re not waterproof.
They’re made in China under the house brand of CVS. They also came in pink (photo of them on store shelf here). I admit that I’m concerned about the safety of the food colorings because of the origin of the product but I have no facts to support that.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.