Friday, June 26, 2009
There are scents that I regard as pleasant and summery and strawberry-banana is pretty high up there. It’s light, fruity & floral but has a sweet kick to it that I can almost taste when I smell it.
Yogen Fruz is a high-concept frozen yogurt & smoothie chain that began in Toronto and now has over 1,000 stores in 20 countries. In this case it’s the smoothies that have been turned into a line of little candies.
The little tin I picked up of the Yogen Fruz Smoothies Strawberry Banana smelled very strong. Even before I took off the plastic overwrap, I had to keep it in a ziploc bag.
Aside from the blastingly strong scent, the ingredients are pretty positive: pure cane sugar, yogurt, tartaric acid, malic acid, natural strawberry and banana flavors, ascorbic acid and natural color.
Though they’re made with nice ingredients, they’re basically a “tablet candy”, much like a SweeTart though not dextrose-based. They come in a tin, the same one, as far as I can tell, that Godiva uses for their Chocoiste Pearls but in this case I had no trouble with opening & closing it.
The little tablets have the umlauted U on them (that conveniently looks like a very big smile) with a light pink speckling. They’re immediately tangy on the tongue and dissolve a little unevenly. It’s both lightly sour and has that yogurt twang.
I thought the taste was vibrant and even a bit unique. If you’re looking for an all-natural SweeTart-like product then this is a nice idea though certainly quite expensive.
These are made in Canada by Big Sky Brands, who also make the Jones Soda candies.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
There are a lot of confections I call traveling candies. They’re candies that both deliver that sweet boost as well as some other function. I often use hot cinnamon for long car rides to keep me focused and of course coffee items like Nips or Coffee Rio are great for a teensy caffeine boost without fluids.
I also tend to get motion sickness, so ginger candies are a great way to feed my sweet tooth and soothe my tummy.
Here’s a candy from The Ginger People that combines both the soothing spice of ginger and the kick of coffee: Hot Coffee Ginger Chews.
The chews are just like the other ubiquitous Ginger Chews that are available unbranded at Asian markets or from The Ginger People or Chimes. (They’re all made in Indonesia.)
The soft little translucent chew is coated with a tapioca starch & sugar mixture. They still stick to the wrapper and don’t really look like much when pulled out. Sometimes I can find one that’s still block shaped, but most are smashed.
The scent is rather bland. Just sweet and maybe a little woodsy. But I popped one my mouth and the immediate sweetness gave way to quite a few flavors. There’s a strong root & earth component from the ginger then a very strong spicy warm feeling. The coffee kind of kicks in from the background - it’s rather weak coffee note but not tamed by any milk here like so many coffee candies do. It’s a brewed black coffee flavor.
It makes me wonder why I don’t throw sliced ginger into my coffee. It’s a really nice combination - the sugar is sweet but more like barley sugar with a mellow malty or toasted flavor to it.
The cumulative effect of these after a half a dozen is a strong and lingering warm sensation. (And a few little bits stuck in my teeth.)
The drawbacks to these are, first, that they’re vexing to get out of their wrappers. The plastic/mylar stuff is hard to tear open, and never quite opens the whole way. Not exactly easy to open yourself when driving. (This is what navigators were invented for ... not directing you where to go, but to unwrap & hand you your candy.)
Each piece has about 20 calories and no fat. If there’s caffeine in it, it’s not enough for them to note on the package (it’s a coffee extract so it’s not like some candies where you consume the whole bean). Their website says they’re gluten free (but the package doesn’t). They’re made in a facility that processes peanuts. Should be considered vegan, there’s no Kosher or Halal certification.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Honestly, it seems odd that Nestle hadn’t entered the gummi category up to this point, especially since the Wonka brand is all about straight sugar candy (every once in a while they have a chocolate product). They’ve returned to the Roald Dahl book for some inspiration on the name. They’re called Sluggles (I’m guessing a vamp off the Arthur Slugworth character combined with the critter theme.)
But once I saw the package it kind of made sense. The says they’re from WONKA’S Edible Garden which sounds like fun! They come in four flavors: grape, orange, lemon & strawberry and say they’re made with natural ingredients and 25% real fruit juice. Yes, naturally flavored and no artificial colors ... from Nestle!
The Sluggles are shaped like little invertebrate creatures. The shapes I could discern looked like chitins, millipedes, snails and larvae. (They’re not exactly named on the package so forgive me if I gravitate towards the sea creature indentifications.)
I was really excited about the flavor array, mostly because there was no cherry, but also because they included grape, which is pretty rare in the gummi area.
Most of the gummis smelled the same, as it’s a mixed bag. The flavor is immediately tangy with a nice berry flavor, though not specifically strawberry and lacking that fragrant floral note.
The tartness has a slight fizzy quality to it towards the end.
Though the colors are all natural, gummis use gelatin so are not for vegetarians ... and in this case the red coloring is cochineal in addition to beta carotene.
I had a little trouble telling these from the strawberry at first glance because the colors aren’t as vibrant.
They’re mostly sweet with a light orange flavor to them, rather like orange drink with a little sprinkling of zest. While I sound underwhelmed, I thought these were the nicest of the bunch.
Wow, grape gummis! I can count on one hand the grape gummis that I know about (Albanese, the Japanese muscat varieties and the Big Bite Giant Gummi Bear).
Since this is a naturally flavored assortment, the grape flavor is much more like concord grape juice (not that there is actually any grape juice in here, the 25% is apple juice) than “artificial grape candy”. It has the deep jelly flavor but is much more sour than a jam. The exterior of the candies isn’t greasy at all, rather soft & dry but the chew is pliable and has a nice soft but rubbery bite.
The lemon flavored Sluggles were a little on the sweet side for a tangy citrus. The zest was mellow, the whole thing reminding me more of canned frozen lemonade than anything made with real lemons. It’s kind of a boiled sweet taste.
Still, they were tasty and all of the flavors went together well, I didn’t feel the need to look at the pieces before popping them in my mouth and any combinations of the flavors were acceptable.
The other product in this “edible garden” line is Puckerooms, which I’ll review soon. The other new items introduced this year are two different flavors of Kazoozles (which are not exactly in the garden theme and are definitely not all natural).
The package I got is a “sales sample” so this may not be the final package, ingredients & nutrition info. They’re made in the Czech Republic on equipment that processes milk, wheat, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts and sulfites.
I think these are a great option for families that want to shy away from artificial ingredients but still want mainstream treat. (I also expect them to be priced very well.) The information from the All Candy Expo indicates that these should be hitting store shelves in June.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Since the introduction of chocolate covered espresso beans sometime in the seventies not much has changed. Oh sure, sometimes they’re milk chocolate covered ... sometimes dark chocolate and even white chocolate.
At the Fancy Food Show in January I did get to try what I thought was one of the best revisions of the classic caffeinated confection: JAVAZ.
First, they’re all natural and use organic, fair traded coffee beans. Second, they use good quality chocolate. Third, they have a candy shell. But most of all, they actually roast the coffee for eating. That is, instead of roasting it for optimal brewing, it’s roasted with the idea that someone is going to crunch & consume it.
They come in two varieties: Milk and Dark.
JAVAZ Milk are much larger than most chocolate covered coffee beans, so it’s a goodly dose of chocolate. I threw some coffee beans into the photo to show the scale.
They’re even larger than Peanut M&Ms.
They look like little bird eggs: a faint tan color with brown speckles.
The shell is thick and crunchy and the milk chocolate is sweet and has a strong dairy/milky flavor to it. The coffee bean at the center is crispy and light, I wasn’t getting the fibery, woody bits that some coffee candies seem to leave behind. The coffee beans don’t have that acrid, oily taste to them.
The whole thing tastes like coffee ice cream with crunchy bits.
Though there’s obviously caffeine in here it’s not as much as you might think: a 55 gram bag has about the same amount as a cup of coffee.
JAVAZ Dark are decorated in the reverse of the milk ones. The shell is brown with beige speckles.
The chocolate layer here is dark chocolate, though not “pure” in the sense that there’s some dairy in there (sorry vegans, but the confectioners glaze spoiled these for you anyway).
The chocolate is quite sweet and the punch of the coffee bean is nice and balances that sugary-ness quite well. I might have preferred a little more coffee flavor.
They’re substantially crunchy, I can’t say that these are a quiet way to get a caffeine boost.
I like how thick the shells are and how easy it is to hold them in my hand or just throw a few in my jacket pocket without the protection of the bag. As long as they stay dry, they do just fine. (Okay, maybe that’s not the most sanitary thing, but I’m just being honest about my road-testing of the product.)
The coffee is sourced from Indonesia and uses only Arabica beans and benefits the Indonesia Relief Fund.
They’re made in the USA and are Kosher. The packages are a little expensive ($3.00 for 1.94 ounces), but I expect that’s because they’re just starting out ... volume usually helps to even these things out and they’re only sold in the small package. Right now I can only find them on Foodzie, though they’ve been at some food trade shows so might be in cafes and gourmet delis as well.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Surf Sweets has been making fun candies that are also mostly organic and made from non-GMO ingredients for years. What’s fun about them is that other than the ingredients, they don’t look like a compromise to kids. They’re fun shapes and flavors and even the all natural colorings don’t look faded and suspicious.
The Gummi Swirls area also fortified with vitamin C (no big deal there, lots of candies are) and 100% of the RDA of calcium.
Hmm, calcium? That’s stuff tastes pretty nasty sometimes.
The package doesn’t mention it, but these little gum-drop-sized candies come in three flavors: orange, strawberry and cherry.
The little pieces are truly lovely. The white background color and the little swirls are then graced with crunchy granulated sugar.
The bite is firm, they’re not quite gummis (they’re vegetarian, so actually contain no gelatin, think of them more like jellies or gumdrops since they use fruit pectin) but chewy. The flavor is good, not overly tart or sweet but also not terribly intense. They’re simply nice. There’s a bit of a creamsicle vibe to them, a slight creamy background to the flavor. If I let them dissolve a bit on my tongue I was getting that hint of chalky grain that antacids can have. (But pop & chew and it’s not at all detectable.)
My only real complaint is that I can’t tell the cherry from the strawberry. If they’re different colors, I’m not wise to the subtlety. (Maybe one is cream with pink strips and the other is pink with cream stripes.)
I really like this brand, they’re obviously more expensive than the mass-manufactured options, but the ability to buy without artificial colors and the fact that they don’t look “special” to kids must be a huge relief to parents who keep their kids on a more restricted diet. Surf Sweets has also started making smaller packages (.9 ounces) for lunches, party favors and Halloween treats.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Ghirardelli Chocolate introduced their new Luxe Milk line of premium milk chocolate late last year. I started seeing it on store shelves in last fall, especially at Cost Plus World Market, which usually has a great selection of both their bars and the bags of the squares.
I already tried the Luxe Milk Crisp late last year while on my search for the ideal crisped rice bar (it’s pretty good!).
Now I have a full bag of the Premium Assortment which includes Milk Chocolate, Milk chocolate with Almonds, Milk Chocolate with Hazelnuts and the Crisp.
The package explains how Ghirardelli is different, because they control all steps of production, from bean selection, roasting, refining and conching. I’m pretty sure even subpar chocolate goes through controlled steps ... just that the raw materials and standards are a little different.
The all natural formula for Ghirardelli’s Luxe Milk does sound promising: sugar, whole milk powder, cocoa butter, unsweetened chocolate, soy lecithin and vanilla.
The color is creamy and light, much lighter than I usually take my coffee with cream.
The scent is less like chocolate and more like caramelized sugar and meringue (a kind of toasted protein smell).
The bite is rather soft, but not as fudgy as lesser chocolate such as Hershey’s.
The flavor is, well, quite milky. The texture is very smooth and silky and the melt is creamy. However, the flavor has a distinct dried milk taste to it. There’s also a little sour tang to it, not as pronounced as Hershey’s but certainly it leans towards that end instead of the hot chocolate flavors of Dove or Nestle’s Milk Chocolate. The saving grace is that they’re not overly sweet or cloying.
I’ve had quite a few of these squares over the past few months, starting with some sample squares at the Fancy Food Show and I have to say that I don’t care for it much. It worked very well with the malty notes of the Crisp and the texture is certainly great.
Rating: 6 out of 10
The Luxe Milk Almond has crushed almond bits in it. The square is a bit thicker and it’s actually bigger than the plain square (.528 ounces versus .375).
The almonds are pretty big and do go well with the milk flavors of the chocolate. The smooth texture is highlighted well by comparison. The nuts have a dark roast to them so the toasted almond flavors come out well and stand up to the strong dairy component.
Rating: 8 out of 10
This piece is also .528 ounces. The hazelnuts are wonderfully toasted and have that grassy and buttery crunch to them that goes so well with milk chocolate. No hint of stickiness.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Overall, I like the fact that someone is paying attention to milk chocolate, which has a rather bad rap as being some sort of starter chocolate instead of valid gourmet confection. The plain isn’t my style, but certainly not bad quality ... but it’s also possible that I’m just not a plain chocolate persons ... most times I feel like a nut.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Das Foods which is already known for their cute little caramel morsels has expanded into the gourmet lollipop market. (Did you know there was a gourmet lollipop market?)
Their initial offerings are petite pops that look suspiciously like ordinary lollipops you’d get at the doctor’s office after bravely taking an injection without crying or biting the nurse.
These, however, are made in decidedly grown up flavors and with all natural ingredients.
This amber pop looks rather blah, like an all natural candy usually does.
It doesn’t mess around though. It didn’t smell like much, kind of like lemon, but maybe like tea. The first sensation I got when putting it on my tongue was a zap of ginger. Spicy. The tangy lemon entered and brought its companion bitterness with it (I guess that’s the naughty part, bitterness is like a lack of gratitude but sometimes a reminder of what we have).
It was a cross between a cough drop and a ginger hard candy. The spicy feeling on my lips, tongue & throat lasted quite a while.
The ingredients are pretty impressive: sugar, rice syrup, citric acid, crystallized ginger pieces, citric acid, lemon oil, natural ginger extract
Unlike many pomegranate candies, this is just a light and natural pink, like a garden rose. It smells rather woodsy - like tea in a sandalwood or cedar box.
The flavor is tangy and bit like a mellow cherry or raspberry. But then the orange kicks in. Instead of the juicy flavor it’s all about the zest here. There are little bits of orange zest as well, they give it a less than smooth melt on the tongue but also vibrant pops of flavor.
This dark brown pop was opaque. It smells a bit like a bowl of brown sugar - just lightly toasted.
The texture is just a smidge less smooth but the caramelized sugar flavors come out right away. It’s a little salty and not very sweet overall. The butter or cream components are missing ... so it’s more like a brulee topper for me than an actual hardened caramel. But that still kept me happy.
For an all natural hard candy, they are extremely expensive. Right now the variety pack is going for $3.99 for 4 ounces on the Das Foods website. (Each pop is about a half an ounce and there are 8 in the package. So they’re $16 a pound or 50 cents per pop.)
If you’re going through morning sickness or have motion sickness problems, the ginger pops are an excellent option. The caramel pops are a nice take on the hardened caramel, I appreciated that they weren’t too sweet. The orange & pomegranate didn’t thrill me, but I think I was detecting more bitter citrus oils than most folks probably would. I don’t mind it at first, but it does leave a weird taste in my mouth.
In addition to the flavors reviewed here there’s also one called Man Bait which is Bacon & Maple. (I gave it to Amy, who thought it was pretty tasty, much more on the maple & smoke side and not much else from the bacon ... for the record she’s one of those people who doesn’t like her syrup to get on her bacon.)
Expensive but certainly unique. If you’re going for really vibrant flavors and all natural ingredients, these may be a great option. They’re certainly a fun impulse item at a cafe or gift shop but I don’t think I’m crazy enough about them to buy a whole box.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
It’s marketed as candy with benefits in this case a bit of fortification with 500 mg of calcium. The candy balls are also made with all natural ingredients, so no artificial colors or flavors.
The package is rather large considering the amount inside. The wrapper is over 6.5” long, that’s an inch longer than an M&M package (so think of this like a King Sized pouch) but only holds one ounce. (However, when I talked to the folks who are just starting up the company, they designed the bag before knowing exactly how big & heavy the portions would be and will probably alter this during their next production run of wrappers.)
That said, I think the package design is nice - it’s bold & seems friendly and appealing.
The candy is made of a crisped rice center surrounded by milk chocolate and then a hard candy shell. There are 10-12 per bag.
The most noticeable flavor at first is the cereal notes of the rice then there’s a bit of milky flavor from the chocolate. The chocolate flavors come across as a kind of cocoa breakfast cereal. The calcium part is completely undetectable. Not a hint of unusual graininess, no weird mineral aftertaste. I find it hard to believe that I’m getting half my daily RDA of calcium ... but that’s what it says. They’re sweet and definitely crunchy ...
My only hesitation with them is availability and price. Right now they’re for sale on place online (healthysnackstore.com) and are about $1.70 a package when sold by the dozen. It’s far cheaper to just down Tums for the calcium. However, if you have a kid that you need to get that extra calcium into or are an adult who just needs a little help with boosting your mineral intake the caloric hit isn’t even that bad because of the scant portion size - only 130 calories a bag. I felt pretty satisfied ... and strong.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.