Friday, October 18, 2013
Name: Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups
Name: Lancaster Caramels
Name: Werther’s Original Caramel Popcorn
Name: Werther’s Original Baking Caramel
Name: Jelly Belly Camo Beans
Name: Fruit Vines Bites
Name: Ovation Mint Filled Break-A-Part
Name: Ovation Milk Pumpkin Spice Break-A-Part
Images courtesy of the respective candy company
Update 10/31/2013 - An earlier version of this post listed Welch’s PB&J Snacks, but I was just informed that the information is not accurate, so I have removed it.
Friday, June 28, 2013
It’s as if I’ve got a theme going with all these new products that are bite versions of the established candies. Today it’s a nibble from American Licorice’s popular Sour Punch line. These are Sour Punch Punchies and are described, simply as: soft,chewy, sour candy.
The two ounce bag has nuggets of candy coated wheat-based sour chews in five flavors: lemon, strawberry, tangerine, blue raspberry and green apple. They’re similar to the Chewy Sour Extinguisher that they released a few years ago, which had sour nuggets along with a magic one that would neutralize your ability to taste sour temporarily.
Sour Punch Straws and the later Sour Punch Bits are sour chews with a wheat flour base, like Red Vines. They usually have a sour sanding on the outside and a more intense flavor than a regular Red Vine. They’re devilishly messy, as the sanding tends to get everywhere. I also found that one straw was often more than I wanted as a portion. I like sours, but not in large quantities as age has finally taught me that too much sour is bad for my tongue if I’d like to use it for the following days.
The Sour Punch Punchies are have a core of Sour Punch Bits and then a candy coating similar to a jelly bean - it’s smooth on the outside but a little grainy and not crunchy. The colors are bold and very vivid.
Tangerine was the flavor I tried first, because it was bound to be good. The sourness was great but also had a nice hit of zest right away. The grain of the coating reminded me of Lemonheads, since there’s a bit of a “peel” effect with a sourness at the margin between the shell and center. The center is a little gummy and pasty and has a slight wheat flour note to it, as most of the Sour Punch products do.
Blue Raspberry is floral and seedy and sour. It’s very artificial at times, but an overall winner.
Lemon was right up there, again, bringing a lot of the qualities that I love about Lemonheads, but with more flavor in the center.
Strawberry was milder and like a smoothie in a way, not quite as sour but with a creamy note that the chew at the center brought in.
Green Apple was pure artificial in all the right ways. It tasted nothing like actual apples (as some candies will straddle the line) but more like Jolly Ranchers amped up. The sourness was not as strong as the lemon, which was by far the most intense.
There’s enough acid in there to burn my tongue before I finished the bag, I was able to eat less then half before I got a stomach ache. They’re really pretty to look at and I loved the flavor variety in the package better than the Airheads Bites (mostly because I like citrus and strawberry better than cherry and watermelon).
Wheat flour is a major ingredient, so they’re not gluten free. But there’s no gelatin but they do use confectioners glaze, so they’re not vegan. There’s also a lot more sodium in there, 170 mg, than I would have expected in a candy like this. They’re made in the USA and Kosher.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
The companion to last week’s Licorice Natural Vines are the new Strawberry Natural Vines.
I’m often hesitant to call them red licorice, but in this case the wheat based chew made by the American Licorice Company does have a small amount of licorice extract in it. As a natural product they’re made with wheat flour, cane syrup, sugar, brown rice syrup, palm oil, malic acid, natural strawberry flavor, beet juice (for color), glycerin and licorice extract.
The package is nicely designed, I had no trouble spotting it on the store shelf. It’s a soft but light plastic bag that looks kind of like kraft paper at first glance. It has a resealable zipper top, which is handy for a half pound bag.
They’re not as sticky as the Black Licorice version, which was a bit of a relief. The Strawberry version are slightly translucent, which kind of got my mouth watering, like they might be some sort of wheat flour thickened Strawberry jelly.
The twists are pleasantly big with a good bite and chew. They’re soft but not mushy. They don’t smell like much, just a light fresh and slightly sweet scent that’s not even strawberry.
They’re tangy. That’s the first thing I noticed, they’re not quite sour but definitely tart. The chew is smooth but eventually a little crumbly, so they don’t stick to my teeth like some soft licorice products can. They’re not doughy but still have a bit of a starchy film towards the end.
The strawberry flavor is a bit green, since it’s more on the tart side of things, it’s not the sweet, cotton candy floral note that some real strawberries exude. The only other all natural product that I’ve had that’s similar is the Panda Strawberry Bar, but that’s almost like a fruit leather texture to the chew and has a slightly more earthy and jam flavor because of the molasses in it.
I found them appealing to eat, but not exactly begging for me to have more. They seemed more like a snack than a candy since they’re not that sweet. But of course the “less sweet” part and wheat base may be appealing to some parents - there’s only a trace of fat (1 gram per 1.41 ounce portion) and slightly more than 100 calories for that serving. A serving is nine of these pieces, so a child or adult could be satiated by this. They’re expensive at regular price (2.99 for this half pound bag) but a bit cheaper than some “fruit snack” options - though these have no vitamin C fortification. These might be considered vegan (depending on your feelings about sugar).
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Earlier this year one of America’s largest licorice companies introduced something radically different for them. American Licorice launched Natural Vines. They come in black licorice (true licorice) and strawberry licorice (red licorice).
I liked the package, it’s a sharp looking kraft brown with black vine swirls. It stands up well, with a gusset on the bottom. It looked pretty small but each bag is a half a pound. I was a little aghast at the price though. I paid $2.99 for mine. I’d been looking for it in stores for a while and finally found it at the grocery store and it wasn’t on sale. I bought a half a pound of Red Vines last month for a dollar, so this stuff is three times the price.
As the name implies, they’re all natural and feature real licorice extract. The style is America, with its soft chew and molasses and wheat flour base.
Yes, they’re slick looking and shiny. They’re also sticky; far too sticky for my liking as they’re almost moist.
The smell lightly spicy like a cup of chai or a gingerbread cookie. Each nub is about an inch long and a big bite or two small bites.
The chew is soft and a little bouncy. It doesn’t stick at all to my teeth and has a mild flavor overall. The molasses is woodsy, but not bitter. There are notes of toffee and of course anise. There’s also that true natural licorice flavor, which is light and sweet and a little slick on the back of the throat.
The flavor is fresh but also not very intense. I found it easy to eat but not actually satisfying to my cravings for really intense licorice and deep molasses. They’re better than regular Black Vines (or Red Vines Black Twists as they’re officially called), I can’t give them a higher rating. The stickiness, mildness and vastly higher price didn’t really balance it all out.
The ingredients are considered vegan (although there’s cane sugar in there). Also of note, there’s no artificial colors or corn syrup (they use rice syrup). The only hinky ingredient is palm oil, though it’s not much as each 1.41 ounce serving contains only one gram of fat. There’s also 15% of your RDA or iron, 6% of your calcium and a gram of fiber & protein.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Sour Punch Straws are a sour sanded fruity licorice made by the American Licorice Co.. They’re fun and certainly pack a lot of flavor, but they’re messy to eat and share. So the Sour Punch folks came up with Sour Punch Bits which are little nibs of fruity chewy with a similar sweet & sour sand. The fun part for me was that they came up with some new flavors. I got a hold of their new Sour Punch Bits Tangerine-Lemonade.
It comes in a theater box (but I think they also have peg bags), so it’s easy to dispense and share. And of course they’re meant for taking to the movies, so you can get that sour fix without a lap full of tart dust.
The pieces are small: about 3/4 of an inch long and 1/4 of an inch around. They’re not as “sanded” with the sour sugar powder as the Sour Punch Straws I’ve had before, but that’s okay with me. The only issue I had was that these were a little stickier. There are two flavors in each piece supposedly: lemon (yellow) and tangerine (orange) though actually separating them was nearly impossible.
They don’t smell like anything at all. Maybe a faint whiff of Play Doh or erasers.
They’re quite sour on the tongue right away, but also extremely flavorful. There’s an intense wave of citrus that hit me when I first bit into them - an almost bitter orange and lemon zest note. Even though there’s no real orange or lemon oil in there, it tasted like there was. The tart chew is firm, hearty and almost creamy because it has a starchy wheat base to it, instead of a taffy chew like Starburst. Still, there is some sticking to the teeth. They’re not really sour, just sour enough to make my mouth water, but not quite enough to get my neck tingling.
I liked them more than I thought I would initially. When I talked to some folks at American Licorice about them last year, they were positioning these as a sour treat for adults, instead of kids. I think they succeeded there. They’re a little chewier though and the bitterness got to me after a while, it certainly kept me from eating the whole package (which is technically two servings).
They also come in Lemon-Lime and Strawberry-Watermelon.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Last year I got a curious comment on my Red Vines review mentioning Grape Vines. I thought they were long gone. Incredibly I read that American Licorice was reviving the grape flavored licorice twists and have been scanning shelves for them ever since. I spotted them at the grocery store last week and of course snagged a package.
First of all, the box and logo are just fabulous. They’re snazzy and happy and classic. I like the simplicity and boldness of the Red Vines packaging, especially the standard tray which seems to be their most popular format. The clear window shows off the product but the unified graphic elements make them easy to recognize on the shelf. I was happy to see that Grape Vines fit right in.
It’s not your imagination nor a strange anomaly in the photo, they’re not all the same color. Some are more on the magenta side of purple and other twists are on the concord-grape-juice purple side. Besides the color, they look and feel just like Red Vines. The texture is matte but smooth with a bit of a glow, as they’re slightly translucent. They’re not at all sticky or tacky. They’re flexible, especially since these are fresh (though I’ll eat licorice fresh or stale).
They’re the kind of candy you can put out on your desk and not worry about. They don’t leave a greasy mess, they don’t really dry out (maybe after a day or so, but an afternoon while you’re working at the computer is just fine). I’ve even stuck them in my pocket out of the bag without incident (though I don’t recommend that for more humid or damp regions).
They smell like Pixy Stix and ball point pen ink and taste like flat grape soda.
The chew is pleasant and not as waxy as Twizzlers can be. The flavor is mild with just a light hint of grape. The grape isn’t all artificial tasting either, sometimes it’s remarkably like raisins. (Though if I wanted raisin flavor I should just eat raisins.) I was pleased to see that they didn’t need to use Red #40 for the coloring so I didn’t get that aftertaste I often find with brightly colored candies.
They’re different. I enjoyed them, though not more than the standard Red Vines and certainly not as much as my cherished black licorice.
On a side note, I got a new lens for my camera for Christmas. Can you tell I was enjoying Grape Vines if only as an excellent subject to test it out? (Tamron SP AF60mm F2 Di II LD (IF) 1:1 Macro)
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
There’s this berry called the Miracle Fruit because it makes sour things taste sweet. A few years ago a candy finally took advantage of this little chemical reaction and Sour Extinguisher was born. (Though I don’t think it actually has any “Miracle Fruit” in it.)
I tried the original version and found it fun, though not really a candy I’d eat on a regular basis ... and the sourest of the sour wasn’t quite as powerful as I’d hoped (I really wanted to need the extinguisher).
Since then Big BOING, the candy company that invented this little candy kit, sold it to American Licorice Company (Red Vines). They’ve relaunched the product now with two flavor sets: Sour Fruit (with Berry Sweet Relief) and Sour Citrus (with Berry Sweet Relief).
Instead of being mixed into a bag, the flavors are now divided up. There’s a tray inside a cardboard sleeve that holds to sections, the largest 2/3 holds the mixed sour flavors and the little 1/3 side cubby holds the blue sour extinguisher.
Chewy Extinguisher Sour Fruit comes in a vibrant acidic green box with purple & blue accents. The flavors are: tangy watermelon (light red), sour strawberry (deep red) and super sour green apple (green).
The original candy was a little pillow shaped piece, the new version is a bit more like the old fashioned Good n’ Fruity. It’s a little wheat-based chew (like a red licorice) covered with a thick panned candy coating with a sour & flavor layer.
The shell isn’t crunchy, it’s shiny and hard at first, the pieces look like the present day Gobstoppers only a little more rustic in their shape. The candy coating is a bit grainy & easy to bite ... rather like the outside of a jelly bean.
Watermelon was very mild, it tastes more like bubble gum than melon, but still it was pleasant. Certainly it didn’t necessitate a berry sweet relief.
Strawberry was more vivid, extremely artificial tasting but still quite tart. I liked that the center, though not strongly flavored wasn’t just a bland wad, it did have a little tangy kick to it.
Green apple had an intense fake apple taste to it, and though it was sour, it wasn’t even enough to get my glands all a-tingly.
Still, I followed a couple of the green apples up with a blue berry piece. It does negate the tartness pretty quickly. On its own the flavor is a fake raspberry with a kind of bitter note to it that I can only think is the food coloring.
Chewy Extinguisher Sour Citrus has three sour flavors: tangy tangerine, sour lemon and super sour lime plus the berry sweet relief. What I liked about this assortment was that it followed the natural qualities of these fruits. They really do progress in that fashion as far as tartness goes.
The quality control on these candies wasn’t quite as nice as the Sour Fruit variety. The green ones were pock marked and had little pink marks on them.
Tangerine was really tasty. It has the pleasant juicy flavors mixed with a little zest. It was tangy, but not much more than a glass of OJ would be.
Lemon was also similarly accurate. It reminded me of Lemonheads, but chewy on the inside (but no quite like the newer Chewy Lemonheads, which have a jelly center instead of a thicker center).
Lime is quite sour, probably the most sour of of all six flavors I tried.
The extinguisher never quite really eliminated the sourness (which, granted, wasn’t all that sour) which would have been the really cool part.
The candy was conceived as a fun interactive candy for kids to “play with” so in that sense, I think it succeeds. Naturally I love the fact that there’s an actual citrus mix and found those flavors really good ... they might warrant a package of just those and dump the whole extinguisher part.
The packaging change, though it seems like a bit much, does aid in the actual picking of the pieces and of course makes sharing a little more sanitary (no dumping the bag into your hand, picking what you want and putting the rest back for later).
Not Kosher and possibly not vegan (depending on how the glycerol monostearate is sourced).
Friday, April 11, 2008
I’m hearing a lot of hatin’ on black licorice in the entries for the Red Vines Giveaway. Which makes me sad. I think a lot of folks are very attached to their favorite candies and I’m probably one of those people and maybe I take it a little personally when someone calls something that I appreciate disgusting. (But I’m not a converter or anything, I don’t like to force candy on people who say that they don’t like something.)
Licorice has a long and wonderful history as a confection and even a medicine. It’s also very flexible, used as a flavoring in hundreds of different sweet and savory items. It has some companion flavors as well, such as anise and fennel. One of the more commonly found licorices is the Red Vines Black Licorice Twists.
The most common kind of licorice here in the United States is the twist. It has a wheat base and is usually flavored and sweetened with molasses (and in this case, corn syrup too). Molasses is a great companion to licorice. While pure licorice is very sweet and soft on the tongue, molasses is deep and only mildly sweet with some interesting mineral notes.
The earthy combination and less sticky complexity to it all makes Red Vines Black Licorice Twists a nice treat. They’re not very licoricey, but that’s okay, they do have a nice texture and feel more like a snack than a candy sometimes. (Wheat-based candies can do that.) I think they’re best when they’re fresh, but stale is okay. I’ve revived stale licorice before by placing it in the microwave on top of a very lightly damp paper towel, covered with another paper towel and zap it for 10 seconds.
Licorice and licorice-like candies are increasing in popularity, probably because of their low caloric density and satisfying chew. As a grocery store purchase of licorice, I prefer Good and Plenty, but if you put Red Vines Black Licorice in front of me, I’ll definitely eat it.
Rating: 6 out of 10
I’d never had them until I started the blog. I picked them up two years ago to try and found the bag was so horribly stale that it wouldn’t have been fair. So again with full warning this time that National Licorice Day was approaching, I picked up another bag.
It’s mind boggling. I don’t even know where to begin with how confused, anxious and actually angry these make me.
First, I opened the bag and it smelled like sweet musk. Yes. Like the Australian Musk Lollies. And I know this smell because I recently bought a bag.
At first I thought I was crazy. I’ve had smell hallucinations and I’ve heard that simply coloring a food one way will make someone expect that flavor, so maybe I was just having some sort of synapse malfunction.
But it’s been a full week and I’ve checked with others. The reaction to the smell ranges from “It smells like my grandmother’s purse” to “that’s like a bad candle shop.”
None of it gets better. The colors are odd, like slightly bleached by the sun or perhaps rinsed in the colander with some fresh veggies and they’ve run.
The texture is like eating surgical tubing ... that’s been sitting next to leaking perfume samples for several months. They candy is made of little tubes of a similar wheat-based licorice vine (no twist to it) that is then coated on the outside with a candy shell (I can’t call it crunchy, only colorful). After chewing a bit the flavor does kind of warm up, after the musk has gone away it’s a little bit like licorice, but lacking the anise punch and the deep earthy molasses flavors.
The American Licorice Company explains them this way:
Maybe it’s just because I don’t like musk. But someone must like these candies or they wouldn’t be making them for those rabid fans. Or maybe people just use them for craft projects. They might make some decent kid-safe chunky beads for stringing on some embroidery thread.
I just ... don’t know what else ... to write about them. I can only assume that those people who hate licorice have tasted this and I can’t blame them for their hostility towards the stuff. (Go ahead and call me hypocritical for hatin’ on this stuff, I can take it.)
Rating: 2 out of 10
The Red Vines Giveaway closes on Saturday, April 12th, so enter if you want some! (Don’t worry, there will be no Snaps in the winner packages.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.