Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Brach’s Ice Cream Conversation Hearts provide a conceptually different choice in the area of conversation candies. They’re flavored like ice cream, which is to say that they’re more mainstream than the original spice inspired flavors that Necco used to produce.
When I go to the store and browse ice cream flavors, the tops on my list of consideration go something like this (not necessarily in order): chocolate, coffee, mint chocolate chip, butter pecan, peanut butter cup and then maybe vanilla. I can’t remember the last time I bought strawberry ice cream (though I buy strawberry sorbet rather often) and orange sherbet is so far off my list of viable flavors, I can’t even recall seeing it in stores.
Strawberry (pink) was bitter and only a vague floral hint of berry. Mostly bitter from the food coloring.
Cherry (same shade of pink) was bitter and sweet with only a faint cherry flavoring note. Not tartness, just sweet. I’m still not convinced that there was any difference, except strawberry seemed even more bitter.
I had to take a break at this point because of the bitterness. A bit of water. Some crackers. I don’t know why I started with pink.
Vanilla (white) was expected to be flavorless, but actually does have a pleasant vanilla note to it. It’s like a marshmallow flavor. Really the only one I picked through assortment to eat. But it was really that I was actively avoiding nearly every other piece.
Chocolate was just horrible. Worse than the pink candies, because it was so lacking in chocolate and ended up tasting like a musty basement. You can tell just by looking at it that it can’t taste like chocolate, it’s not brown.
Orange was mild and did remind me of orange sherbet, except for the fact that it was missing that juice tartness. So it was more like an orange chapstick.
Now that I’ve tried their take on the classic ice cream flavors, I have no interest in their take on something more complex like butter pecan or mint chocolate chip. It’s best they failed at the easy stuff so I don’t get my hopes up.
Brach’s also has Heartlines Classic Conversation Hearts (I reviewed them when they were called small conversation hearts) on the shelves again this year. They’re better than the classic Necco (which are achingly hard to find) but still, not quite right.
Taken as a non-toxic and cheap decoration, there’s little better than conversation hearts. I paid only $2.50 for a full pound. Even if no one eats them from this cute jar on my desk, it was an inexpensive way to look like I’m observing the holiday. If you’re not eating them, it doesn’t matter which version you pick up. Choose based on the color combos, the sayings on them, or where they’re made. (These are made in Argentina.) There’s little point in choosing based on flavor.
Monday, February 14, 2011
With the news that Necco changed its classic Necco Sweethearts (more coverage here) in 2010, I found that Brach’s version more ubiquitous in 2011 on store shelves.
The package is bright red and easy to distinguish from the pastel-princess mess of the Necco reboot. I picked up the Brach’s Small Conversation Hearts at the Dollar Tree for a dollar for an eight ounce bag. The ingredients are similar, a sugar and dextrose (glucose) paste held together with a bit of gelatin and oodles of artificial colors.
The mottoes I noticed: Luv Me, You Rock, U Go Girl, Ask Me, Hello, Got Love? So Fine, Good Bye, I [heart] You, Be True, So Fine, E-Mail Me, Dare Ya and the ultra romantic, Hey You.
The pieces are well made, I found very few duds in the package - all thick and consistent. The printing was a little blurry on some but mostly readable, except for the low contrast pink on pink.
The flavors are pleasantly indistinct. I could tell the orange ones were a creamsicle orange flavor. The yellow ones might have been banana, but maybe a really bland lemon. The pink were slightly like the seashore (a mixture of cheap flip-flops and Old Bay crab boil and the burning taste you get when sunscreen gets in your eyes). The purple and green were too bland for me to tell apart in a dark room. The white was the comforting flavor of mint toothpaste you find in the corner of your mouth before lunchtime. The texture is smooth and not quite crunchy, though still very firm.
If you were a fan of the original Sweethearts and can’t find them, these are as close as you’re likely to find. But if you never liked either, there’s no reason to try these, they do nothing for the category except look cute. So basically, a nice decorative candy, but perhaps not for eating unless you’re trying to bring your blood sugar up.
They’re made in Argentina and produced on shared equipment with milk, egg, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts and soy.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Thursday, September 9, 2010
For a long time I’ve thought that Arcor candy is some of the worst in the world. Arcor is a huge company and makes candy for many Central and South American countries and actually has quite a big presence in the United States as well. I find their chocolate products disappointing, as well as those with cookies or nuts in them. So I was rather surprised at how much I liked these filled hard candy fruit rods I picked up in July. They little wrappers call them Veni.
They’re made in the Italian tradition of fruity filled hard candies. The wrappers are also nice, a heavy foil with a wax paper lining. The anana (pineapple) was particularly good.
Friday, August 8, 2008
In tough economic times it’s tempting to try to save a little money on items like candy. Buying in bulk is usually the most economical way to go, but some of us also recognize that a 5 lb bag of gummi bears will last as long as a 1 lb bag.
So another option is to find a generic or off-brand of a tried and true favorite. The bargain stores like 99 Cent Only are an excellent place to find these lesser known brands. While it’s understandable to assume that all the candy at 99 Cent Only or Dollar Tree or the like is past its prime, often these stores have special deals with candy companies to make sizes that can come in at their price point, so much of it is specially sized for value. (Well, either that or just be a reliable deal instead of waiting for the snack packs to come on sale at the grocery store.)
I found this line of snack sized candy bars at 99 Cent Only made by Bel. The package is a veritable Rosetta Stone with ingredients lists in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French with some other Arabic script on the wrapper as well. I found four varieties and bought three: Strawberry Burst, Vanilla Cookies and Toffee Taste. (The other flavor was some sort of Peanut Butter, but I stupidly grabbed two of the Toffee.)
Strawberry Burst is billed as milk chocolate compound coating with strawberry filling.
The wrapper is generic and simply says ChocBar. Only in tiny print stamped on the back does it have the expiry and variety (“STRAW”).
I knew going in that these are mockolate, but I also know that there are some decent candies out there with fake chocolate in them, so I was keeping an open mind. It’s a rather thin coating and around the edges I could see the pink nougat filling underneath. But still, it was a nice looking little plank. Each bar is about 2.5” inches long and .75 inches wide.
The nougat is soft and fluffy. It has the scent of berries, but very little taste besides sweet. The mockolate doesn’t add much, but it also doesn’t distract. It’s not terribly waxy or grainy or flavorful. Basically it just seals up the nougat fluff.
It’s, well, just not my kind of candy, even when well done. (Witness the 3 Musketeers Strawberry limited edition from last year.)
Rating: 3 out of 10
Vanilla Cookies is billed as vanilla candy with crispies and cookies coated in chocolate compound
I regarded this one as promising, I thought some Oreo type crunchies in an otherwise bland nougat might be good. (Seriously, why isn’t there a 3 Muskteers version of this?)
The format is pretty much the same as the Strawberry Burst, but a little lumpier, as you can imagine the chocolate cookie crunches are irregular.
The crunches are, well, crunchie. But they don’t taste like anything. The whole candy tastes like the marshmallows from Lucky Charms. While those are fine as little marbits mixed in with oaty sugar sweetened cereal, this is just fake vanilla sweetness with no chocolate crunch relief.
It’s too bad because I thought this was a really good package design for a cheap product.
Rating: 2 out of 10.
Toffee Taste is billed as milk chocolate compound coating with toffee filling.
The wrapper here was identical to the Strawberry Burst. It smelled like sugar cookies, which is a promising thing as far as I’m concerned.
The filling is a fluffed nougat, it looks like peanut butter but actually tastes a bit like sponge candy, but with a definite artificial bite to it. The burnt sugar notes were not authentic and the lack of a good chocolate component to balance it just kind of left this one hanging.
Rating: 3 out of 10.
If you’re looking for candy you can display in your house to demonstrate to people who barely know you that you have excellent self control (let’s face it, folks who you know will know the disposition of your self control, you’re reading a candy blog!), this is the stuff. The outer wrapper is enticing enough that someone might be impressed that you haven’t scarfed down all 12 in the package.
But if you’re looking for a great value, this isn’t it. You’re getting what you paid for, which is twice as much candy, but it’s only half as good as you’d like it to be. The previous week I bought some Almond Joy bars - 8 snack sized bars in the package for 4.8 ounces and only 99 cents ... this package has 12 bars but weighed only 5.5 ounces ... so really not that much more candy even. If you can’t afford to go upscale, at least get stuff that’s tried and true.
Monday, November 19, 2007
There’s rarely anything “new” in hard candy, so I was pleased to see Brach’s has a new assortment of hard candies called Soda Poppers.
They boast real fruit juice and come in four licensed soda flavors (from Cadbury Schweppes): A&W Root Beer, Doctor Pepper, Orange Crush & 7-Up.
Rather than just being a mix of hard candies in soda flavors, the twist on these is that they’re shaped like little cans and feature a firm goo center. (There’s no carbonation, though.)
I’m a hard candy cruncher, so I liked that I could crunch these pretty quickly and get a whole new texture. They were kind of sticky once crunched, but I don’t mind digging piece of hard candy off my teeth as an afternoon diversion.
Like the assortment that Jelly Belly has called Soda Pop Shoppe, there’s no cola in this mix. Strange, as that’s one of the flavors that’s unique to the carbonated drink arena (besides Dr. Pepper).
Would I buy these again? Probably not. I prefer the simple root beer barrel, lemon drop or orange slice. If they managed to get a cola flavor in the mix, well, now then we’d have something! As a flavor mix and the fact that they added the chewy jelly filling, well, it certainly changes the ordinary hard candy idea on its head. These are being sold in bulk in Pick a Mix and in small bags (I think 7 ounces).
Of note: Brach’s was recently sold by French chocolate company Barry Callebaut to Farley’s & Sathers (which itself is made up of a bunch of other candy companies rolled into one: Heide, Trolli, Farley’s, Sathers, Bob’s, Now & Laters and RainBlo gum). These candies were made in Argentina.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.