Tuesday, June 14, 2011
In the world of new candies, I think that names are important. They should either be descriptive of the product experience or novel enough creation that it arouses curiosity and the ability to associate that product forever with that name. Last year I tried something called Powerberries at Trader Joe’s. The name certainly doesn’t say much about what the product is, but is evocative enough that I could glean attributes, especially when I got to see the package. I bring this up because I’m now faced with a similar product that doesn’t quite have the naming mojo. They’re called Brookside Dark Chocolate Pomegranate.
Now there’s lots to love about that name if you happen to like a pastoral name like Brookside and the two elements of dark chocolate and pomegranate are also favorites of mine. (But I’m not so keen on eating actual pomegranate seeds, I know they do sell those, but that’s not what these are.) So while it didn’t have the sexy punch of Powerberries, I did actually buy this package.
It’s a stand up pouch that holds 7 ounces of smooth dark chocolate surrounding a sweetened real fruit juice piece made from a blend of pomegranate juice and other select fruit juices. The image on the front actually looks a heck of a lot like the one I shot below. Hooray for accuracy!
The bag certainly smells fragrant, like a bowl of dried fruit. There are notes of blueberry, raspberry and apricots. The pieces are mostly spherical and glossy dark chocolate. Some were more like disks, about the size of an M&M.
Inside each piece were one or two little pods of this fruit juice pieces. It’s a grainy little “not quite jelly” bit. They’re quite fruity, to the point where some actually had a slight bitter note to them, like the membrane of a pomegranate can impart. The chocolate is smooth and has a good woodsy cocoa note that stands up well to the fruit.
As I mentioned in my original review of the Powerberries, these are a little strange but quite compelling. Though the actual name isn’t quite as exciting and the price is slightly higher than Trader Joe’s, they’re still a fun change of pace for chocolate. I wouldn’t necessarily say that they’re a health food, though the package stresses that there are 100 mg of flavanol antioxidants in each 42 gram serving (20% of your vitamin C as well), I’d say eat them because you like them. There are certainly more nutrients in here than the standard M&Ms, but the key is always to practice moderation.
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
I picked up the Cadbury Wunderbar at a grocery store. I’ve actually seen them in the United States, heck, I’ve even bought them before, but they were always kind of melted and broken. This one looked lovely and in good condition. Wunderbar is a great name for a candy bar, it works on a couple of levels. First, it’s unique and a bit of a play on words because it sounds like Wonder Bar. But the German word Wunderbar (pronounce that w like a v) means Marvelous!
The front of the package doesn’t do much to illuminate what’s inside though. It just calls it A peanut butter caramel experience. The back, in teensy print, says crispy peanut bar with caramel and cocoa containing coating. Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a bar with a less appealing description, probably because it ends with some sort of comedic euphemism for mockolate (because of the alliteration of the K sounds).
I don’t want to think too much about this bar. It’s a candy bar and it’s supposed to be transiently pleasing. So I’m prepared for just that.
The coating was pretty good for mockolate, a little soft but not at all waxy. Smooth enough to not be grainy but not so great at the melt in your mouth creaminess. The flavor was okay, more milky than chocolatey but mostly it tasted like peanuts.
The center of the bar was like someone had chopped up the center of Butterfinger bar and mixed it in with some Chex cereal then reformed it into a log and coated it. That’s really not a bad idea and it does work. There’s a bit of a softer caramel in there as well, that keeps it all soft and crumbly. There are little shards of peanut butter toffee stuff, too.
I wanted more peanut flavor, but it wasn’t overly sweet and had a little hint of salt as well.
Really it just left me wanting a Clark Bar. But I admire it for not being another Clark/Butterfinger/Fifth Avenue knock-off. It’s more munchable and certainly less messy. It’s also huge, at 1.9 ounces and about six inches long. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it marvelous, since it would be better with real chocolate. So I’ll just call it Tempting (6 out of 10).
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Yes, I’m the type of person who eats sugar straight. Mostly brown sugar, but sometimes raw sugar and of course honey. Then there’s maple sugar. That’s a kind of sugar that’s actually marketed in little molded shapes to be eaten straight by non-sugar-obsessed folks.
Big Sky Brands of Canada is known for their little compressed sugar candies like Jones Soda Carbonated Candies and Yogen Fruz Smoothies. Their new Maple Ice Mints Original are far more subtle and dare I say, elegant.
The tin is rather ordinary but does the job. It has all the convincing faux wood grain of a early 1980s station wagon. It’s about 3.25 inches long and 1.75 inches wide.
Inside the tin are 30 little mints, each is about the size of an extra strength aspirin. They have a small maple leaf on one side. They smooth but leave a little powdery residue. They smell woodsy and sweet, like maple. The ingredients list both cane sugar and maple sugar, the color of them is a light sandy white and since there are no artificial colors in there, I’m guessing that’s the maple sugar that does that.
They’re sweet and have a light fresh mint hint far in the back, but mostly they’re a soft maple flavor. The great thing about the maple flavor is that it’s not sticky like the syrup and other sugar candies.
The problem with them is the price, I suppose. They were about $2 for less than an ounce. It’s tough in a Tic Tac and Altoids world to sink twice as much money into these. They’re not minty enough for me to consider them a mint, in that mints are consumed one or two at a time and then set aside for another day. Nope, I wanted to eat the whole box of them at once. I succeeded in eating them in three separate sittings. They still leave my mouth fresh and were wonderful with tea or just as a little delight in the middle of computer frustrations.
The package doesn’t say anything about the gluten status or nuts but they do appear to be all natural and probably vegan. (There’s calcium stearate in there, but I’ve never seen a candy that uses an animal source for the ingredient since the vegetable version is so cheap.)
Monday, November 01, 2010
Life Savers were introduced in 1912 by Clarence Crane. They came in one flavor, Pep-O-Mint. Crane made chocolate most of the year but wanted a candy product that could withstand the summer heat and have a long shelf life. So he innovated the Life Saver. At first he was just trying to create a mint disk, similar to a Necco Wafer. But the pill maker he took his contract to had trouble making a plain, thick disk that didn’t fall apart. So they put a little hole in the center to stabilize the production. The look of the little white hoop of candy reminded Crane of the life saver found on boats, so that’s what he named the mint.
Within a could of years Crane sold the company and rights to Life Savers to Edward John Noble who saw the great potential of the candy. They were sold in little cardboard tubes, he streamlined things and packaged them like they’re sold today, in a roll wrapped in waxed paper and foil with a little paper label.
Noble was an excellent salesman and introduced techniques to his clients, such as telling them to make sure that customers always had at least one nickel in their change and to display the rolls on the counter by the cash register. Life Savers were positioned as an impulse buy. Early packages were all one flavor and consisted of the standard mints (wintergreen & spearmint), cinnamon, violet and even licorice. It wasn’t until 1935 that Life Savers in the Five Flavor roll came out.
In the late 1968s Noble sold the company to E.R. Squibb Corporation (yes, the drug people that later became Bristol-Meyers Squibb who make Plavix and Coumadin) and then they sold to Nabisco Brands Inc in 1981. Nabisco in turn was taken over by Kraft in 2000 and Kraft sold their candy interests including Life Savers off to Wrigley’s in 2004. Wrigley’s was acquired by Mars in 2008.
Life Savers Pep-O-Mint themselves are simple. A little loop of compressed sugar with some strong peppermint flavoring. It’s all held together with a dash of stearic acid. There are 14 in the standard rolls these days.
Instead of the smoothness of a boiled candy mint, these have a little bit of a chalky texture to them. They’re not as grainy as Altoids (and not as strong) but they’re not as airy and melt-in-your-mouth as Buttermints or After Dinner Mints.
It’s quite a simple little candy. I like to crunch them, but they also dissolve slowly if you’re patient. I’m not patient and can crunch through a whole roll on a drive home from work.
Just as Life Savers have gone through plenty of owners, the wrappers have been designed, redesigned and undesigned time and again. The packages I’ve featured in this review are from the new “throwback” release of the Pep-O-Mint and Wint-O-Green rolls that are available in convenience stores. (Here’s one article about the most recent redesign shortly before Mars acquired Wrigley’s.) Here are some more photos of the different designs & flavors of Life Savers over the years.
I like the classic look of these packages, but really it’s the size and shape that probably compels me. It’s the one consistent item no matter what year it is.
Wint-O-Green Life Savers were introduced in 1919. They’re probably best know because of the cool feature that you can create a luminescent spark when crunching a Wint-O-Green Life Saver. (I can’t capture it with a camera, but here’s a guy who has.)
They’re smooth but quite aromatic. After eating about half a roll I tend to get a strange numbness, like Cepacol or other topical anesthetics can cause. It’s not all about medicine and therapy though, it reminds me of classic Bazooka Bubble Gum and Root Beer soda.
I don’t really like the smell of wintergreen that much, because of some of the more unpleasant associations with pain relieving rubs, but I do like the strange tingly flavor and how different it is from the standard peppermint or spearmint.
Both flavors are classics and still made in the classic way, though now in Canada where sugar is cheaper. I’m glad Wrigley’s hasn’t mucked around with anything aside from the packaging.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
The Nestle Aero line is a fun sort - it’s aerated chocolate. That means that air bubbles are trapped in the chocolate, making it light and fluffy, kind of like chocolate pumice. This is rather foreign to us here in the US where aerated chocolate isn’t that common. Europe Cadbury has a whole Wispa and Diary Milk Bubby line of products and they’re also popular in Israel where Elite makes some bars.
The Aero 70% Cocoa bar was a little more expensive than some of the imports I find, I paid $2 for mine, though in Canada, where these are from, they might be more reasonably priced. It’s five inches long and 1/75 inches across making it seem like a large bar. It only weighs 1.41 ounces, which is a great portion for chocolate but at this size it looks large but feels a bit puffy. Well, that’s because it is. The wrapping is simple and elegant. There’s a lot of info on the bar but they balance it well with the bubbly graphic elements and the matte paper keeps it from being too chaotic.
Inside the foil wrapper, the bar is nicely molded, the shape is great and does a great job of highlighting the bubbly attributes while still making it easy to portion. The bubbles vary in size, but are consistently distributed throughout the bar - no solids spots.
The bite is easy and doesn’t flake or crumble. The scent is odd, almost alcoholic - like whiskey with hints of tobacco and cedar. The chocolate flavors are similarly woodsy and rich with just a hint of tannic cherries. The melt is creamy and slick. It’s amazing how good this is for a Nestle bar. Like all the best things about Nestle Chocolate Morsels, but even creamier.
The nutrition label was kind of shocking. The reason the melt was so smooth was the level of dreamy cocoa butter in the bar - it has one of the highest calorie counts per ounce of a whole chocolate product: 169. There are 16 grams of fat in here, but also 4 grams of fiber, 21 grams of sugar and finally 3 grams of protein. There’s a shocking 35% of the Canadian RDA of iron & 25% of the magnesium. The front of the package also says that there are 500 mg of polyphenols. The ingredients are also simple and easy to understand: cacao mass, sugar, cocoa, cocoa butter, soy lecithin & natural flavor.
I happened to have some of the Bubble Chocolate 60% Dark bar around to compare it to, and the Nestle Aero is surprisingly richer and smoother. I ate the whole bar and would probably buy it again if I saw it - it’s my favorite of the aerated bars I’ve had.
Thursday, June 03, 2010
Tic Tacs are the world’s #1 selling breath mint. (Though really, only two of the current five regular flavors are mints, the rest are fruity.) They’ve been made in dozens of flavors and color combinations over the years, these new flavors are pretty ordinary but then again probably necessary.
They’re both exceptionally summery colors - bright green and aqua blue.
The samples I got were in the “Big Pack” which isn’t really that big, all things considered in the realm of candy portions. They’re one ounce of Tic Tacs in a clear plastic dispenser.
A few years ago Ferrero introduced Tic Tac Bold! They were stronger versions of Tic Tacs and came in translucent instead of clear plastic containers. They were good - obviously stronger than the regular Tic Tacs and meant to compete with Altoids. But the texture was different and they didn’t catch on.
This new Power Mint Tic Tac comes in the same packaging as the other Tic Tacs, which is great as far as I’m concerned since there’s no need to put them in a different box.
The blue color is inviting, though unnecessary. The regular white Freshmint has a light start with a vague anise note. The Powermint starts out that way as well, though goes to a strong peppermint much quicker. The mint is very strong, one Tic Tac goes a great job of powering through coffee breath. They’re not terribly sweet or chalky, just a quick chew to disperse the minty flavor. Sucking on them, they still dissolve the same however I got a very strong blast of mint there in the initial layers that burns.
Green Apple Tic Tac are surprising first of all because I thought there were green apples all along.
The texture starts with the same slick, smooth and cool shell. Then it gets a little tangy and a little flavorful underneath. I had especial trouble just letting these dissolve, I had to crunch them. The green apple flavor is exactly what you’d expect from a fake fruit. It’s sweet, chemical and lightly tangy. There’s no weird aftertaste but also not much freshening power to it. They don’t go with a lot of foods, like mint or coffee. But after an onion bagel, this might be a nice break.
Neither are my favorite Tic Tacs. I prefer the classic Freshmint and miss Cinnamon.
Friday, April 09, 2010
It’s so frustrating when I know that there’s a candy out there I want to try but I just can’t get a hold of it. The Pink Grapefruit Tic Tac have been around for a couple of years, but as far as I knew they were sold only as a “big pack” and only at WalMart.
I’ve been scouring eBay and the discount dollar stores ever since, hoping they’d turn up. Thankfully last weekend I found them at the 99 Cent Only Store - and for only 59 cents a package. I bought two, because I knew I’d love them.
The box holds exactly one ounce, which sounds like a single portion to me, the way I eat Tic Tacs. (I eat them like they’re candy.)
They’re a beautiful shade of pink (carmine but at least the ingredients are all natural). They don’t smell like much, but they sound great in the package when I shake it.
They’re soft and smooth, a little slick on the tongue at first. Then they give up the flavor. The grapefruit is a good zesty blast, especially after the pink outside coating comes off. It’s tangy but I wouldn’t call it sour. I usually chew mine, so I was getting a big dose of grapefruit. It’s pretty intense if you eat a lot of them in a row since they use real dry pink grapefruit juice. In fact, after about half the package it was making my tongue vibrate a little bit from the citrus oils. There’s also a little bit of a mentholated after taste, it doesn’t really make them minty, but it does make my breath feel fresher when I inhale.
I would definitely buy these on a regular basis if I can find them reliably.
I saw that Ebidebby found them and Candy for Dinner also The Candy Enthusiast had the Citrus Punch Limited Edition version that included Pink Grapefruit.
Ferrero has changed the packaging just slightly. The old polystyrene that made such a satisfying rattling sound is gone and now they’re using polypropylene which cuts energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions. Of course it’s also important to reuse and then recycle the packaging when you’re done. The polypropylene is a little softer so the candy boxes don’t crack as easily as they used to. Do you have any tips on what to do with the boxes when you’re done?
Friday, April 02, 2010
They’re also crazy cheap, most of the time a theater box like this that holds 7 ounces is just a buck. When I looked at the flavors on this box I was a little confused about what made these an Easter version besides the box (Mike and Ike come in holiday boxes that are the exact same candy). The flavors are Blueberry, Lemon, Lime, Cherry and Orange. The flavors of the classic Dots box are Strawberry, Lemon, Lime, Cherry and Orange. So in this version the Strawberry has been swapped for Blueberry.
These were very fresh. Tootsie does a good job of sealing up the boxes well and Dots have a clear cellophane overwrap.
Once I opened the box I found out the big difference, it’s the color. Easter Dots are bright and opaque little nubbins.
Well, maybe there was another difference. These seem to be just as smooth but have a “shorter” chew to them, so they didn’t stick to my teeth like Dots usually do. I liked the freshness of the flavors, though it’s a little bland it’s also soothing. The blueberry was pretty convincing though I wish that one replaced the cherry instead of the strawberry.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Divine Milk Chocolate Speckled Eggs are all natural and fair trade milk chocolate eggs with a candy shell.
They’re freakishly expensive at $4.99 for 3.5 ounces, far more than I’d be willing to pay on a regular basis. I really only bought them because I’d been searching so hard for them it seemed weird to find them and then get decide they were too expensive. The chocolate is made from beans from the Kuapa Kokoo cocoa cooperative in Ghana. Seems like Easter is one of those holidays where folks may want to pay more attention to the social responsibility behind the treats.
The stand up box is charming. Inside is a little clear cellophane bag with a little more than a handful of eggs.
They’re very similar to Cadbury Mini Eggs. The shape is more football than pear. They beautiful muted colors and a matte finish.
The shell is smooth and softly decorated. The shell is quite thick and crunchy. The chocolate inside has a silky melt, a little sticky with a good caramelized dairy note. I liked them a lot and will probably buy them again next year. Hopefully they can be found in larger packages for better value. (Also, Whole Foods could do a better job of putting them where people can find them. I went to three different stores and it wasn’t until the fourth circuit of the one at 3rd & Fairfax that I found them - even after asking a stockperson.)
Rating: 7 out of 10
I liked the box a lot, it was easy to tell apart from the regular Sour Patch offerings. The only quibble is really the packaging. Like many theater box candies, inside the box the candy is inside a plain cellophane bag. As I mentioned above, the Dots are just tumbling around in the box and there’s a cellophane seal on the outside. For this version I have to open the box top completely to get the bag out, dump the candy into the box and then I’m faced with an opening that is really too large for dispensing.
They’re a little lighter in color compared to the Sour Patch Kids. Honestly, I prefer this. They’re colored enough that I can tell them apart and guess the flavor and that’s really all I need. Other than that, the shape was so vague, unless you told me these were bunnies I wouldn’t have known. Pink is the classic Swedish Fish flavor with a tangy coating. Green is lime, yellow is lemon and orange is orange. A biting sour coating, a chewy sweet jelly candy in the center ... they’re great.
Rating: 7 out of 10
The rabbit is similar to the white chocolate one I tried last year (and didn’t like that much, so I wonder why I was curious about this one). It’s a peanut butter coating (like peanut butter baking chips) with a peanut butter filling.
The three ounce flat rabbit is nicely molded. The butterscotch color is also really appealing. It smells like vanilla pudding and peanut butter. The coating though is a bit waxy and stiff, it melts but not in a dreamy way that good white chocolate does. But it’s not too sweet, which is a relief as well. The filling is a crumbly peanut butter with a salty note and a dry grainy crunch. I kind of got into it. I’d prefer it in a smaller format though, maybe one of the smaller eggs they do.
Rating: 6 out of 10.
They’re only 99 cents for a generous 9 ounce bag. Even at that bargain price, they’re not much of a deal. They’re pretty enough to look at and probably decorate with, but they’re inconsistent in flavor and execution. I also resent not knowing what’s inside. It’s not like the bag is tiny and has no room for information like the flavor array.
White is pineapple. It’s sweet and floral but bland. Green is lime and rather strong but lacking zest. Purple is grape and is utterly stupid ... seriously, it tastes like sweet stupidity. Black is licorice. All of the black ones seemed to be smaller than the other jelly beans. Still, they were tasty and well done. Pink is bitter and just dreadful. Perhaps it’s strawberry. Red is not as bitter but still dreadful. Orange is sweet and empty. Finally there’s yellow, which is actually pretty good, it’s like a sugared lemon peel.
Rating: 4 out of 10
I was hoping for rich flavors, but of course I know Brach’s well enough that I really won’t be getting much more than a decent looking product. The bag doesn’t promise much more than a good value, so I should probably adjust my expectations.
Red is a mild cinnamon, not as good as Hot Tamales and kind of tinged with some of the mint notes, but still pleasant like a cup of spiced chai. White is peppermint. I have to say that a peppermint jelly bean is a little odd especially since it’s so grainy but still fresh tasting. Pink is wintergreen which I really love except when there’s too much food dye like this one that has a weird bitter clove & plastic aftertaste - but at moments it’s kind of like root beer. Purple is clove and is actually mild enough for me to enjoy though true clove lovers will probably be disappointed. Orange is sweet and again lacking in any pizazz. Black is again licorice and pretty good (though it makes my tongue dark green).
I think the problem is that I’ve already had some pretty good spice jelly beans from Hot Tamales (Just Born) and there’s really no need to switch brands, the price is comparable, availability is the only issue.
Rating: 5 out of 10
POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:17 pm All Natural • Candy • Review • Easter • Brach's • Cadbury • Divine Chocolate • Farley's & Sathers • Russell Stover • Tootsie • Chocolate • Ethically Sourced • Jelly Candy • Licorice Candy • Peanuts • Sour • 4-Benign • 5-Pleasant • 6-Tempting • 7-Worth It • Canada • United Kingdom • United States • Rite Aid • Target • Walgreen's • Comments (8)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.