Wednesday, August 23, 2006
There’s a favorite candy here in the United States, it’s called M&Ms ... or maybe they’re called M&Ms, I’m never quite sure about how to make implied plurals singular.
M&Ms are not unique, they have a similar candy product in the UK and other former parts of the crown called Smarties. And of course there are plenty of knock-offs, including Hersheyettes, Jots, Rocklets, Sun Drops and Garfield’s Chocobites. There are quite a few legends about how M&Ms and Smarties were invented, but suffice to say that they exist and that’s the important part.
Milk Chocolate M&Ms
You’re not crazy, they were once called Plain M&Ms, but in 2000 they shifted their name to Milk Chocolate M&Ms.
A little bit of trivia and history. The Ms in M&M stand for Forrest Mars and R. Bruce Murrie. Forrest Mars left his fathers candy company and partnered with Murrie to create the M&M. It took some help, which came from Murrie’s father, who ran the Hershey Chocolate company at the time. The technology behind the manufacture of M&Ms and even the chocolate itself came from Hershey’s factories. In the 60s Mars starting making their own chocolate and no longer needed to order it from Hershey.
Red M&Ms were discontinued in 1976 because of a scare with a food dye called Red Dye #2 (which was not used in M&Ms). At that time the colors in the M&M pack were: Green, Orange, Yellow, Light Brown & Dark Brown. The Red M&M returned in 1985, at first as part of the Holiday color mix then in the regular mix.
Overwhelmingly consistent in size, which is a credit to M&Ms production line choosing peanuts that are all the same size. The crunchy candy shell and slightly smoky tasting nuts combine well but overshadow the chocolate a smidge. But the chocolate provides a mellow sweetness and a creaminess during the final stages of chewing. I do get a bad peanut every once in a while, but usually not one every bag.
M&Ms were not a blazing success when they were launched, though they were well received. The trick for Mars was to figure out how to reach both their intended consumers (children) and the decision makers (parents). M&Ms were initially sold to the military during WWII, but Mars thought they were the perfect kids candy. Kids loved them, they just couldn’t convince their parents to buy them. It wasn’t until they hit upon their slogan, “melts in your mouth, not in your hands” that parents caught on that it was a less messy chocolate candy for kids. The rest is history.
Really, this is the perfect M&M, as far as I’m concerned. They almonds might not be top notch as they’re often small, but they’re fresh and crunchy and provide a good backdrop to the very sweet and slightly grainy chocolate.
Peanut Butter M&Ms
These are very nice and satisfying, but I find them a little greasy and smoky tasting.
One of the interesting bits of trivia about M&Ms Peanut Butter is that there was a large lawsuit between Hershey & Mars when they first came out. Hershey accused Mars of trying to make them look like Reese’s Pieces - the packaging was the same color, the format of the bag, the type was in brown, etc. Now you’ll notice that the color is slightly shifted away from the Reese’s Orange (tm) to a reddish color.
The look of these is terribly inconsistent, which strikes me as a little odd since you’d think they’d have more control over how big the crisp centers are than peanuts. The colors also weren’t quite the same, the green was a little light and the red was a little thin looking. I wasn’t able to find the American Crispy M&Ms, so I bought some Canadian ones. So the chocolate on these is slightly more milky tasting, which is an interesting, malty complement to the crispy center. A little sweet, a little bland.
Dovetailing with the earlier issue with Reese’s & Peanut Butter M&Ms, you’ll notice that the Crispy M&Ms are positioned to rival the Nestle Crunch Bar, which is really all they are, a little Crunch bar in a shell. The light blue and use of the Red M&M echoes the Nestle Crunch colors.
Dark Chocolate M&Ms
These have a smoky and darker flavor than the milk M&Ms, but also a little note of coconut. The ingredients also list skim milk, milkfat and lactose, so I’m not sure how they’re considered “dark chocolate.” They’re gorgeously shiny and consistent, so consider me tempted when they’re sitting in front of me. There’s currently an additional reward of 2 million Dark M&Ms being offered for the return of The Scream.
White Chocolate M&Ms “Pirate Pearls” (Limited Edition)
Yup, white chocolate in a candy shell. They’re nice enough, but just too sweet for me. They’re okay when you eat them in combination with other M&Ms (especially the Dark ones), but I’m not sure I’ll buy these again and I won’t protest if they don’t end up as a permanent item.
Other versions of M&Ms over the years: Dulce de Leche (2001), Mega (still around), Minis (still around), Spec-tacular Eggs (seasonal), Mint (seasonal) and of course many color promotions and movie tie ins. Then there are other M’azing things done with them that I’ve never gotten on board with.
There has never been an M&Ms gum ... but I’m not saying it won’t happen.
Have you had enough of M&Ms? If not, check out these scans of knock-offs, Brad Kent’s wrapper collection (you’ll have to search for M&Ms to find them all), how they’re made, some more history, Candy Critic’s M&M Destruction Project, a Century of Candy Bars (there are pictures of M&Ms wrappers through the years) and if you’re still obsessed, join the M&M Collectors Club (they collect the merchandise, not the actual candies).
The product line gets a 9 out of 10. I might not like every variety, but they’re a great product and really do make snacking fun.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Jolly Rancher Double Blasts are billed as “flavor-infused powder filled candy.” Each little bag contains a mix of two flavor combos, Chorange (Cherry outside and Orange inside) and Raspilime (Blue Raspberry outside and Lime inside).
Each little candy rod is about the same diameter as a pencil. The color and shape makes them look more like little pegs that you’d use with Tinkertoys than candy, but that didn’t keep me from putting them in my mouth (or from them marking them as a choking hazard for young children). The hard candy outside is nice, it’s tangy and flavorful but not at all like the traditional Jolly Rancher hard candies that have a pliable stickiness to them. Pretty soon, as the candy dissolves, especially around the seams, you start getting a little jolt of the powdered center. The center is the second flavor and is not that strong, but the texture and effect is pretty stunning.
They’re pretty addictive in the sense that each time I ate one, I was trying to either crack them open with my teeth to get to the super-cooled center or suck on the candy so that as much of it as possible had dissolved by the time I got to the powder. In the sense that the flavor combos are tasty, well, I could take them or leave them. I was surprised at how much I liked the Chorange, seeing how the bulk of it is Cherry and the Raspilime was just kind of boring (and my assortment had twice as many Choranges).
I’m hoping they’ll do some other flavor combos, but I’m most interested in the other version of these called Sour Bolt Blasts, which might be more like Zotz and have one flavor through and through.
Of course they still make Zotz, so I could just go find some of those.
These candies were made in Canada.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
I’ve mentioned before of my love of French nougat and Torrones. Part of it nostalgia and part of it is that they’re a really terrific candy. While I was at the All Candy Expo, I was intent on finding a year-round supply of affordable Italian/French-style nougats.
Golden Bonbon is made in Canada with an Italian family recipe (I even met Mr. Mazzucco). They make both soft and crunchy nougats, but I concentrated my tasting efforts on the soft ones because that’s what I prefer. Golden Bonbon boasts of their family’s long experience (three generations) making nougats and use traditional copper bowls and say that half the weight of the nougat is just almonds. Let me tell you, those were some tasty almonds, too.
Almond - nice delicate almond scent and plentiful almonds both whole and pieces in the mix. Only a light touch of honey but very smooth and a slight hint of amaretto.
Orange - I can see the orange bits in the mix and it certainly smells orangey. The orange flavor brings out the honey notes, but the orange rind pieces can be a little tough. But the flavor combinations including the bold orange oils of the zest is really nice.
Cranberry - like the orange, you can see the large pieces of cranberry in here. It has a wonderful dark fruity aroma. The nougat is soft as are the cranberry bits. They add a nice floral, fruity and sour bite to the nougat, but I’m not that wild about it compared to the others.
Maple - the nougat on this one was slightly darker than the stark white of the others and smelled a lot like maple. Sure enough it tastes like maple, with its dark smoky tones and rich sweetness. It goes nicely with the almond and is certainly tasty, but it’s not really what I want in my nougat.
The company says that they have wide distribution in both the USA and Canada and I think I’ve seen them at Cost Plus World Market ... now I need to look closer. I don’t know about the pricing, but if I can find them for less than $20 per pound, I think I may have a new favorite. I would probably stick to the regular almond ... possibly the orange, but I’m kind of curious about the coffee flavor they have too that I didn’t get to sample.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
One of the seminars I attended at the All Candy Expo was about the cardiovascular benefits of chocolate. It was very promising (and I’ll try to have more about that when the study is actually published), and it’s clear that chocolate can be added to a healthy diet. What’s a little strange is the boosting of chocolate to nutritional supplement. Some companies are going with extra dark chocolates and Mars/Dove has their proprietary line of CocoaVia chocolate products.
I’ve already covered that with the Adora Calcium tablets, but Botticelli is going far and above that with their new Choco-Omeg line.
The Choco-Omeg line is built around the linchpin of the Omega-3 Fatty Acids that are found in high concentrations in fish and flax seed. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that are used for the body in maintaining healthy tissues. There is some evidence (both supporting and contradictory) that Omega-3s in higher quantities can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and reduce inflammation.
Even if you take the Omega-3 boost out of these chocolate bites, you’ve got a super-nutritious snack because of the addition of trace minerals and vitamins to the bars.
Choco-Omeg - Calcium Formula - Belgian milk chocolate with cookie bits. Label: Excellent source of magnesium, calcium and vitamin D - supports strong bones & teeth. 50 mg of Omega-3 plus 400 mg of Calcium. (I don’t have the full nutrition label on this one.)
Taste - the milk chocolate here is rather bland and sweet and since it has no additional flavor boost like the others do, it’s kind of ordinary. The cookie bits are nice and I always enjoy a little crunchy texture. I suspect these are here to cover the graininess added by the mega-calcium. The milk chocolate in both varieties is rather American tasting, none of that European dairy flavor.
Choco-Omeg - Memory Formula - Belgian milk chocolate with orange flavor. Label: Source of antioxidants - 50 mg of Omega-3 - Excellent source of 15 essential vitamins & minerals. 55 mg of Choline (essential for brain function, possibly aids in weight loss because of its role in metabolism), 25% of the following: Vitamin A, E, B6, B12, C, Thiamin, Niacin, Folic Acid, Biotin, Zinc and 30% of Riboflavin, Magnesium & Iron. 40% RDA of Calcium.
Taste - really nice orange scent and real orange peel in there. It’s sweet and looks and tastes a little grainy. The flavor isn’t bad. The orange is very strong and doesn’t leave much room for chocolateyness. This one also has a pretty high boost of calcium too, with 40% of your daily value, but without the grit I’ve had in other supplements.
Choco-Omeg - Cardio Formula - Belgian bittersweet chocolate with raspberries. Label: Source of heart healthy B vitamins, lycopene & co-enzyme Q10. 400 mg of Omega-3. Also contains 5 grams of fiber and 10% of the following: B6, B12, Vitamin C, Iron and Folic Acid. A serving is either a 1.27 ounce bar or three of the nuggets shown above.
Taste - it’s different, I’ll tell you that. It smells really raspberry-ish. And upon biting into it, you can see the little flecks of freeze dried raspberries. The chocolate isn’t too sweet and the berries pack a good tart punch to boost the flavor. Of course to pack that much Omega-3 in there, they’ve put in whole flax seeds. If you don’t think too much about it, they’re kind of like raspberry seeds. Lots and lots of raspberry seeds. At first I wasn’t keen on them, but after the fifth or sixth one I got used to them and found the texture and sort of nutty flavor an interesting addition.
Of the three, I think the one that I could see myself eating regularly is the orange Memory formula one with the Cardio second and the Calcium last. I could see myself alternating them, but I know that I would never be able to eat three nuggets a day forever and ever. It’s a large calorie commitment at 180-200 calories, but there’s plenty of nutrition in there, especially if you’re a person on the go and don’t always eat right.
They’re not for sale in the States yet, but they are available in Canada right now (where they’re made). American distribution is expected in the next couple of months, with the price points set at $1.99 each for the bars and $11.99 for the tub of nuggets (30 pieces, 10 servings). It’s a bit steep for candy but on par with most nutrient boosted foods. You’ll find them at drug stores in the nutrition aisle, not with the candy. The Omega-3 blend that they use comes in part from fish, so these are not appropriate for vegetarians.
This is the kind of product where you have to know yourself really well. Are you disciplined enough to eat some candy every day as a supplement, or will you get bored? Or are you just looking for a sometime treat that has a few nutritional boosters in it? The candy chefs have gotten much better at removing the compromises - these do taste pretty good and it’s not just a little extra vitamin C in there, there are some substantial nutrients added. I can see myself picking one of these up for a plane ride instead of a chocolate bar, but not eating the little nuggets every day. It is nice that they offer the different sizes so that you can just try a bar before investing in a whole hex box of nuggets.
It took me a while to decide on the rating for these. I find that I’m eating them, which is a good sign considering how many candies I have to choose from at the moment. But I don’t feel like I’m going to restock when I run out except for the odd bar that I may pick up now and again. They’re a bit tastier than the Adora, but the portion size is larger and of course the calorie tally. I ended up giving them an 8 out of 10. Feel free to argue with me because I think I could go with a 7 out of 10 just as easily.
Finally - if you’re interested in seeing more about this (and probably some other All Candy Expo products) check out the Today show tomorrow morning. Sam, from Botticelli, says that they’re doing a piece on new candy products!
(Wow, this was a really long review.)
POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:30 am
Monday, May 29, 2006
In honor of the Memorial Day Holiday, I thought I’d do a candy that you usually find when you’re at a big summer event. Cotton Candy is one of those treats that I think most of us enjoy on the midway at the fair or other vacation spots. I’ve never bought cotton candy (or candy floss as the Brits and Canadians call it) for home consumption.
Pure Fun’s candy floss has a unique twist - it’s organic and all natural. That’s right, it’s made from pure, organically farmed cane sugar and a touch of natural flavoring/colors. They also make note that it’s vegan, which is kind of funny because I’ve never had cotton candy made with animal products before (I know some vegans take exception to commercially processed sugar because it might be filtered through charcoal that might contain animal bones).
The packaging also bills that there are no trans fats and no cholesterol. Well, I’m sorry, but DUH! I’m not sure who doesn’t know that cotton candy is spun sugar and how could it have any fats - good, bad, trans or otherwise? It’s also low in sodium, why isn’t that on the label? But the important thing is that this 1.5 liter tub contains only 2.12 ounces of sugar. I was watching Unwrapped over the weekend and one segment mentioned that good cotton candy is 80% air. You can eat the whole tub and it’s only 240 calories (all carbs though).
One serving is said to be a quarter of the tub. Which was actually a satisfying amount for me. I’m not sure if you could put a tub like this in front of a kid and expect them to eat only a portion. Of course, I’m not sure how you’d “serve” it otherwise ... take out the scissors and cut off a quarter of it and put it on a plate?
Okay, enough of the snarking. They were nice enough to send me five tubs containing four flavors ... so let’s get to it!
Canadian Maple - this was pure genius! How could there not be a maple cotton candy before now? It’s a natural flavor combo and the taste is insanely good. Woodsy and sweet and of course the texture of the fluffed sugar is sublime. This one had the best texture of the four, ultra smooth and superfine. Since they gave me two tubs of this, I took one next door and everyone thought it was “expletive-deleted-good.” By far this was everyone’s favorite who tried them all (including me).
Root Beer - I was expecting something subtle here, as cotton candy isn’t really known for “flavor” but the root beer here was intense. A good, slight, wintergreen burn after it dissolved kept me eating more and more of it. It’s like a spun root beer barrel!
Licorice - I’m not sure how this is going to go over with other people, but I thought this was an excellent flavor. It smelled a little medicinal, but on the tongue it was great. It was like a black jelly bean, except my tongue didn’t change color and there are no sticky bits stuck in my teeth. It’s a lovely
Bubble Gum - I’d heard about this before and so I saved it for last. It doesn’t smell quite right and looks an awful lot like insulation. A little musty odor combines with the sweet sugar. Holy Moly it’s bad. I don’t know why it’s bad and I’m not sure I want to know, but the taste is off. Bubble gum flavor (as in Bazooka) has always had a little wintergreen hint in my mind and then there are bubble gum flavors that are a little fruity like JuicyFruit ... this was neither. This was just a jumble of bad associations wrapped up in sweet. Pure Fun needs to dump this flavor or seriously reformulate. If I hadn’t read other reviews of this flavor, I would have thought I had a bad batch.
They make one other flavor, Cinnamon, that wasn’t in my assortment, but if it’s as good as the Root Beer, I’m on board. Their website even has recipes for using candy floss as a pie topper, for sundaes and even in martinis.
I don’t think that pure sugar can ever be considered a health food, but without the addition of preservatives, artificial flavors or colors as well as their organic, vegan and Kosher certifications, Pure Fun has removed any trepidation anyone might have for buying a cool and sweet indulgence. The smallish tub also controls portions. I honestly didn’t think I would like this as much as I did, but I’ve found myself sneaking little bits of fluff over the past few days of all three of the good flavors.
The only issue at the moment is where to buy this fluff. They’re not in stores yet (or at least not according to their website) and everyone who has tasted it has found it via a show of some sort (Candy Expo Toronto or Fancy Food Expo). They don’t even sell it directly through their website. I’ll try to post an update when I hear that it’s for sale. I don’t even know what the expected price is for one of the tubs. I’d be willing to pay as much as $4 for it.
UPDATE: I almost forgot, check out the Candy Critic - he’s also gotten a hold of some, and you can see how he does his reviews (which really isn’t that different from how I do mine).
POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:18 am
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
I’m not sure what’s going on with the illustration on this package. That’s a little yellow chick there, and she’s wearing a hat (or it’s a baby rooster in drag). Then there are her shoes. They’re extra wide purple shoes that are obviously orthopaedic. Then I notice she’s carrying some flowers, which I’m sure is her way of trying to curry favor with the kids who tease her on the bus because of her humongo corrective shoes. She tries to keep a brave face and quotes her mother saying that she’s just an ugly duckling that will one day be a beautiful swan. Then the ducklings on the bus remind her that she’s a chicken. Baby farm animals can be cruel.
I’ve always thought of gum like the trick birthday candles of the candy world. You keep chewing and chewing and it doesn’t go away.
These are exactly what you think they are. Little bubble gum balls shaped like eggs and given pretty speckled and jewel colored coats.
They taste like JuicyFruit and the flavor doesn’t last long. It’s possible the different colors are different flavors, but I wasn’t catching any differences, the purple ones seemed a little different, maybe. It takes about three to make a good wad for bubble blowing. It’s not fantastic gum, but they’re extra cute.
My style of chewing gum goes something like this. First, if it’s bubble gum, I’ll put on some lip balm. It helps to keep it from sticking to my lips. Then I pop three pieces and chew it up. When enough sugar is gone, I’ll blow some bubbles. I’m pretty good at it. When it loses its flavor (or sugar) I toss it out and start over again. Some afternoons I go through a box of Chiclets. These little chick eggs were satisfying in that same way, but lack the lasting power of minty freshness.
They’re a nice change of pace, but tomorrow it’s back to Chiclets.
Monday, February 27, 2006
Jolly Rancher hard candies were quite revolutionary when I first had them as a kid. They were full of flavor and came in varieties that other candies just didn’t have. Watermelon and green apple were the absolute best.
It’s about time Jolly Ranchers went chewy. I mean, Starbursts are good and have occupied their fruit flavored niche for years, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t deserve a few options in the candy genre. Okay, these have been out for about five years and I’m a little late in trying them, but Starburst have been around for at least 30.
The good thing about Jolly Ranchers Fruit Chews is that they stuck with what they do best. They didn’t go all orange, lemon and strawberry on us. They went with their strong suit - green apple, watermelon and cherry.
These chews are slightly different from Starbursts. First, they’re larger. Not by much, but a little bigger in each dimension. Second, they’re a different chew. It’s hard to describe, but they’re chewy and have a soft give to them, but there’s a latex quality to them that allows you to chew and chew, almost like they’re gum and they give off lots of flavor, but they don’t seem to get any smaller. Starbursts tend to end up in a little bit of a grainy ball towards the end, these just melt away smoothly. This is a cool feature.
The other great thing about them is that the flavor is there all the way. You keep chewing and chewing and it doesn’t end up as a sweet blob, it ends up as a smaller piece of the same gland tingling flavor that you started with. They’re soft and easy on the teeth.
As an adult I’m less fond of watermelon and green apple than I used to be (and regular readers know I’m not a cherry fan). I don’t know if it’s because they’re a little chemical tasting or I probably used too many Bonne Bell Lipsmackers. I just associate the flavor with being a bumbling pre-adult, hanging out at the pool in the summertime with my bony knees and freckles, perhaps trying to cover up the fact that I always smelled like a mix of chlorine and salami (I worked in a pizza place).
My favorite flavor of Jolly Rancher was the Fire Stix - they were awesome - powerfully strong cinnamon in a smooth, sweet hard candy, and every once in a while you’d hit a fire pocket and get a little jolt. I wish they’d make some chews that tasted like that.
Note: this candy was manufactured in Canada and are not Kosher (those thoughts are not related).
Friday, February 10, 2006
When I was in college I would pick up a quarter pound of mixed color Swedish fish at a little coffee shop on campus. They would put them in a crisp white paper bag and I learned that I had some sort of special power that I could pull out any color on demand without looking. It was like I could see colors with my fingers, or maybe my hands had a nose. Anyway, the best part of this trick was that people would like to see me do it, and I would make them provide the bag of fish. I had a rate of about 80% correct guesses.
This new Aqua Life set makes my old trick irrelevant as this mix has a different shape for each color. Unlike other red flavors that I don’t care for (cherry), the red Swedish fish is something else, I’m guessing loganberry. Also, there are two new flavors/colors in the fish family: blue and purple.
Yellow (Lemon): Starfish
All of the candies were soft and chewy and the flavors were solidly good. They’re smooth, sweet and fragrant without much of a tart bite. They tend to stick to your teeth, but not in a tooth-yanking way. The shapes are also fun and easily identifiable, which makes them fun for kids (as if you really need to do anything to make candy fun for kids).
It’s interesting to note that the Swedish confectioner, Malaco, that originally made these invented them for the American market. Which explains why the fish have “Swedish” stamped on their backs (instead of Swedensk or whatever the Swedish word for Swedish is). They’ve only been around since the mid-seventies, but it’s one of those candies that has a timeless feel to it.
The reason I was drawn to them in the first place is because of my whale watching trips. I’ve been taking little candies with me (we’ve had a lot of kids on the boats lately) which help to calm queasy stomachs. I was hoping to find something that fit with the sea adventure theme and these fit the bill (I’ve been carrying individually wrapped lifesavers as well). If I can find them in bulk, I might buy a pound and carry them in a little ziploc bag so the kiddies can pick their favorite shape.
The package states that these candies were made in Canada by Cadbury Adams but licensed from MalacoLeaf, Sweden. So, are they Canadian fish?
I would have given them a 10, but there were some manufacturing defects in my bag, with some overstamps and some little bits that didn’t seem to belong (extra pieces of orange hanging off the seahorse). These may be a good candy for vegetarians (as long as they’re okay with traces of mineral oil) since there’s no gelatin, just corn starch.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.