Friday, February 17, 2006
There are some candy aficionados who turn up their noses at hard candy. Sure, they might think a candy cane is nice as decoration, but certainly not meant to be eaten and savored. I actually like hard candy a lot. I like Lifesavers (or did until they mucked around with the flavors in the standard five flavor roll), I like starlite mints, lemon drops and I love barley sugar candy. When I saw these at the Japanese market, I was hoping they were barley sugar, though it didn’t say that was part of the ingredients. In fact, I’m not sure what they are except for solidified, cello-wrapped heaven.
These little morsels look like drops of honey. There are two flavors, the golden ones and the darker ones. I have no idea what flavor they are, but the dark ones taste like sweet black iced tea. The lighter ones taste like sweet sugar with a hint of jasmine. The little bottom of them forms a pentagon and has a little hole in it. There are virtually no air bubbles or voids anywhere in the candy, which makes them exceptionally smooth.
The little cones (about one inch tall) fit nicely in the mouth and have no sharpness to them that can cut the roof of your mouth, which has always been the danger with cheap sour balls. These dissolve slowly and release a delicately sweet flavor across your mouth that will linger for hours after you eat them. They’re crunchable too, as I am prone to chewing up my hard candies. The black tea ones (which I’ve already eaten all of) have a strong tea flavor to them with not a hint of bitterness. The sweet aromatic jasmine in the light ones (or whatever flavor it might be) is clean and fresh.
For some reason these were strangely expensive. At $2.29 for a scant three and a half ounces, I’ve gone and gotten myself addicted to some pricey boiled sugar. The brand, Shirakiku, is known as a tea and snack brand in Japan and to many Americans who buy Japanese teas (like my favorite Genmaicha) and those seaweed rice crackers. I have not been able to find anything about this candy anywhere online, though it’s possible that the English word “juntsuyu” isn’t quite accurate (as is often the case with the American labels slapped on the back of these import packages). So if any of my sweet Japanese readers can help me figure out what these are, I’d be ever so grateful.
UPDATE 4/18/07: JBox is now carrying Juntsuyu (at my request, thankee-thankee). For the record, since I did this review I’ve eaten three more bags of these and also put them in the Christmas Stockings last year.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:40 am
Thursday, February 16, 2006
There are a few new red licorice products out lately. Both Twizzlers and Wonka are in on this new explosion, perhaps fueled by Airheads’ new products.
The SweeTarts rope is one of those new products. Kind of like the Twizzler Twerpz, these are a cherry red licorice tube filled with a blue, sour paste which is then dotted with little crunchy Nerd bits.
The texture mix is really interesting. You have the rather bland chew of the licorice, which is soft and clingy. Then you have the soft, frosting-like sour paste that doesn’t have much flavor in it’s own right, but has these little crunchy bits that are powerfully packed with more sour.
I tried eating this several ways. I tried the traditional bite and chew method, which mixed the flavors and textures and variations of sour and sweet very nicely. Then I tried squeezing the rope until the blue sour paste came out. That wasn’t as satisfying because I couldn’t get most of the paste out that way.
I was tempted to find a sharp knife and slit the straw open and scrape out the blue goo ... but then I thought that was a little too evil and I just ate the rest of it the normal way.
The photo on the package of the cross-section shows colored Nerds in there, but I think they kind of dissolve after a while.
I think this is a fun new candy and I’d probably eat it under the right conditions, but in order to get me to buy it again, it’s gotta come in a citrus flavor variation. Given the choice, the Twerpz are gonna win out. I like the filling in those a bit better (it’s more like a Starburst fruit chew).
If you’ve tried them and want to tell Wonka what you think, they have an online feedback survey. This product was manufactured in New Zealand. I don’t think I’ve picked up a Nestle product in a long time that was actually manufactured in the United States. On another strange note, the Rope was rather hard to photograph. Something about its matte texture just sucked the light in and gave it this weird velvety look in the photos. They’re not really that alien looking.
UPDATE 4/5/2009: It appears that the SweeTarts Rope has been discontinued. However, Nestle is introducing a new product called Kazoozles that looks an awful lot like these. Keep an eye out for them.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
I bought this tin of Java Bark on sale just after Christmas from Crate & Barrel. At only $4.50, marked down from $15.00, I couldn’t resist. Besides, I was buying some Mint Cookie Joys, so the shipping was a done deal.
I wasn’t quite sure what Java Bark was going to be, and it’s not quite what I was expecting. I didn’t know if was going to be chocolate or toffee or good. And it was none of those things.
Basically it’s a sweet coffee flavored “chocolate” with chocolate cookie chunks in it sprinkled with a coffee powder and then drizzled with some white chocolate. They’re cut into squares (about 2”) and individually wrapped. Then they’re tucked into a pretty oval tin.
Did I mention the tin is really pretty?
The little plastic wraps are incredibly hard to open for some reason, which leads me to believe that these are not made by Harry London, who made the Mint Cookie Joys, because those little cello sleeves were easy to open.
Once open the squares have a very sweet, coffee smell to them. The “chocolate” has a rather graham flavor to it, a bit grainy and after looking at the label, I see that it’s not really chocolate at all. The cookie bits are firm and crunchy and actually really good, mostly because they add a dash of salt to the sweet and chalky combination. The coffee powder (coffee grounds) gives the whole thing and unpleasant grain but a good boost of flavor.
The nicest thing about these is that I can bring them to work and set the tin out and no one will think I’ve pawning off Christmas candy on them. And that’s just what I’m going to do. I’ve gotta make room for the Valentine’s sale candy.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
There are a lot of new Hershey’s Kisses out. Some of them are natural progressions of the classic milk chocolate morsel. Dark Chocolate and their sassy purple foils are one of those and of course Hugs with their almond centers. Some of the new Hershey’s Kisses sound like pre-existing products in the Hershey’s repertoire. When I heard about the Caramel Kisses, I thought, “Aren’t those just Rolos?”
Rolos have been around in the United States since 1971 and I think I remember their introduction. I also remember some of the other advertising campaigns, including the Rolo song (You can roll a Rolo to your pal/it’s chocolate covered caramel ... you can roll a Rolo to your friend/it’s chocolate covered caramel from end to end). They’ve never held much interest for me, I enjoy eating them with other things, like pretzels or apples, but not just as a treat by themselves.
The Caramel Kisses are soft, flowing caramel in a molded chocolate shell shaped like a Kiss. Rolo is a soft but chewy caramel in a molded chocolate shell shaped like a tall disk.
The chocolate on the Caramel Kiss is sweet and likable, with a fair amount of grain and that inimitable Hershey’s tang to it . The caramel is flowing and sweet with only a slight toasted sugar note to it. The vanilla is rather chemical in nature. They’re a good size and have a good proportion to the elements.
The Rolo has a very sweet chocolate outside, with a fair amount of grain and a sort of “graham” taste to it. The caramel inside is pleasingly soft but not messy and flowing. It’s chewy without pulling on the teeth. It doesn’t have much flavor to it, not much of a toasted sugar note, but it’s smooth and milky. They smell of sugar and fake vanilla.
Frankly, neither of these candies float my boat. I know that in a Head-to-Head the battle is supposed to be fierce and the winner takes a huge prize, but I’m just not fond of either of these candies enough to purchase them again. Instead it’s one of those board games that you start and it gets so complicated or boring that you just agree to wander away.
Monday, February 13, 2006
Sometimes it’s packaging that keeps me coming back to a product line.
I just love these little cans and medallions of chocolate. I’m not fond of the price, but in this case it was a gift. It’s the last of the flavors from Splendid Specialties that I needed to try. Tea is pretty high up there as a flavor in my Pantheon.
The disks of chocolate are wrapped in orange foil and stamped with a little leaf emblem. The chocolate is sweet and milky and has a strong but still soft orange component. The black tea flavors come from actual black tea leaves in the chocolate. These aren’t terribly distracting from the smooth quality of the chocolate but they do provide a fair amount of grit from time to time.
What I appreciate about this combination is that there’s no clove in there. Most orange/tea combos end up with clove in the mix, which I just don’t like.
The tea flavors linger in the mouth in a good way, but I think I still prefer the Jasmine one I tried first last spring. The packaging makes it ideal for carrying on trips because it can’t get crushed easily. Or perhaps put it in a picnic basket - there are six pieces in each little can and it’s resealable. I wish Splendid Specialties would tackle dark chocolate. I think all their flavors would be equally compelling mixed in some smooth and bitter Belgian chocolate. But let’s face it, this is special occasion chocolate, at $3.00 - $3.50 for ounce and a half, I’d rather get a Dagoba bar.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Everyone’s talking about Valentine’s candy. But I thought I’d give you a taste of a few other seasonal treats instead. Yesterday it was candy to watch whales by. Today it’s Olympic candy. A friend of ours, Matt, was working in Torino for the Winter Olympics on the Canadian Pavilion and just returned. He was thoughtful enough to bring back some candy, and this Caffarel Gianduia is “officially” branded Olympics merchandise (it even has a hologram seal!).
These little cuties are packed in a clear cello bag, each piece wrapped in gold foil, marking the Torino 2006 Olympics. The pieces are shaped like little old lady handbags and are about two bites each (or you can put it all in your mouth, don’t let me stop you).
Caffarel is the chocolate of Torino, so it’s a natural fit. And if I do say so, I think this is a sporty chocolate. What I found particularly fascinating while browsing the Caffarel site was the story of how they invented this gianduia chocolate. Back in the 1860s cocoa was rationed, so Caffarel figured out a way to create a chocolatey confection that didn’t feel skimpy. This gianduia contains 28% hazelnuts! The wondrous thing about combining the chocolate with hazelnuts is the soft feel it creates on the tongue. It’s sweet, without masking the chocolate and nut flavors. But very sticky, consider this the Italian version of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.
I was also happy to try these because the last Caffarel bar I had to try had bloomed and I’d heard that this was an excellent Italian brand. I can see why now. Tasting these little morsels has also made me crave their darker sisters called Gianduiotto Fondente, which is made without milk.
If you’ve ever had Ice Cubes and are looking for a more sophisticated version, especially one without the addition of hydrogenated oils, this might be it. Soft, nutty and sweet with that slight cooling sensation that makes me pop another one in my mouth, just to make sure they all do that. It’ll be a sad day in my house when these are gone, and that’ll probably be soon, I can’t risk them melting in this freaky heat wave we’ve got going on in Los Angeles right now.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:40 pm
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.
Thursday, February 9, 2006
I was searching for this bar for a while. I’ve only tried one other milk chocolate bar from Dagoba (the Chai), so I was curious to see what their plain milk chocolate was like without all the other embellishments. But I think that milk chocolate shines well with some textured interest like nuts, so this was next on my list of bars to try. However, I didn’t see it at Whole Foods or Wild Oats. This bar was given to me by Amy, the neighbor.
This bar is milk chocolate (high cocoa solids content at 37%) with hazelnuts and crisped rice.
The Dagoba milk chocolate is insanely smooth. It’s very milky and has a slight floral note to it, maybe orange blossom, but it’s not soapy. It is, however, very sweet. The dairy part of the milk chocolate is a little sticky and tastes like powdered milk, though much better than a Cadbury. The crisps in the bar are fun, but few and far between. I counted three or four per “stick” of the bar. I’m not asking for them to be as dense as a Nestle Crunch, but a little more frequent would be nice. The hazelnuts were similarly scarce, though I think they imparted some of their nutty flavor to the rest of the bar nicely.
I think I wanted more nuts, or maybe something a little more from such an expensive bar. Don’t get me wrong, I love many of the other bars I’ve tried (Roseberry) but this one didn’t quite sing for me. It’s still a solid performer and I wouldn’t turn it down if someone offered it to me, but I doubt I’ll buy it again.
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