Friday, September 11, 2015
I’m a big bubble gum fan, though not much of a chewer. I’m a purist, I like my bubble gum to be the traditional bubble gum flavor. I saw this Cotton Candy Bubblicious at the beginning of summer, though, and thought it was a splendid idea for a gum flavor.
The pieces are ridiculously blue, the package design is wonderfully summery, and it all smells like an air freshener designed for a child’s room.
The lightly strawberry sweet scent is strong enough that I new which room I’d left this package in without even looking. It’s not chemically or unappealing, though it doesn’t necessarily smell like food.
The pieces were easy to open from the little paper wrappers and soft. The easy chew was very sweet with less of the strawberry or cotton candy notes and more of just a clean sweeteness.
However, as the sugar in the chew dissipated, I was left with the taste of the gum base, which is rather like some door mats I got at Ikea. It’s just a touch of asphalt with the berry. The longer I chewed, the more that note came out, until I was pretty sure it was a sign that the whole thing had turned into a big tar ball. Nope, when I took it out of my mouth, it was just a piece of blue gum.
So, if you’re looking for some room freshener that looks like blocks of sidewalk chalk that you’re not going to chew, these are great. But even for the type of person who chews the gum until the sugar is gone, the awful aftertaste is too much.
Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Now that I’ve purchased the full set, I’ve noticed the packaging for the line. It’s an odd design style. The HELLO line is a very friendly, with that hipster coffee-house style mix of hand printing and script. The embossed Lindt logo, on the other hand, is old-world elegance. The rest of the package is just an image of the product. In this case it’s a bowl of toffee bites and some pieces of toffee (I know, the photo makes it look like they might be pats of butter). Each of the packages for the HELLO Bites has a different metallic color on the top band. For the toffee, it’s bronze, for the mint it was green and for the pretzel line, it’s a light blue (which is consistent with the M&Ms Pretzel which is also blue).
The pieces a little on the small size, mostly the size of a garden pea. The milk chocolate is very light in appearance, like the Minty Bites, there’s no indication of the cacao content. The coating is very creamy, with no detectable waxy glaze to interrupt the immediately melty chocolate.
The chocolate to toffee ratio is very balanced, so there’s enough of both to give full flavor development and texture. The toffee is crispy and has a good crunch. There’s a hint of butter and a touch of salt with some good toasty flavors to balance it. The milk chocolate has a lot of dairy notes, but not so much of the dried milk flavors that I don’t care for in a lot of Swiss-style milk chocolates.
These are easy to munch but also such high quality that it’s fun to savor them as well ... the chocolate has a delightful melt and the consistency of the toffee is great if you’re a cruncher or a dissolver. The key here is that this is a simple item that can be done poorly with cheap ingredients and no attention to detail ... instead Lindt has delivered an excellent product and actually surpassed my expectations.
Friday, September 4, 2015
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are the most successful cup-based candy in North America (I just made up that statistic, but I’m pretty sure it’s right). In this episode Maria and I talk about the essential elements of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and their other product extensions.
Thursday, September 3, 2015
I picked up the Pumpkin Spice Latte, though I admit I was a little confused about how different this was from the Pumpkin Spice Milk Chocolate M&Ms from 2013.
It’s always a little odd to pick up “seasonal” items when I live in Los Angeles. The package here shows the brown M&M all bundled up with steamy drink. It was 96 degrees in the shade when I got back to my car with the purchase (it’s also hot in a lot of other places around the country, it was still August when these hit the shelves).
The pieces are large, as all of the specialty flavors lately have turned out to be. They come in orange, cream and dark brown. (The earlier 2013 Pumpkin Spice were orange, green and dark brown.)
The ingredients list no specifics about the flavors, there are no lists of spices and definitely no actual pumpkin or coffee. What I expected to be different about this variety is more of the latte beverage experience. So, I’m hoping for creamy milk notes, maybe some espresso and of course the spice mix known as pumpkin.
The flavor combination here is immediately cinnamon with a touch of coffee and chocolate. The spices are warm, but not very evenly balanced, it’s almost all cinnamon and not much in the way of nutmeg or ginger. The coffee notes keep it from being as sweet as some others, though it’s a little inconsistent. The chocolate itself is grainy and not terribly creamy. In general the chocolate quality on M&Ms is disappointing as a chocolate item, but fine as a candy.
I’m a little confused how this whole coffee craze can come about and there are no coffee M&Ms, but some how a beverage that includes coffee can actually get the M&M treatment.
Monday, August 31, 2015
Lindt has expanded their friendly HELLO line of chocolates with a handful of panned products. The Lindt Hello Minty Bites come in a stand up bag that holds 5.3 ounces. They’re pretty much the most expensive chocolates you can buy at Target, but also a very reliably good brand of chocolate.
I picked up mine on sale for $4 a bag, though they’re usually about $4.50. The package does a good job of vaguely describing the product: Dark Chocolate Covered Mint Cubes (natural flavor). But the description on the front, the propaganda on the back, and the images do noting to show what the product actually is. I assumed they were a fondant center, like Junior Mints or York Peppermint Patties. Instead, they are unique, which is a good thing to set them apart from other offerings, but also took a bit to get used to.
The dark chocolate coating is glossy and creamy and pretty thick. The chocolate is not very dark, there’s no percentage on the package and does have added milk fat and milk. The pieces are not completely spherical; they’re more oblate like M&Ms. The centers are like a jelly. They’re made from sugar, apple, pineapple fibers, sodium alginate, green tea extract, dicalcium phosphate, citric acid and natural mint. Can you imagine that? Yeah, it’s a little weird.
The center reminds me a little bit of the Brookside fruit pieces, but they’re a little grainy. The flavor is only lightly minty and rather authentically like mint leaves. But there’s a tangy component ... so the effect is like a mojito, a little citrusy and a little minty.
I don’t know what to think of them. I didn’t love the, but I had no trouble eating the package eventually. The chocolate is ridiculously smooth and creamy, but after eating Brach’s & M&Ms chocolates for so long, sometimes I forget that chocolate in these types of candies can actually be really good. Of the three varieties of Hello Bites, these are the only ones with a dark chocolate coating (the others are Toffee Bites and Pretzel Bites), which is what I usually prefer. If you’re the type of person who likes the Brookside Fruits or Trader Joe’s Powerberries, these might be something you’d like.
Lindt’s new Hello Bites line is made in the USA. Most other Lindt products (at least the ones that I’ve reviewed) are made in Germany. Though the front of the package says natural flavor, there are artificial flavors (vanillin) and other ingredients like sodium alginate and dicalcium phosphate - they’re not necessarily “artificial” but not necessarily ordinary.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Brach’s has introduced over a dozen flavors of Candy Corn in the past five years. There are the more traditional flavors like Harvest Corn and Pastel Corn, but also some more trendy flavors like Carrot Cake, Caramel Macchiato and Red Velvet.
Though I find myself a purist when it comes to certain candies, I think that the fondant candies are ripe for this sort of flavor exploration. I also think a lot more could be done with shape. I’m not sure why we’re hung up on the layered corn. Perhaps it’s just economical to use the same mold for all new variations and use color to distinguish them. So, I welcome these new Candy Corn shaped flavor experiences.
Last spring Ferrara Candy announced the new Brach’s Peanut Butter Cup Candy Corn and I was immediately intrigued. It’s a great idea, peanut butter cups are already layered and the flavors might translate well. Might.
The pieces look like a lot of other Brach’s candy corn pieces. They’re large and narrow and have a little notch that goes across the bottom layer and the middle of the center layer. The layers appear to be distinctive flavors, the base is cocoa, the center beige is peanut and the top is “white.”
The candy corn has an odd but convincing peanut aroma. It smells more like boiled peanuts than roasted peanuts, there’s a thinness about the scent that becomes more obvious when I ate them.
The ingredients list no peanuts or peanut butter. The only thing close is some sesame oil. There is cocoa in the ingredients list, in fact it’s the third item after sugar and corn syrup. I guess the peanuts are all in the natural and artificial flavors. I actually assumed they used defatted peanut powder in this, but sadly no.
The peanut layer is bland and has an artificial butter note to it and a sort of diluted peanut flavor, kind of like a cheap frosting. The cocoa base is decent and at least isn’t as sweet as the other layers.
I didn’t despise the Peanut Butter Cup Candy Corn, but I didn’t find it as good as I thought it could be. It’s still munchable, just not terribly distinctive. Throw it in with some popcorn or nuts for a snack, and it becomes more than passable.
Monday, August 24, 2015
The Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Caramels (and their Milk Chocolate siblings) are a rather pedestrian extension of the Hershey’s brand. They’re sold in either a pair of caramels in a single package or a stand up bag of something less than a half a pound. The price point makes you think that this is a premium product, I paid $4.29 for 7.2 ounces.
The packaging looks nice and does a good job of protecting the freshness and attractiveness of the product, but it’s maddeningly hard to open. Each caramel is individually wrapped and of the 13 or so pieces in the bag, I was able to open two without the aid of scissors. I can only assume that this is to either help with portion control or help the consumer work off some extra calories wandering around the house trying to figure out where the good scissors went.
My frustrations with the wrappers were ameliorated by the fact that every single caramel was gorgeous. They’re lovely rounded squares with a lightly domed top of thick dark chocolate. (Well, I don’t know how dark it actually is, the ingredients only call it semi-sweet and it contains milk fat.)
They smell nice, a mixture of brownies and hot chocolate. The bite is easy and soft, but not a runny caramel like the Cadbury Caramello bar. The caramel has an excellent smooth texture and good stringy pull, but it’s not quite stiff enough to satisfy me. The chocolate is passable, smooth and not chalky, and not too sweet.
The whole experience is lacking something, perhaps I’m spoiled by my comparably priced Trader Joe’s Butterscotch which strike me as a far better deal both because the price is better, the ingredients are a bit clearer and of course they taste fantastic or the far easier to find Storck Chocolate Riesen. I don’t see Hershey’s new product line surviving in the long run, they’re just not distinctive enough.
These caramels are made in Mexico and are made on equipment that also processes macadamia nuts, almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts. Contains soy and milk. There’s no mention of gluten.
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Maria and I discuss that fruity stuff that some people call Red Licorice or Twizzlers or Red Vines. It’s actually extruded starch gel, but probably needs a better name than that.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.