Monday, June 1, 2015
Mike and Ike come in a dozen flavor mixes, but every once in a while they put out a variety that is just a single flavor in a box. The new Mike and Ike Root Beer Float is a re-issue of an old flavor that comes back from time to time. Mike and Ike are simple, they’re cheap, they’re a reliable but probably underrated candy.
The box is quaint, though I’m not keen on the “pre-faded” look of packaging meant for food. I want my food to look fresh, at least by design. The other complaint about the box is that there’s a little perforated tab you can push to create a dispensing hole on the side of the box. That hole is on the bottom of the box, right under that Made in the USA logo you see in the lower left corner. There’s no way to close it once you open it. Not a big deal, because Mike and Ike don’t need to be sealed up, unless your environment is particularly humid. However, you can’t stand the box back up like it’s shown here without dumping the candy.
The first thing I noticed is that these are not mousy brown jelly rods. No, these are designed to look like the foamy head on an icy cold Root Beer Float. Well done, Just Born, well done.
The look made me think that these would be more vanilla than root beer, which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, but not quite as appealing. Rest assured, these are Root Beer.
There’s a little tangy note at the top, not quite sour but a little bite. The root beer flavor is pretty good, it has a nice nutmeg note with a little wintergreen and vanilla. The vanilla isn’t strong enough to give me an ice cream vibe, but a mix of both vanilla bean and root beer Mike and Ike might have been a fun idea to play with too.
I liked that the colorings were minimal and didn’t influence the flavors in the slightest. The medicinal note of the root beer did get a little odd after eating what was probably more than a single portion ... it does tend to taste pretty much like wintergreen after a while.
I enjoyed them fully. I like root beer, often soda flavored candies are mixed together and I have to pick through the cherry cola and Dr. Pepper flavors to get to the root beer. So it’s nice to have a box that is exactly the flavor I wanted. Since they make Hot Tamales as a single flavor, I don’t see why they can’t just keep these as a permanent item.
Friday, May 29, 2015
In this episode Maria and I go through the new trends from the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago and pick out the items we’re most excited about.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Trader Joe’s makes little fanfare with their new products, they just quietly appear on the shelf and perhaps get a mention in the Fearless Flyer. There are rarely announcements of upcoming products, they just show up. However, the same day that the email announced the new Trader Joe’s Ts & Js Sour Gummies, I wanted some for myself. (Sadly, the first location I tried didn’t have them yet, just a blank space.)
The new sour candy pieces are shaped like the letter T or J and come in four flavors: Key Lime, Tangerine, Meyer Lemon and Grapefruit.
As I mentioned last month in a long profile about the difference between gummis and jellies, this is another case of jelly candies called gummies. It’s kind of sad that Trader Joe’s did that, because their ingredients are quite clean and vegetarians would probably be more likely to pick them up if they weren’t called gummies.
So, if there’s an analogue to this candy in the big brand world, these are all natural, citrus-flavored Sour Patch Letters. Sorry, I think Trader Joe’s buried the lede ... because this is an incredible concept. It’s everything I already like in Sour Patch Kids, with flavors I prefer and ingredients that shouldn’t interfere with the intensity of the flavors.
The colors are muted, with the lime and grapefruit a little hard to tell apart ... except for the fact that I liked both and didn’t care after a while. All are similar to the structure of Sour Patch candies, a sweet jelly center with a mild flavor and an intense sour sanded exterior. Each piece is a mere bite, not too big and pretty clean to eat with minimal mess.
The red ones are Tangerine: the sour coating is tangy and textured, but melts away easily or provides a bit of crunch if you can’t wait. The center is less flavorful, more zesty. The orange notes definitely veer off into authentic tangerine with quite a bit of orange peel flavor.
The light orange are Lemon: the combination of the sour sanding and lemon peel notes of the center give a good approximation of Meyer lemon, which is more mild than the common Eureka lemons.
Clear is Grapefruit: such a great tangy coating with a very strong bitter zest component. Definitely a winner.
Light green is Key Lime: These have a bright lime flavor that’s pretty generic but really refreshing in a too green apple world. It’s pretty good Key lime notes, which have a little creamy component to them instead of the straight acid of Persian limes.
They’re vegan, there are no artificial colors or flavors ... Kosher and priced pretty well. Really, my only complaint is the fact that they call them gummis.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
The Sweets & Snacks Expo started today in Chicago, with 650 exhibitors profiling thousands of candy products. Here are a few highlight of the new products announced.
Name: Tic Tac® Mixers
Notes: It’s a fascinating idea, though not original. Layering flavors so that the product experience changes over time. The two flavors (Cherry + Cola and Peach + Lemonade) aren’t quite up my alley, but I’m curious how vivid the flavor definition is.
Name: Russell Stover Freeze-it Big Bites
Notes: I like the idea of a mint chocolate chip ice cream candy treat, though I find it hard to believe that it will taste better frozen than actual ice cream.
Name: Caramel Creams® Pop
Notes: I’m a huge fan of Goetze’s Caramel Creams and really enjoy eating the parts separately. But the proportions on this, based on the image, look completely odd. But I’m willing to give it a try.
Notes: This sounds dreadful. The only thing that sounds good is the salt. I don’t even understand the obsession with birthday cake, let alone making it into a candy that covers a snack.
Notes: Lindt does great chocolate, but this foray into panned candies and the morselization trend is a little odd. For Christmas they do make some panned nuts, but I don’t recall anything along these lines before. The descriptions for the individual products are a little vague.
All images courtesy of their respective makers.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
In this new episode of Candyology101, Maria and I talk about one of the oldest and most flexible candy processes: panning. Stick around until the end of the podcast and we have an expanded Treat or Trick section with plenty of Sweets & Snacks Expo teases.
Monday, May 11, 2015
Like most Brach’s products, the package is vague about the product once you get past the name. There’s a list of ingredients, but other than that, I was kind of left to guess what was in my mix.
So, what do we have? Pretty much what the name says. There’s an assortment of two different shapes of chocolate covered nuts ... peanuts and almonds. Then there are some gumdrop looking things that are caramels and some oblong bits that are chocolate covered brittle.
The whole mix smells sweet, a little like peanuts and cocoa. The sweetness has a fake vanilla note to it that isn’t very encouraging, though the appearance of the mix is pretty attractive. The panning is good, everything is shiny and smooth.
Milk Chocolate Peanuts are satisfying. There’s not a lot of chocolate, but far better than Nestle’s Goobers. There’s a little hint of salt to make these much more of a snack than a sweet.
Dark Chocolate Peanuts also have a hint of salt and a noticeable bitterness to the chocolate which again keeps the whole mix from getting to sticky sweet.
Milk Chocolate Caramels were lackluster. The texture was excellent, the caramel was chewy but not too stiff and it had a smooth consistency. However, it lacked actual caramel flavor and didn’t offset the milk chocolate coating much.
Dark Chocolate Covered Peanut Brittle are easy to spot. They’re large and have a thick coating of chocolate. The brittle center may be big, but it crunches easily. The nutty flavor is not front and center, this piece is more about the textures of the crushed nuts, the dark chocolate and the sugary brittle. The nut bits are quite small, so it’s almost like the sesame brittle found in Kosher delis.
Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds are one of the larger pieces, though some are small enough to be mistaken for peanuts. The almonds have a light blanching, they’re not overly roasted. They’re crunchy and hold up well to the rather sweet dark chocolate.
This mix takes a lot of guess work out of what can be candy roulette. I liked all the pieces and didn’t really long for anything else that wasn’t in here. I thought the peanuts were great, and it all looked good in a little bowl. I certainly preferred it to the actual Bridge Mix that Brach’s sells.
The product contains milk, peanuts, almonds and soy and is made on shared equipment with other tree nuts, eggs and wheat.
Monday, May 4, 2015
Years ago, at my first visit to the All Candy Expo (now known as the Sweets & Snacks Expo), I was excited to see a candy called Gazillions. They were little boxes, probably sold for a quarter, that had tiny chewy candies in them, like mini Skittles but single flavors. They came in pineapple. And then I never saw them in stores.
Here it is, 8 years later and I finally found a package at Economy Candy. Except they’re called Cajillions. They’re billed as The Tiny Tasty Candies.
Ingredients: sugar, glucose syrup, hydrogenated palm oil, apple juice, citric acid, artificial flavor, gum arabic, malic acid, carnauba wax, artificial color (cochineal extract)
They’re rather like teensy, rustic bits of deep fried Starburst chews. They’re about the size of lentils.
I hesitate to say that they have an actual shell, but they’re definitely coated and sealed, so they don’t get sticky.
The strawberry flavor is rather clean. The outside is sweet and a little like cotton candy at first, but upon chewing the bits, it’s tangy and pretty smooth. They’re a lot like Skittles, except there’s something that’s not quite right about them. It might be the fact that they use apple juice, so there’s a little note to it that’s just a bit like apple peels to me. But perhaps a little metallic as well.
The shape is pretty good, they’re appealing to look at, though there was a bit of a yellow cast to mine, which made me wonder about whether they were fresh. They don’t roll around, but because they’re so small, they’re not easy to pick up with my fumbly fingers. About five makes a small taste, a dozen is a decent mouthful for a flavorful chew. I could see them working well in candy buffets, especially if they’re available in a wide array of colors and flavors.
I don’t have much interest in the other flavors, which are Blue Raspberry, Green Apple and Watermelon in addition to the Strawberry. No mixes, no Pineapple. I’ll pass for now.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
If you were to make your own perfect mix of Skittles, what flavors would you include?
What new Skittles varieties would you like to see?
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.