Known as chalk candy, this is candy that's made from powdered ingredients, mostly dextrose (also known as glucose). Pieces are created compacting the powder with a small amount of binder in molds in a compression machine.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Skittles Sour have shifted their flavor array. Originally Sour Skittles were just a sour dusted version of the Fruit Skittles in Strawberry, Orange, Lemon, Grape and Lime.
Somewhere along the way they dumped the Lime in favor of Blue Raspberry (which is a bit odd, considering that limes are the only other naturally super sour fruit besides lemon). I reviewed this version back in 2007.
So the new version is: Lemon, Strawberry, Blue Raspberry, Watermelon and Green Apple.
I think the addition of Green Apple is a natural evolution. It’s not one of my ideal flavors but really lends itself to a super-tangy version like this. The flavor was completely artificial, like some sort of off-gassing of some fresh plastic product, but that’s not necessarily a turnoff when it comes to ultra-artificial candies like Skittles.
The Watermelon is one of those bees in my bonnet. Unripe watermelon isn’t even sour, it’s just a different texture and lacking in sweetness ... it’s not like an unripe apple or strawberry. In this instance is a fake watermelon with a super burning blast of sour powder. It reminded me, though, of salty watermelon because of the sharp shock to the tongue.
Sour Skittles have their fanatical following, so I think it’s important for Skittles to cater to them. In my ideal candy world, the Sour Skittles would be more like the Crazy Cores, with a non-powdery shell that has the super tart blast and then the nicely flavored chew center. They’re really messy and even sealed packages are dusty and leave a sour residue on my fingers before I’ve even opened it. For me, I really only love the lemon one, so it’s not worth it for me to buy them.
Rating: 6 out of 10
The other new tweak on the market is Wonka Runts which seems to change their flavors about every 18 months lately. (Here’s my last review from March 2008.)
When originally introduced in 1982 Runts were Banana, Orange, Lime, Cherry and Strawberry. Each candy was shaped in some way like the fruit they were flavored for. Bananas are banana shaped, Oranges were little spheres, Strawberries were hearts, Limes were footballs and so on.
Then in the 90s instead of just a single substitution, Lime was removed and two new flavors were added, Watermelon and Blue Raspberry. Sometime in late 2007 there was a shift again and Watermelon, Cherry and Blue Raspberry left in favor of the more tropical Mango (a large football) and Pineapple (actually pineapple shaped!). I really liked the pineapple but many folks complained not only about the loss of their favorite flavors over the years, but also that the color variation was very citrusy.
So early this year I spotted the newest change.
Runts are now: Green Apple, Grape, Strawberry, Orange and Banana.
I was pretty excited about the Grape. They’re a big ovoid, I think the same mold as the Mango was. They’re extremely purple, but have that great fake grape flavor of SweeTarts or Spree.
The Green Apple is okay, but the addition of this flavor to the mix along with Grape makes this very similar to SweeTarts (though Banana still keeps these closer to the long-gone Wacky Wafers).
After munching on these for several days (it was a big 7 ounce box) I’m left with only the Green Apple ones, which aren’t bad so much as they were just more prevalent in my mix. (I really could have used more Orange and Grape.)
Of the two candies, simply because I bought this theater box at the Dollar Tree, it’s a really good deal - 7 ounces of candy for a buck, versus the 80 cents or so for the Skittles.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Friday, October 31, 2008
Each year around this time there are lists of the best and worst Halloween candies. At the top folks always seem to have Candy Corn, but right in there is another misunderstood and underappreciated candy, Smarties.
There’s not much too them, they’re a simple tangy compressed dextrose candy stacked into a tight roll and wrapped in cellophane. For almost 60 years CeDe Candy has been churning out the chalky, barely flavored tablets. It’d be a rare Halloween Trick-or-Treat bag that didn’t have at least one roll. More recently CeDe’s product line has expanded to include Bubble Gum Smarties, Mega Smarties and now Xtreme Sour and Tropical Smarties.
The Tropical Smarties roll is attractive, orange and yellow accents give it a sunny, citrus look. The tablets themselves don’t look or smell any different from the original though. Original come in green, yellow, purple, pink, orange and white, Tropical seem to come in green, yellow, orange, pink and white.
In the case of the Tropical array, when eating mindlessly the rolls had a soft sweetness to them with some notes of pina colada and banana/strawberry. In the particular the yellow ones are banana (in the regular array I think they’re lemon) and the white ones seem to be the pina colada.
All of this causes too much thinking for something like Smarties though. Though the different colors are different flavors they’re one of the few candies I won’t separate before I eat.
Tropical Smarties are pleasant, a little milder (if that’s even possible) than the Original.
Rating: 7 out of 10.
The first thing I noticed about the X-Treme Sour Smarties is that they’re more vivid. Not quite SweeTarts colors, but pretty close.
The colors are green, yellow, purple, orange and pink (maybe red). They seem a bit denser and less powdery than the Original.
The flavors are actually perceivable, though not terribly notable. The tanginess is very high pitched. Where SweeTarts are a mid-range tartness (malic acid) these seem more citric acidy.
I like the balance of flavor to tartness with SweeTarts, but I can see this different kind of tartness and the back seat the actual flavors take having its appeal.
Rating: 5 out of 10.
On the whole, I’ve always loved Smarties in the sense that I will eat them, all of them, than later I will feel sick, curse them and vow never to eat them again because of my stupid lack of self control. The ubiquity of Smarties around Halloween is also accompanied by some sort of mind-warping amnesia ray ... and I again repeat my demonstration of how much power these little tablets have over me.
(Note: Smarties are called Rockets in Canada. Smarties made by Nestle are little chocolate lentils and are sold everywhere except for the USA.)
Friday, August 1, 2008
Altoids has a pretty wide variety of flavors and their newest innovation (from late 2006) is offering their most popular mint flavors covered in dark chocolate. This summer Wrigley’s has not only brought out a new mint flavor, Creme de Menthe, they also offer it in the Altoids Dark Chocolate Dipped Mints format.
The dark brown tin with gold and green accents looks rich and inviting. It was easy to spot on the rack at the checkout at Safeway when I was up in the Bay Area and I was lucky enough to catch them on sale, too, at only $1.50 for the package.
The dark chocolate covered mints don’t look like much and look identical to the previous varieties. They smell, well, minty and chocolatey.
I prefer crunching mine. The chocolate cleaves off pretty easily and the mint inside has a satisfying crunch. But the chocolate is pretty good too, though tastes more of mint than chocolate, it’s creamy and has a buttery melt and dry finish.
I can’t quite peg what Creme de Menthe is in the first place, so all I can say is that this variety is for people who would like Altoids but find them too strong.
These are like eating a hardened Junior Mint. The dark chocolate complements the mellow mint well, the mint lingers and feels fresh and cool longer after it’s gone.
I ate the whole tin. While the curiously strong Peppermint variety keeps me from eating more than, say, eight or ten in one sitting, it took me only two sessions to eat this whole package. But of course the package only holds 1.76 ounces, so it wasn’t a huge binge. And my breath smells pretty good now. I think I might prefer the softer bite of something like Junior Mints, Dutch Mints or York Peppermint Patties, but I have to say that the crunch was different enough that these aren’t quite interchangeable. (But they are more expensive.)
As with all the traditional Altoids mints, these have gelatin in them and are unsuitable for vegetarians.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
That time it was LifeSavers Musk, little compressed hoops of sugar with a light musk flavor. It was like eating incense cones (you know, if they were made from sugar and not sawdust).
But I was still intrigued enough to pick up what I thought was a more authentic Australian Musk Lolly. This is from a brand called Black Gold and called simply Musk Flavored Sticks confectionery.
The bag was a bit bigger than I wanted at 200 grams, but then again it was only $3, so it seemed like a fun gamble. I was told that the LifeSavers were a bit firmer than the traditional sticks and this is true.
The little extruded sticks remind me of Conversation Hearts, Altoids or Canada Mints but also a bit like a stripe of dried out frosting. They do have gelatin in them, so they’re not appropriate for vegetarians (well, I don’t think true musk would be appropriate for vegetarians either).
They are strongly scented, kind of a generic “nice smelling shop” vibe. The thing is, I don’t mind it. It’s kind of like rose, orange blossom and Avon’s Skin So Soft. It’s pleasant enough, not bitter or syrupy like some floral flavors can be. But it’s not terribly satisfying. I don’t finish a stick and then think, “I’d like another.” Instead I put the package away and think, “I should write about those at some point.” But I got them back in January and only really put them back in the review queue when I moved offices and had to empty out my desk. (They do make a fine desk freshener.)
If you end up with some out of curiosity and don’t know what to do with the other 180 grams, maybe this reciep for Pink Musk Stick Mushrooms will help. Also check out this essential nostaligic Australian lollies list.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Please note, I’m not a gamer. I do play, but not enough to be anything more than personally aware of how addictive and fun these things can be, but it takes a special game to suck me in. At home we have an XBOX 360 right now (loved the Lego Star Wars last summer), before that it was a PS2 and before that it was a Turbo Grafx (well, that wasn’t technically mine, I was “storing” it for my brother while he was living in Europe).
I’ve never played the Wii, but I totally see the attraction and I love the selection of games.
To capitalize on the affection folks have for their platforms, Au’some has these cute little Wii Klik-on Candy Dispensers shaped like the innovative game controllers (Wiimote).
It’s just a dispenser, like PEZ, and it comes with four rolls of candy - two Smarties-like rolls and two mini-rolls of Smarties Bubble Gum. The rolls fit in the battery compartment (because they’re the same size as batteries).
In order to load the candy package, just slide the faceplate up and it reveals a small empty space (probably where there’d be some circuitry if it worked). The candies are placed flat then the controller tipped down slightly, the little trigger button on the underside of the top is pressed, and bingo, a piece of candy comes out.
PEZ does not fit in the Wii Candy Dispenser, just like Nintendo Wii games don’t work in XBox 360.
I think the design of the item is pretty cute. I wish it put out really cool candy, it’s like they spent all that time on the plastic box and then said, “Eh, throw some Smarties in there.” It doesn’t even hold a whole roll of Smarties at once (though the battery compartment holding more is pretty ingenious). Filling it with something better would improve the appeal of this.
The retail price on these is $2 or so, but who knows what they’re going for in the wild. I got this one as a sample from All Candy Expo. They can be found on the internet and at places like Urban Outfitters.
Rating: 5 out of 10
On the other side of things, Au’some has another line of candies also themed off of a more classic Nintendo product: Mario Bros. They’re called Nintendo 3D Gummy Candies.
The Donkey Kong & Mario Bros. characters have been around since 1981 and have become recurring characters in the Nintendo game pantheon, so these aren’t some flash in the pan licensing tie-ins. Even if you’ve never played or haven’t in years, most of us have great affection for the little Italian plumber who battles the strange ape named Donkey.
Mario is a hardworking guy. Not only does he hold a contractors license and perform excellent plumbing work, in the original version of the game he was a carpenter. He’s also a superhero. He can rescue a damsel in distress or vanquish an infestation of angry apes all on the clock.
The Mario 3D Gummi is, well, awesome. It’s actually three dimensional. At about 2.75 inches tall, he’s the same height as his gummi brethren, though pretty narrow (I guess he slimmed down for his session with the mold-maker). His little hat has an M on it and he has big work boots.
The texture of the gummis short, that is, biting into it, it’s not at all stringy. It’s more like Jell-O than Swedish Fish.
Mario is Strawberry. He’s sweet and slightly floral, a little tangy and has a well-rounded artificial berry flavor. I think he’s two bites, but it’s up to you.
Donkey Kong actually started this whole thing with his game named after him. Mario was simply known as Jumpman back then. Donkey didn’t have much of a personality either, he was just angry and grabby.
In later years Donkey Kong started wearing a tie, which might have caused part of his anger issue (it was the go-go-eighties, even Donkey Kong learned a lot from Gordon Gecko). But Donkey Kong never really returned to his primary role, this is the sad fate of monsters.
In this gummi Donkey Kong is Orange in both color and flavor. He’s actually rather sparkly. The flavor of the gummi isn’t particularly complex, rather like concentrated Tang.
Definitely one of my favorites and it wouldn’t be a batch of gummis without Donkey Kong or an orange flavor.
Diddy Kong is probably not even technically a Kong. (I think they call him a nephew somewhere, but that’s like saying that humans and orangutans are cousins.) Though he’s some sort of ape, he’s not the same species as Donkey Kong. I think he’s some sort of chimp, as far as I can tell (he has smaller, narrower chest).
But he also wears a cap and tee shirt. While Donkey Kong was the big bad guy in many of the adventures, Diddy is the one who sets off to rescue Donkey Kong, in a way redeeming the Kong family name.
(For a while I thought it was Donkey Kong Junior, feel free to dispute this in the comments.)
He’s a lovely aqua color and Raspberry flavored. Tangy, pretty zesty and flavorful.
Finally we have Yoshi. Yoshi is some sort of baby dinosaur and is one of the only characters who displays any sense of self preservation (when you’re not in control of course) and actually runs from danger.
His large snout makes it nearly impossible to sit this gummi upright (if you feel like lining them all up like some sort of action figure display). I took this photo by holding him in place, releasing my finger, then snapping the shot before he fell over.
While he’s cute and has wonderful detail with his little crest and buggy eyes, the flavor is weird. I think it’s supposed to be watermelon or green apple. It’s kind of metallic but tangy. It’s not bad as long as you don’t get too hung up on what it is.
The Nintendo 3D Gummy Candies are available in bags at grocery stores, drug stores and at other specialty shops. I got mine from CandyWarehouse, who sells them in bulk, just individually wrapped. (Of course you also end up with a 100 of them.) It’s a much better price than most of the smaller packages. Individual wrapping means they stay fresh and you can throw them in a bowl at a party or gaming night.
Rating: 7 out of 10
(If video games aren’t your bag but you think that this 3-D Gummi technology is cool enough to eat, try the Wildlife ones where they also say that they’re donating money to protect endangered species.)
Victoria has a cool list of other Nintendo-themed candies at Candy Addict.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Enter XLear with their SparX candies, all sweetened with xylitol. Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol with the same sweetening power as sucrose but one third fewer calories. It’s made from birch bark, corn cobs and occurs naturally in plenty of other places and is even metabolized by the body in everyday fruits & vegetables.
They come in three different flavor varieties:
Each little flip top plastic tube holds 30 grams (about 1.06 ounces).
The little pastel bits are naturally colored and about the size and shape of the old Tart n’ Tinys.
They have a light little shell on them, it’s a bit soft on the tongue at first and a little slippery. The little pellet inside has a cooling effect, a little tart boost and a sweet finish. The flavors are very light, not really that noticeable - not as powerful as SweeTarts.
Citrus has a distinct flavors, a little more tart than the others. Berry is all about the floral flavors of strawberry & raspberry, I couldn’t tell them apart that well, they weren’t at all tangy, but felt very fresh. The Fruit blend had the banana, which I thought was fun (especially for someone who likes Runts), grape was like concord grape (with a slight chewable vitamin aftertaste) and apple was similarly similar to apple juice. Peach was, well, peachy enough (not my favorite, but not too powerful so I didn’t pick them out of the mix).
I thought they could have been a bit more flavorful, but that’s because I wanted some super-duper cavity fighting replacement for SweeTarts, but that’s not what these are. They’re not really candy for popping mindlessly, I don’t think. Just a little freshening, mouth cooling treat.
Each little candy has about .6 calories each, meaning the whole package has about 68 calories total.
Xylitol, like other sugar alcohols, can cause intestinal distress and I did notice a bit of gassiness after eating these (probably the equivalent of a whole tube over two days). I’m told that if you slowly ramp up, your body acclimates. Brian reviewed them a couple of years ago and didn’t get along at all well with the xylitol and neither did many of the commenters, so start slow with these before you go eating a whole package.
The ingredients are natural enough, though I’m not sure what the source of the natural colors are (so I can’t say if it’s vegan or not, but there’s also beeswax in there, so it may not meet all vegan standards). They also contain some other mineral items like calcium glycerophosphate (which is a source of calcium and phosphorous) and magnesium sterate.
Xlear products can be ordered directly from their website and found in many vitamin, health foods and stores like Whole Foods. The price isn’t bad for one of these fringe products, they usually retail for $1.50 or so per tube. It’d be cool if they offered these in bulk, so you could refill the tubes.
Note: do not allow dogs to consume products with xylitol (well, really don’t let your dogs eat any people food) as it can be toxic.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Wintergreen is a natural flavor derived from a few sources, one of them being the Wintergreen plant. It’s also found in the North American teaberry and birch bark. Wintergreen is sometimes called Winter Mint, but isn’t really a mint (in the sense that it’s derived from a mint plant), but it still falls into the “aromatics” of flavors. (Still, I characterize it as a mint flavor, because it reminds me tooth powder - yes, I’m old enough to remember tooth powder.) It’s a flavor that’s more popular in North American than the rest of the planet. It’s also a flavor found in Root Beer and Birch Beer, two other uniquely North American flavors.
For many of us Wintergreen is associated with things like Pepto Bismol, Icy Hot or Ben Gay. So even if you enjoy the flavor, other people associate it with those things and when they smell it they ask if you have sore muscles or a queasy stomach.
Canada Wintergreen are built on the flavor and don’t seem to have suffered for it. They’re a simple candy, just a firm sugar-based dough with some gums & gelatin in there to hold it all together in a firm chalky tablet.
Canada Mints are made by Necco, who makes another slightly different version of these called Necco Wafers in different flavors (the only real difference in the ingredients is some dextrose and glycerine).
They’re a bit more intense than Necco wafers. The texture of the tablet is a little softer than a conversation heart. They’re crumbly, not too sweet and have a pretty intense wintergreen flavor, so much that it makes my mouth a little numb. (There’s also a slight and quick-to-dissipate bitter aftertaste, but I chalk that up to the presence of Red #40.) I prefer the texture of these to something like the LifeSavers Wint-O-Green (but there’s no spark-making with these).
I pretty much love these and don’t care of someone thinks that I’ve been rubbing muscle-soothing balms into my muscles (but my pink tongue is probably a dead giveaway that it’s candy related). The only problem I can think of with wintergreen is that it doesn’t really go well with coffee.
Canada Mints come in a peppermint version in white as well (and supposedly a spearmint version that I haven’t found in years). They’re supposedly available in rolls, but I only ever see them in bulk bins or in these types of bags. I used to buy them a lot when I was a teen and when I was in college, I think because it was a dirt-cheap candy, usually less than a dollar a pound. Now I just buy Neccos every once in a while (mostly because they’re available in rolls).
The package heralds that they’re fat free. They’re also 100% carbs, for those watching those. (About 12 calories each, for those who just track that.)
As a strange side note, there is a plant that’s known as Canada Mint, Corn Mint or simply wild mint (Mentha arvensis) which is the only mint species native to North America. It’s not wintergreen flavored though. The name Canada Mint in this case was because it was sold in Canada starting in the 1880s and looks pretty much unchanged since then.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
I was at the bulk candy shop at the mall last month and saw what looked like a new mix of Runts in the bins. Curious, I bought a little sampling of them. I thought they were Tropical Runts (which used to exist).
Instead, I found out that they’d reformulated the Runts flavors yet again.
The new assortment includes: Strawberry, Banana, Orange, Pineapple and Mango.
The previous version had: Blue Raspberry, Watermelon, Cherry, Strawberry, Banana and Orange.
The version before that, that I remember best was what they introduced in 1982: Banana, Orange, Cherry, Strawberry, and Lime. It was the best replacement for Wacky Wafers.
Back when they were that first assortment of flavors I bought them quite a bit. They were cute, they didn’t roll around when you sorted them out and the flavors were nice ... only one in the mix I didn’t like, which were good odds as far as I was concerned.
But when they went to the 21st century flavors, I lost interest completely. I didn’t like watermelon or blue raspberry or cherry ... so half the box was thrown out or given away.
This new version though, we’re back to 80% efficiency!
The Banana is quite artificial. It reminds me of Circus Peanuts and nail polish remover. Strawberry is sweet and flowery. Orange is bland and tastes like Tang or Jell-O mix. (That’s not a bad thing.)
The new Pineapple is awesome. It’s tangy, it’s fragrant, it’s a real hit. The Mango surprised me because I didn’t like it. I love mangos, I have a serious mango addiction when they’re in season (I’ll buy a half a dozen when they’re on sale and eat them in a weekend). But mango flavor is kind of like peach, it’s just not quite the same. It takes like pine needles and fake peaches to me.
A complaint I’ve heard about the new mix is that it’s no longer as colorful as it used to be. There are two yellows in there, no more blue or green. (Honestly, the Mango could have been green ... or even the Pineapple.) But I still find them very pleasant and are now back on my list of candies that I pick up every once in a while.
Wonka has always had the best names for their candies. Discontinued ones (that some will remember fondly): Wacky Wafers, Punkys, Oompa Loompas and Dweebs. Their current lineup still includes: Bottlecaps, Everlasting Gobstoppers (well, Roald Dahl came up with that one), Laffy Taffy (formerly Tangy Taffy) and of course all of the items swallowed up from Sunline like SweeTarts & Pixy Stix.
The new flavor set is Green Apple, Banana, Orange, Grape and Strawberry.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.