Sunday, June 17, 2007
I was interested in what the UK version of Skittles were like compared to the American Skittles for two reasons. The first is that they don’t use gelatin in them. This means that vegetarians are free to enjoy, but I wasn’t sure what difference it would make in the texture. The second is that UK Skittles aren’t fortified with vitamin C. Did you know that a pack of American Skittles has half our daily RDA?
My friends Bronwen & Jay just returned from Europe and brought this super-sized tub of Skittles for me.
So, how different are Euro-Skittles? First, remember that Skittles were first introduced in Europe, so if anything, we’ve corrupted them with our gelatin.
I got some American Skittles and did a side by side.
It was pretty obvious that the colors aren’t quite the same. The Euro-Skittles are bit dull in comparison, in color and shine. The American Skittles are on the left and the UK sourced ones on the right.
The flavors are the same until you get to purple, which is Black Currant in the UK, grape in the US.
The textures are different. American Skittles are firm, have a pretty crispy shell and long chew that’s a little grainy and then descends back into a grainy sugary mess before dissolving.
UK Skittles are soft and have what feels like a thinner shell. The flavor seems a bit brighter on the citrus ones, especially the lemon that tastes rather like fresh lemon juice.
I’ve never been overly fond of the American Grape Skittle, I eat it, but it’s way down there at the bottom, right after Lime. So I was intrigued by the Black Currant at first. If anything, the whole tub smells like Black Currant (whereas I find American Skittles smell like Strawberry). What I found out is this ... I don’t like Black Currant Skittles. In fact, I might not like Black Currant as a flavor much at all.
I did a little reading on Black Currant, because it seems like a rather traditional British flavor and found that it’s one of the few fruits grown in the UK with high levels of Vitamin C, during WWII it was the only reliable local source. On this side of the pond, Currant cultivation was banned because the plants were encouraging the spread of a disease of pine trees needed for the lumber industry. So as they fell out of the American diet, they were practically forced down the throats of the UK kiddies. (See Wikipedia.)
American Skittles…..................UK Skittles
My dislike of Black Currant Skittles certainly wouldn’t dissuade me from eating Skittles in England or anything. The differences between the two, besides that flavor, are marginal at best. The good thing is that I have a huge tub of them.
Even though they have no gelatin, they’re not Kosher or Hallal.
Friday, June 1, 2007
Following up on yesterday’s Starburst Sour, I thought I’d tackle some real sour stuff. I found Sour Extinguisher at the 7-11 a few weeks ago and thought it was a cute idea. There are three different flavors with different levels of sour along with an “extinguisher” that puts out the sour burn.
The first thing I noticed was that the “randomness” of my bag meant that I had an overwhelming number of yellow candies. (The bag makes mention that the assortment may vary, it also makes mention of the chance of mouth irritation.)
The candies break down this way:
Tangy Tangerine - a mild sour ... (6 candies)
The little candies look more like pieces of lumpy gum. They’re matte in color and don’t smell like anything.
The Tangerine is nice. A little firm to chew, not quite a Chewy SweeTart or Skittles, it’s more like a Razzle that never turns into gum. Lemon is quite tart, but actually has some really good authentic lemon flavors in there, even a little bitterness that makes it taste like a freshly shaken lemonade. Lime is very sour, so much so that it takes a while to get to the actual flavor. Again, it actually tastes like lime eventually.
None of them was so sour that I had to reach for the Extinguisher but I pretended with some Lime anyway. The Raspberry was definitely sweet and it definitely smote the sour. The flavor was pretty bland, kind of like cotton candy.
The texture of the candies as a whole isn’t really my idea of great. They’re crumbly but never really chewy and then they disappear. I’d give them higher marks if I didn’t feel like the texture was due to being in the sofa cushions for several years. As an interactive candy that you really need to look at what you’re eating, it’s a fun idea, especially for kids who crave these sorts of things. I found, if nothing else, they really got my mouth watering.
UPDATE 6/9/2009: Big BOING, the company that developed Sour Extinguisher, sold it to American Licorice. It was relaunched in January 2009 with two flavor sets. Full review here of the new Chewy Extinguisher Sour Citrus & Chewy Extinguisher Sour Fruit.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Just when I think I’m done, I get pulled back in again! I thought I’d reviewed all the Starburst on the market today when I saw that the Starburst Sour have new flavors.
It’s not like I was that thrilled with the original set of flavors in the Starburst Sour array, so the new ones might be better.
As luck would have it I picked up the new flavors, then saw the original flavors at the 99 Cent Only Store. Before you go thinking that this will be a redux of the LifeSavers, both of these products are fresh.
Original Starburst Sour were manufactured in June of 2006 with an expiration of 8/2007. New Starburst Sour were manufactured in December 2006. (Curious how I know this, check out What Does that Mars Code Mean?)
Here’s the flavor breakout:
Sour Tangerine (was Orange) - I really had to work hard on this one. The wrappers were the exact same shade of orange and the candies were the exact same shade of orange. I had to admit that the new Sour Tangerine was different from the orange. It had a “high note” of orange and tartness that just wasn’t in the original. I can’t say I prefer one over the other, but I’m glad there’s something citrus in there.
Sour Green Apple (was Cherry) - I was pretty surprised that this wasn’t in the original mix. It’s definitely a synthetic sour apple taste, but it’s quite intense and of course sour. It has some nice real apple juice notes to balance it out, especially as the chew goes on.
Sour Strawberry (was Grape) - While I enjoy a sassy tart and crispy apple and even a juicy tangerine, I have a hard time with sour strawberries, as they’re so much better when they’re sweet and ripe. It smelled like strawberry - a cross between summer flowers and cotton candy. The chew though, was a little less pleasant. It was sour but it didn’t match up with the flavor, it was like a blind date that was going horribly, uncomfortably wrong. It made me break out in a sweat twice, not because it was too sour, perhaps because of the red food coloring. I didn’t eat the third one in the mix.
Sour Blue Raspberry (same) - still an insane blue, still an unnatural flavor for food. Tart and a little on the lime side, a little bitter/dry aftertaste that I kind of liked it this time around.
Overall, I prefer the much more rounded flavors of the classic Starburst. I can see these being a nice change of pace and if I were doing more bike riding or running where I wanted a little something to get rid of dry mouth, this might be the stuff because they’re so portable and of course a good variety in every pack.
Some of our wheat sensitive friends will be happy to hear that the new packaging now says that New Flavors Starburst Sour are Gluten Free (please make sure that your package says that if you’re gluten intolerant since the old flavor set does not say that!).
Thursday, May 24, 2007
These Lotte chews were given to me by a co-worker of my husband’s who just returned from South Korea. She brought me lots of goodies (some which I’ll get to in the coming weeks). These were fascinating because they were pomegranate but also because they appear to be knock-offs of Morinaga’s HiCHEW (or maybe progenitors ... I’m not sure of the history of these things).
The package is partially in English on one side and in Korean on the other. There’s 2% of something in here, according to the English side ... I’m going to guess 2% real fruit juice.
The chews differ from HiCHEW in a couple of ways. First, the little rods are square, not rectangular.
Second, they’re colored on the outside and white on the inside. HiCHEWS are colored on the inside and white on the outside.
There was no way to do a complete head to head since these were pomegranate flavored. The chews were a pleasant pink color. Soft and though chewy and yielding, not quite as latexy as the HiCHEW.
They were tangy and fragrant and reminded me of raspberry more than pomegranate. Pomegranates are naturally a rather dry flavor, but share a lot of similarities with raspberry. I still think I prefer the Citrus HiCHEW, but I’ll keep my eyes open for other varieties of Chew-Lets at the Korean/Japanese grocers.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
These are freakish, disarming and charming all at once. I don’t know why I ordered them from JBox, but I’m certainly glad I did.
I thought that the Puccho line is really inventive. If you’ve never had them they’re a chew studded with bits of gummi and then other candy, usually little sour or fizzy nuggets. I know it sounds weird but it really works.
JBox.com called this variety Baked Puccho—Custard Cream. But from the package and taste I’ve decided it’s really creme brulee.
The chew is a light vanilla, smooth though not quite as bouncy as HiCHEW. Then as the chew continues there are little grainy sparkles of caramelized sugar and then soft and dense nuggets of caramel flavored gummis. Creamy and crunchy and chewy.
It sounds weird, I know, but they’re completely addictive and I’m sorry I didn’t buy more (especially since they’re currently out of them). They’re satisfying in that they make me feel like I’ve had a decadent fatty custard but they’re also so engaging because of the chew that I want to keep it going.
The other flavor they have in stock at JBox right now is Mikakuto Baked Puccho—Baked Apple & Cinnamon which also sounds pretty weird, but judging by my first impression of these, they’re probably very good.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Here I was lamenting that Starburst wasn’t making the flavors I wanted when there are companies out there that make exactly what I like: strong citrus flavored chews. A couple of weeks ago I ordered from JBox. Even though my local Japanese markets in Little Tokyo stock a huge variety of candies, they always seem to miss the fringy things.
The first item I wanted to try was Valencia Orange HiCHEW.
The candy is fresh and has that inimitable bounce that HiCHEWs always deliver. The orange flavor is well rounded, sweet and a little tangy with a good juicy zest bite to it. It’s not quite tangy enough for me, though it gets tangier and more latexy as the chew goes on.
Rating: 8 out of 10
The one that really got me off my duff to place an order was Yuzu HiCHEW. I didn’t even know what that was, but it had a sliced yellow fruit on the front.
Yuzu is an Asian citrus that most of us know from Ponzu sauce. It’s kind of like grapefruit with a little lime and a little tangerine thrown in. Technically I guess the fruit is a hybrid of the Papeda Lemon and the Mandarin Orange. It’s an exceptionally hardy citrus that can tolerate frost and freezing temperatures, though not particularly attractive, it’s treasured for its peel.
The lemon notes come out loud and clear early on, then the mellow tangerine juice kicks in and at the end of the chew a really enticing grapefruit zest come out and ends with a slight bitterness. I bought two packs of both of these and as I write this, the Yuzu has three pieces left.
Rating: 9 out of 10
JBox sells them for $1.40 (plus shipping) which is a bit more than the dollar or so that I pay at the local markets. But if you don’t have a local market, that hardly matters. Full disclosure: JBox gave me a gift certificate so that I could try more of the stuff in their inventory, I’ve ordered from them before and like their selection. Even though everything was shipped slowboat, it arrived in great condition. They don’t always have all items in stock, but they just launched a new feature where you can get an RSS feed for all new items or just create a search for the items you’re waiting to be in stock. (A very dangerous feature ... the Pineapple Mentos are in!)
Friday, May 11, 2007
Sometimes I don’t read the directions. Especially when it comes to things like Ikea furniture and software. On an evening walk a couple of weeks ago with the neighbors and my lovely site programming/design team, we stopped at the 7-11. I scanned the racks for something new and sure enough found the Limited Edition Retro Starburst Fruit Chews. Or so I thought.
I got them home and the next morning went to take their picture. As you can see, that went pretty well. Then I opened the pack only to find that it was the regular flavors with just one of the limited edition array inside. Drat! Not only did I have to buy keep searching, I’d have to buy another package ... and take another photo. Drat!
As luck would have it (I do have plenty) I got an email from a similarly snack-obsessed reader in Colorado who said that they had the large bags at Safeway (called Von’s in my area). So I stopped at Von’s on my way home and lo and behold they serviced all my limited edition needs on sale.
I’ve decided after living with them in a jar on my desk all week that I LOVE the Skittles Carnival flavors. For that same period of time I’ve had the Starburst Retro bag on my desk as well. Granted, they fruit chews are not in a pretty glass jar, but I have to admit the tie-dye look of the package is pretty fun and tasty looking.
The package shows a slice of watermelon, a mango, a lime and some cherries. Not really a good sign for me. The concept of retro confuses me as well. From the package design I was expecting something from the sixties and seventies; perhaps the original Starbust flavors (which would be lame as originally the Cherry chew was Lime).
Or maybe retro is just anything that used to be a fad and is no longer popular.
As a mix I wasn’t that fond of these. Lime was nice, well, they were all nice, but I never felt like picking out a particular flavor and preferred to eat the Skittles all week. What I really want is a good Citrus Mix. Grapefruit ... why haven’t they done grapefruit? They could put in a tangy tangerine, zesty lemon, biting grapefruit and a key lime.
Monday, May 7, 2007
This bag of Limited Edition Carnival Flavor Skittles absolutely smells like a carnival midway: a combination of waffle cones, cotton candy and freshly shaken lemonade.
I was a little peeved that I couldn’t find these in a single-serve bag, but at least they were on sale. While many chocolate based products in large bags are only 11-14 ounces, Skittles still come in a full pound bag.
The only strange thing about all of the flavors is that the candy shell was every so slightly tangy when first placed on the tongue. While that’s fine for Red Vines and Slushie, it didn’t really belong on the Bubble Gum and Cotton Candy. I’m wondering if that sour bite is the ascorbic acid that gives each serving of Skittles its 45% RDA level of Vitamin C.
I didn’t care much for the extended flavors I reviewed last week, but I found myself happily munching away on this bag of Skittles without picking out particular flavors. Also, the flavor combinations pretty much all work with each other. Perhaps Slushy and Candy Apple are my least favorite combo but Cotton Candy and Bubble Gum are quite a nice mix. The other fun thing is that there’s not strange Skittles Breath after eating them. Often with the fruity Skittles I find coffee unpalatable. Though they’re not really coffee compatible, they don’t spoil the experience for me.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.