Thursday, March 15, 2007
I felt like a little fruity break this morning and picked out these Mentos Plus in Berry Mix to review. They have added vitamin C (4 mg per piece!). I’ve seen these in the States, but only in the sugarless variety. Santos gave me two boxes of these in the last delivery of candies from the Pacific. I gobbled up the first box shortly after taking this photo.
They come wrapped in a clear plastic outer wrapper and the box is about the size of a deck of cards. The flip top makes it easy to share, and with a flavor mix like this, easy to pick out just the flavor you want at the moment.
The lightest pink is Cherry. It’s not bad, tart and with some nice cherry notes that reminded me a bit of the Apple Mentos. As a cherry candy goes, this is quite pleasant and has no bitter aftertaste ... but since I find it palatable, true cherry fans may find it an abomination.
The dusty pink is Strawberry. It’s a very deep flavor, going for the darker musky strawberry notes instead of the light florals that you usually get. A good tart bite and some musk melon in there.
The hot pink is Raspberry. This one is the most “fake” tasting of the bunch, with some pretty intense “flavor” of raspberries going on. Again, it doesn’t go for the light floral elements that you usually find in raspberry flavored things, instead it’s got a razzle-dazzle in there that reminded me of some intense raspberry jam or fruit leather.
This box makes me wish they’d do a Citrus Mix - orange, lemon and pink grapefruit. That’d be awesome.
But back to the product in hand ... I’d buy these, especially if I were traveling. I find chewy candies like these to be great for airplanes, a little something to get your salivary glands activated in the dry cabin and perhaps unstop your ears. Easy to share, maybe a good way to bond with your seat-mates. And perhaps the little dose of Vitamin C will help keep those airplane diseases at bay.
These were purchased in Guam, but made in China. They are certified Halal (which means the gelatin is not of porcine origin).
For those of you who don’t have any Mentos nearby but wanted some Mentos fun, check out the Indian website for Mentos, called the Mentos Helpline ... some of the humor doesn’t translate in all cultures, but it really is rather an interesting and non-traditional promotional site. Kudos to Mentos for thinking outside the box once again and embracing their fans. More about the Mentos Helpline in this article.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Santos of Scent of Green Bananas has been a great source of fun Mentos and KitKats. She’s been promising me some Pomelo Mentos, which I imagine are much like Pink Grapefruit Mentos.
But last month she surprised me with these little gems from Guam.
Ice Pomelo Mentos sound rather odd. For those of you who have never seen them, pomelos are large citrus fruit with a very thick skin and grapefruity taste (the common grapefruit is a cross between an orange and a pomelo). I’m always a little leary when combining mint and citrus but then I have to remember that the mojito seems to combine Lime and Spearmint to great effect, so I’m game.
They look rather like the Pink Grapefruit Mentos, a cool and mellow pink. Upon biting into them, they’re soft and chewy (hooray for fresh freshmakers!) with an immediate hit of mentholated mint ... kind of like a Hall’s cough drop. The citrus pops in with some nice zest to it, but no tangy/juicy component.
I can’t rate these as high as the Pampelmousse, but I still liked them quite a bit, especially since I’ve been getting over the bronchitis and medicinal tasting things are actually a comfort.
Friday, February 16, 2007
A long time ago there was a taffy called Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy. It was not Turkish and it wasn’t even taffy. But it was made by a family named Bonomo. Though the candy behaved like taffy (it was smooth and chewy) it actually contains egg whites like a nougat (Bonomo even referred to it as a “short nougat”) and was even baked. The Turkish part of the name made some sense, as Albert Bonomo did come from Turkey. But the family admitted that they used the name because it sounded good.
The taffy was a great all year treat because it didn’t melt like chocolate or caramel bars. Though it comes in a single large bar, a little chill and a smack on the edge of a table and it would shatter into bite sized pieces.
In 1980 Tootsie Industries bought the brand and then discontinued it in 1989 citing low sales.
Just as the Marathon caramel braid bar has its stand-in with the Curly Wurly, so does Turkish Taffy. It’s known as Doscher’s French Chew. It also comes in the same flavor array as Turkish Taffy did: Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry & Banana.
I don’t remember Turkish Taffy well enough to say that it’s an adequate replacement, so I’ll just talk about the chew on its own.
The bars are nice and big at 1.62 ounces each. You don’t have to chill the bars to break them but it helps. Sometimes I would just bend them in one direction slowly, then reverse direction quickly to cleave a good piece off.
They’re not quite as soft as something like Laffy Taffy or Airheads (totally different texture as well) but they’re less sticky than Salt Water Taffy. The egg whites and density gives it a lasting, smooth chew.
Vanilla - sweet and plain so it’s the texture here that’s the star.
Chocolate - tastes like eating chocolate cake batter. The chocolate isn’t very rich or creamy or deep.
Banana - a wonderful fake banana tastes that lasts all the way through the chew.
I definitely enjoyed this chew, it’s pretty smooth and not the least bit sticky on the teeth. I don’t see myself buying it very often but I liked the Banana much better than the Laffy Taffy version (which has a more latexy feel to it). Doscher’s also makes a Strawberry chew.
Doscher’s is a small factory in Cincinnati, OH. They also make candy canes and other chews. They’ve been around since 1871. They sometimes make seasonal flavors like Green Apple for Halloween.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
More HiCHEW! This assortment was courtesy of a friend traveling in Japan though I’ve seen similar assortments at the Japanese grocers in Los Angeles. Since the label was all in Japanese (because it wasn’t imported), some of this stuff may be made up or perhaps pictures really are the universal language.
Grape is rather like the Grape Mentos I had late last year, it tastes more like concord grapes (most especially the skins of concord grapes). It grows more intense and complex as the chew goes along and it made me wish that there were more of them in the assortment.
It also makes me wish that we had a truer “grape” flavor in the States.
Litchi is odd. It’s a cross between a honeydew melon and a citrus aromatherapy candle. It’s fragrant and flowery and a little soapy but it also has a nice tangy quality with a bit of musk to it. It also tastes kind of creamy towards the end, like a yogurt.
I’ve decided I’m not a big fan of lichis. Maybe I’ve nust never had them prepared properly, but like macadamias, they’re not bad, just not for me.
Strawberry is sweet and tangy that begins with a strong natural flavor that makes me wonder if there’s a little stem in there somewhere. Later in the chew it starts to taste a little artificial, but still sweet and floral.
It’s less tart than a Starburst, and has a longer chew that doesn’t break down into a little grainy blob.
Like the Grape, it has a slight essence of the apple peel in it.
I kept half of them and put the other half in the family stockings ... I haven’t heard anything back from the family one way or another about them.
Here are my other HiCHEW reviews: Grapefruit (fantastic) and Strawberry (Doh, I didn’t realize I’d had them before. I wonder what I said.) There are lots of other flavors and one of these days I’m going to try the other citrus flavors because I’m pretty sure they’ll go over well.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
If you’re of a certain age you may remember Tang, Astronaut Ice Cream and Space Food Sticks. All of these became famous because of the space craze of the sixties and seventies. As normal mortals we couldn’t go to the moon, but we could eat like an astronaut!
I’m thinking the major attraction to these is nostalgia. I’m not sure anyone who didn’t live through the landings on the moon and Skylab is going to be terribly interested in an early version of an energy bar.
I never had these when they first came out. (I did however, plop down my shekles at the Air & Space Museum in junior high for Astronauts Ice Cream ... you know it said ice cream in the name, not food. It was dang expensive at $1.00 a package and really cut into my gummi bear budget.)
Anyway, one to what I have in hand, which are the present day versions of Peanut Butter and Chocolate Space Food Sticks because the persistent Eric Lefcowitz of RetroFuture.com has brought them back into production after they’d become a quaint memory to many of us.
The format has changed slightly, from a pair of long wand to 10 small pieces. The wand shape was because the snack needed to be inserted into a little hole in the astronaut’s helmet. I actually kind of like the new format, they reminded me of protein-packed Starbursts!
The Chocolate ones smell kind of like Nestle Quik. Not creamy but kind of flat like cardboard or a Tootsie Roll. They’re soft and have an easy bite that might border on crumbly. Kind of like cookie dough and less chewy than a Tootsie Roll. The chocolate flavor is just that, more like flavor, though it does boast real chocolate and cocoa in there. I can easily taste the soy in there, which is a pleasant enough. They’re a bit on the salty side (200mg), which I find a little refreshing and if you’re an athlete probably a good idea. As a candy they’re not really that satisfying. As a snack item, I kind of enjoyed eating some with some mid-day pretzels and almonds.
The Peanut Butter ones were more promising. The peanut smell was pleasant with a touch of honey (though none listed in the ingredients). This had the same crumbly chew which reminded me of eating a slightly raw peanut butter cookie or just the flavor of the old Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch. The little pieces were great, because I could eat two or three and not have to worry about resealing the package to keep the rest. Just a little twist of the packet and they were safe for later.
As a candy I probably wouldn’t buy them again. As a snack item I appreciate the real ingredients in them. So often the label on a Power Bar or other meal replacement bar can be daunting - this is pretty simple with real ingredients. Of course with only “real” ingredients there’s no fortification with additional vitamins and minerals like you might find in an energy bar.
Cruftbox reviewed the original-style stick-version of them back in ‘04. The SpaceFoodSticks website also has some great old commercials from the Pillsbury product (and one from a competing PET product called Space Energy Sticks).
Old Time Candy sells them in singles (1.99 each) but if you decide you like them and want more, go straight to the source for the best price. It’s possible this will become the hot “stocking stuffer” item this Christmas, as I’m sure there are a lot of 40-50 somethings pining for the good old days.
Wednesday, November 1, 2006
Starting from the left the light yellow-green ones are Apple. It’s a mild apple, not very tangy, but floral and sweet and very pleasant. The candies themselves are a little smaller than the normal Mentos, not just small pack like you’d get Lifesavers.
In the middle are little lilac wonders in Grape, these were, to put it mildly, odd. They were kind of concord grapey and completely unlike those malic acid wonders you find in a roll of SweeTarts. These were floral and had a sort of balsam note that reminds me of concord grape skins when you eat them fresh off the vine. At first I was a little put off, but I chalk that up to the whole expectations thing. When I stopped thinking about it, I really like them and now I’m regretting sending a bunch of them off to the Mentos winner last month.
The more vivid green ones are Watermelon which are very sweet and have an odd note of mint to them (which could be a manufacturing problem). The melon flavor is true and has that sort of woodsy note to it, but no tartness to it. Not my fave but not terrible.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Like Candy Corn, Peeps and Peanut Butter Kisses are one of those seasonal candies that people either love or hate. I’m gonna go ahead and say right now, I’m on the side of love here.
I don’t know if I’ve ever had “name brand” peanut butter kisses before, these are the first I’ve ever seen that have anything on the black & orange wax wrappers. Made by Necco, Mary Jane Peanut Butter Kisses are a molasses taffy with a little blurp of peanut butter in the center.
The molasses taffy is soft and flavorful, with a rustic taste of mellow molasses with a little smoke and woodsy maple in there. In the center (or somewhere near there) is a pocket of peanut butter, a little crumbly and of course nutty and roasty tasting. The salty hit of the fatty peanut butter is a great combo with the sweet taffy. I much prefer them to the traditional Mary Janes, which I find not only a little too hard but also not enough of a “concentrated peanut butter” dollop.
Since these are not a spectacularly popular candy, with their rather mousy wrappings and bland colors they’re easily found dirt-cheap in the remainder bins after Halloween, which is when I prefer to buy them. If they’re a little old and stale, a little warm-up in the palm of your hand will revive them.
Some other notes: Mary Janes were originally made by the Miller Company starting in 1914, which was later bought by another taffy company called Stark Candy Company that continued the Mary Jane tradition. In 1990 Stark sold out to Necco, who continues to make the traditional Mary Janes pretty much unchanged from its original format.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Last night I watched The Secret Life Of ... on Food Newtork. The topic was Sweet and Sour and part of the episode featured the All Candy Expo in Chicago. Jim O’Connor covered Lemonheads (a special fave of mine), traced the development of America’s Sour Tooth and of course toured the Expo floor.
Then part of the episode took a turn towards a product line called Too Tarts, made by Innovative Candy Concepts. This post is not a product review, because I absolutely refuse to eat the products on purpose. They’re shamefully misrepresented.
The package I picked up at All Candy Expo was purely by accident. I was sitting in a seminar and they were in a bowl and both me and the other folks at my table idly grabbed a bag and dug in. I spit mine out and so did the fellow next to me. It was seriously foul - the chew was rubbery and the taste was instantly fake and had a strong aftertaste. The package says they’re Real Fruit & Honey with NO REFINED SUGAR ... “up to 5 times more natural ingredients than any other fruit candy snack” ...blah, blah, blah. What they don’t holler at you on the front is that there are TWO different artificial sweeteners in there ... Acesulfame Potassium and Sucralose.
Acesulfame Potassium is also known as AceK. It’s 180 times sweeter than sugar and is not retained by the body. It’s known for a bitter aftertaste so it’s often used in conjunction with other sweeteners. In this case it’s Sucralose (found in Splenda), which more than 500 times as sweet as sugar and is also not retained by the body. If you’re curious about artificial sweeteners and their possible cancer causing/nerve damage potential, cruise around the ‘net.
Now, you might wonder why I rage against artificial sweeteners. Yes, I have a bad reaction to aspartame, but I actually believe they have their place. However, their place is not in candies marketed for otherwise healthy children. Childhood is time of training our bodies to understand what we put into them and learning our satiety levels with different foods. Part of how our bodies and brains judge how many calories we’re consuming has to do with how sweet they are. They’ve done studies and have shown that there may be some connection between diet sodas and obesity because the body is no longer able to judge properly how many calories it’s taking in. If adults are messed up with this stuff, what will it do to kids who consume it from a young age? What’s worse is these candies are making it look like they’re sweetened with either honey or fruit juice. Sure, the package says “No Refined Sugar!” But it doesn’t once mention the complex chemical compounds called ‘sweeteners’ they’re putting in there except in the fine print of the ingredients.
There’s no reason to give kids fake candy ... there are other options for sweet treats out there. Please read the packages carefully. I’m irritated that this candy exists and further irritated that Food Network gave them such a huge feature without ever mentioning the presence of artificial sweeteners in the candy.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.