Tuesday, August 8, 2006
Here’s a candy that never entered into my field of candy vision: the Mint Julep. In fact, until about a year ago, I’m not sure I knew these existed. It’s not like I’m mint-blind. I guess what brought these into my realm was a new push by Necco to introduce them to new generations. That and there was a huge barrel of them at the All Candy Expo’s freebie room.
Frankly, I was afraid they were going to be like Mary Janes and pull out my teeth or something. Or maybe they were going to be like mint-flavored Starbursts.
But here’s what they are: they’re spearmint taffy.
They were nice. Not super strong tasting, very soft and chewy and pleasant. They didn’t rock my world, but I think they have a solid place in it now. They’re a really satisfying little candy - larger than a Starburst and in a flavor you’re not going to get anywhere else in this format. I can’t see myself buying a tub of these online or anything, but I would pick up one or two after brunch or something at the local diner to clear my palate.
Mint Juleps are also known as Southies and were made by the Squirrel company that also makes Nut Zippers. They are most often sold in little tubs by the register at convenience stores and diners. (This type of retailing is called “changemakers” as people will often spend the change from their bill on little items. The tubs are placed in places where it makes sense for such an impulse buy.) They were introduced in the 30s and then disappeared back in the nineties as the company was bought out and went through some changes. Necco brought them back about a year ago.
In case you were wondering what’s in the drink also called a Mint Julep, it’s simple syrup with some muddled spearmint sprigs in it, then combined with Bourbon and served over ice with more mint.
Mint Juleps are gluten free according to the Necco website (and the drink probably is too!).
Monday, August 7, 2006
Back in the eighties Nabisco had a candy called Bonkers, which were fruit chews similar to Starbursts ... except they were layered. It was a fruity chew with a fruitier chewier center. If you need a reminder of what they were, watch this commercial from the eighties I found on YouTube.
I didn’t know if they’d stopped making them but that’s what I thought I was buying when I picked these up.
First, these are made by Joyco. Second, there are no flavor layers. Third, the flavors are all wrong. Fourth, the label says they’re citrus fruits, but there’s a strawberry in there and last time I checked those don’t even grow on trees. Fifth, the package says there’s real honey in there. Real honey? And egg whites? What the heck are these, nougats? Sixth, well, none of that matters because these were positively awful.
Most of them were very hard, but some were only kind of hard. All were rather unpleasant in a way that I’m not quite able to put my finger on.
Strawberry: slightly floral and slightly putrid tasting. A little tangy but with sort of moldy/mossy note.
Lemon: tastes like a moist and ripe citrus burp.
Orange: tangy but with a rather uneven flavor that alternates between bile and tang.
I tried several times to taste these (waiting a couple of weeks in between, thinking it was me). It’s not me. They’re bad. I’ve debated long and hard about what to give these. I sat there with the wads of half chewed Bonkers in their wrappers in front of me and a foul feeling in my stomach and it’s clear I’m gonna have to give these a bad rating. (Believe me, I never set out to buy candy that I’m going to hate.) But I wanted to give them one last opportunity, so I offered them to the neighbors (and Amy always seems game for the worst of the worst but Robin conveniently reminds me when I try to get her to try things like this that she only likes chocolate). Amy spat it out on the sidewalk and then kicked it into the street. She described it as at first tasting like the plastic shelf it must have been sitting on in the store and then most decidedly vomit.
Yes, these get my first 1 out of 10. (Amy asked if there was a 0 rating.)
Thursday, July 27, 2006
There’s this rumor going around that you can find European flavors of Mentos in the States if you look hard enough (instigated by the comments section here at Candy Blog, I might add) ... at places like the 99 Cent Only store!
While my last visit did not result in a cache of the coveted Pink Grapefruit Mentos, I did find Licorice ones.
They weren’t quite the transcendent experience I’d hoped for. Don’t get me wrong, they’re nice and all. But they’re no Pampelmousse!
They’re white with a slight grey cast to them. They don’t really smell like anything and at first bite they’re slightly minty but then when you get past the crunchy shell there’s a slightly salty, slightly warm and creamy taste of licorice. It’s not a molassesy bite, just an herbal quality. It’s a bit like the licorice Altoids (but of course chewy and not quite as strong).
I don’t see myself picking these up too often, but they make a nice change from the Mint ones. I’m enjoying the second roll much more than the first, so perhaps they grow on you.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Aji Ichiban is a chain of stores that sells dried and cured fruits as well as candy by the pound.
I went to the location in Chinatown in New York City while I was there. The store was kind of small and the woman behind the counter barked at me when I took some photos. This one was taken from the street. I actually think they’re doing their customers a disservice when they can’t take photos, because that’s the only reason I know what some of the candy is. It’s marked in the bins, but not on the wrappers.
They have a large selection of bins that contains individually wrapped candies or salted fruits or nuts and rice snacks. There are even samples of the fruits by the bins, but I made the mistake of taking what I thought was dried ginger and it turned out to be a salted plum. Quite a shock and made me parched instantly.
It’s not a huge store, but then again, they don’t have large tubs of everything. A third of the display space is for snacks and dried fruit, the rest is candy. Most of the candy is a mix & match by the pound, but some of it you could buy prepacked.
I liked just about everything in this mix. I chose carefully, so this is a good sign about the way that the packages are marked. Some have English on them, most are just pictures and sometimes the bin they were in at the store had some clues about the contents. Items came from all over Asia, some marked from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Japan.
I got some super fizzy sours, something called Zour Bomb, which was a cross between a cola flavored hard candy and a Zotz. However, partway through it got a minty flavor to it that kind of turned me off. The outside was dusty looking and super sour, then a hard candy and then the inside had another reservoir of sour. It also came in Lemon which was excellent.
Another was a little orange packet called Sour + from Lot100. It had little orange faces on it making sour impressions. It was a gummi, soft and about the size of a gumdrop with a sugar sand on it. Whoo, it was sour to start, then the soft gummi had a nice orange flavor to it. I would definitely buy these again. I wonder if they come in pineapple. That’d be cool.
Lot100 also had a nice Cola hard candy. It looked a little odd in that it was a plain red hard candy. It tasted like cola but had a slight hint of cinnamon.
Not everything from Lot100 was a hit - I had a rather promising Mango gummi that just didn’t quite hit the right balance. The texture was fantastic, plump and moist with a nice tart note but the mango “flavor” was less “pine meets melon” and more “burnt rubber.” Too bad.
Kasugai had a good assortment of fruit gummis, which I’ve reviewed before. I picked up Litchi and Muscat this time. They’re called super juicy on the label and they are plenty soft, but the litchi was a little flavorless and almost like a Turkish Delight. Muscat smelled wonderful and had a bit more complex flavor, something like white grape and orange blossom.
There was also a line of Milk candies that had calcium in them that came in interesting flavors like chocolate, vanilla and also red bean. They had an odd, firm, fluffed latexy quality to them, kind of like Hi-CHEW. I have no idea how much calcium is actually in it, but they were super soft and very satisfying. The vanilla was a little bland and the chocolate was kind of like a bouncy Tootsie roll, but I really liked the red bean. I mean, I really liked it. I’m sorry they’re gone now.
I picked up a few tea flavored candies, one from Thailand called Didi Honey Lemon Tea Candy was particularly nice. Only slightly tart, there was a nice play between tea and honey in there. The other brand was Cister from Malaysia wasn’t as pleasant looking (brown) but had a much stronger tea flavor and some mint thrown in (which made it taste more like a Ricola drop).
Another assortment were called S’Creams and were just hard candies with a milky swirl to them, kind of like Lifesaver’s Creamsavers. They were pleasant enough, with a Werther’s-like crunch if you bit them but a good tangy hit too to keep them interesting and satisfying. I picked up Orange, Strawberry and Melon.
There were a few flavors of these, I picked up Pudding Marshmallow, Grape Marshmallow, Mango Marshmallow and then two that have no English text on them - one has purple on its wrapper and the other has pink.
Mango Marshmallow - shown above - sucked royally. I had two of them, I at that bite of one and I gave the other to Amy, who promptly spit it out in my trash can. Why is it bad? It just is ... don’t make me think about it.
Pudding Marshmallow - it looks suspiciously like Mango, but thankfully is quite nice. It’s a marshmallow with a little lump of creamy, dulce de leche tasting filling in the middle. Not quite fudge, not quite creme, but pleasant and a little artificially vanilla tasting but with a tasty hit of salt.
Chocolate Marshmallow - there was no indication what this was, just a pink wrapper. The chocolate was a cross between frosting and a Tootsie roll. Not as good as the pudding one, but I liked it.
Grape Marshmallow - hmm, it was okay, but the grape filling was like cheap jelly and it just didn’t appeal much to me.
Basically, Aji Ichiban is as much of an adventure as you want it to be. You can grab a pound of simple mixed candies that you know and love or you can push the boundaries of your taste experiences and just shovel them into your bag blindly and see what happens.
I think the candy is horribly expensive for pure sugar stuff - $10 a pound is way up there even for the fancy fruit candies from Italy that I see at Zabars or something. But the variety is pretty special and with no minimums and the ability to mix and match is a huge plus. You can also order online, but there’s a half-pound minimum with most candies and of course the selection is limited. They have stores in several large cities across the edges of the United States, but they don’t have the addresses on their site.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
It’s hot. I’ve mentioned it before, and I know it’s summer ... but I’m guessing it’s hot wherever you are too and you’re wondering, “what sort of candy can I eat right now?”
But then I saw these at the 99 Cent Only Store. Tootsie has timed their new Limited Edition Pops rather well. It’s an assortment of five new flavors. Though they’re hardly tropical, as far as I’m concerned, they’re all nice flavors.
What’s great about Tootsie Pops is that there’s a bit of variety in that single sphere - a tangy piece of hard candy and the soft, vaguely chocolatey center. They’re easy to hold and don’t get you all sticky and only 60 calories a pop.
Pineapple - the one truly tropical flavor here, it’s peppy, tangy and nicely fragrant.
Tangerine - hardly tropical and barely different from the traditional orange, but I’m a huge fan of tangerine flavors and this one is pretty nice and goes really well with the lamely chocolate Tootsie Roll center.
Lemon-Lime - even less tropical because it’s not even exotic, but hey, it’s a nice sassy flavor. A little ordinary and not a very good combo with the Tootsie Roll core.
Watermelon - I’m never much of a fan of watermelon. The only watermelon I care much for is Jolly Ranchers ... but this was nice and the Tootsie Roll goes oddly well with the rather bland and sweet flavor.
Purple Punch - a rather nondescript punch flavor. Tangy, with some passion fruit notes but mostly a bland orangey.
Tootsie Pops aren’t the perfect lolly - they’re a little inconsistent, there are voids in the candy that can make them sharp from time to time and of course the twisted wrapper doesn’t always protect them from more humid conditions.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
I picked these up several months ago, the same time I got the Chocolate Covered Sugar Babies. I ate a few, and while they were fresh, they weren’t really stunning and I gave the rest of the package away.
When I was at the All Candy Expo, Tootsie really seemed to be pushing them, so I thought I’d give them another try.
My first mistake was eating a Storck Chocolate Riesen before eating a Mini Chew ... how could a Tootsie Roll, chocolate coated or otherwise, ever measure up to the chocolatey perfection of a Riesen? Let me just say that it can’t.
The glossy little Mini Chews are certainly cute, though they look like some sort of pelletized animal feed.
The chocolate is sweet and smooth once you get past the food-grade shellac that makes them so shiny. They’re not very chocolatey, but certainly more complex than the Tootsie center.
The Tootsie centers were nice and soft, easy to chew and had a slightly chocolatey hit that never really reached that creamy state that you expect.
If anything, the chocolate coating makes it quite evident that a Tootsie roll is no substitute for chocolate. It tastes too much like cardboard. Watery cardboard.
However, if you set aside your expectations for a chocolate experience and come at Tootsie Rolls like they’re taffy or a chew, they’re pretty good. The best thing about Tootsie Rolls is their durability. With the summer months, I often look for a chocolate alternative because of the heat and Tootsies were often a solution. The Mini Chews probably won’t fit the bill because of the real chocolate though. If you’re dieting, they might be a good option - a little blast of chocolate, but not much in the way of fat. For me, I’m sticking to Orange Tootsie Pops as a Tootsie delivery device.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
I’ve been a fan of Sprees since they first came out. They’re the more attractive out-of-town cousin of the SweeTart (who is of course your mousy best friend). They’re tasty and drop dead gorgeous when spread out on your desk in neat rows of colors like some sort of stereo equalizer display.
Chewy Sprees happened onto the scene a while back, but I never paid much attention to them. But then I got a hold of these Mini Chewy Spree. They come in these cool little plastic packages that look kind of like popsicles and have a little flip top.
The color array is exactly the same as their larger, harder counterparts. Red is cherry, Yellow is lemon, Purple is grape, Orange is orange and Green is now apple (though it used to be lime back in the day).
Chewy Spree are, well, chewy. The outside of them is lightly flavored and completely sweet. But there’s no candy shell to it, just an inside that’s soft and chewy. They’re actually easily crushed with your fingers, like M&Ms are. But they’re lacking the “Kick in the Mouth” that the package heralds. (It says the same for the rolls of regular hard Spree.)
They’re just not as sour, not as flavorful. They’re not bad, they’re just ... I dunno, shallow.
As cool as the plastic tube they come in (that says “flip your lid!”), I feel a little bad about the overpackaging. But to allay my guilt about that, I looked around on the Nestle website and they have crafts that you can do with the empties (a Rain Gauge). At the moment I’ve got one filled with band-aids and alcohol wipes as a little first aid kit. You could store little things in there too, or refill with bulk candies. I think you also might be able to make your own popsicles with them, too.
But as the price difference goes, I think I’ll stick with the regular roll of Sprees and their minimal packaging and true “kick in the mouth” taste.
Monday, June 19, 2006
One of the things that I was asked in the FAQ was about the benefits of being the “famous” candy blogger and did I get an all-access, backstage pass. Well, no (not yet, anyway) but there are a couple of small but tasty benefits.
Witness this from last week: on Wednesday morning a large box appeared at the front door. It was marked Perfetti Van Melle. I thought, “Cool, they sent me more Airheads!” But when I lifted the package, it felt like there were three books in there.
When I was at the All Candy Expo I asked at the booth if they had any of the Pink Grapefruit (Pamplemousse) Mentos that I’d heard are so good but sold only in Canada and Europe. I saw that you can order them online, but I really didn’t want to commit to a full box of them without having a taste. But they didn’t have any samples at the Mentos booth. They said they’d send me some, and I figured that’d be the last of it, maybe I’d have my husband pick them up on his travels.
As you can already tell from the photo, they sent me not two or three rolls, but two full boxes of 20 rolls each! I scurried back to my little photo studio and quick-snapped some shots before going off on a long weekend trip to my sister’s wedding. I found that a couple of rolls of Pink Grapefruit Mentos make a lovely hostess gift when staying at a family member’s house. They are the perfect traveling candy.
The color is lovely, like the center of a Ruby Red Grapefruit. The ingredients are pretty intriguing too, with the first three being: sugar, glucose syrup, grapefruit juice (3%). Wow! The front of the package says artificially flavored, but mentions nothing about the natural part!
They don’t smell like anything, which make me a little suspicious at first, but a bite and a chew later and not only is there a wonderful citrusy tartness, but an intense aroma of freshly sliced grapefruit. There’s no hint of that terrible bitterness you can get with grapefruit, but it’s not lacking in complexity at all. There are the sweet and sour notes, but also that oily zesty feel and the fresh scent of grapefruits. There’s a lingering feeling of that grapefruit peel long after the candy is gone - far different from the green apple chemical feeling in the mouth.
It’s actually a fun candy to be around other people when they’re eating it. It’s like someone has lit an aromatherapy candle (the grapefruit scent is supposed to “increase self-esteem and bolster confidence”). Our Canadian neighbors are quite lucky to have these as a regular product. If I were a motivated person, I’d petition Mentos to sell them in the States, but part of me knows that it probably wouldn’t play well here.
I know someone is wondering if the grapefruit ones will work to make an explosive soda fountain, but I’m not gonna be the one to find out, I’m eating all of mine!
UPDATE 5/31/2008: I have word that Pink Grapefruit Mentos are discontinued. They are no longer listed on the Mentos website and I got confirmation from Mentos North America (as if they ever carried them here). However, they are also made in a Kosher version for Israel and still seem to be available at Kosher stores (I found them at Munchies in Los Angeles earlier this week). I took advantage of what may be a temporary loophole and bought a box of 40 of them from Koshermania out of Cleveland, OH a couple of weeks ago.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.