Friday, May 26, 2006
I know this sounds really weird, but I’ve never had Airheads before. It’s not that I shunned them, but they really never entered into my field of view at all. Sure, they’re on the racks at the 7-11 and in assorted bags at Target, but I didn’t quite know what they were, and they never really
piqued my curiosity. But I’m probably alone in that and I probably should remedy it.
So imagine my delight when I came home from work and found a box of candy from Perfetti Van Melle (the company that makes both Airheads and Mentos). I’ve been corresponding with Pete in Marketing, but we’d never talked about sending me anything. I can only guess that I’m on a list because of my registration for the All Candy Expo. That is the BEST MAILING LIST EVER!
What was even more fun is the timing of one of their co-marketing pushes - a tie in with the new Pixar/Disney animated film, Cars. (The movie premieres today at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway and gets its full release on June 9, 2006.)
This packet of 6 Airheads bars has the regular flavors: Watermelon, Cherry, Blue Raspberry, Mystery White and also includes two new flavors - Mater Punch and Burnt Rubber. Okay, that last one doesn’t sound that good to me.
So, Airheads are planks of a chewy, taffy like substance. I’d always thought they were like LaffyTaffy or TangyTaffy, but they’re really not. Airheads are about 5” long and about 1” across and pretty thin.
Airheads are soft and pliable and have an easy chew that has a slight, sugary grain to it. They’re very flavorful and not unlike Mentos in their texture (also made by the same company). What’s nice is that it’s not sticky like I expected. There’s no worry about pulling out fillings.
Watermelon: juicy and tart. A little bit on the chemical side of the flavor, but it aroma is nice and sweet.
White Mystery: it tastes rather like green apple to me. Tart and fruity with a little floral note to it.
Cherry: sweet and tart with a strong dark cherry/woodsy flavor to it. Of course it’s not my favorite flavor, but I ate the whole thing. Imagine what cherry fans would think.
Blue Raspberry: surprisingly more complex than I thought. It’s got a nice tart and sweet thing going, but also a really good floral balance for the fruity berry flavors.
Mater Punch: Mater is one of the characters in Cars, he’s a rusted out tow truck, and I think Mater is short for ToMater ... maybe he used to be red. I was hoping he’d be tomato flavored. No such luck. He’s fruit punch flavored. Heavy on the citrus and whatever that “fruit punch” flavor is, it’s tangy and sweet but the smell is definitely chemical in origin.
Burnt Rubber: Yeah, I had no idea what to expect for this flavor - I was kind of hoping they went Bertie Bott’s and actually made a burnt rubber taffy. The bar was dark purple, almost black, but it was quite obvious that it was grape. It was like a sweet & chewy grape SweeTart.
Overall, the Airheads that I tried were pretty cool. Summer is tricky for candy, especially in SoCal where chocolate starts to get dodgy even in May. Taffies and other sugar candies are a good way to make it through summer with tasty treats that can stand the heat. The one flavor in their repertoire that I’m more interested in that wasn’t in the mixed bag is orange, so I’ll pick that up at some point. I don’t see myself buying these very often, but I wouldn’t turn one down.
Mentos has come out with some Sours that I suspect are rather similar to Airheads fruity flavors, so I’ll report back on that soon.
Monday, April 17, 2006
Skittles has come out with quite a few new flavor varieties, so many that I haven’t been keeping track. I love the Originals, they’re one of the most perfect candies ever. I rather liked the Mint mix, but I was kind of peeved that they put it in that plastic box packaging, why couldn’t I just buy them in a little packet like the fruit ones? However, I’m not keen on the Tropical or Sours and there are other varieties like the Smoothies and Berry Mix that I haven’t even tried yet. But these caught my eye.
The Limited Edition Ice Cream goes places I hadn’t expected, it leaves the fruit realm. The flavor mix goes like this: Caramel Ripple, Chocolate, Vanilla, Orange Vanilla Swirl and Strawberry. Sounds kind of promising. I’ve often wondered what a chocolate Skittle would taste like.
The colors are fun and completely evocative of ice cream. A little subdued and earthy but still a pretty combination. The package smells like cotton candy.
Unfortunately the taste wasn’t all that I’d hoped. They all have a slightly cardboard flavor to them; they seem as intense as the fruit Skittles.
Orange Vanilla Swirl was one of my favorites. Like a creamsicle, it was like an orange Skittle but without the tangy bite to it, so it was just smooth and mellow with a nice orange essence.
Strawberry was also pleasant, like strawberry ice cream usually is. A creamier version of the strawberry fruit Skittle, as an ice cream flavor it also didn’t have the sour bite to it but a nice vanilla overtone.
Caramel Ripple was interesting, I’m not sure where the rippling is, but it had a rather overt caramel “flavor” to it instead of actually being caramelized.
Vanilla was just plain sweet and chewy, which isn’t surprising and completely pleasant. The vanilla also tastes like a “flavor” and not really organic, but a really fun change of pace from the tart fruit Skittles.
Chocolate was just the worst one in the bunch. If you’re fond of Tootsie Rolls you’ll recognize these as a teensy bite of that similar watery cocoa flavor. They were just plain bland and musty tasting without any creaminess. It’s like giving someone chocolate sorbet in hopes that they’ll think it’s ice cream - there’s nothing wrong with chocolate sorbet, but the only thing that gives it any resemblance to ice cream is the fact that it’s frozen.
I’m kind of mixed on this flavor variation. I don’t think it’s something I’d buy again, but I appreciate the attempt at making a version of Skittles that aren’t tart. All the flavors go together well, so you can combine any flavors in the pack without coming up with something offensive, so it’s well thought out.
If you haven’t already seen it, check out the Advertising section on the Skittle site for their extra-creepy commercial campaign which rivals the Burger King Pantomime King ones (check out The Beard especially).
Monday, February 27, 2006
Jolly Rancher hard candies were quite revolutionary when I first had them as a kid. They were full of flavor and came in varieties that other candies just didn’t have. Watermelon and green apple were the absolute best.
It’s about time Jolly Ranchers went chewy. I mean, Starbursts are good and have occupied their fruit flavored niche for years, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t deserve a few options in the candy genre. Okay, these have been out for about five years and I’m a little late in trying them, but Starburst have been around for at least 30.
The good thing about Jolly Ranchers Fruit Chews is that they stuck with what they do best. They didn’t go all orange, lemon and strawberry on us. They went with their strong suit - green apple, watermelon and cherry.
These chews are slightly different from Starbursts. First, they’re larger. Not by much, but a little bigger in each dimension. Second, they’re a different chew. It’s hard to describe, but they’re chewy and have a soft give to them, but there’s a latex quality to them that allows you to chew and chew, almost like they’re gum and they give off lots of flavor, but they don’t seem to get any smaller. Starbursts tend to end up in a little bit of a grainy ball towards the end, these just melt away smoothly. This is a cool feature.
The other great thing about them is that the flavor is there all the way. You keep chewing and chewing and it doesn’t end up as a sweet blob, it ends up as a smaller piece of the same gland tingling flavor that you started with. They’re soft and easy on the teeth.
As an adult I’m less fond of watermelon and green apple than I used to be (and regular readers know I’m not a cherry fan). I don’t know if it’s because they’re a little chemical tasting or I probably used too many Bonne Bell Lipsmackers. I just associate the flavor with being a bumbling pre-adult, hanging out at the pool in the summertime with my bony knees and freckles, perhaps trying to cover up the fact that I always smelled like a mix of chlorine and salami (I worked in a pizza place).
My favorite flavor of Jolly Rancher was the Fire Stix - they were awesome - powerfully strong cinnamon in a smooth, sweet hard candy, and every once in a while you’d hit a fire pocket and get a little jolt. I wish they’d make some chews that tasted like that.
Note: this candy was manufactured in Canada and are not Kosher (those thoughts are not related).
Monday, February 20, 2006
I know there are times when I’m thinking about the future of candy and I say to myself, “why can’t red vines be more like string cheese?”
Well, Twizzlers has answered the call of curiosity: What would happen if you made red licorice in the string cheese format?
First, it’d be pretty. That’s part of why I bought this, it was so cute. It looks like telephone cable! But it doesn’t taste like it. Second, it’d be interactive. The candy is basically red licorice laces twisted together and lightly fused into short ropes. There are three colors of the laces: red, orange and yellow.
This flavor is called Paradise Punch. I was hoping that each of the strands would be a different flavor, but it didn’t taste that way. They were all that typical red fruit punch flavor. What was rather overwhelming was the chemical taste, like plastic or some sort of volatile compound. The lingering chemical smell and taste just left a bad taste in my mouth. They were soft and chewy, just not tasty.
I tried taking it out of the package (in case it was the wrapper) and leaving it out for a while, but that didn’t seem to make the flavor dissipate. Which makes me wonder if that’s how it’s supposed to taste. I actually do love Twizzlers and maybe if I see the regular red flavor (or a Twizted red and black) I’ll give it another try. For now, I’ll have to pass on the chemical cocktail.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
There are a few new red licorice products out lately. Both Twizzlers and Wonka are in on this new explosion, perhaps fueled by Airheads’ new products.
The SweeTarts rope is one of those new products. Kind of like the Twizzler Twerpz, these are a cherry red licorice tube filled with a blue, sour paste which is then dotted with little crunchy Nerd bits.
The texture mix is really interesting. You have the rather bland chew of the licorice, which is soft and clingy. Then you have the soft, frosting-like sour paste that doesn’t have much flavor in it’s own right, but has these little crunchy bits that are powerfully packed with more sour.
I tried eating this several ways. I tried the traditional bite and chew method, which mixed the flavors and textures and variations of sour and sweet very nicely. Then I tried squeezing the rope until the blue sour paste came out. That wasn’t as satisfying because I couldn’t get most of the paste out that way.
I was tempted to find a sharp knife and slit the straw open and scrape out the blue goo ... but then I thought that was a little too evil and I just ate the rest of it the normal way.
The photo on the package of the cross-section shows colored Nerds in there, but I think they kind of dissolve after a while.
I think this is a fun new candy and I’d probably eat it under the right conditions, but in order to get me to buy it again, it’s gotta come in a citrus flavor variation. Given the choice, the Twerpz are gonna win out. I like the filling in those a bit better (it’s more like a Starburst fruit chew).
If you’ve tried them and want to tell Wonka what you think, they have an online feedback survey. This product was manufactured in New Zealand. I don’t think I’ve picked up a Nestle product in a long time that was actually manufactured in the United States. On another strange note, the Rope was rather hard to photograph. Something about its matte texture just sucked the light in and gave it this weird velvety look in the photos. They’re not really that alien looking.
UPDATE 4/5/2009: It appears that the SweeTarts Rope has been discontinued. However, Nestle is introducing a new product called Kazoozles that looks an awful lot like these. Keep an eye out for them.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
These are a classic East Coast candy. Made for years by the Goldenberg candy company, they were purchased by Just Born in 2003, which has been gobbling up other Eastern small-maker candies. Just Born is best known for the Easter favorite, Marshmallow Peeps.
I’ve always referred to these as Goldenbergs ... the one part of the old name that is not retained (I think the company is pushing the name “Chew-Ets”) so now I have to call them just Peanut Chews. But the notable thing about them is that they break one of my rules of good candy. They’re fake. There’s no chocolate there. But what they lack in chocolate they make up for in flavor.
The original Chew-Et is a molasses-based chew embedded with peanuts and then covered in a wax that resembles dark chocolate. (Okay, it’s not wax, it’s just not real chocolate.) The interesting part of the chew is that it’s not a caramel. There’s no milk in the original bar at all, so it can’t be a caramel. It’s just a sugary syrup that’s been boiled down to soft-ball state. Maybe you could call it a “soft brittle”. They’re formed into fingers of candy that are placed in a tray and usually sold in a package of six or so, though I usually bought the King Sized ones. For a while I’ve been able to find them here in California at Rite Aid (probably because Rite Aid is based in Pennsylvania). The molasses and peanuts make a good combination of roasted, musky flavors. The dark chocolate stays out of the way and doesn’t really add anything to the party (except trans fats).
Having just said that the chocolate coating doesn’t much matter, it seems to make more of a difference in the milk version. Molasses is a dark flavor and seems to benefit from the dark, slightly bitter mockolate. While the milk chocolate coating is more successful at replicating the feel of real chocolate, it’s a little sweet, a little sticky feeling in the combo.
I’m glad to see that the Chew-Ets will continue to exist, as they are rather unique. They’re small and easy to share and have a flavor combination not found in any other candy bar on the market in the states. Since it’s not real chocolate, they also seem to weather being in my bag better than chocolate candies, so they’re a better bet as a summer candy. I wish they were made with real chocolate, but I suppose I shouldn’t advocate messing around with such a good bar.
Additional Reading: Check out Steve Almond’s Candy Freak which has a whole chapter devoted to his visit to the Goldenberg factory (while it was still Goldenberg’s) in Philadelphia. You can even read a couple of pages on Amazon if you like. Here’s something interesting I learned from the book, Goldenbergs were first developed as ration bar for the Army in WWI and after the war the GIs kept buying them.
Edit: I found this in Mike’s Candy Wrappers, the original wrapper.
UPDATE 8/1/2012: The original name of Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews has been restored on the packages, and an updated but still classic looking package is back on store shelves.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:53 am
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Sometimes I wish that candies were made in different flavors. Like, I used to wish that Starbursts came in cinnamon, mint and licorice flavors.
It turns out that product already exists. BlackJack is a licorice (actually anise) flavored chew that’s made in the shape of little square pieces that are sold in a roll.
What was dissapointing about them is that they’re slightly tart. I’d expected a smooth, sweet and spicy chew filled with licorice goodness. Instead it’s slightly lemony (citric acid is in the ingredients), with a tart bite and not much of a licorice flavor to it. It smells a lot like anise, but doesn’t really deliver. I like the combination of licorice and lemon, which is done really well in the Lemon Lakritsi from Finland.
Bassett’s, now owned by UK candy giant Cadbury, is well known for their Allsorts, and I was hoping this was a pocket version of them. They may just take some getting used to, but I’ve had this pack for quite a while and after eating about three of them, I have no desire to continue trying to like them. I’m sure they have their fans, but I don’t think I’ll ever be among them.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:42 am
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
I’m keen on sour things and I guess it’s pretty surprising that I’ve never had Airheads, let alone anything else in their line.
I saw these at the 7-11 and thought they were so intensely pretty that I had to buy them.
The colors are vibrant: red, yellow, green, orange and aqua. The flavor, as far as I can tell, is strawberry or possibly green apple or maybe a cross between the two. I dissected a couple of the belts to figure out if there was a difference in flavor between the colors and I couldn’t tell. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t, I just couldn’t figure it out.
They’re sour, but not in a toxic way. They’ve got a dusting of sugar crystals to keep them from sticky, but they’re soft and chewy. The best thing about them is that the flavor lasts all the way through the chew. Some chews lose their initial flavor, like they’ve been dusted or something when you chew them. But these are tangy and sweet all the way to the end.
The only complain I have is that as an adult I find them a little hard to eat. The sugar gets on my hands and I don’t want to eat the whole thing at once, so I’m left holding it or pulling it apart. As a kid, I’d probably think they were the coolest thing in the world and wouldn’t mind the sticky fingers in the slightest.
Interesting note: AirHeads are made by the same company that makes Mentos - Perfetti van Melle. The company is Italian, but the Xtremes were made in Spain.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.