Monday, December 19, 2011
Chimes has always made eye-catching packages. They make a great set of tins for the Indonesian-style ginger chews. But even the bag version is gorgeous. I picked up the Chimes Orange Ginger Chews at the local Korean-run Japanese market in Little Tokyo (but I’ve also seen these at Cost Plus World Market).
For a sugar candy, they’re a little expensive, $2.99 for only five ounces. But they’re well packaged to keep the product fresh and the pieces are small so you get a lot of them.
The package says that it’s made with Pure Java Ginger. I have no idea what the reputation of ginger from Java is, the only ginger that I’ve actually noticed I eat a lot of is Australian ginger. (But Wikipedia cites that India grows the most.)
The initial flavor, after the dusting of sweet powdered sugar goes away is orange zest and a bit of orange juice. The chew is stiff at first, but gets pretty sticky as it softens up in the mouth. The dissolve is smooth and then it gets quite warm from the ginger. I didn’t get much of the rooty and earthy flavors, because the orange was so strong. But there was a very strong heat from the ginger.
The pieces are small, but pack enough punch for the size. My biggest frustration was with the little sealed wrappers on the pieces. They were devilishly hard to open, and then inside there was a bit of powdered sugar with varied and could be messy. Luckily folks are used to seeing me dusted with confectioners sugar and have never accused me of having a coke habit.
It’s a nice hot weather treat, you can really abuse them since they don’t melt and won’t leak out of the sealed wrappers. Ginger is great for upset tummies as well, and the flavor is fresh and invigorating so good for keeping you up without caffeine. I’m still most fond of the traditional just ginger version, but if you’re looking for something that’s not quite so gingery, this is a good starter option.
Friday, December 16, 2011
The package for the Spicy Apple Ginger Chews features The Ginger People‘s mascot, an anthropomorphic gingerman sitting on a pile of apples, eating a ginger chew. Kind of weird looking as well as creepy when you think of him being cannibalistic.
Soft and spicy apple-ginger candy. Natural, stimulating and delicious.
The candy comes in a small stand up pouch. It has a zipper seal, so it can be closed up. Reclosing is hardly necessary to keep it fresh though, as each piece is maddeningly sealed in un-tearable plastic that says “tear here” with an arrow at one end.
The pieces are about an inch and a half long, rather flat and kind of sticky. There’s a powdered starch coating on the outside to keep it from sticking too much.
The chew is smooth, the ingredients have no dairy in them, so I can’t call it a caramel. It’s made of cane sugar, ginger, tapioca starch, apple flavor, cinnamon oil and allspice oil.
The flavor is first, and foremost ginger. The woodsy and earthy flavors come out loud and clear then create a warming sensation that last for quite a while, some pieces were hotter than others and created a little soft burn. The apple flavor was vague but present only by comparison to their classic Ginger Chews. The cinnamon and allspice did add a bit more dimension to it, like a spiced cider drink.
They’re messy and difficult to get out of their wrappers, but they’re also simple, vegan and refreshing.
I like them for traveling, as I sometimes get motion sickness. Folks who are prone to upset tummies (especially for morning sickness) may find them both a fun candy and soothing. They’re a little expensive for a sugar candy at $2 for 3 ounces but the pieces are small and there are a lot in the package.
Gluten free and vegan but they’re processed in a facility that also handles peanuts.
Friday, November 11, 2011
In a candy tease last year I mentioned the existence of new flavors of the iconic flavored Tootsie Rolls. The line is called Frooties. They were introduced in the 1970s when actual penny candy still existed. Last year a few new and perhaps trendy flavors were introduced including CranBlueberry as well as Frooties Root Beer.
I finally found some while on vacation back in September at a little candy shop in Cayucos. I bought a handful of them at 10 cents each and ate them without a review. (I was on vacation.)
I kept looking for more, but no one seemed to carry them. Over the weekend I was shopping at Smart & Final and ran into the bag pictured - it contains 360 pieces and almost two and a half pounds. It’s the size of an airplane pillow. Yeah, it was silly, it was $5.99 but I’d already tasted them and knew I wanted to review them. I had no rationale to get rid of the excess after review, no Halloween Trick or Treaters coming to my door. I fully planned to eat them myself.
The candies are small, they’re the smallest size of the Tootsie Roll, a little more than 3 grams each and only one inch long. They were very fresh, soft and easy to upwrap. The wax paper is simple, just twisted at the ends and classic.
They look kind of like Tootsies, they’re brown and don’t smell like much. But biting into one, it’s satisfying. The Root Beer flavors are well balanced, a mix of cinnamon and wintergreen with only the lightest acidic bite like a soda. The chew is smooth and slightly creamy. It’s not sticky and not too sweet. If I eat a lot of them, I get a bit of a warm mouth buzzing sensation, similar to something I experience with wintergreen flavors.
They come in other flavors, but I’m not terribly interested in them. Root Beer candy is hard to find and this strikes the right balance of warm spice and smooth chew. Sure, it’s probably like chewing hardened Ben Gay, but I actually like that. I’m sure I’ll manage to eat all 360 pieces eventually.
They’re made in the USA, certified Kosher in a peanut free, gluten free and tree nut free facility. It does contain dairy though, so it’s not for vegans.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Wrigley’s which now runs the Starburst franchise of products just came out with a new variety, called Starburst Flavor Morph. They come in both the long single serving pack, a king size and the 13 ounce bag I picked up at Target over the weekend.
The package says that they have Flavor Changing Beads, which sounds kind of high tech and kind of like a feature of cosmetics/hygiene products.
The newest Starburst offers more than just a variety of flavors in each pack - now, consumers will get to experience a variety of flavors in every square. The candy, which features flavor changing beads, morphs from orange to orange strawberry or cherry to cherry lime.
So, basically, instead of four flavors in the package, there are just two.
Cherry -> Cherry-Lime is wrapped in red with white waves on the little waxed paper wrapper. They’re dark pink and at first do taste just like the traditional Cherry Starburst. The Cherry Lime notes come in rather late, and the advertised flavor beads aren’t evident as pops or crunches. The lime notes were actually a welcome transition in the flavor of the chew, the citrus goes well with the very traditional artificial cherry flavor.
Orange -> Orange-Strawberry looks just like an Orange Starburst, but with a few little flecks. However, it smells like a Strawberry Starburst. So the flavor morph in this instance was not really transitional ... the flavor was absolutely orange and strawberry the whole time. I liked the combination, it’s different from the usual citrus or strawberry combinations.
I haven’t been excited or converted from the classic Fruits package by any of the new Starburst introduction in the past 10 years. This version is no different, it’s a novelty. It’s missing the usual variety and the flavor combinations while appealing aren’t radical enough. While it doesn’t say Limited Edition on the package, I don’t expect them to stick around very long.
Starburst are marked as a gluten-free product. They do contain gelatin, so are not appropriate for vegetarians/vegans and are not Kosher. There are no statements about nuts or other allergens on the package though other sources say they’re nut free. A serving of 8 pieces contains 20% of your daily RDA of Vitamin C. I found them expensive as well, $3.14 for a 13 ounce bag of sugar candy is a bit steep.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Haribo Maoam have been around for a long time. The early history is a bit murky, but according to Haribo, Edmund Munster (not this one), who ran the Düsseldorfer Lakritzenwerk (Dusseldorf Licorice Works) bought the license for the chewy, fruity candy Maoam and began making it in Germany.
It was packaged as a penny candy, an impulse item with bold, colorful wax paper wrappings in popular flavors like Lemon, Strawberry, Pineapple, Orange and Raspberry. In 1986 Haribo bought the Edmund Münster company and began making the already iconic Maoam fruit chews.
After 80 years on the market, Maoam sweets are found in a variety of formats and features packaging designed to appeal to children (though plenty of adults are fans). They’re sold around the world. The most common packages are probably the Maoam Minis which is a long package that looks like a bar but is actually five different packets of individual flavors. The current flavor set includes: Cola, Orange, Lemon, Apple, Cherry and Raspberry.
There’s a lot of packaging in a Maoam packet. Each piece is individually wrapped, then packaged together in a little stack of five for each flavor, then another cellophane over-wrap. This leaves plenty of evidence that you’ve been eating candy (though the wax papers are mercifully quieter than the cellophane).
Orange They are small, about the same mass as a Starburst. Though the packages are colored, the candies themselves are only lightly tinted. The chew is soft and bouncy. I’d call it a cross between Starburst and HiCHEW. They’re even a little creamy. The orange is a bit like a Creamsicle. It’s a soft orange flavor, not overly zesty, more on the juice side of flavor with a nice zap of tang to it.
Cola is glorious. I would marry these. It’s kind of weird once they’re unwrapped because the candies are white (remember Pepsi Clear?). The flavor is great, it’s a little nutty, creamy but with a snap of lime and that cola flavor. There’s tartness to it and even a feeling of effervescence since there are little tangy spots that give a little jolt of flavor while chewing.
Lemon is tart and smooth without much lemon peel essence to it. They’re quite tasty and have just a hint of a yogurt note to them.
Cherry is a really interesting flavor. It’s different from American black cherry (like Life Savers). It’s dark and woodsy, but also quite tangy and has a little bit of a caustic medicinal flavor to me. There’s no coloring in it, so I can’t complain about that weird aftertaste I get so often.
Raspberry is very fragrant and nuanced. All the notes are there: the perfume, the seeds and the boiled jam.
I picked up this bag of Haribo Maoam Mixx which features a variety of little individually wrapped items. The main character on the front of the package is the Maoam mascot, a big green blob with a hat and riding a bicycle. (He’s the one who cavorts with the fruits on the packages. His character was introduced in 2002.
This bag cost 2 Euros and holds 400 grams (a little over 14 ounces). There’s a lot of variety.
Stripes are little flat taffy, 7 gram pieces. In this package I got a Green Apple version which wasn’t in the little block pack. The flavor is quite American at first, rather artificial, but after the tartness fades away, there’s a realistic apple peel/juice flavor that dominates. I also found a few Strawberry in this shape. They even had little pink flecks in them which tasted just like little bits of dried strawberry. A very realistic flavor and long lasting, smooth chew.
ChewTwo was another version of the Stripes that’s packaged in clear plastic to see that there are two flavors side by side. In this instance they were colored (or else it wouldn’t be very impressive looking to have two slightly different versions of not white).
Joystixx are long pieces, kind of like the Tootsie Roll Sticks. They’re probably double the mass of the little squares. In this form, they’re easy to bite, or take two different flavors and twist them together for a combo.
Pinballs are more than just a shape change. These are slightly fluffier balls of the chewy then coated in a candy shell. Think of them like an easier-to-chew fruit Mentos or giant fluffy Skittle. The flavor was interesting also because the candy shell had little crystals inside, mostly sugar but occasionally a zap of tart flavor. I could have sworn a few of the yellow ones were pineapple, not Lemon. In some cases the candy shell made them sweeter, and of course grainier. I enjoyed the variation in the texture with the shell, but not the graininess.
There were also individually twist wrapped pieces, I think they’re called Happy Fruttis.
I had no idea that Maoam were so good. I’ve seen them a few times before, and tried a few Pinballs but didn’t realize that the regular chews were so flavorful. They are different from other candies in this category too. They’re a softer chew than Starburst or Mamba and not quite as bouncy or smooth as HiCHEW. Also, if you’re a parent looking for a candy without artificial colors, this is a good kid-friendly option. (Though they’re not exactly all natural.) They do contain gelatin, so they’re not appropriate for vegetarians and those who keep Kosher/Halal.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
While on vacation last week, I made a point of tracking down some locally made candies along the Central Coast of California. First up is Mehlenbacher’s Taffy which is made in Paso Robles, California.
The taffies are sold in long pieces, about the size of a cigar, quite different from the normal nugget or little twist. Each is 1.25 ounces, so I consider it a full serving of candy. The pieces are about 5 inches long and wrapped in a tough, thick cellophane and twisted at the ends.
The ingredients are very simple: corn syrup, cane sugar, butter and then flavorings and coloring (though not all are colored). They’re had pulled in the traditional fashion on a hook and then hand portioned and wrapped. They make 51 different flavor varieties, though none of the stores I found carries more than a dozen.
Here’s a little video from a local TV station about the company:
I first saw Mehlenbacher’s mentioned in a Martha Stewart spread (I think as a suggestion for wedding favors). So when I was in Paso Robles last year, I picked up the assortment you see pictured in this review. Then I ate them and didn’t review them. (Or maybe I lost a few.) So when I returned to the area again, I made a point of finding some more. However, I didn’t match the flavors, one for one. So the photos differ a little bit.
Root Beer is one of my favorite flavors of all time and one that goes really well with taffy. The root beer is good, I liked its blend of earthy flavors like ginger and pine along with a little menthol and wintergreen kick.
Root Beer Float is a twist of caramel and cream colored taffies. The root beer flavor is snappy, with a good wintergreen freshness to it along with a creamy butter and vanilla note to it.
Iced Coffee smells pretty rich, like a sweet, sugary coffee. The flavor isn’t quite that intense and has a creamier flavor than I anticipated (I figured it would taste like black coffee). It’s very much on the bitter and strong side of the coffee flavors, but really watered down with the sugary sweetness.
Peanut Butter was a mild looking, almost vanilla taffy. The flavor was sweet and had a great peanut butter note to it and was very smooth. I could have used just a little hint of salt, or maybe they should make a flavor called Sea Salt Peanut Butter for those who crave that.
Peanut Butter Cup is a twist of both the chocolate flavor taffy and the peanut butter. The scent was like peanut butter and cocoa. The chocolate part of the taffy wasn’t very chocolate (not like a chocolate caramel or anything that intense). It was all very mellow and woodsy, with a slightly chalkier chew from the cocoa and real peanut butter. Like the peanut butter, I think it would benefit from just a dash of salt.
Neapolitan is a twist of the classic strawberry, vanilla and chocolate flavors. The scent of the strawberry dominated, with its soft floral and toasted sugar notes. But the flavor of the twist as a whole was just sweet and pleasant. The chocolate and vanilla didn’t do much and the strawberry was little more than the smell. The chew was soft and lasted a long time with no grainy finish.
Wintergreen was rather medicinal, cooling on the tongue but just didn’t feel like candy. This was a flavor I tried in my original assortment and didn’t pick one up on my re-do.
Hot Cinnamon is a twist of white and red. It was weird. The ingredients said it was only flavored with cinnamon oil, but it had a huge clove note to it, so much that my mouth was literally numb at one point, like clove oil often does. It wasn’t a hot, sizzling cinnamon. I liked the intense flavor and soft chew of it, but I did actually want more of the woodsy cinnamon notes.
Banana is bright yellow and completely artificial tasting, though the label said “banana extract” not artificial banana flavoring. It’s sweet and a little toasty, like a marshmallow. I enjoyed it quite a bit and think it would pair well as a twist for many of the other flavors. (Banana-Peanut Butter-Chocolate might be fun.)
The prices varied quite a bit. The first time I bought them at the farmers market on the square in Paso Robles (Spring 2010), this time I picked them up at Jack Creek Farms in Paso Robles for $1.50 each and some other flavors at Candy Counter in Cayucos for $1.75 each. The Mehlenbacher’s Taffy website (warning, it autoplays music) has them for $1.85 a stick.
On the whole, I’m not a big taffy fan. I appreciate the simplicity of the product, but once the flavor goes beyond a good malty molasses, I lose interest pretty quickly. So many taffies that I’ve tried taste about as interesting as the wax paper they’re wrapped in. This was different, Mehlenbacher’s is definitely doing something different here. It could be the use of real butter or the attention to the pulling of the boiled sugars. I’m still not inclined to keep buying it for an every day treat, but there are a few other flavors I’d like to try and I’m always up for some root beer.
I’d love to see an all natural line from them too, something with natural flavorings (though many are actually naturally flavored with extracts or peanut butter/cocoa) and natural colors - that would really set them apart.
Friday, September 2, 2011
Wonka has a strong tradition of sugar candies, as the brand originated with Sunline, makers of SweeTarts, Pixy Stix and Fun Dip (Lik-M-Aid). One of their legacy candies is Laffy Taffy. It’s just fruity taffy with the added bonus of a joke or two on the wrapper.
Back when I was a kid Laffy Taffy was known as Tangy Taffy and was sold in large flat bars similar to Jolly Rancher Stix (well, bigger than that). They came in intense and artificial flavors like Green Apple, Watermelon and Banana. After the Nestle takeover of Wonka they made some changes, like dumping Wacky Wafers (photo) and changing Tangy Taffy to Laffy Taffy.
Laffy Taffy still comes in bars, but the most common product I see are these little two inch long pieces. Each piece is about 35 calories and is two bites. They come in tubs and of course are a staple of pinatas and Halloween bags.
They’re soft and usually take on the shape of the package, but they’re very easy to get out of the plastic wrapper once opened. It’s a true taffy, there are no egg products in there like Bonomos or Doschers taffy have. There’s a touch of oil, so they’re not completely fat free (about a half of a gram of fat per piece).
Strawberry is pretty, very pink and fragrant. It’s like cotton candy or lemonade. The flavor isn’t very strong, lightly tangy and sweet with a well moderated fake strawberry flavor. There are little snaps of salt and tartness throughout. The chew is long and steady and quite smooth.
Banana - this is an intense fake banana candy. The banana is intense enough that it gave me a cool feeling on my tongue, similar to the effect of nail polish remover in both the tingling and the strange caustic scent. I like fake banana, so the sweetness and weird artificial flavor was fun for me. Your mileage may vary.
Sour Apple - if they called this green apple, I don’t think I’d have much of an issue. However, with the word sour in there, I have certain expectations, such as tartness. This was not sour. It was not even particularly vivid, just a mild fake green apple flavor. The texture is smooth and chewy and there’s a strange salty note to it that bugged me in this instance.
Grape is purple and the taffy version of a grape SweeTart. It’s zippy with a purely artificial flavor that’s a cross between grape juice, straight malic acid and pen ink.
The jokes on them are true groaners like “How do billboards talk?” (Sign Language!) and truly poorly written ones like “What kind of chain is edible?” (A Food Chain!)
I’ve grown out of these, for my fruit chews I prefer something a little tamer and friendly like Skittles. But these have the advantage of being vegetarian (no gelatin) over products like Starburst or Bonomos. They’re Kosher; there are no nut or gluten statements on the package.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Chewy, fruity and soft red licorice is just the thing on a hot summer day. It travels better than chocolate and of course the tart and fragrant flavor can give a little burst of thirst quenching without all that pesky drinking.
I picked up this package of Halva Strawberry Finnish Soft Licorice when I was at the ISM Cologne candy far earlier this year. I knew that they sold it at Cost Plus World Market here in the United States, so the brand gets around. The Halva brand is widely sold in Finland and is generally affordable but not necessarily gourmet.
The package is nicely designed, the format reminds me of the classic box of raisins. The stark and modern design uses a lot of white space, a bold photo of the candy (that actually looks like the candy) and some brief descriptions.
Each strip is about one and a half inches long and are soft and pliable, quite shiny. They have a coating of beeswax and oil, so they’re a little greasy. They’re slightly translucent and a light shade of red.
They don’t smell like much, but once I bit into them I got a lot of other sensory input. The texture is soft and chewy, though a little gummy and doughy. The strawberry flavor is nice, it’s very smooth but mostly middle of the road, not deep and jammy like Panda Strawberry Licorice and not crumbly and artificial like Twizzlers either. It’s satisfying in the sense that it fills me up, but irritating that it sticks to my teeth. The red food coloring has no perceptible flavor, so I enjoyed that part. The light tartness kept it all from feeling like it was too sticky.
The base of the candy is made from glucose-fructose syrup and wheat flour. In case you’re wondering if glucose-fructose syrup is pretty much the same thing as high fructose corn syrup, it is except that it’s probably not derived from corn. Use of glucose-fructose syrup is quite rare in American candies, not because of some high standards candy makers have or any health reasons for shunning them. Simply put, many of the sugars that candy makers choose are because of the way they perform physically and chemically. In a soda, HFCS will sweeten and bulk just the same as sucrose. But in a caramel, the free fructose (it’s bonded to a glucose molecule in sucrose and isn’t unbonded until well into the heating process of caramelization) will not work at all as the sole sugar. In the case of a wheat based chew like red licorice, it turns out you can use glucose-fructose syrup quite nicely.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.