Friday, February 24, 2012
Jolly Ranchers probably single-highhandedly made hard candies cool for kids. The flavors are bold and fresh and more intense than most others available back in the seventies when they went national and really still to this day. The brand has obviously branched out with chews, gummies and jelly beans. But their core product remains their individually wrapped hard candies in flavors like green apple, cherry, blue raspberry and watermelon. (One of my favorites has always been the Fire Sticks, though they’re not made any longer.)
The candies come packaged in a variety of formats. They should be available as little packages in vending and convenience stores as well as this peg bag that holds 6.5 ounces. Each piece is individually wrapped. Instead of the twist clear wrappers, these have sealed ends. The new logo design is bold and appealing, but the color difference between the watermelon pink and the cherry pink is quite faint. (Though the names are also printed on there.)
They’re about 7/8ths of an inch. The construction is interesting, it reminds me of the Jolly Rancher chewy center lollipops. There’s a chewy center, kind of like a Starburst and a hard candy shell. The shell is different from the texture of a regular Jolly Rancher. It’s not transparent, it’s milky and doesn’t have that same smooth melt and light pliability.
Cherry (Dark Pink) is the flavor I wanted to get out of the way, as it’s usually my least favorite but a good time to concentrate on the qualities of the candy. The candy rod is pretty thick, though it’s called crunch and chew, I don’t recommend biting into it right away, I suggest dissolving it a bit. The cherry flavor is strong with both tartness and a sweet woodsy but artificial flavor. Crunching brings an interesting set of textures. The chew in the middle was quite sour but worked well with the crunchy bits of hard candy. I suppose you could be patient and let the hard candy dissolve completely ... but the product is called Crunch ‘n Chew.
Green Apple (Green) is the flavor that I most associate with Jolly Rancher. It’s good, it’s nicely rounded with both that artificial green apple plus a helping of apple juice and a little bit of dried apple. The center is chewy and much more mild, almost milky.
Watermelon (Pink) is quite artificial and reminds me of scented lip gloss. It’s tangy with a good dose of that fake watermelon. The chew inside is also tart and has a weird sort of plastic flavor to it, kind of like Play Doh smells.
Blue Raspberry (Blue) is rather berry flavor. It’s not quite as intense as the standard Jolly Rancher clear hard candy, but has a well rounded flavor that pulls in flavors of seeds and boiled jam all with a tangy backdrop.
They’re just not my style. The part I like most about Jolly Ranchers is their incredibly smooth dissolve, no voids and with a sort of syrupy thickness to the flavor. This was just another hard candy with a weird plasticy chew at the center. If I were 11 and someone gave this to me, I might like it. But as a grown up, I think I’ll probably just stick with the Cinnamon Fire or Wild Berry flavors.
Contains gelatin, so not suitable for vegetarians. Made in Brazil, no statement about gluten or peanuts/tree nuts but does contain corn starch, sulfur dioxide and soy.
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Here’s a little shift of gears in my All Alcohol Theme Week. I have a couple of rolls of Mentos that are inspired by mixed drinks:
Mentos Pina Colada & Mojito is available in Europe right now, but should be sold in the United States shortly.
The pieces are divided, each flavor is on the advertised side of the roll. But if you get them confused, they’re all white with either green or yellow speckles.
Pina Colada tastes a little different than the standard Pineapple that’s available in the Rainbow and Japanese Pine Fresh rolls. That’s because it is actually a pineapple and coconut combination. The coconut here is less of the toasted variety and more of the creamy coconut milk flavor. The pineapple is floral and only slightly tart. On the whole it’s a rather sweet chew, but has a satisfying combination that keeps it from getting too sticky.
Mojito is not one of my favorite mixed drinks. It’s weird. I don’t know who decided that citrus and mint are supposed to be good together, but I guess if you put in enough rum, no one will care. I’ve had a few citrus and mint combinations, so I’m not coming into this candy unaware of good and bad versions. The mint here tastes like dried spearmint leaves, like a spearmint herbal tea. The lime is tart but has no zest to it. Some lime and mint combinations can taste a bit like cough drops, but that’s not the case here. Instead this just tastes a little old. I didn’t get anything even remotely like rum, but that wasn’t there in the Pina Colada either.
On the whole, I liked the idea of two flavors in one roll. But I didn’t care much for the Mojito, so half of the roll was suddenly off the table for eating.
Mentos Duo only seems to be sold in Europe. I tried them last year in a licorice version. Those were like the version above where there were two flavors in the roll. The added bonus on top of that was that the outside was one flavor and then the center of the chew was another. Mentos Drop Citroen & Drop Aardbei
I wanted to be fair to the poor lime after being so harsh on the Mojito, and the good news is that this version called Mentos Duo (Strawberry & Lime) is like a Strawberry Daiquiri.
All of the pieces are the same, a strawberry outside with a center of lime. The outside is a soft pink and smells like cotton candy. The initial strawberry flavor was light and fragrant, a little floral and sweet. The chewy center gets a little more intense with a tangy lime note. It’s not very sour, but different enough from the strawberry layer that it creates a counterpoint. Lime can be too sour and sometimes bitter; strawberry can be bland and too sweet. But together they make a great flavor combination that I think is all but ignored in candy.
Both European versions of Mentos are made with natural flavors and natural colors.
I’m more likely to buy the Duo than the Pina Colada/Mojito, but both are great additions to the range.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
I’ve been waiting for a new variety of Skittles to come along to blow me out of the water. Something that really turns expectations about Skittles on their ear, like the Skittles Carnival limited edition version a few years back. Mostly I’ve been hoping for Skittles Soda Pop: cola, root beer, lemon-lime, orange and grape soda. But that doesn’t look likely. Instead I picked up this teal blue bag of their newest called Skittles Riddles.
The newest version of Skittles have a new set of flavors and a new twist. The riddle is that The Colors Don’t Match the Flavors. There are the standard set of five colors, in this case aqua, light green, blue, red and pink. The flavors are apple, strawberry, punch, watermelon and raspberry. And as they note, they won’t necessarily match up with their colors. Some of the flavors aren’t actually that new, raspberry, strawberry and punch are found in other mixes.
My big curiosity was whether or not the color swap would be consistent throughout the bag. Would all blues be the same flavor, or would it be completely randomized? My initial observation is that they’re randomized. (Though limited, I found one flavor in three colors at most.)
Watermelon was unmistakeable. The first time it was a dark red, another time it was aqua. It was like a Jolly Rancher in chew form. The flavor dissipates fast, but comes on strong.
On the whole, I like the idea of mixing up expectations. But one thing that I like about Skittles is how I eat them. I like to line them up, grouped by color and then eat them in matched pairs. When I get to the end with the singles, I like to keep my citrus flavors together and mix my grape with strawberry. With this version, I simply can’t do that. I can’t ever be sure I’m putting two of the same flavor together, and not all of the flavors actually go together well. I didn’t like watermelon combined with anything else and strawberry probably would have gone well with raspberry.
It’ll be fun for folks who don’t actually look at the colors and it is nice to see new flavors. But I’m still waiting for my Citrus Mix or Soda Pop. The novelty flavors like Crazy Cores and Fizzl’d Fruits are wearing thin and I don’t even want to talk about the poor execution of the Chocolate Skittles.
Skittles are gelatin free now and labeled as gluten free. There’s no statement about other allergens like nuts, eggs or gluten.
UPDATE 11/28/2012: Wrigley’s in the UK will be introducing a version of these called Skittles Confused (I believe they were a Sainsbury exclusive limited edition back in 2008.)
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
While I revel in winter in Southern California, because I can buy, store and enjoy as much chocolate as I want, I turned my attention to an item I bought before Halloween. These Pink Lemonade Airheads.
Airheads were one of those candies that didn’t exist when I was a kid, and by the time they came out, it was past my sour candy phase and I didn’t pay much attention to them until I started Candy Blog. I gave them out for Halloween for the first time this year, and I was really shocked and pleased at how excited the kids were to get them. The one flavor in the mix that caught my attention was the Pink Lemonade, so I went back and purchased more after the holiday.
They’re small bars, a little over a half an ounce per packet. The little plank is about four inches long and a little over an inch wide.
Airheads are a strange candy, in a category really by themselves. They’re a chew, but not a full taffy. They’re a bit grainy, but have a smooth melt in the mouth.
The Pink Lemonade flavor is pink, but more on the salmon side than a light red. It smells like a tub of Country Time Lemonade Mix. The bite is a little tough, but the bar is flexible and easy to rip apart. It tears in a bit of a grainy fashion, instead of pulling smoothly like a taffy would.
The flavor is a straight lemonade - it even has a that slight powdery grain to it in the early part of the chew. The lemon is tart and sweet but not an authentic juice flavor and has only a light zest note to it. It is rather like a chew SweeTart.
I can’t see myself eating these a lot, but I like that the chew is clean, not sticky like a taffy or jelly candy can be. It’s somewhere between a SweeTart and a Starburst. It might be fun if there were smaller bites, so I could get more flavor variety. But then I imagine that all I’d want would be lemon anyway.
If your New Year’s resolution was to slow down on the sweets, they’re a pretty efficient little treat. There are only 60 calories in a bar, though it’s all sugar and no actual nutrition. They’re cheap, nearly indestructible, portable, Kosher and probably vegan if you’re the kind who eats unnatural things (they don’t say the source of the pink coloring). Made in a facility that processes wheat flour. No other statements about tree nuts, soy, dairy or peanuts.
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.
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