Tuesday, January 26, 2010
A weekend trip to the 99.99 Cent Only Store meant a lot of decisions. There’s plenty there that I’m curious to try, and often do, but most of the time it’s my fascination with what may be very bad that gets me to buy something, not the hope that it’s good. (Examples: Beechies Force Chew Candies, Choco-Fudge Mallow Sundae, Skittles Fresh Mint and a roll of LifeSavers that were probably 10 years old.
When I found a little display in the Valentine’s aisle though with some edible body paints and these Decorated Chocolate Shoes I thought that they were actually a good score. The packaging is a little plain, but part of me suspected that these were part of a larger gift package (maybe a basket or box) that were broken up into separate items that could be sold off for a dollar ... and most likely they were from Christmas and still fresh. The expiry date on the shoe was April 2010.
The package is two components: an outer clear plastic box with the label affixed to it with the stretchy silver bow and an inner two part clear plastic “mold” for the shoe. This did a great job of both displaying the candy and protecting it. It was fully taped all around the seam between the two parts, so very well sealed.
There were two things that gave me pause about the purchase. First, it’s made in China. The company that distributes them is called Galerie and is based in Hebron, Kentucky. (They also make gourmet candy corn.) My confidence level in products containing milk from China is admittedly low since the melamine scandal. Second, the ingredients don’t look good. Technically this should not be labeled chocolate, as the milk chocolate contains whey as an ingredient, considered a “filler” by US FDA standards. But I was attracted by the price and size and figured some readers might be as well.
The shoe itself is about four inches long with a 1.75” heel. At 2.7 ounces it’s pretty hefty, so besides that well in the shoe for a foot, it’s solid chocolate. The molding is nice, the chocolate has a good sheen to it and the decorations, though modest at just four pink colored “white chocolate” hearts on each side are precisely painted. (I looked around and didn’t see any other varieties in the store, though I suspect that other versions exist.)
The chocolate smells a bit woodsy, sweet and milky. It’s pretty tough to bite, kind of like eating an Easter rabbit. The texture though is rather smooth. I was pleased with the fact that it wasn’t overly sweet (adding whey actually makes this possible - it helps maintain the texture without adding expensive cocoa butter or cocoa but not sweetness of sugar - in very small amounts it doesn’t influence the flavor).
As a molded novelty item for this price, I’d say it’s excellent. My interest in milk chocolate in the shape of a high-heeled shoe with hearts on it is extremely low, so I can’t say that this is a great gift for me. If you’re looking for a party favor or a little gift where the visual impact is more important than the actual chocolate, this is perfect. Out of the package it can be used for decoration, and as I showed above for scale, filled with M&Ms or Hershey’s Kisses or even a few small chocolate covered strawberries it’s great.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Sadly, Danish Ribbons are no longer made.
So when I heard that there was a replacement for them, I needed to try them to see what all the saddened fuss was about. The replacement product is called Broadway Rolls. They come in the classic black licorice and strawberry flavors.
The roll itself is quite clever. It’s a very thin and malleable wheat-based chew. The strips are about 3/4 of an inch wide and deeply grooved (to the point that you can pull it apart into threads).
When rolled up, the little spools are about one inch high and the roll is sold with four in a package, lightly stuck together in a stack.
Each roll is like a spool; they’re dense and quite hefty at about a half an ounce each. Unrolled the strap is about 11 inches long.
The fun thing about them is that they’re easy to play with. I found that I could tease off one or two strands and unspool them. I also found I could unroll the whole thing and then have what appeared to be part of the innards of my computer (the cable that attaches my hard drive). The only thing I couldn’t manage was just biting into the roll.
Most of the time I just found myself unrolling enough for a bite.
The soft and slightly waxy textured Broadway Roll is rather like a Twizzler. They’re strawberry flavored, mostly sweet and floral but with a light tangy note. They’re not intense and though soft enough to bend and pull, I wouldn’t call them chewy.
I think I’d prefer to try them in Licorice, but these are pleasant enough and certainly unique. I can see why they’d be missed. The format is different enough from other licorices, even plain laces, to warrant a petition to revive them. I don’t know who originally made Danish Ribbons (some sources say Malaco, the originator of Swedish Fish) but these are made in China.
They’re probably really fun for decorating, or creating your own gingerbread motherboard.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Though today is Halloween, I’ve been inundated with a world of Mentos flavors thanks for Santos of Scent of Green Bananas. They were even part of a segment on Good Food on KCRW. I have a huge backlog of them, so here are a few new to North America flavors to highlight:
The Flavor of the Year: Watermelon Mentos are made in Vietnam. I don’t know what the market for them is, as the package is in English yet they’re not sold in the United States.
The pieces are a dusty green. The ingredients list all natural colors, which probably explains why they’re not really bright.
The flavor is all sweet and quite faithful to a watermelon granita or other sweetened watermelon product. It’s more of an interesting flavor than a compelling one for me. It’s authentic but I don’t really eat watermelon for the flavor, I’m more drawn to it for the refreshing texture and volume of water.
While I wasn’t blown away with them, two co-workers did give them raves, so I think it has to do with whether you’re fond of watermelon in the first place. The Watermelon is also found in the European Rainbow Mentos.
Juicy Orange Mentos Plus
I have no idea what’s different about these compared to the orange that’s found in the regular fruit mix. As far as I can tell, it’s just a plain old orange Mentos package with some extra vitamin C.
I was hoping for more citrusy pop, more zest, more tartness ... but the plus is just the fortification. Kind of like the candy version of Orange Soda.
The box is cool looking, it’s flatter than the American ones, which gives it a more elegant profile. And popping them will help me ward off the flu.
The Lemon Lime Mentos Plus say they’re lemon lime on the package, but the picture just shows limes.
The flavor is quite good, a mix of zest and mellow lime flavor without too much sour. It’s bright and clean without tasting too much like cleaner. This was the first package I polished off, so I must have liked them. There was a bitterness that reminded me of tonic water ... now someone just needs to get me some Gin Mentos and we’ll be all set.
They Mentos Plus are made in China but half the packaging (the back of the box and one side) are all in Korean.
None are my new favorites, but still interesting chews and great to share.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Grave Grabbers from Flix Candy are billed as a handful of fruit flavored gummy! and they certainly do deliver on both the hand and the gummy part.
Maybe it’s that they’re not shaped like something I would normally want to eat. Maybe it’s that they’re made in China. Or maybe it’s that I have such a low appetite for flesh.
They come in three flavors, and each one is individually and uniquely designed. Each piece is 1.94 ounces, and though not as large as an adult’s hand (they’re only about 4.5 inches long), they’re still impressive to handle.
Green Apple is the left hand (hah-hah, the others are right hands!) in a dark green with black fingernails and knobbly knuckles. It also has a lightly textured skin that looks a bit like a lizard’s or snake’s. The gummy texture is soft, but not too soft and sticky that it makes a greasy mess when you play with the candy. The flavor is rather mild but an actual pleasant green apple flavor. Almost realistic with some apple juice notes.
Strawberry is the skeletal one in the center. It’s a light and creamy white with gray cartilage. The fingers are longer than the others, but the palm is also less fleshy. (And the attachment of the thumb makes me think this is chimpanzee hand or foot more than a human hand.) It’s a very mild strawberry flavor. A little light tangyness but it’s mostly the florally & berry fruity that we’re accustomed to.
Blue Raspberry is a strange thing to call this, since there are no blue raspberries, they’re just a made up flavor and this isn’t even a blue colored candy. Instead it’s more of a zombie hand, sinew & open flesh, even some bones and gory bloody bits showing. The flavor was pretty unremarkable. I lost the package for this one and had to muck around on the internet until I found someone else mention with a picture.
They’re obviously too expensive for Trick or Treat, with a recommended retail of $1.25 (though you may find them cheaper). They’re a fun candy for kids to play with or to use as a decoration for a Halloween spread. The one odd impulse I have with this is to smack someone on the face with them a la a glove for a good old fashioned challenge. Luckily I’m alone in a hotel room today and there’s no one to do that to.
Flix also makes giant insect versions in similar flavors (though bolder colors). I think they’re far more inventive & creative than some of the other Flix items I’ve had, though still nothing that appeals to me.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Sometimes I pick things up to save you the trouble. Because I know that you’re the babbling ill-nurtured ingested-lump that’d be tempted to buy Shakespearean Insult Gum. The little “shelf” of “books” is actually a set of boxes that hold two gumballs and a line from one of the scribe’s plays.
William Shakespeare was the master of the witty insult and now you can amaze your friends with these highbrow putdowns!
It’s like an episode of Frasier, but with gum!
The assortment of boxes feature names of Shakespeare’s tragedies on the spines: King Lear, Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, Henry V, Hamlet, Richard III and Othello. My fobbing idle-headed whey-face couldn’t remember that many insults from the great dramas, figuring that just a transcription of The Taming of the Shrew is probably all the insults one would need for any novelty product. (You remember the wildly popular Katherina doll called the Spewing Shrew that you pulled the little cord on the top of her head and she would animate and push you out of your chair and call you names ... they were pulled from the market pretty quickly so they’re quite the collector’s item.)
Each little box contains two gumballs. They came in a variety of colors, though four of the boxes had one green and one white. I feared, knowing they were made in China that I would end up with spongy long-tongued botch.
The gum itself are solid little balls (though not quite spherical), not those hollow ones that slanderous flap-mouthed skainsmates try to pawn off on unsuspecting gum-chewers. They were pretty small, so it’d probably be more of an engineering issue to make them any lighter. Even two pieces didn’t make a decent chewing amount.
Pink was cherry. A little tangy, rather soft but mercifully free of bitterness. Yellow was lemon which was a soft flavor that dispensed some tartness as I chewed it. Green was probably supposed to be apple, but it didn’t taste like much. White was watermelon, and while it was no spongey hell-hated odoriferous stench it did remind me of an Avon lady’s neck.
Really, it wasn’t bad so much as it was pointless. What do gumballs have to do with Shakespeare?
First, I’ll spoil the surprised and show you 7 out of the possible 25 quotes you could get:
Macbeth = Dissembling harlot, thou are false in all (Comedy of Errors)
King Lear = How foul and loathsome is thine image (The Taming of the Shrew)
Henry V = Bless me, what a fry of fornication is at the door (King Henry VIII)
Richard III = A plague on both your houses (Romeo and Juliet)
Romeo & Juliet = Base dunghill villain and mechanical, I’ll have thy head (Henry VI Part 2)
Hamlet = Thou art likest to a hogs head (Love’s Labour Lost)
Othello = Hang, beg, starve, die in the streets (Romeo and Juliet)
Two of them, I’d reckon, are not insults but actually curses.
What’s sad about this is how completely hobbled it is by its own parameters. Only 25 insults? They’d better be the best ... but they’re not! Here, have some fun with this random Shakespeare insult generator (where I got the ones peppered in here ... you don’t think I actually remember that much from college, do you?).
Why are they tucked into these little volumes like this? They don’t match the spine, so there’s no way to even chose what you think might be the right one for your occasion. And then, why do I have to tear the little boxes apart to get at the insult?
The website says Sure to offend the intellectuals and confuse the dimwitted!. Yeah, I’m not sure I’m an intellectual, but I’m certainly offended that this was such a dimwitted product. What do they take me for? An unmuzzled tardy-gaited hedge-pig?
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
When I was a kid I loved craft kits. Things like Shrinky Dinks, Spirograph, those looms for making your own rag potholders, and of course lots of improvised crafts with yarn, fabric & items around the house. My brother had similar leanings and in particular he had an insect maker called Creepy Crawlers Bug Making Kit (or something similar from the late seventies era).
I’m sure there were girly versions of this kit where you stuck latexy goo into little molds, let them set and then popped out a squishy temporary toy. Perhaps you could make your own hair jewelry or flair for your My Little Pony or Polly Pocket ... not that I had either of those toys.
You’re probably wondering at this point, when is she going to mention what the candy for review is? Well, I don’t want to. I bought it, I took pictures of it ... but I just can’t seem to bring myself to eat it just yet.
The package says that it contains two 100 calories packs inside. I sigh at this, because I’m concerned about children counting calories, especially when the creatures on the package are no bigger than my hand and couldn’t possibly need more than 100 calories in a day (well, I’m not actually sure of that, since I don’t know about the combination of warm-bloodedness and wings/flight would have on energy demands and google was no help).
But enough about that.
Each little packet had five gummi items in it. Each is about 1.25 to 1.5 inches across.
The color & texture is startling. While I found it appealing, I felt like it was more appropriate for a plastic pin that I’d affix to my rainbow suspenders than something I’d like to eat. (Which brings me back to that molded insect toy maker.) The texture was soft and pliable, much like those sticky octopods that you could buy for a quarter in a vending machine at the grocery store. (Something like this?)
Pink Daisy: Watermelon - soft and chewy, it was perfumy with a slight tangy note to it. Besides the bright pink color, it was much like most other gummis, expect the food coloring gave it a bitter aftertaste for me.
Blue Butterfly: Raspberry - the flavor was mild and pleasant, again with a strong artificial bent like the watermelon, though less weird aftertaste.
Green Flower: Apple - this one was the most artificial of them all and had an unpleasant dank note to it.
In this case the candies looked exactly like they did on the package. I didn’t care for the flavors, but the texture was good. They’re actually more fun, as far as I’m concerned, as toys. They stick pretty nicely on glass (like a mirror or car window) but of course leave a bit of a greasy film.
The actual candies have no affiliation with the Pixies ... they’re not items the Fairies eat, not shaped like characters or even named for anything in particular that relates.
I’d prefer if Disney stopped using these companies that manufactured in China and used so many artificial ingredients without much regard to how the licensed product fit into the image of the characters & story. (I think the Bertie Bott’s/Jelly Belly/Harry Potter is one of the truest tie ins.)
Monday, October 6, 2008
A couple of years ago I raved about a product from Kandy Kastle: Gummi Lightning Bugs. It was both a candy and a novelty item and I was enchanted by the simplicity.
But when I spotted this on the shelves of the local 99 Cent Only Store, I just had to buy it. Not because I thought it was going to be good, but I was just too curious.
The Choco-Fudge Mallow Sundae is pretty big for only 60 cents (well, technically it’s 59.99 cents) and boasts that it’s Fat Free, Cholesterol Free and Low Sodium. Because the target market for these is always swayed by those selling points.
Basically the candy is a stack of flavored marshmallows in Strawberry, Vanilla, Chocolate, Green Apple. It comes with a little packet of Chocolate Fudge Candy Gel to pour over it as if it were a real ice cream sundae.
The candy is toweringly huge at about seven inches.
It comes tucked in a little waxed paper cup with the marshmallows firmly adhered to each other and sprinkled with colored jimmies.
If you think they look like Play-Doh, I agree.
When they said gel they weren’t kidding. When I first opened it, there were a few thin drips, but the rest was congealed inside. So I squeeze it a bit to mix it up and then tried to drizzle it out on the marshmallow scoops.
It came out in a thin stream then a few chunks.
The ingredients explain a lot: corn syrup, sugar, modified starches, water, sorbitol, potassium sorbate, artificial flavors, artificial colors (Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1 and Titanium Dioxide).
Note that this Chocolate Fudge Candy Gel contains no chocolate products whatsoever. I didn’t think it would need actual chocolate, but a pinch of cocoa might make a convincing fudge sauce.
It didn’t smell very good, kind of like fake vanilla, but not much else.
Then I was left with this sticky tower of dry and stiff marshmallows. It smelled like a cross between green apple flavor and new shoes.
I couldn’t eat it. I can’t eat it. I tried to take a bite of the chocolate marshmallow part, avoiding the sticky gel, but I couldn’t keep it in my mouth. It was cocoa-ish but had that green apple flavor to it as well. It was stiff and tacky and dry on the outside.
Just too horrible to consume but an incredibly cheap decoration if you’re looking for one. My inedible rating is probably unfair because I didn’t actual try very hard so if you’ve had this and loved it, please testify to my inaccurate description of the experience of not eating it below.
Patent Pending & Made in China.
Other braver folks: Riverfront Times.
Monday, September 1, 2008
While I’m a big fan of excess in the right circumstances, I was puzzled about what could be so great about a giant gummi other than the fact that it weighed over 12 ounces and was four inches tall. One of the great things about gummi bears is the variety and the fact that you can put a whole one in your mouth, or several at a time for flavor combos.
But this had a lot going for it, first, the price wasn’t bad. At $3.99 for 12.3 ounces (350 grams) it was at least what I considered a fair deal. Yeah, it’s made in China (not one of my favorite gummi-producing countries) but the ingredients looked decent enough to get this just for the sheer joy of photographing it.
They come in five flavors: Cherry, Blue Raspberry, Grape, Green Apple and Orange. Obviously I chose orange, mostly because I thought it would photograph best but also because I think orange is a good flavor.
The packaging is spare and still great. It’s basically the mold for the bear, a hard clear plastic shell, sealed with cellophane tape all around. When done with the bear, the little plastic box can be re-filled and closed up and even has a little loop hole at the top for hanging.
The nutrition facts are a little odd. They think this package holds only one serving, which is 1120 calories.
He’s a little shiny and filmy on the outside, as many gummis are. (This one has carnauba wax.)
The gummi itself is very soft and pliable, quite bouncy and stretchy.
The big question after opening it was serving suggestions.
I trotted out the giant gummi yesterday when we had friends over for the block party on our street. Ernessa is a huge gummi fan, so she was quite smitten with the idea of a large gummi. Her husband, Christian, is one of my few licorice buddies (though he’s a fan of the salted stuff) ... it’s good to have candy friends.
So I served it up on a paper plate and we debated whether to cut him down the middle (there’s a seam) or across. I decapitated him. (There was talk of just picking him up and taking a bite but that’s the candy-equivalent of double dipping.)
A few slices of the head and we were all enjoying a piece of the gummy. It’s very soft, more like a piece of firm Jell-O than a gummi bear. It smelled great, like fresh orange juice. The texture as very smooth and melted in the mouth better and didn’t require a lot of chewing, it was almost like a piece of intensely flavored Turkish Delight. It had a lot of zesty notes to it, a good tingly tartness and of course a sweet and mellow background flavor.
I was pretty impressed with this bear. I was expecting nothing more than flash and style and no substance. I can say that at least in the orange flavor they delivered a really good gummi bear experience. The ingredients list both pectin and gelatin, which is what I owe the even texture to. I’m not sure how well this would do sitting out of its little clear plastic housing. It sat up well for the photos, but I don’t know how it’d do in humid or really hot conditions.
They’d be a fun hostess gift, a great addition to a gift basket or Christmas stocking or if you could find a good deal in bulk, a party favor (and maybe place card holder). As something for one person to eat, it seems a little silly, but it’s definitely a fun thing to share with others. On the whole I prefer the variety and look of the regular-sized ones.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.