Tuesday, March 2, 2010
At a CVS in Hollywood last week I spotted an exceptionally odd Marshmallow Pop among the Easter candy. It was blue and kind of the flounder version of some sort of plush animal - the face was all on one side of the profile. I thought it was a manufacturing mistake - I took a photo of it and made fun of it on Twitter.
Then I was in another CVS, some 50 miles away over the weekend and found another display (pictured here), this time with a half a dozen of these same strange light blue marshmallow creatures. So of course I had to buy one. It was only a dollar.
It’s a large marshmallow pop. On top of a plastic stick is perched 2.46 ounces of powder blue, sugar sanded marshmallow with hand-decorated frosting features. The packaging is simple, a clear cellophane bag - the back has some imprinted nutrition facts and CVS house brand satisfaction guarantee. You can guess where this review is going.
He’s about 5 inches high, 4 inches wide and about 1 inch thick.
But what is he? My first impulse is that he’s a plush version of the Quiznos creatures called Spongmonkies (here’s a video, but turn down your speakers before clicking). But this guy’s teeth are too good, oh, and he’s not furry. My second thought is that it’s a dinosaur, especially because the dentition indicates a carnivorous creature - some sort of Tyrannosaurus rex perhaps. The anatomy isn’t quite right. Look at how big his front legs are - well, there’s also that part where he’s crossed one arm across his chest and the other one is dangling like the elbow is dislocated. (Maybe he’s fallen off his bike and is holding his boo-boo, crying and running home to his mama.)
Then there’s the legs ... is there a leg missing? Is that a tail or a foot that’s also dislocated and facing backwards.
Is this actually some sort of roadkill? Pre-flattened with broken and missing limbs?
Anyway, let’s move on to the actual performance of the product as an edible.
It smells like some sort of raspberry - like an array of body washes and scented creams from Bath and Body Works. It also reminds me of a medicated pet shampoo I used to use (on my dog).
The sugary grain on the outside is substantial, far greater than I would have expected (and messier). It’s not like the fine stuff on Peeps, this is sparkly and gritty sugar.
The flavor of the marshmallow is well rounded, much more like those strawberry gummi puffs than a marshmallow. The texture is latexy, chewy and bouncy. The raspberry is both floral and tangy, sweet but not cloying. The blue goes all the way through and there’s a hint of an aftertaste to go with it. About a half hour later I was wondering if I’d been eating air freshener and forgot. The frosting bits were hard, crunchy and disconcerting - I wasn’t sure if it was unglazed porcelain sometimes.
A few bites in and I thought I’d eaten a little bit of the packaging. Little soft plastic bits (but it was wrapped in cellophane and this was nothing like that). The chunks, as far as I could tell, were unmixed gelatin globs. Flavorless and a little gummy, but probably perfectly edible. But not acceptable.
The nutrition label says one serving is the entire pop. While that’s only 240 calories, there’s no way I could eat more than the three bites shown. I stopped because my curiosity was satisfied, not my craving for a sweet.
It’s not horrible, but it’s really, really bad. While I enjoy novelties that might not be very palatable, they’re usually fun to look at. This is just frightening. The marshmallows are made in China, and since this is a house brand at CVS, there’s really no way of knowing where or how it was manufactured. I tried a similar product a few years ago from Walgreen’s house brand, a Valentine’s Pink Marshmallow Pig.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:48 pm
Monday, February 22, 2010
Au’some has a line of 3-Dees Gummy candies, that are just what they sound like. They’re three dimensional molded gummy candies and much larger than the standard gummi bear. I reviewed the Super Mario Brothers version a few years ago (along with their Wii controller candy dispenser).
The seasonal versions of the gummis are in special shapes and flavor combinations for the holiday. The Easter 3-Dees Gummy version features two shapes (sitting rabbit and dancing chick) and three flavors (strawberry, orange and mixed berries).
Each package contains six candies, one of each shape in one of each flavors. They’re in a little tray that keeps each one separate and molded to their shape. The fun is when you pop them out of their molds.
The packaging does an excellent job of keeping the candy protected and in the best possible condition for play. I can’t say that it was that compelling when I first looked at it, it really didn’t convey the stunning look of these out of the package. (Here’s another version of the package that you might see in stores.)
I admit that this review is actually more about the pictures, and I also admit that the photos that follow makes these little guys look far larger than they are (blame it on my new camera lens). Each weighs between a quarter of an ounce to a third of an ounce. The rabbits are exactly one inch high and one inch on the longest side of the base.
As a 3D candy they actually stand up, like a little injection-molded plastic toy.
When they say that they’re three dimensional, they’re not kidding. The rabbits, if you can’t tell so far, were my favorite. The middle seam was nearly undetectable. The nicely formed face even had little buck teeth that I could see when looking carefully. The little tucked back ears are simply charming.
The dancing chick isn’t quite as compelling for me, it was harder to tell what was going on, but the figure reminded me of that penguin in Happy Feet. This little chick is a bit rolly-polly and kicking up one of his feet.
The flavors are right up my alley. In this case that means that red is strawberry instead of cherry. It’s nicely tangy and has a rounded floral berry fragrance. It tastes exactly like strawberry Jell-O.
The texture for these gummis is what I’d call short. Some gummies are stringy - if you pulled on the gummi it’d stretch quite a bit before it pulled apart. These gummis are more like actual gelatin desserts. Biting into them they pull apart into little nuggets. Pull them and they break apart with clean surfaces.
Though they’re not a chewy gummi they are intensely flavored and exceptionally smooth. The blue-green color is Mixed Berries and in this case it actually tastes like berries. There’s a good jammy raspberry flavor. It’s tart, floral and not too much like generic fruit punch. In the case of this one there was a slight note of the blue food coloring (a little metallic) but that didn’t detract from it.
The orange flavor is disappointing, only because Haribo has raised the bar so high. It’s sour in the right way, but the overall flavor is that of orange-ade. There are no zest notes that kind of carry it over into the whole orange flavor. Still, the flavor and texture worked well together.
The hesitation on this product is that it’s made in China. The package says “made responsibly in China and I do believe that there are plenty of ethical and conscientious food makers in China - I just don’t know how to tell who is who. The size of these gummis still means they should not be given to very small children - but you probably already know that.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
The old Danish Rolls or Delfa Rolls are back, though now with the name Broadway Rolls. I finally found the black licorice version being sampled at the Winter Fancy Food Show at the Gerrit Verburg (a licorice importer) booth.
These are made in China but bear a striking similarity to the original Danish Rolls.
The construction of the candy is that it’s four small spools of flat licorice strands served up as one long bar in a single wrapper. The Strawberry Broadway Roll I tried before was interesting, but not so much that I would long for it if I couldn’t get it again.
The black licorice is glossy, smooth and quite dark. They’re soft and as long as I unrolled them, were easy to bite. (Biting a whole roll was tough and kind of silly.) Each spool is about 3/4 of an inch tall and one inch wide. Each strip, unrolled, is about one foot (12”) long - though that varied a little bit.
It didn’t smell like much at first, just a bit spicy and like anise. After unrolling and biting one though, it was quite complex and good. The main ingredients are wheat flour, sugar and molasses with real licorice extract and artificial flavors. I’ve noticed that I prefer licorice made with molasses, as I like the mineral and earthy flavors and how they combine with the sweet and spicy licorice. In this case the licorice tasted more like a really good ginger spice cake than a plain black licorice. Notes of cloves, ginger and nutmeg were quite apparent.
For a single serve black licorice, it’s great. It’s hard to find really intensely flavored licorice that’s not overly sticky. This had a good bite that became a bit crumbly and short after chewing, so it didn’t stick to my teeth at all. The aftertaste was a little bitter, but I blame that on the artificial food colors (which is too bad as well). There are some shortcomings to it, but overall I can see myself buying this again, especially since it’s a single serve, fun to play with and interestingly flavored roll.
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?
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.