Friday, July 8, 2011
A couple of years ago Mars introduced some new candy bars to the United States based on their popularity in Australia. They were called Fling and came in bright pink packages along with lots of marketing directed towards women. They came in three flavor varieties: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut.
About a year later the test marketing of Fling waned and a new bar came out nationally, the 3 Musketeers Truffle Crisp. The bar is described on the package as whipped-up chocolate truffle on a crisp layer enrobed in real milk chocolate.
The bars are narrow fingers, nicely domed with drizzled chocolate across the top. They’re light, literally - each weights a smidge over a half an ounce. (For comparison, a single Twix finger is about an ounce.) The package says that each one contains less than 85 calories. Well, that’s pretty easy since it doesn’t weigh much. In reality, the calories per ounce are quite high at 155 but the package limits your portion.
The bar snaps nicely with a light cracking sound. The construction is interesting (and this is where the bar is unique). The base is a plank of chocolate meringue. It’s crispy and airy with a light sweetness and hint of salt and cocoa to it. The truffle on top really isn’t - it’s a mix of cocoa and hydrogenated and/or non-hydrogenated palm and palm kernel oils. (In my world a truffle is made of actual chocolate and some sort of dairy fat.) The chocolatey cream is okay, fluffy but a little greasy and flavorless to my tongue. It’s all wrapped in a good amount of milk chocolate. The milk chocolate is sweet and creamy with a strong dairy note to it. It pulls it all together well.
The idea and execution of this is actually really good. I wish the truffle part was better and having had the Fling in dark chocolate, I know this is actually better in dark chocolate.
I actually like these bars, even with all my complaining about various elements of the promotion, packaging and ingredients. They’re unique and inventive, once consumers try them, I think the rest of the weirdness of the rest of it will be irrelevant. It would also be cool if Mars extended the use of the meringue crisp - I could see them as interesting centers for M&Ms, different flavored cream toppings for this bar (like coffee) and perhaps something berry with dark chocolate.
Though there are no wheat ingredients on the list, it is made on shared equipment with wheat (and peanuts) so it’s not technically gluten free, so try at your own risk.
Update 10/29/2012: I just heard back from Mars, they are discontinuing the Truffle Crisp bar. They just weren’t popular enough. My suggestion for those who love the bar is to write to Mars and propose that they bring them back seasonally. So you can stock up.
Friday, April 30, 2010
The Wonka Exceptionals Fruit Jellies are a bit more classic. They’re simple cubes of real fruit jelly made from all natural ingredients in Mexico. They come in single flavor boxes, the initial varieties are Grapefruit, Goji Berry and Red Apple.
They are packaged similarly to the Fruit Marvels. The label sleeve is over an eye-popping magenta and maroon box. Inside the box is an unlabeled purple mylar bag. It’s a lot of layers, and while I enjoy the fancifulness, it’s really wasteful.
The package simply describes them as fantastically flavorful soft jellies dusted with sugar. I also got a press release that said:
The ingredients go like this:
The beta carotene is the only ingredient that isn’t marked as all natural, though it’s certainly not an artificial color.
I’ve had a lot of pate de fruits over the years, which are full fruit jellies. They’re usually thickened with the actual fruit instead of corn starch though sometimes there’s additional pectin (depending on the fruit). Though the new Wonka Fruit Jellies don’t quite rise to the level of pate, they do a good job with the texture and are less sweet than gum drops or fruit jellies like Boston Fruit Slices.
The scent is a beguilingly authentic grapefruit peel. Grapefruit is a favorite smell for me, even clinical testing backs up its use for aromatherapy - the smell of grapefruit soothes, engenders trust and youthfulness (for women being sniffed by men, anyway). I like it because it smells like something I want to eat. It’s a mix of balsam, lavender, lemon and windy beach.
The half inch jelly cubes are rough and dusted with sugar. They’re a little messier than a gum drop but not as dusty as Turkish Delight. They’re soft to the touch but firm enough that they can’t be squeezed flat very easily. The moist jelly has a nice give, it’s not a sticky as a gum drop, these are more of a jam you can eat.
The flavor is mostly about the zest and grapefruit peel but there’s a light juice note with a little tangy snap. They’re not too cloying or sticky sweet, but not quite intense enough for me to call them a true pate de fruits.
The berries are related to tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. They have tiny little seeds in them but they’re edible and provide a little bit of texture, though not quite like, say, kiwi or fig seeds do.
The package says nothing about where the flavor for these comes from, just that it’s natural. The whole point, as far as I can tell, of people eating goji is because of its high antioxidant properties, so just flavoring something with goji seems like a miss.
They’re sweet with a little tangy note. Kind of like raisin and orange. Not really that interesting to me.
Note: the Goji variety of the Fruit Jellies uses cochineal color, so they are not vegan.
The flavor notes are reminiscent of apple cider. There are notes of apple peel, a mellow and honey-like sweetness along with a light tart bite.
My hesitations with these are because of the excessive packaging, but for a natural fruit jelly product they’re priced rather well but still quite a bit steeper than other gummis or jellies. (They’re about twice the price per ounce compared to the Wonka Sploshberries.) The size of the pieces is perfect, I just pop them in my mouth, no messing biting & putting half aside. I do love grapefruit, which is a hard flavor to find, and apple lovers may enjoy a real fruit experience too. Goji can go, hopefully replaced by something really inventive ... maybe we’ll finally find out what a snozzberry is.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Back in October I heard that Wrigley’s was introducing some new Skittles. These weren’t just new flavors, they were going to be a completely new way to experience the chewy fruit-flavored candy lentils.
Skittles Fizzl’d Fruits are billed as Fizzling fun for your mouth. As you can imagine from the name, they’re Skittles with a foaming, fizzy component.
The package is cobalt blue and holds the same amount as the Sour Skittles, 1.8 ounces (the regular flavors are 2.17 ounces). I couldn’t wait to find them in stores locally, so when I saw a box of them posted on eBay, I bought them right away.
From the outside of the package they looked like Sour Skittles, which of course gets my mouth watering immediately. The images show a softly sanded set of Skittles, my guess was this was the fizzing part.
This sort of fizzing reaction is the same as AlkaSeltzer or other effervescent tablets. Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) is mixed with an acidic agent, in this case citric acid. When it’s dry, nothing happens but when water (or saliva) wets it, they begin a reaction that results in carbon dioxide (the air) and sodium citrate (an alkaline salt with a tangy flavor that works as a mild antacid).
I took one Skittle and carefully put a drop of water on it and sure enough as the water wicked around the whole candy the surface started to bubble slightly. It looked like it was being deep fried, or like putting a strawberry in a glass of champagne. It’s not like the whole thing got covered in scrubbing bubbles nor would a whole bowl of them create a “snap, crackle, pop” but it’s still a remarkable little chemistry demonstration.
The flavors are Berry Punch, Melon Berry, Raspberry, Strawberry and Wild Cherry. If this set of flavors sounds familiar, yes, it’s the same as Wild Berry Skittles.
They smell softly sweet with a light floral note, but nothing that really hints at the experience to come.
They are strange! I can say right now they are not for me, but they are definitely intriguing.
I was expecting the caustic and biting sour coating when I popped two of the Melon Berry flavor in my mouth, and yes, there was a sour tingle, but then there was a fizz. It’s not a carbonation fizz, it’s more like putting an Alka Seltzer tablet on your tongue. The foaming is soft and has small bubbles which dissipate quickly, especially when I chewed up the candy. I didn’t care much for the melon berry flavor as it was, so the additional component was weird and slightly metallic.
The Raspberry went nicely, the sour bite was less noticeable and the foam seemed to support the floral flavors. The coating, I was noticing, has a medicinal mineral salt flavor to it, like eating antacids.
Berry Punch had a kind of bubble gum note to it, so the bubbly coating fit right in. It reminded me of a cheap soda from my childhood, in the best way possible.
Strawberry was much more tangy than the one found in the regular mix and combined well with the fizzling.
Wild Cherry was a strange combination of foreign flavors, it simply put, an effervescent cough drop. It had all the worst aftertastes for me, a mid-tone metallic note and then the lingering cherry and bitter red dye afterglow.
As I mentioned earlier, they’re just not for me. I’m not much for effervescence; the caustic burps after just aren’t worth the tongue tingling. The mineral aftertaste is also a bit disconcerting for me, but I know it’s completely benign. Finally, I’m not that keen on the name. They’re using the Wild Berry mix so seems like they could have gone for Bubbly Berry instead of Fizzl’d Fruits since Fruits is the name of the classic flavor mix. I also ate three bags of these over the past five days and found that the fizzy coating was inconsistent. Sometimes it was fizzy but flavorless, other times it was a perfect blend of tangy and foamy.
I know that kids like to snort the sour powder from Sour Skittles, but this would be a very bad idea ... I give it about 11 days before videos start showing up on youtube of kids doing it. Skittles are now gelatin-free and gluten-free. They’re also no nuts and vegan if you’re the kind who will eat artificial stuff. Not Kosher.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Less than 1% of the US population is allergic to peanuts (it’s estimated at .6% actually). But for families that have a peanut-allergic member it means that the whole household has to go peanut free (and sometimes classrooms as well). So finding candy that everyone can have is an issue. And there’s no reason that there can’t be excellent, no-compromise peanut free candy.
Enter the new P-NOT BUTTER flavored Sixlets ... yes, they’re Sixlets but instead of being mock chocolate they’re mock peanut butter.
This little flip top box boasts that it contains 44 pieces peanut butter flavored but peanut free candy.
The little spheres are bright and attractive ... if a little rolly. I’ve got to say that I appreciate M&Ms for their pleasing roundness but ability to stay put after playing with these Sixlets.
I’ve seen another review of these and thought maybe she had a bad batch. And I was curious what a fake peanut product would be like. What’s in there?
So it’s soy butter? That’s not so bad. I’ve bought that before for sandwiches.
The shells are strangely crispy & crumble and are cool on the tongue. The insides are soft and pasty, like super-smooth peanut butter.
But oh, after a few chomps on the trio I put in my mouth and I was repulsed. It reminded me of something but I couldn’t quite place.
At first I kept thinking of purses, basements & babies. I thought it was the soy part and it reminded me of strained pea baby food. And then I thought some more and realized that it reminded me of the smell of vomit in a hot car. The initial flavor is grassy and a little milky ... but then there’s this awful acrid tangy note that just hangs there like spit up baby formula. But it’s not like some distant vomit ... it’s something inside my own mouth, it give me the feeling that maybe I threw up a little while ago and forgot about it, except for this awful taste in my mouth.
Ultimately I think that these are a fantastic public service. Give these to children who are allergic to peanuts but have never actually eaten them and they’ll be sure to never be tempted to touch them again.
(For the record, I gave some to Amy-Who-Spits-Things-Out and she was miffed to say the least and wants to give them a negative 4 rating.)
UPDATE 9/22/2009: I heard from SweetWorks who manufacturers & distributes P-NOT Sixlets. They assure me that the product was discontinued (and the package I reviewed was possibly expired - but it had no expiry date marked on it and was only introduced a year ago, so how was I to know?).
Thursday, July 30, 2009
It was launched barely more than a year ago with little promotion to support it, no website (just a page on the Starbucks site) and a baffling retail plan where it was sold everywhere except Starbucks.
The line included coffee & tea infused chocolate bars, tasting squares and truffles. The packaging echoed Starbucks strong image, was all natural and made no direct mention of Hershey’s as the manufacturer. For Christmas special flavors were created that echoed the seasonal coffee drinks. However, the new brand was a tad on the expensive side and entered the mass-manufactured upscale chocolate market just terms like staycation entered the vernacular.
So last week as Hershey’s announced huge second quarter profits, it also formally announced that they were discontinuing the Starbucks Chocolate line.
CNN Money summed it up pretty well:
Added to that happy news about their profits (which were the result of cutting manufacturing costs by closing factories in the US, moving to a Mexican facility, raising prices and using cheaper ingredients), Hershey’s also formalized the discontinuation of Cacao Reserve, Hershey’s own branded high end chocolate line. (Hershey’s also closed Joseph Schmidt, a chocolatier line based out of San Francisco earlier this year and moved all production for Scharffen Berger to Illinois.)
The Caramel Macchiato Truffles come in a nicely packaged pair at the ghastly price of $1.39 at the drug store. Honestly, if this sort of truffle pair was available at an actual Starbucks to accompany my plain coffee, I might have gone for it more regularly. With the “startling news” that coffee drinks contain huge amounts of calories which cause cancer, a simple cup of coffee with cream and two truffles would actually be a smaller indulgence than an actual Caramel Macchiato.
I’ve never had a Macchiato (I’ve never actually had anything fancier than a latte or mocha in all my years), so I can’t comment on how well it mimics the frothy creation described thusly by Starbucks:
The milk chocolate shell is nicely molded. It holds a fudgy, smooth cream that tastes a bit like a mocha cheesecake. Sweet, a little tangy with a light coffee taste and maybe, just maybe a hint of toffee (caramel).
It was pretty sweet but with coffee it works ... though the actual coffee overpowers the not-much-coffee-taste.
In the end, I don’t think it was bad timing that sunk this line. I think it was bad merchandising - it should have been available at actual Starbucks. And a year is far too little to decide the success of a new line of chocolate. My view is that Hershey’s is uninterested in building brand loyalty through quality.
The only thing that makes sense about this is the statement on the side of the box:
Watching Cadbury & Mars move more and more towards ethically traded and sustainably grown & harvested cacao, I’m not seeing much for Hershey’s except from their Daboga arm. I can see where this Starbucks line is just a liability for profits. Hershey’s has shown itself to be more concerned with profits (and high profits, not just tidy ones) than the quality of its products and place within the economies it locates itself.
Monday, December 1, 2008
The Hershey’s & Starbucks marriage has moved quietly out of the honeymoon stage. I see the products around quite a bit, though I haven’t been tempted to buy any again since I tried their launch line of items.
Then I saw their new holiday truffles. They have three new variesties that I spotted at both Rite Aid and Target.
The new truffles are: Peppermint Mocha Truffles, Gingerbread Latte Truffles and Eggnog Latte Flavored Truffles.
I stared and stared at the two packages for Gingerbread and Eggnog and I couldn’t figure out the difference. Gingerbread was going to be a little more on the cinnamon side and eggnog was going to be more on the nutmeg side. Both are milk chocolate.
Even though they were on sale, I opted for just the Eggnog ones. I think nutmeg is a hugely underrated spice and I love the combination of milk chocolate and nutmeg. (Frances bought all of them though.)
First let me say that I’ve never had a Starbucks coffee drink before. I’ve had straight lattes and cappuccinos and tried their Chantico hot chocolate before, but I’ve never had any of their flavored drinks. Like my aversion to sodas, I just don’t care much for sweet drinks. So I can’t compare the experience of this truffle to one of their actual hot Eggnog Lattes.
The narrow domed pieces are very attractive. Nicely molded and aromatic. I got an immediate whiff of chocolate and nutmeg with a little hint of rum flavoring.
The chocolate shell is shiny and nicely tempered. The chocolate is sweet but has a slight pop of coffee flavors. The sugar, cream and palm oil ganache center is creamy with a few little bits of spice in it. There’s a very slight hint of coffee from time to time, but for the most part this is a chocolate piece about the egg nog flavors, not espresso.
Overall, as I’ve found with egg nog in the past, this is pretty sweet stuff. The piece is nice, but as I’ve noticed with the other truffle boxes, I kind of want a variety. I did see a gift box at Target that had a mix of Mocha, Peppermint Mocha and Gingerbread Latte Truffles, but at $10 for less than 6 ounces it was a worse deal ounce for ounce than the stand up boxes. So I think I’m just going to keep my eye on it and hope it’s still there after Christmas. Or go to a real chocolatier and get something that’ll really roll my eyes back in my head.
As drug store chocolates go, they are all natural and Starbucks makes a point of saying that their coffee and chocolate are sourced ethically and grown sustainably (doesn’t say anything about the palm oil though). They’re certainly better than most other mass-produced boxed chocolates in that respect. Kosher.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Bananas Foster is a New Orleans specialty created by chef Paul Blang?. The dessert consists of vanilla ice cream topped with bananas flambe’d in sauce of butter, dark rum, brown sugar, banana liquor and cinnamon. (I think it makes a great topping for pancakes or crepes.)
Dove has come out with a line of dessert-inspired bites including this one, the Bananas Foster and Tiramisu (made from lady fingers, marscapone and coffee). I picked the Bananas Fosters because I figured that the caramel format fit it really well (where I didn’t think it’d work as well with the Tiramisu in theory).
The little foil wrappers were a rather unsightly yellow color. Vaguely florescent, they don’t remind me of real bananas, it reminds me of Banana Runts. (But be warned as well, I rather like fake banana things, i you don’t that may interfere with your enjoyment.)
The Bananas Foster Silky Smooth Milk Chocolate Promises come tightly wrapped in a strange twisted stand up box that didn’t want to stand up for me. (And in my frustration I ended up opening it on the bottom instead of the top and now I’ve completely ruined it.)
Inside the foil is a light milk chocolate disk. It smells nicely of milk chocolate, sugar and green bananas. The bite is soft, but the chocolate snaps nicely, even in this heat. The milk chocolate isn’t particular intense, I think the aspect that Dove chocolate does best is silky smooth and that’s here all right.
The caramel filling is strange but completely consistent with the way that Dove has been making it for their other caramel filled Promises. It’s thick, but not chewy. It’s very smooth, but feels emulsified like pudding instead of like actual caramelized sugar and butter. But hey, caramel banana pudding is good, too. (I like butterscotch pudding with bananas in it.)
The banana flavor isn’t overwhelming, just a light touch. The caramel notes are non-existent, but thankfully the whole thing isn’t too sweet either. I wanted a little touch of rum and a little touch of brown sugar ... but while it wasn’t even close to imitating real Bananas Foster it was still satisfying.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Kai’s Candies has a line of candidate sets. The one for Barack Obama is currently available and includes lollipops with Obama’s likeness on them plus little single candies that either say VOTE or have an image of a donkey.
Later in August they’ll have a set for John McCain that features a lollipop with his face plus red elephant candies.
The images are made by hand. Basically sugar and syrup are boiled, a little flavor or color is added and then the different hunks of colored candy are assembled into a large blob that is rolled thinner and thinner - little slices are cut that reveal the design created by stacking the different colors. This is the same traditional technique used to make swirled & twisted lollipops, starlight mints and candy canes.
In Japan this technique is called Kumi Ame (rolled candy), where these are made to Kai’s Candies specifications.
Kai’s Candy has a nice post on their blog that shows photos of the process.
In the case of Kai’s Candies, the background is a translucent candy instead of an opaque color, which adds to the appeal of these, like they’re enamel.
The Obama pop is attractive, I recognize it as Obama, though the flesh tone is a bit light and his lips should be darker as well. It’s about 1 1/2 inches across and about 1/4 inch deep. The stick is a stiff plastic, white with a twirl of color. They’re a bit longer than usual lollipop sticks at almost eight inches, so you could put them in a vase or something as a centerpiece.
The design goes through and through, it’s not an imprint or a raised design.
However, as the candy dissolves the different kinds that make it up dissolve at different rates. The clear candy background seems to be the hardest, so Obama’s face disappeared more quickly (as did the donkey in the little piece).
As a piece of edible propaganda, it’s one of the best I’ve seen. It’s good quality stuff and the company takes great pride in their work. The packaging is spare but appropriate. (I liked that the donkey, elephant & vote were not only in clear wrappers but had color coded ends.)
They are expensive ($14.95 for a set that includes 4 pops and 14 little candies) but they’re also hand made. There are also mini-sets for only $3.95 but of course it makes the per item charge higher ... and don’t forget shipping. There’s nothing on the site about just ordering the vote and party affiliate animals (though I bet you could contact them directly for that).
UPDATE 8/18/2008: Kai’s Candy has lowered the prices, the regular set is now $13.95. They also include lettered pops that say “Obama” or “McCain” and mixes that have both Obama and McCain face and name pops mixed.
UPDATE 2/20/2009: Kai’s Candy has a message on their website: Kai’s Candy Company Is No Longer In Business. We’d like to thank our customers who helped launch our business, but like many others, we haven’t been able to sustain our business through the recent economic downturn.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.