Friday, September 14, 2007
I’m a little late to this Limited Edition Milk Chocolate Razzberry M&Ms story, but mostly because I couldn’t find them anywhere in Los Angeles. I tried all my usual haunts (RiteAid, Walgreen’s, Von’s, CVS, Target & 7-11) and finally found them Wednesday night at the Dollar Tree in Harbor City on my way to San Pedro.
The bag felt a little light, and it is. It’s only 1.5 ounces instead of the usual 1.74 ounces for the Peanut variety or 1.69 ounces for the Milk Chocolate. (Of course the Pirate Pearls ones were similiarly scant.)
The bag is a pleasant hot pink and urges me to “Get Razzed” ... which as far as my understanding of the lingo that the kids use these days, that means, “Get Harassed.” Okely Dokely!
At first when I dumped these out to take their photo I thought I got a bad bag. The color looks completely off. Now if you just handed me a bowl of them, I might say, “Oh, what a lovely muted pink color!” But because of the brightness of the package, this feels like it clashes, which makes me feel like it’s unintended. But looking around at other photos on Flickr of the candies, it seems like they’re supposed to be this way.
The size and shape is also irregular. Some are the same size as typical Milk Chocolate M&Ms and others are as big as the now-discontinued Mega M&Ms. I rather like the regularity of M&Ms when spread out on my desk when eating them, but these just didn’t please me as much with their appearance.
The candies smell, like, well, someone spilled a bottle of raspberry after-bath spritz. I’ve spent a lot of time with fresh raspberries. When I was a kid, for several years when we lived in Ohio we had a raspberry patch in the back yard which was absurdly productive. While they weren’t wild berries, they certainly weren’t like the commercial ones sold in stores today. They were on the small side but bursting with flavor, a combination of sweet, tart and floral. By the time I was a teenager and we moved away, I was so spoiled by the real thing that I couldn’t stand raspberry flavored things or bring myself to spend $5 for a teensy little portion of watery-tasting fresh berries at the grocery store.
The Milk Chocolate is okay, for some reason it tastes sweeter than the regular Milk Chocolate M&Ms (remember, I’ve eaten a lot of those lately), it could be the larger size of most of them that gave a bigger hit of the ordinary chocolate center. The chocolate simply wasn’t creamy and I have to wonder if these were stored properly. Southern California experienced a wicked heat spell around Labor Day weekend and there were sporadic power outages all over which means that these could have bloomed in some way.
M&Ms stressed in their press releases about these that they’re the first fruit flavored M&Ms ever given full distribution. (I guess they were ignoring those super exclusive fruity ones they did last year.) I’m sad that they didn’t do orange, as I think that’d be a good place to start. It’s easy to get an authentic orange flavor with chocolate. But then again these aren’t raspberry M&Ms ... no, they’re razzberry M&Ms, here to mock real raspberries (and us) with their fakeness.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
I’ve always loved Jujyfruits, but probably for the wrong reasons. I never particularly enjoyed eating them, but they’re stunning to look at.
What’s particularly odd about Jujyfruits is that they’re less fruit flavored and more vegetable-oriented: asparagus (which I always thought was a little corncob), banana (the one that says Heide), grapes, pea pod, pineapple, raspberry and tomato (which I thought was the bottom of a bell pepper or just a flower). The shapes, further, have nothing to do with the flavors and are randomized so that all shapes come in all flavors.
And the flavors? Lemon, Lime, Cherry, Orange and Licorice. (Kind of like Chuckles which are also made by Farley’s & Sathers now.)
At the end of the last millennium, a customer survey revealed that the original spearmint green Jujyfruit was not popular enough and was replaced with lime. I rather miss that ... I liked being able to get a licorice and a spearmint candy in one package. Jujyfruits are rather soft when fresh, though not quite as soft as Dots in my experience. They’re chewy and pretty flavorful, though lacking in any tangy notes, it’s all sweet. They’re sticky and can leave big hunks congealed to the sides of molars. I really like the licorice one, which has very nice anise notes and a very clean flavor.
Candy Wrapper Museum has a nice image of an earlier version of the Jujyfruits box, which I much prefer. The current box is rather, I don’t know, primitive looking. (Keep clicking around at the other old Heide products there at the CWM, quite fun to see they had a Good & Plenty knock-off called Hi-D-Ho that were also pink and white.)
A little more history: The Heide company that invented the Juju candies was started by Henry Heidi, a German immigrant in 1869. The company introduced Jujyfruits and Jujubes in 1920. Heide continued as a family run company after Henry Heide died and was then run by his son Andrew and his grandson Philip. But in 1995 they sold out to Hershey’s. Hershey’s then sold Heide (along with their other famous candies Red Hot Dollars and line of gummis) to Farley’s & Sather.
While the Jujyfruits have remained relatively unchanged over the years, the Jujubes have gone through some substantial changes.
According to the Food Network show Unwrapped, the difference between Jujubes and Jujyfruits is really only that Jujubes use Potato Starch instead of Corn Starch as their primary thickener. Add to that, Jujubes are “cured” longer, so they’re firmer.
When I was a kid, Jujubes were always hard as rocks and only a fool would try to chew them. (We were all fools back then. Of course the cool part was to soften them up enough to chomp down and glue your teeth together ... what fun!)
The Jujube that both the Jujyfruits and Jujubes are named after is a little tropical berry that really has nothing to do with the candy, it was probably just a romantic sounding name and in the early part of the last century many candies tried to adopt such exotic names. Both candies actually used something called Ju-Ju Gum at one time as an ingredient (it’s similar to many of the other vegetable gums like Gum Arabic, Acacia, Agar or Guar).
Today Jujubes are a little softer, kind of like stale Jujyfruits. They also have a bit more range in their flavors which are: Lemon (yellow), Violet (purple), Lilac (orange), Lime (green) and Cherry (red). So they’re basically little floral pastilles that are slightly soft. (Think of them like the Grether or Doolittle pastilles.)
I haven’t had them in years and was actually rather pleased with them. I don’t think I really need a box of 6.5 ounces, a little tin filled with an ounce or two might do me for a week. All of the flavors, even the fruity ones, are rather delicate and floral. I wish they did still make the spearmint ones (but it’s okay if there’s no rose in there, I think two flowers is enough).
They’re just lovely to look at and because of their durable and inert nature, I feel fine leaving them sitting out on my desk without worrying about anyone eating them or them getting any staler. If you do find them inedible, a fun craft project is to stick an ordinary sewing pin through them and use them as push pins!
Overall, neither are candy I’m likely to buy or consume, but it was fun to revisit them and I’m glad they’re still around and have their ardent admirers.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Dots are one of those candies that I see a lot at stores, but I rarely see anyone buying them or eating them.
Originally they were made by a company called Mason, who also made Black Crows (a licorice gumdrop). Black Crows were introduced in the 1890s, but Dots came along a bit later in 1945. What’s fun about Dots is that they’re gumdrops, but they don’t have that sugar sanding on them. The Mason company was sold to Tootsie in 1972, but some folks still call them Mason Dots (even the Tootsie site refers to them on their nutritional data page).
They’re sold in a few different sizes, the regular single sized box, a fun size (often in assortments of Tootsie products) and the “Movie Box”. I have to say that the movie box I picked up last week makes these look darn appealing. And taking the candies out of the box, I was pleased that they really do look like they do on the box.
Dots come in five flavors that are supposedly random in the box:
This box had a clear plastic overwrapper, so these were fresh. The Dots were soft and easy to chew. Of course they’re also kind of sticky, not in the way that threatens fillings, but big lumps will get stuck on the sides of my teeth. I’ve had my share of stale Dots and they’re really not a chewable food.
Overall, they’re a nice candy. They don’t really thrill me much, but I had these sitting on my desk for several days and did actually eat them. I don’t see myself buying them for any reason though. If you’re a Dot lover, please testify to their enduring greatness.
Each Dot has about 12 calories and no fat (it’s all sugar, baby).
There’s no gelatin in these (that’d make them gummis) so they’re suitable for vegetarians and vegans who eat white sugar.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:28 am
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
There are many surprising things about Circus Peanuts. In fact, everything is so incongruous that there’s nothing that’s not surprising. That’s how jam-packed full of nonsense they are.
They’re shaped like peanuts, big big peanuts in the shell. But they’re orange in color. The orange color bears no relationship to the flavor, banana. And why even call them Circus Peanuts? Because they’re jumbo sized and you might feed them to an elephant ... come on, that’s a serious stretch.
They’re one of the most enduring candies in the United States, made first in the 1800s. Kind of like the Candy Corn of marshmallows, no one really knows when they started for sure. Except in the case of Candy Corn where many companies have tried to take credit, no one really bothers to try to brand Circus Peanuts. You don’t even see a TM after the name! No one knows the history of Circus Peanuts because everyone is so confused by them that they wouldn’t even know where to begin.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to clear much up. We can all continue to live in blissful mild confusion (and perhaps irritation that so many niblets of corn are wasted on so many Circus Peanuts).
Circus Peanuts are made by at least four different companies in the United States: Brach’s, Melster, Farley and Spangler. Melster, based in Wisconsin makes more than Brach’s & Spangler put together, though often you don’t see them packaged under the Melster brand, they’ll be done for grocery stores and drug store chains or maybe just found in bulk. In this article from 2003, it turns out that Spangler alone makes nearly 4 MILLION POUNDS a year. What? Who the heck is eating all these ... or are they just used as decoration or perhaps packing materials.
Circus Peanuts are shaped like peanuts, usually light orange/peach in color and banana-flavored. When fresh, a bag of Circus Peanuts can smell more like fingernail polish remover. When stale they can smell like, well, nothing at all. The artificial banana flavor must be some volatile compound that evaporates when exposed to air or perhaps a fierce stare.
Technically they’re a marshmallow: they’re sugar, corn syrup (and/or high fructose corn sweetener) and gelatin with some color and flavor thrown in. The gelatin helps the whipped sugar keep its foam. But instead of being extruded as most marshmallows are, these are molded, which might explain some of their density. Because of the high amount of corn syrup in them, they’re rather moist when fresh and can become stale and pretty firm. They’re not quite smooth in texture like most marshmallows, instead there’s a bit of graininess to them. The look like they’re made of fine porcelain of terra cotta. They can even make that clinking sound if you wait for them to get very stale.
I have bought Circus Peanuts before, usually when I find them ridiculously on sale, like 25 cents for a 10 ounce bag. Then I open the bag, get woozy from the fumes and remember why I don’t hang out in nail salons. Then I eat one or two and curse myself for buying them. Later I’ll find myself sneaking into the bag and eating them one or two at a time. When eaten with other candy or salty treats like popcorn, they’re not so bad. (Try Twizzlers or Cheetos.) Not a ringing endorsement.
If there’s one thing to be celebrated about Circus Peanuts it’s that they led to the creation of Lucky Charms. A General Mills team was charged with creating a kids cereal in only six months. So they sat down with everything available to them, from Cheerios and Wheaties to a bunch of candy from the store shelves (apparently that’s what a kid’s cereal is made from). They put bits of stale Circus Peanuts (now called “marbits” in the industry for marshmallow bits) in a sugared Cheerios and everyone loved the idea. A cartoon mascot and bit of Americana was born. So if you find yourself stuck with some extra Circus Peanuts, perhaps chop them up and throw them in your breakfast bowl.
Some brief facts:
Other thoughts around the ‘net:
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
After the reminder of how great Storck Chocolate Riesen are last week, I was happily educated that Storck makes a vanilla caramel.
And I was delightedly happy to find that the Dollar Tree carries Werther’s Original Chewy Caramels. So I left with a sassy little bag of them. I’d never had them before, but knowing the Riesen and the Werther’s Original Hard Candies, I thought they had to be good. Of course after I bought them and took the picture I started seeing them everywhere ... either Storck made a huge delivery to Southern California or I’ve been comfortably numb in my chocolate caramel bliss for a long time.
Taking them out of the wrapper they don’t look much different from Brach’s caramels or even Kraft’s. The little flat-sided rods are kind of uneven. At first they’re pretty hard, and a firm chew can be exhausting. But a few moments in a warm mouth (especially after coffee) and they softened up beautifully.
The chew is smooth and buttery with a good caramel taste and creamy consistency. It stays smooth all the way to the end, which is the mark of a caramel over a taffy or chew that will become grainy or just up and dissolve.
I wasn’t as keen on these as the Chocolate Riesen, part of it may be that the chocolate caramels are one of the few candies that seems to match up to the pictures on the wrapper, and the Werther’s Original Chewy Caramels just looked a little more weathered and worn than the images on the wrapper. I ate them all, but it took me a week instead of two days with chocolate version. They’re probably a better hot weather candy to keep on hand ... not that it’s been hot in Los Angeles in the past month or so.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
I’m not sure how it is that there’s an actual novelty candy category for Bug Jars, but perhaps I underestimate the fascination people have with insects. Okay, I like insects too and spent many an hour catching fireflies and watching ants. I like the idea of a candy container having a life after the candy is gone and the candy being themed to the package is a nice touch.
The Buggin’ Glow Pop by Impact Confections doesn’t really provide much candy. It’s a hard candy pop mounted to the underside of a plastic jar lid. The 21st century bonus here is that there’s a little button on the top that turns on an LED.
I struggled with the little button for a while because I wanted to figure out a way to keep it turned on. Alas, the button is too sensitive and I never did find a way.
The pop itself is shaped like some sort of bug. I think it looks like a potato bug (not something I want to put in my mouth) or perhaps a chubby dragon fly. He’s holding his little hands together ala Mr. Burns saying, “Excellent.” This one is watermelon flavored. Which is a good summer flavor.
It’s tasty. Very sweet, not at all tangy. When you’re not eating it, it sits back on top of the jar easily or just set it upright. It’s little abdomen glows when you press the button. The whole jar is nice clear plastic, about the size of a large baby food jar. The plastic label comes off it quite easily so it’s a completely unbranded jar with a light on the top (and a few non-functioning air holes).
I was most interested in finishing the candy so I could see the inner works of the LED. It wasn’t easy once the candy was dissolved down to the base. This is not easy stuff to crunch when it’s so close to the batteries and light. The LED itself is encased in some tough plastic. The LED itself is white, not green like the candy (which makes sense because the pops are available in some other flavors that were of no interest to me when I picked this out and have since forgotten).
So now I have a jar that’s great for putting change in and I can actually tell what’s in there without turning on the lights. Maybe I’ll keep it in my purse.
The jar is slightly bigger than the Buggin’ Glow Pop one and has a little purple flip top. Inside the jar are oodles of little compressed dextrose candies. (Like SweeTarts.) They’re shaped like little bug characters, vaguely related to the pictures on the label.
It’s a little disconcerting that these look like Flintstone’s Chewable Vitamins. Luckily they don’t taste like them. The candies come in three colors and flavors:
The flip top has an inner thin foam liner that can be removed so that the air holes actually work and you can put bugs in the jar.
These were both cute and fun and I’d buy either again if I had a kid and back yard to share them with. They were a little pricey at the Dollar General (um, a dollar each) but perhaps you’ll find them cheaper. As summer is coming up, candies that support kid’s curiosity and non-programmed play should have a place in most homes. Either one might make fun favors for a themed birthday party or tiny take-along item for a camping trip.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Sometimes I pick up crazy things at the Dollar Tree that I wouldn’t ordinarily buy. I’ve gotten a few emails about Jones Soda’s new line of fizzy pop flavored candies. I saw that they’re going for over $2 a tin for 50 candy bits but I couldn’t find out if they use sugar in them or artificial sweeteners so I decided to go on the prowl for the something else. (I was afraid they were going to be like those expensive and lackluster Bawls.)
I went to the Dollar Tree in search of Easter goodies and came away with this little sixpack. The little pop can looking packages hold 30-35 little carbonated candies in four flavors (two cans each): Grape Splash, Lemon-Lime Sprint, Orange Crash and Loca Cola.
The little candies are almost like the original Tart n Tiny candies (except these have a slight dome on either end of the bitty cylindral instead of being flat).
As a novelty item, I think they’re fun. I wouldn’t buy these and shovel them down day after day, but they’re a fun little diversion ... a novelty candy. Because the package comes with six little cans, they might make a nice little theme element if you’re planning a party or gift basket or just a little pick-me-up to leave in a co-worker’s cubicle.
Each can contains only 7 grams of candy that adds up to 25 calories. So they certainly have the portion control down.
(For a little perspective, the cans are 2” high and 1” in diameter ... in case you were going to look for them at the store and were expecting something as big as the picture on your screen.)
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
I buy the vast majority of the candy I review here right in Los Angeles. Nearly all of it is from the normal places where most people buy their candy: Drug Stores, Grocery Stores and Convenience Stores and a few other specialty spots.
I frequent the following in no particular order:
Walgreen’s: this chain started popping up in Southern California more than six years ago, but didn’t appear in my neighborhood until the Pioneer Market in Echo Park on Sunset Blvd. closed and they took over the spot. They have a nicely organized candy section with a good variety, regular sales and the store is frequented enough that the inventory turns over quickly. I like it after the various candy holidays as their goods go on deeper sale much quicker. (I got Valentine’s candy for 75% off on the 18th and Easter candy the following Saturday.)
CVS: This chain just bought out our old chain called Sav-On. Sav-Ons were on and off of my poop list. I’ve bought expired candy there (before I learned how to read the expiration codes), even bloomed chocolate that was supposed to still be fresh and have found their selection a little lacking. CVS hasn’t been around long enough for me to develop an opinion of them yet, but I like how they don’t treat you like a criminal when you try to enter or exit the store, so points there. (They used to have these gates you had to go through with turnstiles to get in and the only way to get out of the store if you weren’t buying anything was to scoot past people in the checkout line.)
Target: there are several in the area now, each with slightly different layouts and selection. Some of the prices are very good, especially when you find it on sale. They carry their own line of Choxie and can have some incredible after holiday clearances. My favorite one to shop at for candy was in Harbor City and torn down to make way for a newer double-decker model later this year. Holiday clearances can be hit or miss because people make this one of their first stops.
Von’s: this is not my favorite grocery store, but they do have a rather good candy selection, especially when it comes to mid-range candies and gourmet bars (Ritter Sport, for one). The layout of the store that I frequent on Sunset Blvd. in Los Feliz happens to have a season candy display right at the entry of the store, so it’s an easy stop for me to make on my way home from work. They also seem to carry a lot of limited edition candies.
Trader Joe’s: this store chain has lots of fans for good reason. Good quality food at great prices. They make you work for it though, with narrow, crowded aisles, difficult parking and long lines. They carry house-brand candies as well as great imported and domestic items at unheard of prices.
Ralph’s: there are a few locations near to me, but I usually go a bit further afield to a location in Glendale (near the Petco and Cost Plus World Market). They usually have a huge selection of holiday candies (and companion clearance) as well as one of the few bulk candy selections I’ve found in SoCal. I don’t use the bulk bins, only the dump feeder bins (that way I know no one else has been putting their greasy paws on the goodies).
7-11: the largest convenience store chain in the US, they’re known not only for a location for a quick drink fix, but also their inventory of single-serving candies but also as one of the best sources for limited edition candies. When choosing a regular store, I look for one that has a candy aisle that does not face the large plate glass windows, which can cause chocolate candies to bloom. Prices are steep but if the store has good foot-traffic they candy is always fresh.
Cost Plus World Market: an import market that features furniture, housewares and food. Their candy selection is excellent, though the freshness is sometimes questionable for the niche candies. Prices can range from reasonable to strangely high. At Christmas they have a wide selection of imported sweeties from all over the world and an equally fun post-holiday sale.
Munchies: In West Los Angeles in an orthodox Jewish neighborhood, they have an amazing selection of bulk goods but also a lot of Israeli stuff. Pretty low key place with decent prices. Skip the ordinary stuff here and take a risk on the imported goodies.
Mel & Rose’s Wine & Spirits: If you’re in the mood for seeing a great selection of high-end chocolate bars & boxed chocolates, check out Mel & Rose’s Wine & Spirits on Melrose Blvd. They also have a huge selection of imported consumer candies from Australia and Europe at decent prices. They’re not far from the Beverly Center and Pacific Design Center just on the border of Beverly Hills.
The Candy Baron: This is a small chain in California, I found them to be pretty good, they carry a lot of regional favorites and of course bulk goods. They’re in Santa Monica. I don’t recommend a special trip for them, but if you’re down by the Promenade/Third Street/The Pier it might be worth it:
The Grove and the Farmers Market is a great option for “one stop shopping” in LA. The Grove is an upscale mall attached to the original LA Farmers Market.
In the Farmers Market there’s a stand called Ultimate Nut & Candy. No great shakes (but they do have good toffee popcorn) but an admirable selection of bulk candies behind the counter along with dipped dried fruits and nostaligic fare.
There’s also a Fudge & Toffee shop called Littlejohns. I’ve had their fudge, which I think is decent, but their pecan pralines & caramel marshmallow kisses are my favorites. (I haven’t tried their toffee yet.)
Tucked inside the south east corner is a place called Mr. Marcels - it’s the upscale grocer for the market and they carry quite a few imported candies. Prices are a bit inflated for imported mass-produced goodies, but a good selection and they seem to have a good turnover of product to keep it fresh.
Also in the compound is Cost Plus World Market (see above) Around the corner from that is a place called Duck Soup that carries regional candy bars and retro favorites.
India Sweets & Spices: this is a small chain of vegetarian India food served cafeteria-style along with a grocery store. I’ve visited the location in Los Feliz and found a decent selection of European (mostly UK) candy bars. For some reason they keep them in the refrigerator case all year round.
Little Tokyo is the ultimate location for candy in Los Angeles not just for Japanese goodies (though that’s the best reason to go there).
Mitsuwa: a grocery chain, found mostly in California but also a New Jersey location. They have all the standard Japanese fare (Pocky, HI-Chew, KitKat, etc.) plus Hawaiian goodies and some Chinese. Excellent prices, especially given that these are imported. (Most times I get regular Pocky for 99 cents a box.) I go to the one on Alameda and 3rd Street.
Nijiya Market: a small grocer in the Japanese Village Plaza with an excellent selection of take-away meals, snacks and candies. Good prices, fresh inventory and great location in the heart of the pedestrian area.
Marukai: clean and bright, excellent selection and location in Weller Court. They also carry a large selection of American consumer candies.
Fugetsu-Do: Los Angeles’ oldest purveyor of fresh-made Wagashi and Mochi. Red bean, white bean, soy and even peanut butter. They also have a moderate selection of Japanese candy standards.
Chinatown is also an excellent source of sweets, I’ve not fully explored it though I’ve made plenty of visits.
Okay, if you live in Los Angeles or have visited, where is a good place to get candy? (I’m still looking for a good store to get bulk candies at a decent price.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.