Friday, March 30, 2007
After the review of Lifesavers Jelly Beans, I kept hearing that the SweeTart Jelly Beans were also very good. (Actually, readers have been telling me this for a year, but I was hoping to catch them on sale after Easter last year, but wasn’t so lucky.)
So I went out last night looking for them. Luckily they were on sale ($1.50 a bag instead of $2.29) at RiteAid. I carefully chose a bag that looked like it had lots of yellow ones in it (the others looked very pink).
Unlike the Lifesavers Jelly Beans that made up flavors to include in the bag, the SweeTart Jelly Beans stick to the regular SweeTart flavors: Grape, Cherry, Orange, Lemon, Green Apple and Blue Punch.
The colors are typical of an assortment of highlighter pens (well, the purple one just wasn’t photographing well, it’s much more lilac that the photo makes it appear). They’re matte and opaque. They’re also not terribly regular in size and shape, with the colors sometimes looking a little faded in spots and other little bloops of other colors in them.
These beans are different. They candy shell on them isn’t like any other jelly bean I’ve had. Instead of just being a flavored sugar shell, these feel different. They’re a little crumbly and a little cool on the tongue. The ingredients lists dextrose as one of the main ingredients. Dextrose is the same sugar used to make SweeTart and other compressed sugar candies.
It takes a little getting used to, because at first it feels like the bean is past its prime or something. But then I really started to enjoy cleaving off parts of the shell in my mouth before chewing the rest up. They’re kind of like Lemonheads in that respect, except not as sour. The jelly center isn’t really flavored, but does have a slight tang to it (yes, I managed to just nibble off the shell on a few of them). The jelly center is the same for all of them as far as I can tell (Jelly Belly uses specific flavored centers for their beans, which is one of the reasons they’re so flavorful).
I really liked the orange and lemon, but found the grape to be a huge disappointment. It was completely missing that “malic acid” flavor of the grape SweeTart. The green apple also seemed a little weird, just not quite complete. The blue punch was much better than I expected and of course the cherry was just bitter to me. Though all of them are a bit tart, they’re not really sour like a SweeTart is. I can say from experience here that there’s no tongue damage from eating a third of a bag for breakfast (which there definitely would be with the regular chalky SweeTart).
I’m not as fond of these as I’d hoped, so they’re not going to knock the Lifesavers Jelly Beans off the current favored spot for the special Easter jelly beans. Part of it is the lack of visual appeal, they just look old. I also wanted them to be more tart. But I have to give them props for making me eat my jelly beans in a different way. I still have another bag of the SweeTart Ducks, Chicks & Bunnies (I finally found them at Walgreen’s) ... it’s gonna take a big candy innovation for something else from SweeTart to knock them off the top spot.
Monday, March 26, 2007
I thought I was done with the series of Easter candy, but then I remembered that I had these organic treats that I picked up at Show West.
Surf Sweets is a line of organic candies made by Santa Cruz Nutritionals. No artificial colors, no artificial sweeteners, non-GMO and gluten free but they look and taste just like mass-consumer brands.
The treats I’m sampling are their Jelly Beans, Fruity Bears and Gummy Bears. Since their colors are natural, they look a little more muted than many other candies, but still very pleasant and sparkly. Surf Sweets are also fortified with vitamin C (though it takes half a package to get a full day’s supply).
The jelly beans started off with a bang when I picked up the light yellow one and found it to be a tasty grapefruit. The beans are about the size of Jelly Belly, but a little less regular in shape. The shell was a little more grainy than many other jelly beans I’ve had lately, but very fruity with a good balance of sweet and tart. The other flavors, as far as I could tell were: Lemon, Orange, Cherry (no bitter aftertaste!) and Strawberry.
These are marked Vegetarian on the package, using fruit pectin as the gelling agent. They do have beeswax on them so some vegans may find them objectionable.
The little sugar sanded bears are very cute. They seem to come in the same flavor set as the jelly beans: Grapefruit, Lemon, Orange, Cherry & Strawberry.
I liked these a lot. I liked them a lot more than the jelly beans because the flavor was in the jelly, not in the sugary coating. The citrus flavors were my favorite.
These are also marked vegetarian but contain beeswax.
The Gummy Bears honestly looked no different than any other gummi. The little bear shapes were rather like the Trolli with their well definted paws and eyes. The gummi texture was bouncy with excellent well rounded flavor - good sweetness, good fruit and good tart. The flavors themselves were a little muddier in their distinctiveness. There was a berry, lemon and orange. There may have been two berry flavors, the colors weren’t that different and neither were the flavors.
These were not vegetarian because of the presence of gelatin and not completely organic.
I found them online for $1.75 a bag, which is about $10 a pound ... a bit more than Jelly Bellies and other gourmet sugar candies. If you’re looking for a slightly more wholesome candy for your kids (especially for their Easter basket) that doesn’t look like a compromise to them (unless they’re reading the packages), this is a great option. The flavor and eating experience is exactly the same - so your kids won’t feel like they’re getting a compromise candy. Let’s face it, part of the appeal of candy to kids is the look of it, and these gummi bears, in the palm of your hand, look like gummi bears. They won’t miss the artificial colors.
Friday, March 23, 2007
I think it must be Egg Day here at Candy Blog! Russell Stover makes a lot of different Eggs. I covered some last year and was pleasantly surprised.
This egg wins the award for “color of center that I’d most like to have as a cashmere sweater”. It’s a delicate dusty pearl pink. It’s light and fluffy (the cream, not the imaginary sweater) and the first thing that hits me is a little bit of salt, then the sweet floral flavors of the rapsberry. It’s not tangy ... all sweet and berry. Then it starts to sink in ... it’s really really sweet. Even the mild dark chocolate shell can’t cut through it.
It smells good, but it’s just not quite for me (I’ll gladly swap it for a Strawberry though). There are real raspberry seeds in there.
I reviewed the Organic Pecan Delight last month and found it a decent candy. So I thought I’d give the original a try in the form of the Pecan Delight Egg. It has to be good, there’s gold on the wrapper, right.
Well, color me disappointed. Mostly because one of the major elements promised in the name of the candy is missing ... the pecans. While the Organic Pecan Delight had quite a few, it was as if they used the same amount of pecans for this whole egg as they did in those smaller candies. The caramel is nice and smooth with a light chew to it and the chocolate was okay, without the woodsy crunch of the pecans, this just wasn’t my thing.
Peanut Butter Egg is a milk chocolate egg with a peanut butter crumble filling. It’s dark tasting, smoky and nutty.
It’s rough when I eat candies similar to See’s around the same time, because they suffer by comparison. However, I have to say that this is a rather different peanut butter egg and good in its own right. It’s not a Reese’s, not a See’s, it’s a Russell Stover. More roasty tasting, a little salty and really quite good.
I think my fave of the Russell Stover Eggs is still the dark chocolate coconut (which I picked up in Heart form at Valentine’s), but it was fun to give these a go. They’re often on sale for 50 cents each, perhaps a fun change-up from the drudgery of regular candy bars (and because they’re only an ounce, perhaps a little savings of calories).
While I was at See’s a couple of weeks ago on the prowl for the Scotchmallow Eggs, I decided to try some of their other Easter offerings. Like many boxed chocolate companies, they had the regular boxed chocolates in their spring finery. See’s has always been a bit classic looking, a little retro, perhaps even a little stuffy. But most people who’ve had their products know that most of the effort goes into the chocolates themselves. Most of the designs for the holiday packaging, in fact, haven’t change in years. I know I’ve actually bought some of the boxes ten years ago. I find that comforting, as I have trouble buying the same bra as scant six months ... because you know, a good underwire can go out of fashion.
The tray inside isn’t really that sassy, it’s just a formed piece of thin white plastic, but it does the trick of keeping all the eggs in their place. Note that the Bordeaux, that’s covered in jimmies, was actually wrapped in clear plastic (the only one). I’m guessing that’s to keep the jimmies from going everywhere.
Each Egg weighs about 2 ounces. I ate them by slicing them up, usually into three of four slices. I suppose you could just consider them a big candy bar and eat it all yourself.
Peanut Butter Egg - I’ve never had this before! It’s awesome. It’s not quite like a Reese’s Egg. (Though it is about the same size, but taller.) The center is a very smooth and dense peanut butter, lightly sweet and just a little crumbly. It’s not better or worse than Reese’s (except of course the chocolate is superior), just different. They sell the Peanut Butter Egg separately, and with good reason.
As far as I know, this Egg does not come in a single piece in the mixed boxes. So consider this a seasonal item. (I’ll have to check if they sell regular pieces just at the store, you know, like ordering off the menu.)
Bordeaux Egg - I’ve never been quite sure what the Bordeaux See’s piece was until I looked it up on their website. It comes in a round piece in most boxes of chocolates in either milk or dark chocolate, and has some little jimmies on it. This piece was milk chocolate. The jimmies are actually pretty good, instead of being minute waxy rods made to look like chocolate, they might actually be chocolate. The Bordeaux filling is called a brown sugar buttercream. It’s light and creamy, with a cooling feel on the tongue like powdered sugar but a mild caramel taste comes into play.
The Bordeaux is available in mixed boxes and a pre-wrapped “bar” like the Scotchmallow.
Cocoanut Egg - I love the cocoanut egg. The dark chocolate on the outside, in my opinion, is different from the Scotchmallow. It tastes milder, maybe a little more buttery. The center is a smooth cream with coconut flakes. It’s not super-dense like a Mounds bar; it’s more delicate and has a nuttier flavor and less texture.
This comes in the mixed box, but I think only in milk chocolate. I did pick up a few of the dark chocolate cocoanut pieces while at the store. I think I prefer the ratio of chocolate to coconut cream center in the singles.
Chocolate Walnut Egg ... oops, I didn’t eat this one. You’ll have to ask my husband how it was. It must have been pretty good, he ate it. They make a version of this without walnuts, but it’s sold separately. Batteries not included.
Overall, I thought these were great quality and a tasty assortment. But I probably wouldn’t buy them again (well, for starters 25% of it was off limits), but I think it makes a great gift and all the flavors are winners. Very fresh and generous.
For the $8.40 I spent here, I think I’d be happier with the Nuts & Chews (dark), but that’s just me. Considering that the Peanut Butter isn’t available otherwise, I might opt for one of those in a single large egg.
See’s is running a contest through the beginning of June, giving away a box of candy a month for a year. Enter once, they announce winners every month.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Eek! The end of the week is coming and I still have oodles of Easter candy left to review. Time to double up!
The eggs themselves are about half the size of an actual chicken egg (sliced longways), so they don’t sit quite right in the egg carton. In fact, if you don’t carry the carton horizontally, they’ll all roll out of their little pockets. But not with the messy effect of real eggs. At 45 calories per egg and only 1.5 grams of fat they’re not a bad little treat for someone looking for a little chocolate and a bit more interaction satisfaction than 45 calories of straight chocolate can give.
The marshmallow inside is bouncy and light, not terribly moist. The chocolate outside wasn’t eggciting, just a rather unremarkable coating of plain dark sweet chocolate. The first one I ate (the one pictured) tasted rather like the carton they were in ... a little chemical-y. So for my next tasting I took them out of the carton and left them on a little plate for a half an hour. You know, “to breathe.” That little airing out helped. Now they taste sweet and flavorless. Not bad ... not eggstraodinary by any means, but I only paid 99 cents for the carton of twelve ... what could I have been eggspecting?
Rating: 4 out of 10
After I picked up the carton of Marshmallow Eggs, I found more of the Melster marshmallow line at the 99 Cent Only Store. They had the plain eggs in individually wrapped packets like this as well as these Caramel Marshmallow Eggs. There are only 6 eggs in this package and it doesn’t even weigh as much. But I still considered the price more than reasonable.
Where the plain eggs were only 45 calories each, the addition of caramel here makes them 60 calories though still only a gram of fat. I’m guessing the difference is that the caramel eggs are just a little denser (though the same size).
While I wanted to like these, they had a latexy quality ... and I don’t mean the texture. They tasted like someone had just painted my mouth. That fresh paint smell was coupled with the taste of cereal, maybe corn flakes.
So, maybe these needed the same “airing out” ... and that’s what I did. A half an hour out of the package. Ugh, it still tasted like a can of latex wall paint (maybe ceiling paint, my palette isn’t that sophisticated when it comes to interior coatings).
Now, I recognize that I’ve not reviewed candies for fans of paint fumes, so consider this your first whole hearted recommendation.
For those of you who are not fans of sitting around smelling the paint dry, well, I’d advise sticking to the plain eggs or splurge for Russell Stover or even better See’s.
Rating: 2 out of 10
More about the history of the Melster Company which is now owned by Impact Confections (makers of Warheads).
I’ve never been particularly fond of chocolate coins. They’re often a let down. The foil might be pretty, and as a kid I was particularly fond of money that could also be eaten, but the chocolate has always been a disappointment.
I was happy to give this Rabbit Change a try even though had little hope that it would be tasty, mostly because it was only a dollar for 2 ounces. I’m guessing it’s a rather intensive production process because some chocolate coins out there are very expensive.
These little coins have a rabbit on one side that says “Rabbit Change” and the other side has the denomination of the coin in “carrots”. The little ones are 14 carrot and the largest is 24 carrot. The pastel foil is also pretty darn pleasing.
If you peel chocolate coins apart carefully enough you can put the foil pieces back together again. It’s a nice trick to make your Easter basket appear as if you have some self control. Of course it’s also a horrible disappointment when you have short term memory problems and then you think that you have candy left as well.
It doesn’t really matter, because these aren’t really that good, and I’m pretty sure the memory of this sub-standard chocolate would be retained. While the ingredients peg this as “real chocolate” it’s grainy, very sweet and lacks the buttery melt on the tongue that says chocolate to me. It smells like cheap vanilla candles. I’d be happy to let these sit in my Easter basket to make me look like someone with standards.
The quality control on the coins isn’t very good either. One of mine was completely blank on both sides and two were blank on one side. Though that’d probably get you a lot of money if it were a US Mint product, it’s not really a selling point here. Because the only thing this candy has going for it is the pretty foil with the imprint on it. Still, it’s a good price and if you’re looking for candy more as decoration than an item for consumption or your children don’t much care (or you don’t care much for your children) then this is a good value. They’re getting a 3 out of 10 only because they’re cute.
This product is Kosher ... in case folks want to play the Dreidel game for Passover. Rabbit Change is made in Turkey.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Wonka makes a product called Runts, which are little fruit flavored & shaped compressed dextrose candies covered in a hard candy shell. They’re super cute. They’ve recently added a couple of flavors (some sort of blue balls and pink hearts), but the essence of Runts has always been quirky shapes to match the flavors.
The unique item about Runts has always been the banana. Love it or hate it, you can’t argue that it doesn’t look like a banana (but you’re welcome to argue that it doesn’t taste like one).
Enter the holiday version of Runts, the Runts Freckled Eggs. They’re little egg shaped Runts ... with freckles!
These Runts, as you can see, are egg shaped. They’re also spattered in a sassy way in different colors. There are four flavors: Orange, Blue Raspberry, Green Something and Strawberry. The spattering varies from egg to egg, which pleased me.
The candies themselves are fun, they’re kind of like Gobstoppers, they have a hard shell that feels cool on the tongue, it’s ultra smooth and sweet. Unlike Gobstoppers these shells are thin and you can crack open the candies to reveal the compressed dextrose (ala a SweeTart) candy inside. The candy center isn’t a tart as a SweeTart but more mellow. Not very flavorful either, but I could tell the difference between the flavors ... expect the green one. Sometimes I thought it was watermelon, sometimes green apple.
My complaint here is that there’s no banana. But if you approach these without any preconceptions attached to the all-season Runts, these are tasty and certainly a bit different than jelly beans and marshmallow eggs. I kind of liked the box too.
These were made in Mexico.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
You know what surprised me most about this candy? It recognizes that it’s for Easter. There’s only one other product I’ve reviewed (as far as I can tell) in the past two years that actually mentions the Easter holiday on the wrapper. (The bunny is holding a basket that says “Happy Easter”) Strange, isn’t it? Are we all kidding ourselves that all these egg shaped things could easily be for Passover? (Oddly enough, this is Kosher ... though not for Passover since it has corn syrup in it.)
But I guess I digress.
This is the second Cadbury Royal Dark Raspberry Bunny I’ve bought this year. I lost the first one after I took the photo. (So calling out to it does no good ... it’s missing its ears!) It’s probably in the seat cushions in the car or stuck to the bottom of one of my backpacks.
It’s a very pretty bunny. It’s really well made, nice and shiny and with a pleasant chocolate scent. It’s well formed and looks like a bunny, unlike some candies I’ve purchased for Easter. It’s mostly chocolate with only a small reservoir of “Raspberry Creme Center” in it. It’s not very big, so it’s a good chocolate treat that won’t leave you hating yourself.
The only problem is that Raspberry Creme center ... what is it? At first I thought it was a caramel. It’s almost a syrup and certainly not a creme. It’s sticky and drippy and a little tangy. It even tastes a little salty. It doesn’t taste much like raspberry. Smells a little like it, but doesn’t really taste like it.
The chocolate is that Royal Dark chocolate that Cadbury is pushing now (with the Royal Dark Mini Eggs) which is rather palatable. It’s sweet but also has some nice cocoa notes. It lacks a sort of buttery oomph that good dark chocolate can have.
I’m not really that fond of this. It’s fun and of course it’s not terribly big or expensive, so I can’t be that disappointed.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.