Thursday, October 22, 2009
Every once in a while I wander into a Gelson’s grocery store. If you don’t have this small upscale market chain in your area, perhaps you have a similar one. Regular food you see everywhere, only more expensive, but then they also carry hard to find and superior items. They do have a good produce selection, but charge a premium.
What I find interesting about the store is the candy. They have Twizzlers and 3 Musketeers but they also tend to have an odd idea (or maybe perfectly appropriate for their customers) of what Halloween is like. Their trick or treat selection tends to be a little upscale.
One of the items in their area was not a trick or treat item, but just a Halloween themed one: Jelly Belly Deluxe Halloween Mix. I got a similar mix a few years back for Easter, but this one seemed a little different so it was definitely worth a try. (Even though it was $3.99 for a 9 ounce bag.)
The mix likely offers something for everyone. There are mellocreme items, a few jelly beans, crisped rice milk chocolate balls and some licorice dots.
There aren’t that many jelly beans in there. As far as I can tell, they’re lemon, licorice and orange. All are definitely favorites of mine, so we’re off to a good start.
The story goes that the Goelitz family was making Candy Corn sometime around 1900, one of the earliest candy corn makers (and they made a lot of other mellocremes, which they called Butter Creams). They might not have been first, but they’ve definitely be doing it uninterrupted for over 100 years.
The Candy Corn in this assortment is the big stuff. It’s basically an equilateral triangle, but the tip is just a bit pinched. (Yes, they look a little breast-like to me.) The texture is smooth and the flavor quite mellow. Not as salty or honey tasting as the Brach’s/Farley’s stuff. There is a slight butter note to it.
Mellocreme pumpkins are cute. They’re quite squat and about half the height of the Farley’s/Brach’s stuff, but with a much more pronounced stem. They’re quite firm, but still have a smooth and not-quite-grainy texture. The flavor was surprising. It’s supposed to be orange, but it was just horribly bitter to me. I can’t fathom why, as they’re not that intensely colored, but I ate them several times over a week and each time they were just so bitter to me that I couldn’t finish a whole one.
The yellow ears of corn are the cutest of the bunch. Long and narrow, they’re a pretty big punch of pure sugar. The design on them isn’t very well defined so they didn’t photograph well. The flavor is lemon. It’s sweet and more of the floral lemon, now the tangy or zesty kind. Far too sweet for me.
To break up all that sweetness, I indulged in some of the foil wrapped chocolates.
The odd thing about the package was its vagueness. There was no inventory of the stuff inside. The ingredients were just a huge messy listing of all the ingredients of each element in one list (which I think is a huge disservice to customers).
I was careful to pick a bag that had a lot of the foiled chocolates, so I wasn’t disappointed here.
The balls are small and are the perfect single bite of milk chocolate with crisped rice. I wouldn’t call them the perfect milk chocolate and crisped rice though. It was sweet, perhaps a little waxy. The texture of the chocolate wasn’t quite creamy enough for me, but at least wasn’t grainy. Compared to the other items though, they were far from sweet. So at least they were a little counterpoint.
I wasn’t sure what these would be (again, no inventory), but I recall seeing these in the Licorice Bridge Mix years ago.
The flavor of the licorice is a little different from the Licorice Jelly Belly. It has more anise and a less watery flavor.
The issue for me again though was the bitterness of the artificial color from the nonpareil coating.
It’s a fun mix that everyone should find something in it they like. I found that there was too much I didn’t like for the price though. Jelly Belly also makes a Fall Festival Mix, which is all flavored mellocremes in different shapes. They also make three different flavors of the giant candy corn: traditional, chocolate and cinnamon.
Monday, October 19, 2009
There are dozens of new version that are flavored, but by far the most popular and best selling is the classic stuff that comes in the Harvest Mix of mellocreme items.
Farley’s is an old company, making candy under the Farley’s name since 1891. They’ve distinguished themselves by making a huge variety of generic and popular candies such as gumdrops, candy coated peanuts and hard candies. In 1996 Farley Candy Company merged with Sathers Candy Company, a company with a strong distribution arm to become Favorite Brands International. In 1999, Nabisco bought up Favorite Brands and then within a year Kraft Foods purchased Nabisco. Then in 2002 Kraft Foods sold off Farley’s Candy Company and Sathers Candy Company which became Farley’s & Sathers Candy Company, Inc. Since then Farley’s and Sathers has swallowed up a few other candy companies, most recently Brach’s in 2007. Other brands include the classic Fruit Stripe Gum, Heide, Now and Later, Trolli Gummis, Super Bubble and Bob’s.
I found this Farley’s Harvest Mix at the Dollar Tree. The Harvest Mix (or Autumn Mix) is usually a combination of Candy Corn, Indian Corn and Mellocreme Pumpkins. This is no different. I found the bag a little odd. It’s a pretty big bag, and I think that 9 ounces for a buck is a good value, but the bar seemed barely half full.
Farley’s Candy Corn is made in Mexico, as is Brach’s ... which as I mentioned earlier (if you didn’t skip that paragraph) is now owned by Farley’s & Sathers, so I have to wonder if it’s just the same stuff. Both are made with honey and both contain gelatin (most other brands of fondant type candies are made with egg whites).
They look very much the same (well, most candy corn looks the same). I wouldn’t call the attention to detail fantastic, some were smudgy at the margins of the colors, others were of course shortened two color or one color versions. But the general flavor of them was a smooth and sweet dissolve. The texture is only slightly grainy and satisfyingly dense with a light moisture to it to keep it from being completely crumbly.
The honey note is noticeable as is a little hint of salt, which keeps the sweetness in check.
Instead of three color stripes, there are only two here. A deep brown base and an orange top.
The brown base has a light cocoa flavor but the orange top seems less like the traditional candy corn. It doesn’t have that little bit of salt or honey flavor. It’s just bland and sweet. There’s not enough of the cocoa to balance out all that sweetness, so this Indian Corn, though it has a nice texture, is just too sweet.
I also got a little bit of a bitter aftertaste from it, which I suspected was from the food coloring. (More orange means more Red #40.)
The green stem and deep creases give them a nicely stylized look of real pumpkins. (If real pumpkins were smaller than your thumb and had flat bottoms.)
Like most other Mellocremes, these are just a dense sugar fondant. The flavor isn’t as pronounced or salty as the corn, so it’s all sugar. The texture is extra smooth, as the centers are quite soft.
But the sweet is simply too electric for me. It shoots bolts straight through my teeth and into my brain, leaving me feeling weary and abused after eating a half. There’s also the orange aftertaste, a lingering metallic note.
UPDATE: I talked to a representative at Farley’s & Sathers who confirmed that the Farley’s Candy Corn & mixes are now the same as the Brach’s. (They kept the Brach’s recipe.) So there you go ... I just re-reviewed the same product.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I went back to Target over the weekend in hopes of finding more new Halloween goodies. Though it was mostly the same items I found there two weeks ago, the seemed to have a bit more in the way of their Gourmet Candy Corn line.
They have a lot of funny flavors that seem incongruous with candy corn like Tangerine, Green Apple (plus Chocolate Covered Green Apple), Toffee (which I already reviewed) and S’Mores. However, Pumpkin Pie sounded pretty good.
It’s in the same style of stand up black shiny bag that the other gourmet treats were in. They’re all terribly overpriced, but the packaging is nice enough that you could probably bring a bag as a hostess gift for the right occasion.
I found the colors off-putting. The tip is soft orange, the center is bright yellow but the base is some unworldly fluorescent orange that just makes me think of faded vinyl tub toys. I really couldn’t capture the color in the photo.
The bag smells sweet and creamy when opened.
The texture is soft and has very little grain to it. They’re sweet and lack that touch of honey that true candy corn usually puts forward. The pumpkin pie here is just a light blend of spices. Cinnamon is the boldest, but it doesn’t rise to the level of spicy or hot cinnamon. There’s a slight twinge of woodsy nutmeg or allspice ... but that’s pretty much it.
I was disappointed. I hoped for some more nutmeg or even a note of clove but instead it was about as bland as generic canned pumpkin pie mix. I think I’m done tasting novelty candy corn, at least when the price is $2.99 per flavor. So if you’ve tried some of the others, chime in with your experience to help out other readers.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The newest thing about Candy Corn over the past five years has been flavors: Green Apple, Pumpkin Spice, Caramel Apple, Tangerine and on and on. The odd thing is that their kin, little shaped mellocremes, have always come in different flavors - harvest mixes come in maple & chocolate and the Easter specialties often had delicate citrus & berry flavors.
So now comes the ultimate mash-up of candy corn. Both flavored and covered in chocolate. It seems odd that this product hasn’t succeeded before.
I found this bag of Toffee Flavored Candy Corn covered in Milk Chocolate at Target. They have a special line of little stand up pouches like this marketed in their house-brand.
The package is cute & compelling - a dark orange accented thick cellophane bag with a clear window to show off the shiny chocolate covered mix. I thought it was a little expensive at $2.99 ... but $7 a pound for a chocolate item isn’t that bad, and this is a Candy Holiday.
About one third of the package is chocolate covered. The rest are plain Naturally & Artificially Flavored Toffee Candy Corn. The colors are a muted amber center with the stereotypical yellow base and white tip.
The package smells off-putting. It’s a fake butter flavor which leads me to a rant about toffee:
Toffee is carefully boiled sugar and butter. The essential qualities of toffee (as it’s made in America) besides the crunchy texture & cleave are the toasted flavors of the caramelized sugar and the creamy melt of the butter/heavy cream. It’s not about the butter flavor, it’s about the burnt sugar. So when someone offers me something toffee flavored I expect dark sugar notes not artificially flavored buttered popcorn.
I tried sampling it a few times and found it too artificial, so I left the package open overnight and that seems to have let some of the volatile organic compounds evaporate and it became a bit more appealing if bland. Rather like ordinary candy corn. I even detected the smell of milk & chocolate in there.
The plain candy corn is nicely textured. It’s soft but not too crumbly, it melts easily and though it’s sweet it’s not too sickly. It could have used just a tad more salt to sell the toffee flavor.
It seems more sugary than the uncoated stuff. The milk chocolate isn’t particularly creamy, though the flavor profile has a fair bit of the dairy component to really sell the toffee part. I liked the combination of textures - the fondant of the candy corn has a crumbly texture, kind of like the center of a York Peppermint Pattie. (Which makes me wonder why I’ve never seen Mint Candy Corn and then the logical conclusion of Chocolate Covered Mint Candy Corn.)
I give them kudos for the attractive mix and the innovation factor here. It’s also available in Green Apple flavor (maybe some green apple fans would love it - I’m not keen on the combo of chocolate & green apple).
The package gives full disclosure: Candy made in USA. Bag made in China. Packed in Mexico. (Best by December 27, 2010) It also says that it contains milk, eggs, soy and coconut and may contain peanut & tree nuts. The only thing it doesn’t mention is gluten.
Monday, August 24, 2009
They feature dark chocolate and a fondant cream center, but the unique selling proposition here is crushed hard candy bits to give them a little crunch.
They come in a cute gable box. I liked it’s simplicity - it’s just a paperboard box, but looks cute and befits the classic contents. Inside the box is a cellophane bag with the chocolates ... not quite as elegant, but I’m sure much more efficient than the trays that Turtles usually come in.
I tried the Peppermint variety first.
They smell clean and minty with a little note of cocoa. While they’re called patties, they’re really not flat at all, they’re like a half-round candy.
The chocolate is very thick but nicely tempered with a good crack but doesn’t flake too much. The candy crunches are mixed in with the chocolate coating (pretty much just on the top).
The cream center is a mellow and smooth fondant - softer than a York Peppermint Pattie but firmer than the gooey version inside Junior Mints. The package shows that the center is pink, thankfully it’s uncolored.
The mint is quite powerful and lingering. Each piece is pretty sizable too - about 3/4 of an ounce. So it’s a good portion, it feels decadent and satisfying - and also comforting since it’s not terribly fussy.
The chocolate isn’t quite as creamy smooth as I would have liked, but it is real and if it weren’t for the egg white they used in the fondant these would be vegan.
Rating: 7 out of 10
The package is similarly themed with vertical stripes, this one obviously going with yellow. As an array the four varieties are quite attractive.
One of the issues of tossing enrobed chocolates into a bag like this is that they get a little scuffed up. These were shipped to me by Quality Candy, the company that runs King Leo these days, so they may be more bumped around than what you’d get in a store. (I haven’t seen these in stores yet but they’re supposed to retail for about $6.00 for a 6 ounce package.)
Unlike the Peppermint, these barely betrayed their cream flavor. They smelled a little like citrus oils, but mostly like sweet chocolate.
The centers of the lemon version were pastel yellow. The cream center is both tangy and sweet with a good pop of zest to go with it. The crunch in the chocolate and the comforting lemon flavor was pleasant and definitely different. The dark chocolate actually went very well with the lemon in this case - I got the distinct flavors of both without one winning out.
The cocoa flavors of the chocolate aren’t the most complex, but they stand well to the lemony notes.
Rating: 7 out of 10
I’m a sucker for orange and chocolate, especially orange and dark chocolate. But I admit that I was a bit dubious of the Orange ones going in, because I thought they were going to be more like an orange hard candy mash-up with some chocolate than a fine cream.
Opening the inner cellophane package, these smell like cocoa and a bit like peppery orange.
Like the lemon, the orange creams are tinted and slightly tangy.
The orange and dark chocolate goes well together and has a nice blend of both the citrus oils and the juicy orange notes. These were by far the crunchiest of the patties I had, which was quite refreshing.
I rather liked these two citrus varieties, especially as a summer chocolate treat because they didn’t seem as sickly sweet.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Quite simply, these smelled strongly of raspberry. It wasn’t so much that it felt artificial, it was simply that it was strong.
When I took the photos, I had a little dish of my sample pieces that I usually enjoy after dinner. In this case I had the little dish sitting by me in the living room. I ate the orange and lemon ones, but left this one sitting there overnight (the bitten one, I ended up putting the whole ones away for later). Well, the next morning I came down to the living room and couldn’t believe that one little candy could actually scent a room that size.
Scent aside, they’re cute and a little flatter than the others. The center also seemed firmer and crumblier than the others.
It has the same light tangy quality and the interesting combination of the creamy and bittersweet chocolate with the crunchy candy bits. Overall it was far too much raspberry for me, but I enjoyed the simulation of raspberry seeds with the hard candy.
Rating: 5 out of 10
King Leo was founded in 1901 and is thought to be the oldest trademarked candy brand in the United States. They were bought out by Quality Candy Company in 2000. At that time the brand was just a line of peppermint sticks (three versions), since then Quality Candy has expanded the flavors and variety of products. They’re made in state of the art facility in Tijuana, Mexico. (You can read more about it in this trade magazine article - warning PDF.)
Overall I liked them, but find the price point a little steep ... but then again looking over the ingredients they haven’t mucked it up with too many unwholesome things - yeah, artificial flavors, but it’s real chocolate and real vanilla. The initial offering of flavors is a good variety without being too weird so I expect them to do well.
Quality Candy sent me a huge box with one package of pretty much everything they make ... and I’m pretty sure they sent similar samples to other blogs, so expect to see a lot people talking about them for the next few weeks.
Candy Addict starts with their Choco-Crisps, Candy Yum Yum had some heat issues and put her Crunchy Patties in the fridge and is giving some away, Todo Candy has a great video that shows how humungo this box was.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
While on vacation I spotted a new store in Cambria, CA called Sweet Offerings. Unlike many other candy shops in the area, they didn’t make anything of their own (no taffy pulling machine, no fudge). It’s just a well curated shop where they have a little of everything and some things that are pretty hard to find.
I was thrilled to see these little gingham wrapped creams from Rogers’ Chocolates of Victoria, British Columbia. I’d never heard of them before, but as you’ll see, it’s easy to see why someone would go through the trouble of importing them.
They come in a huge variety of flavors, at least 16 in the creams. Each wax paper wrapped piece weighs 45 grams (1.59 ounces) - which is like a candy bar. The price was a bit steep ($3.50 each), but I figured I was on vacation (and the Candy Blogger) so I carefully chose what I thought would be a good representation of their products. I got a Vanilla Cream, Coffee Cream, Rum Cream and then two of their other offerings, a Chocolate Almond Brittle and a Dark Empress Square.
The dark chocolate Vanilla Cream puck has lovely little ripples on top. The chocolate is thick and made the trip rather well (I think this one was actually dropped on the floor while in the shop and was only slightly cracked by it).
The white cream center is interesting. I wasn’t sure what these creams were and the Rogers’ website isn’t much help either. I didn’t know if it would be a fondant, fudge or buttercream.
It’s somewhere between all three. The main ingredient is but the second ingredient in the filling is cream, so it’s a buttery soft center. It’s not at all grainy but not so stiff that it doesn’t sort of “flow”.
The flavor of the vanilla cream is sweet and has a light touch of vanilla ... but mostly the dark chocolate flavor with its smoky semisweet flavor came through.
This is what I’ve always wanted a Cadbury Creme Egg to be.
The dark chocolate of the Coffee Cream is well suited.
The center has a pretty mocha color to it. It’s smooth and has a toasted sugar and coffee flavor. The coffee isn’t that intense but comes out as a sweet and mellow flavor eventually. I enjoyed this one since it wasn’t as sticky sweet as the vanilla.
The Rum Victoria Cream was quite lovely and had a great texture to the cream center, much smoother than the vanilla one.
However, the flavor was odd. It was fake and was more like some sort of plastic aroma than the woodsy molasses notes of rum. The textures were great, but I couldn’t get over the less than true rum-ness of the whole thing. I ate it rather begrudgingly ... but finished it mostly because it was my last one.
It left me disappointed that I didn’t get a fruit flavored one instead (raspberry sounded nice).
The next item, the Dark Empress Square really doesn’t explain what it is at all. The only thing I was pretty sure about with this light brown gingham wrapped piece was that it was dark chocolate (well, their dark chocolate isn’t completely dark, there’s some milk in it).
Upon opening it I was no wiser. The ingredients were vague enough that it could have been any number of things but it looked like either a toffee or a caramel.
So I was a bit tentative when I bit into it.
It was soft ... it was caramel!
The base is a short caramel (not quite grainy but not stringy & chewy). It’s studded with almonds. The flavor is a little on the rum side with good toasted sugar and butter notes and of course the pleasant crunch of crushed almonds. The dark chocolate keeps it all from tasting too sticky sweet.
Chocolate Almond Brittle was at least clear enough for me to know that it was going to be a toffee of some sort studded with nuts.
This was by far the smallest of the pieces I had, though it probably still weighed about the same (there was no weight listed on the wrapper) it was dense and hefty like a chocolate dipped brick.
The brittle center was crispy, a little salty and had a nice buttery flavor to it. The almond pieces were nicely sized, not whole but big chunks that gave a texture variation to it. The dark chocolate went well with the whole thing. The only complaint I had was that the thick chocolate flaked off sometimes when biting it, and when I cut it in half most of it came off completely.
The distinctive and appropriate packaging were what drew me to these, but I appreciate that they are unique - I don’t know if I’ve ever had such good quality and large sized creams before. I’d like to explore the flavor versions a bit more, I have a feeling I’d like their ginger, peppermint and maple ones.
The other butter-based caramel/toffee items were also well done, but not quite as original ... but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t appreciate them and a good candy shop should always have a little something for everyone. (And it’s true that a lot of folks just don’t like creams.)
Roger’s Chocolates has quite a few locations through British Columbia including Victoria where their candy factory is located.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Cadbury is a dominant chocolate brand around the world. (See this article from Business Week that shows it as the #2 chocolate on the planet.)
What’s especially fun about Cadbury chocolate is the little variations depending on the country. One of those is the Australian set of candy bars. I picked up this single serve bar of Dairy Milk Snack after seeing it in Sera’s photo stream last year (I didn’t really want the big size bar).
It’s a simple concept - a segmented bar with different flavored fillings in each piece. (Note that the large bar has only five segments.)
The first thing that sets this little bar apart is that each piece is coded with the contents. Though the package didn’t say what the fillings are (and please, why?) I did figure out the pineapple one immediately and took a good guess at the strawberry and orange.
The flavors in all are: caramel, pineapple, coconut ice (I have no idea what that is), strawberry, Turkish delight and orange.
My bar was fresh, unmarred and in great condition.
Caramel - I thought it’d be like the Caramello, but it’s a little firmer, a little thicker. The chocolate outside is rather strange - it has a good snap, but not a very good melt. It’s a bit stiff, a little chalky. The flavor is recognizably Cadbury with a strong powdered milk flavor and a gentle malty cocoa taste.
Pineapple - has a light tangy pineapple scent. The fondant is thick, it has a good sheen to it, but it doesn’t flow. The flavor is sweet and has a tangy pineapple bite. It’s an odd combination with the musky chocolate, but I enjoyed the change of pace.
Coconut Ice - honestly I don’t know what this is. It’s pink and it’s crumbly and has a slight sweet flavor that I can’t quite place. If it’s supposed to be coconut, it’s missing that completely.
Strawberry - the fondant is smooth, but a little more crumbly than the pineapple. Fragrant and floral, there’s not tart component. Rather authentic tasting and pleasant.
Turkish Delight - wow, they went all out for the rose here. The texture is quite soft, more like a jelly than a firm paste. The floral notes are pungent with a slight tangy middle note that dissipates quickly. I rather liked it, but I can tell that this would be quite off-putting for many Americans and other cultures not accustomed to floral flavors.
Orange - I had hoped this would be the winner piece, but I found it rather bland. The fondant was too firm and lacking a distinctive zest.
Just as a little touchstone, I picked up an American Cadbury Dairy Milk bar to compare the flavors, and I do find that I prefer the stickier, fudgier texture of the Hershey-made version, but that may just be what I’m accustomed to.
It’s a fun bar and honestly I’d probably enjoy a whole bar of the pineapple or Turkish delight, the rest of the flavors just didn’t feel like they were the best that Cadbury could muster. (I know they can do better with the caramel & chocolate combination.) For the money, especially since I’m paying import prices, if I felt like boxed chocolate candy, I’d be better off getting some Russell Stover or finding a See’s or I’d probably even choose a Whitman’s Sampler of this.
One of the best things I can say about Cadbury right now is that they’re making a huge effort to go Fair Trade with their chocolate though it’s going to be a long process.
Monday, May 11, 2009
The first time I tried a Sunspire product, I thought it was terrible. I was also rather irritated that they thought that their candy coated chocolate lentils were better just because they were all-natural, when they actually had more “sugar” in them than M&Ms. (Not that I subscribe to the belief that sugar is unhealthy in moderation.)
I was at Henry’s Market over the weekend and all the Sunspire candy bars were on sale, so I grabbed a bunch ... because if there’s one thing that makes me reconsider my opinion, it’s a reduced price. (Oddly enough free samples have less influence.) This Sunspire Peppermint Pattie was $1.25 (they’re usually $1.69).
On the front it says that it’s premium dark chocolate - all natural / nothing artificial.
The little mylar wrapper holds a 1.4 ounce pattie.
It’s a rustic looking pattie, a little thicker than a York Peppermint Pattie but also smaller in diameter. Still, they’re the exact same weight as a York. (No, that’s not a trick of the light, the center is actually a light amber color.)
The ingredients are impressive, if only for the adjectives involved in simple ingredients:
So while the ingredients are pretty wholesome, they’re not vegan and not processed in a facility that’s gluten free (nor peanut/nut free).
But for me it’s all about the taste. I was a bit worried that the dark chocolate would be too sweet, what with two sweeteners listed before the cocoa solids.
The chocolate shell is pretty thick, it has a nice toasted cocoa aroma with a hint of the minty sweetness within. It’s nicely tempered and has a good break but happily the little bits adhere to the fondant center.
The chocolate is much like chocolate chips as far as texture. Not extremely smooth, but with good flavor ... just a smidge on the dry and chalky side of things.
The fondant center is smooth, with a slight but consistent grain to it but overall it has a cool dissolve on the tongue. It’s a cross between the texture of the York Peppermint Pattie and Junior Mints. The peppermint isn’t that strong and there’s a pretty noticeable whiff of molasses in the whole thing. It makes it all seem rather “hearty.” There’s also a lot more chocolate to this than a York has (so there’s also more fat and more calories).
My opinion of Sunspire is a-changin’ ... this is a really good product. Yes, more expensive but also made in the USA. (But if I had my druthers for non-York mints, I’d probably go for the Ritter Sport Peppermint bar ... except it’s seasonal.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.