Monday, March 29, 2010
Last year I picked up the Marich Select Easter Mix. While I thought it was a beautiful assortment what I really wanted for that price was something equally cute but with more chocolate. I’ve been so pleased with Marich’s expansion of their line of all natural and organic panned items, it’s also nice to see them doing products more in the novelty area that still fit with that line.
So not only are these new All Natural Holland Mints just the right combo of mint and chocolate, they’re also all natural. So my previous complaint about the artificial flavors and their aftertaste messing with the overall experience is gone completely.
Holland Mints go by a few names, depending on who makes them including Dutch Mints and Wedding Mints. They’re a simple minty fondant ball covered in dark chocolate then a crisp candy shell.
Honestly, I wouldn’t have known that these were all natural if someone didn’t tell me. The colors are cool and muted but still vibrant and appealing: magenta, pale blue, pale yellow and white.
The version I had last year had a polished shell, these are a matte version which I actually prefer. They’re smooth and cool on the tongue at first. I’ve mentioned before that these were what I thought the York Pieces should be like. It leaves me to wonder why I’m trying to make something from Hershey’s into something else when there’s already a product that fits the bill for me (and is priced far better than the York Mints that come in the tins).
I can eat them several ways. Sometimes I let the shell dissolve, then getting a smooth hit of the bittersweet chocolate then a powerful blast of the mint fondant. Other times I cleave the shell off to crunch it up and get to the chocolate quicker. Then there are days where I just feel like chewing the whole morsel up for a crunchy, sweet, chocolately and minty combo.
Marich’s All Natural Chocolate Jordan Almonds are what I’ve always wanted Almond M&Ms to be.
They’re a premium nonpareil almond at the center, fresh and perfectly roasted. Then it’s covered in truly rich dark chocolate then a crispy candy shell.
They’re huge, sometimes twice the size of the Almond M&Ms. They’re also beautifully panned and consistent (something that M&Ms haven’t been in the past 10 years or so).
Instead of the matte shell of the Holland Mints, these are a polished and shiny shell. The colors seem more intense though they’re the same: magenta, yellow, light blue and white. I usually steer away from pink or red candies because of the foul bitter aftertaste of Red Dye #40, but these are all natural so all I taste are almonds, sugar and chocolate.
The chocolate is what stands out here, while it’s not a thick layer, it’s creamy and smooth without a trace of graininess or chalkiness. Yes these are more expensive than M&Ms, but they’re just so much better. I hope these are a year round item from Marich.
I got these half pound samples from The Natural Candy Store but I’ve also seen them at Whole Foods in the candy case. I haven’t seen them in the stand up boxes yet. Though they’re all natural there are no statements about other allergens like Wheat/Gluten and they’re not Kosher.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:06 am
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
So far I’ve enjoyed my latest bundle of Aldi confections that my mother sent to me from Ohio. Two of the heftier items in the package are the long boxes of Choceur After Dinner Mints. I quite liked the Choceur items I’ve picked up before, especially since they’re nicely packaged into individual servings. (Each mint is 45 calories.)
The “mints” come in two flavors: Orange and Peppermint with the boxes handily color-coded in orange and green respectively.
I liked the orange box because it captures the holiday vibe without resorting to red and green. It’s just an orange box with brown accents and a variety of white & brown snowflakes around the edges.
Inside the box it’s rather like every other box of after dinner mints I’ve had, such as After Eight and the Divine After Dinner Mints (which was fair trade and also had a nice design). The Orange After Dinner Mnits box weighs a hefty 10.5 ounces, kind of like a narrow brick. Each piece is tucked into an open brown glassine sleeve. Each sleeve reminds me that it is the Finest Quality, as if there could be some little folders that didn’t have that notation that contained sub-standard quality candies.
They’re two inches long and one and a quarter inches wide. They’re have a nicely rippled top and a decent chocolate scent with a touch of orange. However, once I bit into it the orange flavor is overwhelming. The dark chocolate has a thin layer of soft & smooth fondant inside. It’s a “whole orange” flavor with both juice and zest notes and reminds me more of the Jaffa orange candies I’ve had from the United Kingdom. The chocolate texture is creamy has a touch of cocoa bittersweetness, but mostly the flavor here is orange and a pure blast of sugar.
It’s a welcome change from the traditional mint and the orange does leave a clean and refreshed feeling. I liked them better in memory, not in practice though. I felt better about them after I was done while the zest was still kind of lingering, not while I was eating them.
Rating: 6 out of 10
The ingredients are pretty clean: Sugar, Chocolate Liquor, Glucose Syrup, Cocoa Butter, Invertase, Soy Lecithin and Peppermint Oil. (However, this is also exactly what the Orange ones say, right down to the peppermint oil.) They’re made in Germany and feature the Aldi “Double Quality Guarantee” which means that if you don’t like it, they’ll give you your money back and another of the item. (You know, just so you can make sure you didn’t like it.) Honestly I had no issues with the quality of any of their items ... it’s often that they’re just not to my tastes.
While I found the Orange ones far too orangey, the mint ones were just right. I felt like I could taste the chocolate, which was dark and roasty as well as the clear peppermint flavor. The texture of the fondant was light and crisp. It was like they were flattened Junior Mints. With more chocolate by proportion than a Junior Mint but packing all the minty power.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Though I liked the design of the box from a graphics standpoint, it wasn’t actually substantial enough for something that holds so much candy. When the package is full and the stabilizing force of the shrink-wrap is gone, it was clear that the paperboard wasn’t built well enough. The single flap of the top and the simple folded over edges meant that the box had to be picked up carefully, best with two hands when full, or else the top would fold open and the candies spill out. Serving from it is good but putting them out in a large quantity inside their little sleeves is kind of problematic as they’re slippery.
Both are great hostess gifts and a really inexpensive item to include in a coffee when having friends over or easy thing to bring to an office to-do. (Note, I say they’re inexpensive but I don’t have the price info, so I can only guess that these are less than $4.00 for a box.)
These are not Kosher but are vegetarian and should be considered vegan (invertase is listed on the ingredients, which is an enzyme produced by bees, but for industrial food purposes is almost always made via yeast for cost savings).
Monday, November 30, 2009
Russell Stover has a large assortment of holiday treats in Santa-themed packaging. What’s nice about them is that they’re always fresh and moderately priced (often on dramatic sale for three for a dollar but usually about 50 cents a piece). I picked up every variety I could find this year:
What I noticed first was that the packaging is inconsistent in its design. Sure they’re all a mylar wrapper, but beyond that the Santas are different drawing styles with the Maple Cream, Strawberry Cream & Coconut Cream sporting the same Santa holding a gift aloft as he sits in a chimney. But The Peanut Butter Santa is more streamlined, the Marshmallow Santa has some freaky bright red cheeks and insanely short arms and finally the Marshmallow & Caramel Santa is in the style of the European Saint Nicolas complete with staff.
What I also found out is that the definition of “Santa Shaped” is pretty loose in Russell Stover’s world. It’s not quite as egg shaped, and maybe the tapering ends can be a feet/boots and a head. But really, it’d be best to just call these Christmas Lumps or Snow Clods.
The Peanut Butter Santa is pure simplicity: a peanut butter bar covered in milk chocolate. The shape of it is kind of figure-like. It’s the smallest of the pack as well, clocking in at only .75 ounces. It smells nutty and sugary and a little bit like peanut butter cookies. The milk chocolate is quite slick and melts easily, it has a light cocoa flavor to it. Most of all the salty peanut butter center is grassy-tasting. It’s a strange green flavor more like edamame than roasted peanuts.
It was tasty enough for me to finish it easily, but being small didn’t hurt either. The center is moister and a bit oilier than the center of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Tree (or Egg or Cup). This wasn’t a bad feature, just different.
Rating: 7 out of 10
I thought perhaps I’d tried these before and looked up to find that I reviewed the Maple Cream Egg way back in 2006. But the Russell Stover Maple Cream Santa is actually different. While the Easter version is coated in dark chocolate, the Christmas version is Milk Chocolate.
The amorphous lump didn’t remind me of Santa’s silhouette in the slightest but the maple cream flavor is a bit more Christmassy than Easterish so kudos for that, Russell Stover.
It’s been a while since I’ve had the dark chocolate version so I’ll spare us all comparisons. What I can say is that this is ludicrously sweet. The milk chocolate is sugary and not terribly creamy and the center while moist and fluffy is also throat searingly cloying and sticky. The maple flavor was simply a flavor, not something that felt natural or integrated into the candy itself.
Rating: 5 out of 10
While the Strawberry Cream Santa is also milk chocolate like the Cream Egg, this one lacks the pretty little swirls and curls on the top. It does smell a little like berries, but mostly it smells like milky chocolate. It’s quite sweet and has only a faint hint of strawberry and is rather similar to a Nestle Strawberry Qwik shake. I know it was really sweet, but I like the texture of the cream center that Russell Stover uses for both this one and the Maple Cream. It’s rather like a marshmallow cream, quite smooth and fluffy and moist without being runny.
Rating: 5 out of 10
The Coconut Cream Santa is also unlike the Cream Egg in that it’s milk chocolate, not dark chocolate. In this case as well, I think the sugar-laden milk chocolate is simply over the top. I like the coconut flake texture of the cream filling and the nice size of the piece, but the sugary quality of the chocolate with its grainy and fudgy melt is just too much. It’s amazing what a difference dark chocolate can make, but it does.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Things were looking up when I found the Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Santa. I didn’t really expect this to be terribly different from the Easter Rabbit version, except that one was huge at two ounces and only in milk chocolate where I shopped.
This one was by far the most attractive of my Santa set, a nicely detailed figure of Santa Claus scratching his head. Unfortunately I smashed him somewhere along the way and his face was a little worse for it (or maybe he wasn’t scratching his head, maybe he was holding his hand over his nose and cursing me).
The marshmallow is latexy and has a chewy pull. Not too sweet and with a faint whiff of vanilla flavoring.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Of course this one looks like it could be a Mummy or Generic Figure for Unisex Bathroom Door.
It’s smaller in dimensions from the Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Santa, yet it’s actually heavier, it’s the same 1.25 ounces as the Cream Santas. I’ve had the Caramel and Marshmallow Pumpkin before and found it interesting.
This one seems to be more evenly balanced between the caramel and the marshmallow. It’s dense for a marshmallow product, the marshmallow is fluffy and has a light hint of vanilla to it with a smooth and velvety melt. The caramel isn’t runny nor quite chewy but has a good stringy pull to it.
It’s lacking a punch like the See’s Scotchmallow, but for 50 cents and in the shape of a clothes pin, well, I don’t want to sound too ungrateful for a decent piece of candy especially since this one seems to have the proportions just right. I wish the caramel was a little more chewy, a little more salty, but still a fun piece.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
The Twilight Saga: New Moon opens in theaters all over the world at the end of November. It’s expected to be a huge hit, as was the first movie in the series, Twilight. New Moon again stars Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan and Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen. If you’ve been under a literary rock for the past five years, it’s based on the popular young adult/fantasy Twilight quadrilogy by Stephenie Meyer.
Necco, maker of Necco Wafers, Sweethearts, Clark Bars and Mary Janes has a licensing deal with Summit Entertainment. It started earlier this year with Forbidden Fruits Sweethearts and has expanded now with the line of chocolate candies under their Sky Bar brand called Heart’s Desire.
The products are various bars and individually wrapped pieces. Gigi Reviews had the full bar, which is like a regular Sky Bar but with only three segments but a hipper looking wrapper. I found these little individually wrapped pieces, which are one ounce each and retail for about fifty cents.
The package calls it a creme filled milk chocolate heart. The ingredients actually sound pretty decent for a movie tie in product. Real milk chocolate filled with a sugary, corn syrup, invert syrup, artificial flavors, salt, egg whites and invertase.
It’s odd though that the candy of choice for New Moon would be a boring old vanilla cream. The Sky Bar has four fillings: caramel, vanilla, peanut and fudge. Of those I think the peanut one would be best. It’s definitely different from other candy products on the market because the peanut section in the Sky Bar is a peanut flavored caramel ... worthy of a starring role by itself.
It’s rather large for a filled chocolate, they’re 2 1/3 inches tall and 1 1/4 inch wide at most. The highest part in the center heart is just shy of one inch.
The molded design is of two stacked hearts. The heart on top bears the female protagonist’s name: Bella (though when I first looked at it I thought it said Petta, which made no sense to me). The second heart says Cullen and looks like it may be the family crest. The crest is a hand print over a profile of a lion with a chevron with the outline of three shamrocks.
It smells rather like a Cadbury Creme Egg and honestly, it’s not that different. Of the three that I opened, two were cracked around the edges and leaking (but dried).
The chocolate is pretty good for a cheap piece of candy. It has a nice snap and a milky flavor. The creme center is smooth, a bit soupy and merely sweet with no other features worth mentioning. The whole thing though was a bit off, a little bit musty tasting and lacking that fresh pop of real vanilla. It’s too bad that it couldn’t distinguish itself with a fresh vanilla flavor so it would be more like a Valomilk than a Cadbury Creme Egg.
As a little treat to stuff in your pocket before heading out to stand in a long line at the movie theater, it’s a decent enough value. Not something I would buy, but if I were a parent and going to see the movie with my kids (or just driving them there) it would be a thoughtful little celebratory gift. As an enduring confection ... well, it’s not befitting immortal status, especially when it bleeds its contents so easily.
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.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.