These are chewy.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
I’ve noticed that I get a lot of Google search hits on this blog for CraniYUMS. Well, that and Choxie. So it’s about time I gave folks what they’re looking for. This has got to be one of the more innovative candy formats I’ve seen. I got this as a sample at my Candy Warehouse visit over the summer. They hadn’t decided to carry the pops, so I didn’t want to blog about it until it was available then I forgot about it until I saw Candy Addict‘s post a few weeks ago.
What is it? It’s a hard candy lolly in the shape of a Tyrannosaurus rex skull then covered in a gummi “flesh”. The fleshy part is transparent, so you can see the skull shape at the center. It’s actually a pretty fun idea.
I wasn’t quite sure how to approach consuming it. A gelatinous skin does not lend itself to sucking, and of course it’s a bit big for putting in the mouth whole. So when I tried nibbling on the end of his snout, I kind of get the sense that there should be some growling involved. The gummi part is definitely gummi, but I guess that’s a good thing. You kind of have to rip it off the candy skull with your teeth. As a gummi it’s rather mild, not zesty orintensely flavored. The skin is cherry flavored and the skeleton is green apple. Once a corner has been started it’s pretty easy to nibble off pieces then to get to the center. The skeletal center is hard candy, but not quite hard, because I’m guessing the gummi softens it a little bit. The flavor overall was just bland, I wanted some zip to it all. Maybe mine was a little old, but I also think I’d prefer the lemon/cherry combo.
I’m obviously not the target market for this candy, but I can see it being a fun thing to pick up at a museum gift shop for my nephew should we go look at a dinosaur exhibit. But I can also see a kid getting kind of bored with it after a few minutes. It depends on the kid. I found myself eating all the gummi skin but I didn’t eat the center. They get big points from me on originality, but I see it as more of a special occasion candy than a regular one.
The package says it’s made in China, but it’s distributed by an Denver, CO company.
Rating - 5 out of 10
Monday, December 19, 2005
Name: Jelly Belly Classic Candies - Jelly Belly jelly beans, Fruit Pectin, Jordan Almonds, JBz, Cinnamon Bears, Dutch Mints, Licorice & Berry Mix
At the beginning of December I took a trip to San Francisco and had to stop at the Jelly Belly factory (see that article with pics here). I was lucky enough to have a guided tour of the facility by none other than the publicist for the company, Tomi Holt. At the end of my factory tour she wanted me to try more of the Jelly Belly line than just the jelly beans. She picked out a few items including this box called Classic Candies which includes samples of many of the candy in Jelly Belly’s line (see my review of their Malted Milk Balls). A lot of it was surprising to me, I didn’t know they made pectin fruits or gummis and if you’re looking for some new tastes without buying a full package this is a good option.
Of course the box contains a good assortment of the most popular Jelly Belly flavors incuding Lemon, Sizzling Cinnamon, Cotton Candy, Licorice, Green Apple, Peach, Very Cherry, Buttered Popcorn, Blueberry and Juicy Pear. I have to admit that I’m not fond of all of them, but I appreciate the complexity of the flavors. The peach is a good example. While many “peach flavored” things get one or two notes of peach in there, somehow the Jelly Belly tastes like it has fuzz (I consider that an accomplishment). My favorites are Licorice, Sizzling Cinnamon and Lemon, but some others are growing on me like Cotton Candy and Blueberry. If you’ve never had a Jelly Belly, the first thing you should know is that they contain no gelatin. So if you’re a vegan, you can eat these! (Though the plant uses milk in some products and cannot guarantee that there aren’t traces.) They’re also Kosher.
The Raspberries and Blackberries were another pleasant surprise. I was expecting those German berries that I’ve had before that are nice, but a little sweet and a little chewy. These are tart and flavorful, with a complex combination of the sour, the crunchiness of the sprinkles that mimic berry seeds and then a good aromatic lingering aftertaste. This was much more pronounced in the blackberry, which was downright pungent.
I’m adding this little gem in here even though it wasn’t in the box. They’re called “Champagne Bubbles” and they’re very much like the Raspberries & Blackberries in that it’s a tart fruit jelly/gummi center with a crunchy shell of dots. The flavor here is a rather bubbly white grape juice that actually has a little sizzle. They’re not as aromatic as the berries but they’re easier to eat in large quantities that way. The sassy appearance makes them a good item to use for weddings and showers if you want a little change from Jordan Almonds.
I didn’t even know Jelly Belly made these! They’re gummi bears in a zesty cinnamon flavor. They’re sanded with sugar and not the same gummi we’re used to from Europe. They’re more of a jelly chew but they’re positively hot. I guess that’s why they call them Unbearably Hot Cinnamon Bears.
It’s odd that one of the things that started this Jelly Belly oddysey was an email I got from a former member of the marketing team at Jelly Belly. He complimented me on the blog and then suggested that I give JBz another try (pronounced Jay-Bees) since they’re reformulated them. I’m not really into trying things I didn’t like again, but I’ll have to admit that I wanted to like these and of course free samples never hurts. I’m going to guess, first of all, that the box I got at Bed, Bath and Beyond was probably a little old and perhaps suffered from sitting around with too many scented soaps. The JBz that I tried at the Factory and in this box were actually really good. The chocolate itself is still very sweet and lacks it’s own chocolate punch, but as a medium for delivering the other flavors, it’s very successful. I liked the capuccino and chocolate caramel ones best (but then again I got a lot of those in my assortment).
No company that does panning can call themselves that unless they make Jordan Almonds. I don’t know who thought up making an inpenetrable shell on a rather large nut, but there you have it. Perhaps you’re not supposed to bite them, but I can’t help it. The coating is smooth and crunchy and the almonds are large and top grade.
I reviewed the Jelly Belly Confections Licorice Bridge Mix some months ago and I was pleased by it, but not wowed. I have now found that my mix may have been a little stale (it was on sale), as this stuff was softer and more flavorful. At the time I gave them a harsh 6 out of 10. While I still like a little more licorice inside my pastels, these were very nice since they were soft and chewy. The colorful dots are just so joyfully pretty (I’ve since bought them at a Sweets Factory just because I liked the look of them) and the other black and white dots are nice and mild (think of licorice flavored candy corn).
Another fun thing that Jelly Belly makes is Dutch Mints. They’re a mint fondant-type center covered with a thin layer of chocolate and then given a candy shell. Instead of a high gloss, Dutch mints have a soft, matte finish that always makes them look so soothing. (It also seems to make them nearly impossible to photograph well.) The shell is cool to the tongue and kind of slick, then it releases a huge burst of mint. The chocolate is subtle, really barely noticeable, after all this is all about the mint. The centers are soft without being gooey.
Tomi and I also spend some time in the store while we were there since that’s the one place to see all the candies Jelly Belly makes, not just the ones being produced that week. One of the things she introduced me to were the Pectin Fruits. She pulled out a clear pineapple one for me to taste and can I just use the phrase “bursting with flavor?” It was seriously fruity and had many of the pineapple notes, not just the tart one, but those aromatics and that actual piney taste that a pineapple has. The only thing I was disappointed about was that there was no pineapple one in this box. I did get to try the raspberry and again I have to say that I am usually not a fan of raspberry flavored things, however this tastes like it’s got raspberries in it. The citrus ones are zesty and tart with a well-rounded flavor. The jelly is firm without being too sticky or crusty. I’ve always loved orange slices and spearmints leaves but since tasting these I may never go back. Even the lime was complex, with more than the “household cleaner” smell to it.
I didn’t photograph these, but you know what they look like: Candy Corn. After years of eating old, stale and waxy candy corn this was pretty good stuff. It’s sweet and slightly chewy. Not terribly complex but nice and all the little pieces were wonderfully consistent looking.
One of the newer products (also not in the box) is their Mint Trio. I’m glad Jelly Belly is finally putting out a contender for the pocket mint business. This sassy little trio has peppermint (Jelly Belly sadly discontinued the blue mint years ago), spearmint and wintergreen. I know that a lot of folks don’t like wintergreen but I’m a huge fan. All the beans have a huge boost of mint in them and will easily work as breath mints if you choose. They’re easy to share and I don’t know of many multi-mint breath mint options out there in one package. (Maybe those mint Skittles.) The only problem with them is that I haven’t seen them anywhere but the Jelly Belly store!
Last, I tried a few Bertie Botts while I was at the store. I’m not really into eating gross things, I generally want to like what I eat. But I did try a few that I actually liked and ended up buying a mix of. If you have the opportunity to just do a mix of the “tasty” Bertie Botts, I can recommend Grass (which is just a mellow, fresh flavor), Black Pepper (sweet and hot) and Soap (if you just think of it as a floral bouquet and not like soap it’s tasty).
Whew! That’s a lot of candy. Overall I give the Jelly Belly top marks for consistent quality, diverse flavors and innovation. They’re a little more expensive than most “sugar” candies out there, but I think you’re getting a lot for the money when you consider that you’re getting such consistency and flavor packed into those little beans. However, at those prices, unless you like all the flavors, go for a bulk pick-a-mix where you can get just the ones you like. I’m fond of their citrus flavors so when I was there I made my own mix which was Tangerine, Pink Grapefruit, Lemon, Lemon Drop, and Margarita. Not only are they zesty, saliva-gland-popping flavors, they go really well together. They even had a new flavor there that may not be in wide release yet called Pomegranate (the red one there). It was interesting, rather like a cross between raspberry and cranberry - good tartness but a lot of floral flavors to it. It didn’t taste like pomegranate to me, but it was certainly good.
Rating - 9 out of 10 for general Jelly Belly line of products
Friday, December 2, 2005
My blogging buddy, Lisa, sent this to me. She didn’t pick it up in Japan, she got it in New York, which makes the trip it’s taken extra special.
They look like little incense cones, little hard cones covered in a salty, sour powder. I wasn’t quite sure what they were, as the package is in Japanese, but what I could glean from the package was that these were sour. (I’m not quite sure what the female schmoo thing is on the front, but she sure is cute.)
They smell like cola, which is an odd smell in and of itself, really. The gummy isn’t really gummy either, it’s a hard little piece that’s not quite hard enough to be considered hard candy. Pop one in your mouth and you pucker. There’s no way to not describe these as incredibly sour. The flavor of the sour is a bit lemony but a little salty too. Then that subsides and you get the cola flavor and a little hard gummy bit. Then you want another one. They took a little getting used to, but with a lot of the extreme candies, they’re rather addictive.
They remind me a lot of the So Wonderful Lemon Drops I tried months ago. I think I might pick up the grape ones sometime, but for now, cola is a great choice for a sour treat. I have to say that eating to many will eventually burn the tongue. And give you a tummy ache. But I’ve found that to be true with most foods.
Rating - 7 out of 10
Friday, September 2, 2005
Name: Wine Gums
Imagine a gummi candy that smells like Elmer’s Glue. It took me a couple of days to figure out what they smelled like, but it was one of those non-toxic smells that kind of get under your skin.
There are a variety of colors/flavors in this package:
They’re random, not the systematic stacking that you can count on in a roll of Lifesavers. The flavors are smooth, not terribly tart, not terribly sweet. There is a definite musky taste to it, which is what I guess the “wine” part is. This is most noticeable in the purple one. The flavors kind of grew on me - at first I didn’t care for the purple one so I ate them first, then I was sad that I didn’t have any more.
What really suprised me is how much I liked the red ones. I’m not a fan of red candies but these weren’t too cherry or strawberry and had a nice sort of sizzly flavor to them. The only flavor I didn’t like was the green one, which tasted just like floor cleaner smells.
Next time I go to Canada or the UK, I’ll be sure to pick a roll of these up. They’re easy to carry and a good little zesty pick-me-up.
Rating - 7 out of 10
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Name: Blackcurrant and Finest Pink Grapefruit Pastilles
A few weeks ago I got an email from a kind reader named greenhaven suggested that I try Rowntree Blackcurrant Pastilles, since I couldn’t find them, I picked these up. (I know, they’re not at all the same.) I’ll keep looking though, as I remember liking “wine gums” that I bought at a newsstand in London quite a bit. I’m not sure all folks consider pastilles candy, after all, most people think of them as throat lozenges. However, as a person who used to eat cough drops as candy, I fully embrace these as sweets. (One of my favorites was Smith Bros Black Licorice.)
These are soft and chewy, but wonderful to suck on and kind of fold up as it gets smaller in your mouth. The glycerine provides a soothing, moisturizing coating to dry throats. But what’s best about these is the intense flavor. Packed with more flavor than just a gummi bear or hard cough drop, these are zesty. They come in little tins (the size of Altoid tins, only gold.)
The pink grapefruit has a wonderful zest with a good rounded tartness that goes through and through. The blackcurrant is smooth and tart with a good winey note to it. I prefer the grapefruit ones, mostly because I’m just not a blackcurrant fan. These are very soft and I don’t really like them this soft, so sometimes I’ll just leave them open for a day so they can toughen up.
They have 18% of your daily requirement of Vitamin C (in 2 drops) and their ingredients are all natural. If you go on the Dr. Doolittle website (it’s in French) and click on production, you can see how they make the drops by pouring the mix into little molds.
Rating - 7 out of 10 (I buy them a couple times a year, they’re rather expensive)
UPDATE: I found a new local supply of Dr. Dolittle’s Pastilles. They come in Lemon, Blackcurrant and Pink Grapefruit. Different tins now, a lot more expensive. See new review here.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Name: Wild Huckleberry Gummi Bears
I know, you’re asking yourself, “what is a huckleberry? and is a wild one better?”
Well, first, a huckleberry is related to the blueberry and cranberry, or so says Wikipedia. And if my experience with wild strawberries and wild blueberries means anything, the wild ones are smaller and more expensive and hopefully organic.
However, upon further examination of the package, I found the following ingredients listed: Corn syrup, sugar, gelatin, artificial color, citric acid, artificial flavor, lactic acid, mineral oil and carnuba wax. Hmm, nowhere in there does it mention huckleberries.
No matter. these fellows are cute anyway, with the carnuba wax shines and their A emblazoned on their little chests. Wait, what’s the A for? Got me, they’re distributed by the Benjamin News Group and the brand seems to be “Rocky Mountain”, not really any A initials there. Are they adulterous bears?
They’re very soft bears, with a nice tart flavor and a pretty smell, a cross between blackberries and violets. They’re cute and fresh and so easy to pop in your mouth even if they purely a chemistry experiment. The color is exquisite, especially if you line them up on the desk. The trick, if you must know, if you want to get them to stand up is this: get a clean piece of white paper then lick the bottom of the bear (lightly, we don’t want a lot of slobber) and then press them down gently on the paper in a row. A little backlight and they’re practically luminous.
Rating - 7 out of 10 (they might be gone by the end of the day)
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Name: Gummi Clown Fish
These little cuties are shaped like clown fish (yes, like Nemo from the movie). Each little fish is about two inches long and an inch wide. They’re big gummis. Luckily Haribo gummis are not sticky, so they’re easy to hold while you take a bite or pull it until it snaps (you can get it to about four inches before it gives way).
While real clown fish come in one color - orange, these come in three. Yellow (lemon), Green (sour apple?) and Red (berry?). I had a lot more trouble telling the flavors apart on these. I’m positive yellow is lemon, but that’s as much as I can commit to.
Soft, tart and sweet, these are excellent gummis. The large size makes them kind of fun to chew on, you get to decide how much you want by the size of your bite - but it’s harder to mix flavors. The size of the package is a bit daunting. I opened the bag the afternoon I got them and plowed through maybe a dozen fish and then separated them into little baggies of about a half a pound each. All my friends will be getting a fun hostess gift whenever they invite me over.
If I had my druthers, I’d do different colors and flavors than they chose. I’d like a pink grapefruit, an orange orange and keep the yellow lemon. Yes, they’d all be citrus. I’d call them Citrus Clown Fish.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Monday, August 1, 2005
This is my first “taste off” for CandyBlog. I’ve chosen Haribo Gummi Bears to go head-to-head with Trolli Gummi Bears. They’re both the “original” gummi bears that most Americans remember hitting big on the candy scene in the early eighties. I spent quite a bit of my allowance on these. My in-school supplier was a German girl I hung around with, Tina, who must have had them imported by the case by family members. She always seemed to be able to sell me a little 2 ounce packet of them when I needed a fix. Later I found a place in Georgetown (yes, all the way down in DC - I grew up in Pennsylvania) or at the White Flint Mall where I could get them by the pound. Eventually, by the mid-eighties everyone carried them and of course there were more brands available. But the two that I had first contact with were Haribo and Trolli. There are plenty of other brands, like Heide, Black Forest, Brachs and of course a Disney cartoon franchise.
Personally, before this taste test, I would say that Haribo was my favorite. Let’s see how they do…
Name: Trolli Gummi Bears
Trolli Gummi Bears come in five flavors. From left to right they are (as far as I can tell): Cherry, Orange, Lemon, Pineapple and Lime. The shape of the bears is a rather stylelized bear shape, with a large head, narrow legs and little bumps for eyes and a nose.
Trolli are soft, soft bears. Squishy and aromatic, they yield their flavor instantly on the tongue. Inside the package they look a little greasy, but they don’t feel that way once you pop them in the mouth, they’re far softer than Haribos with a better burst of flavor when you put it in your mouth. The cherry is very strong, and overwhelms all the other flavors in the package, all of them smell like cherry.
Name: Haribo Gummi Bears
Haribo Gummi Bears are kind of freaky looking in these photos, they look a little evil. Trust me, in person they’re just cute as can be. Their heads are smaller than their body (as it should be) and they have softer curves and cute little dimpled ears. Their bellies have a little texturing that I think is supposed to be fur.
They’re far firmer than the Trolli Bears. What’s cool about them is that you can have them in your hand or pocket (yes, I sometimes stick candy in my jacket pockets not in any sort of wrapper so I can snack discretely when walking or in a meeting) without them sticking to anything. The Trolli bears have that oily coating that just makes lint stick to them. The flavors from left to right are: Berry (strawberry or raspberry, I can’t tell), Orange, Lemon, Pineapple and Lime.
Flavor for Flavor:
Red - this is the only color where the flavor is different in the brands:
Orange - the color and the flavor
Yellow - lemon, one of the most enduring flavors in the world
Clear - the puzzling flavor of the gummi bear world, I’m going with Pineapple here
(The funnest part of the clear ones is that they remind me of invisibility. You know, like Wonder Woman’s invisible plane on the Superfriends. See, you can cast the whole cartoon with gummi bears! The Red Bear is Superman, the Orange Bear is Aquaman, Yellow is Batman and Green is Robin. It’s a perfect match!)
Green - everyone’s least favorite flavor, Lime
Since I’m not a fan of cherry, the Haribo Bears are a more logical choice for me because I’ll eat all the flavors in there (and their Pineapple is so phenomenal).
In the end, this test only confirmed what I already knew, Haribo is the bear for me. The slightly waxy outer coating and firmer bite might be a negative for some folks, but I find it to enhance their durability. The flavors are all intense and distinct. Trolli’s softer chew is compelling but the overwhelming intrusion of the cherry flavor on its companions is a real turnoff for me.
UPDATE: I should have known that Haribo would win ... Google Fight told me so.
UPDATED UPDATE: Haribo’s green bear is Strawberry ... kind of strange, but if you close your eyes and don’t look at the color it’s a little more obvious. (Thanks to the readers who pointed that out.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.