These are chewy.
Friday, May 2, 2008
There are a few candies still on my list of “I can’t believe you haven’t tried that before!” and chocolate covered gummi bears were one of them. Once I had the Japanese version, I realized I should try the original. They were invented over 30 years ago by none other than the ultimate “if it should be covered in chocolate, we’ll cover it in chocolate” company: Koppers Chocolates.
When I was in San Francisco I found not only Koppers Milk Chocolate Covered Gummi Bears, but also the White Chocolate Polar Bears at Sweet Dish on Chestnut Street.
I’m not sure why I’ve been reticent about trying them. It might be that I was expecting a Haribo gummi bear, which are rather firm. Instead Koppers uses Swiss gummis (I don’t know anything beyond that) that they are appropriately soft.
I got just a quarter of a pound each of mixed milk & polar bears to try. What struck me at first was the fact that all the white chocolate bears were the same milky yellow color. Even held up to the light, there was no indication what color the gummi bear beneath was.
What I found out later, after diligently sucking the chocolate off of enough of them for a scientific sample, is that they’re all the same color (whether milk or white covered)! Though they’re yellow, I’m hard pressed to say that they’re lemon flavored, merely that they’re a sweet & tangy mix.
The milk chocolate was pretty smooth, and very milky tasting. It melted well and didn’t have that light waxy glaze that many other panned candies have. The white chocolate was similarly milky in its taste, but not too sweet. As a combination goes, I still wasn’t completely on board with having chocolate with my gummi bears. They’re cute and easy to eat, but I think I might like them apart.
Rating: 6 out of 10
To be fair, even though Koppers invented the confectionery genre of chocolate covered gummi bears, the ones I see most often in drug stores, movie theaters & discount chains are called Muddy Bears and are made by Taste of Nature (who also makes Cookie Dough Bites) which I think is an awesome name for an unappetizing looking product.
The box features a yellow bear who is entirely too happy to be covered in chocolate. I’m not sure if he understands that once he’s sealed in his confectionery shell he’s doomed.
I’ve only seen them in the theater sized boxes. Inside the box is a cellophane pouch that holds the bears and keeps them fresh. (And makes for extra wrapper noises at the theater and probably scowly looks from me if I’m sitting near.)
As unattractive as the Koppers were, I think the Muddy Bears are even worse. But since they’re meant to be eaten at the movies based on the packaging, I’m going to guess that doesn’t matter much. (For the record, I like candy that looks the same after sitting unwrapped at the bottom of my purse, so that when I switch purses and find it down there, I know what it is ... and then I eat it.)
One of the big differences in the products is the gummi center. Muddy Bears use multi-flavored gummis. Of course being covered in milk chocolate there’s no way to know which flavor is which. It’s a benign chocolate-covered Russian roulette. Mostly I seemed to get green apple.
The chocolate coating seems a bit crumbly, not as smooth melting as the Koppers and very sweet without much of a “chocolate” taste. I can’t see myself buying these.
Candy Addict did a review last summer as well, interestingly, their photo of the box says, “The Original”, I’m guessing Koppers took issue with the accuracy and they’ve changed it to the version I have.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Meiji Gummy Choco set the bar too high. Their candies come in lots of different flavors, they’re packaged so nicely, the price is right even for an import and if you get a flavor mix, they’re color coded. But if you’re not able to get a hold of those, give the Koppers a try (you’ll probably see them in bulk bins), if the shop also carries chocolate cordials, they’re probably Koppers.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
In this case, it’s an assortment of little car shaped candies called Autodrop Total Loss. It includes 11 different flavors in one bag (Elf Heerlijke Smaken in een Zak).
I thought that the “total loss” thing meant something different in Dutch, but honestly I can’t figure out if it’s a cognate or not. I thought maybe it was something like “massive pile up” but internet translators are only good with verbatim things, not interpretive use of language.
The purple bag has whimsical drawings of cars motoring down the street, making little “toet, toet” sounds, which I’m guessing is like “putt, putt”. The style of the drawings reminds me of Quentin Blake (whom many of us were introduced to via Charlie & the Chocolate Factory).
If I were able to translate all the descriptions in the shop I would have known that none of the black ones were actually licorice, so with my expectations now set aside, these were tasty and fun. The variety is huge and the molding of all the items is fun and different. I don’t see myself buying this particular mix again, but there are other Autodrops that are actually licorice (called Drop Donders that includes sweet, salt, honey and salmiak licorice) that I might give a try based on the quality of this product.
Autodrops contain gelatin so are unsuitable for vegetarians (and don’t appear to be Kosher either).
Many thanks to Babelfish for helping me at least translate some of the words from the package.
Friday, April 25, 2008
When I was afraid I was getting sick earlier this winter I turned to candy. After all, many candies started out as medicine. The cough drops of yesteryear are the root beer barrels and cherry LifeSavers of today. Sometimes I eat vitamin C enriched hard candies, figuring, what could it hurt and it might help.
The government keeps candy companies from making grandiose claims, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to nudge us to buy something because it might have nutritional value (I seriously doubt I’m at high risk for scurvy). I spied these Brach’s Gummi+Plus (is that supposed to be said aloud as Gummi Plus Plus?) at the 7-11 and though they might ease an aching throat. I was also intrigued because they had different flavors: Cranberry, Pomegranate, Orange, Apple, Strawberry & Blueberry. I was really curious to taste a pomegranate or cranberry gummi!
They look just like any other gummis, each in a little fruit shape. What gives these their +Plus is an infusion of three antioxidants: 25% of your RDA of vitamin A, Vitamin C & Vitamin E.
Though they’re throwing “immune boosting” powers at us, it’s obvious that they didn’t really commit to the whole line, as they didn’t even bother to make up molds for these new fruits.
Besides the freaky shape and unnatural color, the flavor is, well, kind of like a berry of some sort. You could tell me it’s a black raspberry and I’d probably believe you.
It’s soft and tangy and has a good strawberry jam flavor to it.
Not exciting in a plus plus way, but tasty.
The package had no purple on it, but did show a red “berry” that I’m going to guess is this one: Pomegranate. The shape is a pretty good patch to what pomegranate seeds look like if you peel away the membrane carefully.
It’s quite a good flavor, like a combination of raspberry and cherry ... not quite pomegranate, but certainly a lot less fuss.
It’s a good apple juice flavor instead of just the fake green apple (but there’s a little bit of that in there too).
In fact, the ingredients list apple juice as an ingredient (I’m guessing they use it instead of a splash of water so they can say “made with real fruit juice!”
No matter, this one is much like the pomegranate. Very deep, with a much more tart and acidic overtone. I welcome the cranberry to the gummi mix! I hope it sticks around, as far as super sours go, cranberries are overlooked.
I rather liked that, it made it feel more medicinal, more like candied orange peel or some sort of soothing tea.
As far as the antioxidant properties, I still got the flu, but then again I didn’t finish the bag until I decided to write these up while I’m traveling. (Gummis are great traveling candy.) I couldn’t detect any flavors that were particularly indicative of “vitamins” and vitamin E can be like that sometimes.
Brach’s also offers an assortment of Tropical Gummis. One of the fun parts of this was that the only flavor that intersected with the Gummi +Plus was Orange. I got to test whether the fortified gummis really tasted different from the regular ones. (Nope.)
You can tell here, too, that they’re similar molds.
Orange was just as zesty.
Purple was probably raspberry. It’s hard to tell because there is no retail label on the bulk bag. It tastes like a very sweet raspberry jam.
Strawberry Banana was kind of cute. At first I didn’t know what that shape was. But the pink color and mild, sweet strawberry flavor (less tart than the Gummi +Plus) kind of cinched it. It reminds me a little of yogurt. The banana component is a little artificial tasting, but that’s okay with me.
Lime was cute. It’s nice to see lime instead of apple. It was zesty, a little bit of that bitterness that I noticed in the orange, but definitely convincing.
Lemon was pretty dark in color and I often mistook it for the orange. The shape and size were perfect, but the flavor was sadly bland. Not bad, just not rising to the same level as the rest.
Pineapple was what drew me to this mix in the first place. Look at it, it’s a cute little pineapple shaped gummi! Soft and tangy, with the floral note and that little thing that only pineapple can do to the salivary glands. (But luckily it didn’t burn my tongue, like I do sometimes with fresh pineapple.)
The texture of the gummis is far softer than something like Haribo, but not quite as pliable as Trolli. They do well sitting out, I left some out on my desk, and though the outside was a little drier after a weekend, they were still soft. The flavors are distinct, the molding very good and of course the price is quite reasonable. So many of the Brach’s candies are made overseas, these were made in the USA.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
In that grand shipment of goodies from Mars last month I also got a box of these, Starburst GummiBursts.
They’re a new product hitting the shelves in the US, described as Liquid Filled Gummies. They come in four flavors: Strawberry, Cherry, Orange & Lemon.
The package also boasts that they have Real Fruit Juice! and Great Fruit Taste(r).
I thought the package was a little light at only 1.5 ounces (a package of Skittles or Starburst are over 2 ounces for the same price). But then again, with the light caloric density, that makes a package only 140 calories.
Inside the little medallions are a little larger around than a nickel.
Each gummi has the juicy S on it and beneath that little dome of the letter lurks the burst. Biting into the firm gummi, there is definitely a thick flavored syrup center.
The gummi texture isn’t as rubbery as some, it doesn’t have that bounce.
The liquid is thick and tangy, but pretty much the same as the gummi, but in a different texture. The flavors, well, they’re the same as the Starburst chews.
At first the goo center squicked me out, but I got used to it. But it never really did much for me. They’re a “moister” feeling gummi, but that solves a problem I didn’t really have. The flavors in the package, though consistent with what’s in a regular Starburst Chews package, just don’t seem to do much for me. They’re not quite tangy enough to get my salivary glands going, they’re just plain ordinary. Of course if one of my initials was S, I’d probably be more partial to these.
These were announced by Mars early this year, but I’ve not seen them on store shelves and can’t seem to find them anywhere online.
The package says that they’re gluten free. They do contain gelatin (of indeterminate origin) and are unsuitable for vegans.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
But more recently I was sick. A bad head cold and whatnot. You know how it is. Sometimes I don’t want a delicate chocolate that makes me pay careful attention to nuance. Sometimes I just want the texture burned off my tongue.
I’m a huge gummi fan, don’t get me wrong. But I’m very happy with the plain old traditional Haribo Bears. Sometimes I enjoy the Japanese gummis, especially when they’re covered in chocolate.
Opening the bag, it smelled like fruity shampoo.
The bag holds five flavors: Strawberry, Tangy Cherry, Watermelon, Black Raspberry & Tangerine.
Those who have been reading here for a while know which one puts me over the moon, Tangerine. (I used to love the single-flavor Tangerine Lifesavers that were once available and can now only be found in the Tropical Mix.)
They’re soft and pliable gummies, sanded with a tingly sour coating. They’re larger than the old hard Lifesavers, a little larger than a quarter.
The colors are a little hard to tell apart. The Orange, Red and Light Red all kinda look the same in incandescent lighting (years from now people won’t know what I’m talking about when incandescents are illegal and everyone has CF or LEDs).
Smelling them didn’t help, but believe me, it’s pretty easy to tell them apart by taste.
The Tangerine is wonderful. It’s tangy, it’s zesty, it’s fruity and just tastes like I should have some peels lying around when I’m done.
Tangy Cherry, is well, a light cherry. I don’t like it as much as the regular cherry Lifesavers Gummies, but it’s okay.
Strawberry is one of those odd flavors. I don’t want my strawberries to be sour. If you gave me sour strawberries I’d probably tell you to take them back to the grocery store and get your money back. These were also okay, but looked an awful lot like the tangerine, so I ate a few more than I wanted to by mistake.
Watermelon is rather like Strawberry, it should be sweet and fragrant. Sour is wrong. But here I am, and not only is it sour, but it’s also green. It tastes just horrible, but the good news is that my husband thought this was the best flavor and has no problems rummaging through the bag and getting rid of them.
Black Raspberry is also pretty intense. It has a nice jammy base, with some good tartness and then of course the wonderful floral raspberry flavor.
These aren’t so sour that they ruin your mouth. Pretty much like Sour Patch Kids, but with a gummi base instead of a jelly one.
By a strange coincidence I also tried the Lifesaver Gummies after another cold for similar reasons.
Unlike many other Lifesavers products these days, these are made in the USA.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Here are a few combo candy-toy items for Easter baskets and beyond:
I thought this little M&Ms mini figure was pretty cute. He’s made of some sort of durable hard plastic, not that cheap thin stuff.
The little figure is full of mini M&Ms. They’re regular M&Ms, not the Easter pastel version, but I’m okay with that.
The most vexing thing about this is the little hat that twists/pops off to reveal the candy. It was like a frelling child safety cap without the insane instructions.
There were a few varieties, including Green, Red and Yellow. I liked the Blue because it felt most like Easter pastels even if he did have some sort of a goofy look on his face. I don’t know if the bunny hats are swappable for other non-holiday novelties.
It was expensive for the scant amount of candy involved, $1.99 regular price. But a fun grab next week on sale, perhaps.
When I was a teenager I had a thing for sheep items. (Well, in college we actually had a sheep living at a house I was renting a room at, but he was more of a lawnmower.)
My obsession caused me to rewrite passages of Shakespeare with sheep in mind:
I’ve kind of moved on from the sheep thing (though if I ever have one I get to name, he’ll be called Fleance).
While this little cheap plastic egg with sheep features was only 99 cents, it also only has give Hershey’s Kisses in them. (At least they’re pastel foil.)
Moving up in price, Candyrific recently expanded their toy/candy line with some M&Ms themed items.
They fall more in the realm of toys than candy containers and are pretty fun combinations.
The first is a set of fans. Candyrific came out with a really good candy novelty a couple of years ago, which is the fan that has little LED lights on it and a candy container in the handle. This new version has the M&Ms characters in various colors holding the fan. The central container at the base of the handle holds .7 ounces of regular M&Ms. (There’s supposedly a version of this for Easter, but I got the year-round version as a sample and haven’t seen the pastel ones with bunny ears in stores.)
The second is a miniature Etch A Sketch that holds a small fun-sized pack of M&Ms.
I have to admit that I enjoy these a lot. I don’t care about the candy inside. I wish that they lit up like the other versions do, but I’m guessing the money they spend on those LEDs in this instance goes to M&MS for the licensing of the characters. But at least they have real M&Ms in there.
They’re well made and even have a real battery compartment that can be opened and replaced for actual lasting play.
I really could have used a few of these last September during that blackout on Labor Day weekend where my house was over 100 degrees inside.
The fan blade is made of a soft foam, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t hurt myself with it. Maybe if I stuck it in my eye. (Please don’t try that, or if you do, please don’t blame me.)
The other fun item is this little Etch A Sketch with a couple of M&Ms on there. They come in a few different colors, but they’re pretty much the same. I had an Etch A Sketch as a kid and enjoyed it ... actually got pretty good at drawing on it. This one doesn’t work quite as well, the little stylus draws a very thin line, probably a little too thin on the first pass, so I ended up going over my lines twice.
The biggest drawback is trying to clear the Etch A Sketch, which everyone knows involves turning it over and shaking it wildly. With the M&Ms in the little container part it makes a lotta noise and to clear the EAS properly, I broke some of my M&MS.
There is an easy solution to this of course, just take the lid off (the part that has the EAS on it) and just shake that. Like my problems with getting the hat off of the Easter minis, I’m sure a child would figure this out much quicker than I did.
The last item is a bit of a re-review of one of my favorite candy novelties so far, an Easter version of the Gummy Lightning Bugs.
This version has little gummy rabbits and is called Lightning Bunny Candy by Kandy Kastle. They’re all one flavor, instead of a mix. I was worried when I saw that they’re all red, but it’s cool, they’re strawberry, not cherry.
For only 99 cents there are 9 little gummis and the cute purple light up tongs.
The package said that the tongs were redesigned. Actually, it says “New & Improved Tong Included” so they’re better than before and there’s only one. (Tongs, I’m guessing are like scissors and pants and are always plural.)
The tongs aren’t really improved, if you ask me. They’re just shorter than before, probably easier to grasp for little fingers and they don’t stay on as readily, which probably provides a lot more longevity.
This is the kind of exploratory toy that I think is good for kids. It makes them slow down and really look at everyday things in a different way.
I tried them on some other items, they don’t open as widely as they used to, so anything as large as say, a Spearmint Leaf is too big. But small items like jelly beans (awesome!) and chocolate covered coffee beans (boring) are the right size.
I think adding a little toy in an Easter basket is fun. (I think the best one I ever got was a kite, which me & my brother and sister took out to the field across the street behind the cemetery and promptly got caught in a tree within an hour.)
The Hershey’s one isn’t the best toy in the world, but the design is nice. The filled M&M is also nice and certainly well built, but doesn’t offer much opportunity for interaction. I can see it being collectible though. The fan & Etch A Sketch are the best of the bunch, but a little pricier for “candy” items at $3.99 retail, but still a good value for a small toy.
If parents are looking for a way to still have a bit of bounty in the basket, a novelty item that contains a small amount of candy (especially something that can be refilled on a regular basis) is a good compromise. I mean, I wouldn’t have felt cheated if I got one of these as a kid.
They all get a solid 7 out of 10. The Lightning Bunny was made in China, in all other cases the candy was made in the USA, but the toys were made in China.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Since I’m still down with this aggravating illness, I thought I’d do some short & sweet briefs on a few things that I’ve been eating. Mostly it’s stuff that I’ve reviewed but in different flavors & varieties ... so they don’t warrant a full write-up on their own.
I took a little jaunt to Little Tokyo three weeks ago because I was craving the Gummy Choco I had last year. Mitsuwa Marketplace (3rd & Alameda) has an awesome selection, including single flavor packs of Muscat and Strawberry. I opted for the Strawberry Gummy Choco. (Oh, and I got another tube of the mixed fruits.) However, the price seemed to be better at Nijiya Market in Little Tokyo Village at only $1.49 instead of $2.49 ... but of course parking is a little more difficult over there at times.
They have a milk chocolate coating with an innner coating of real white chocolate. The gummy center is a rich and jammy strawberry. Ultra-soft and combines well with the creamy chocolate.
They’re still a satisfying candy to eat when you have no sense of smell, the combination of textures and the zap of the tart berry center keeps me amused.
Rating: 9 out of 10
It’s as simple as can be, just puffed wheat (I think puffed barley, actually) that’s covered in a shiny & thin coat of milk chocolate.
It’s sweet and kind of earthy and freakishly addictive. I don’t know if it’s my imagination, but I think I prefer the Japan Confectionery brand, if only because each kernel was separate from the others. It seemed like more of these were stuck together. ($1.69 for 4 ounces ... which doesn’t sound like much, but there’s a lot of air in there.)
This stuff should be sold in movie theaters ... it’s an ideal movie candy.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Back in November I visited with Chuck Siegel at Charles Chocolates and saw all the new stuff, including a preview of one of his new bars that sounded right up my alley: Candied Hazelnut in Dark Chocolate.
What has me so excited (besides the prospect of creamy dark chocolate with perfectly roasted hazelnuts) was that it might be an easier to find version of that wonderful Spanish bar I had last summer: Avellana Caramelizada Chocolate by Mallorca.
Instead of whole hazelnuts encased in a crunchy sugar glaze, these were bits of hazelnuts. The bits were crunchy and fresh, but didn’t have quite the burnt sugary crust that I was aching for. (But how was Chuck to know that’s what my expectation was?)
It’s still a great bar, I love his 65% dark chocolate blend. It has an excellent soft and silky melt, it’s a little tangy with mostly mellow flavors that let the other inclusions shine. I would have liked slightly bigger crunchy bits.
The packaging has changed slightly with the Charles Chocolates bars as well. When I first tried them each bar was wrapped in a microthin piece of foil. Now they’re a metallic airtight pack inside the box. Probably a much better way to keep the chocolate fresh in the stores, but not as easy to reseal if you tear the bag when opening.
Rating: 8 out of 10
The last item is kind of a fun thing that I picked up last summer. I noticed that there were two different designs for the same roll of Cryst-O-Mint Lifesavers on the shelves at Walgreen’s, so I picked them up.
Over the years Lifesavers has changed more than their packaging. The only thing that has remained the same is the shape of their product. The familiar donut shape is here to stay, even if they’re made in Canada now.
The Cryst-O-Mint is unlike the other mint Lifesavers in that it’s a boiled sugar sweet, not a compressed dextrose candy.
It’s not an intense mint like an Altoid, just a soft and clean peppermint flavor. The production of the candy is good, the pieces were all intact and didn’t have any voids or sharp spots like some of those Brach’s Ice Blue mints.
Also a plus, there are no artificial colors in there, because they’re colorless. If they’d just left out the High Fructose Corn Sweetener, they’d actually be an all-natural candy.
You can read more about the Lifesavers redesign here.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Over the holidays my mother was in town for a visit and we went on a hunt for exotic citrus. I thought for sure I could find some fresh yuzu in Little Tokyo. (I was also keeping my eyes open for kalamansi, dalandan and ponkan.) Finally I did see some yuzu at Mitsuwa Marketplace, but at $29.99 a pound (about $8 each), I had to give up on my plans to candy yuzu peel.
There were a few consolation prizes though, including my new favorite Wheat Chocolate and I picked up a tube of Meiji Gummy Choco.
I’ve had these before, one of my co-workers loves to bring in new finds from her local Asian market and shared some with me. But I gobbled them up before I could take any pictures. So here they are, in all their glory.
Meiji packages these in several different ways, but I prefer the tall tube (a little shorter than a standard paper towel roll).
The design on the package is absolutely wonderful. It’s colorful and exciting but not too busy. Even without the English on the package, it’s pretty easy to figure out what’s going on inside. Each end shows the little candies, just slightly larger than real life. There are also cute little peep mascots on the package wearing little hats ... I think they’re hats, or someone’s dipped their heads in chocolate.
Luckily this was an export package and was in English. The mix of flavors here are Strawberry, Muscat and Orange. The flavored white chocolate coating is real white chocolate. The ingredients for the confection start out like this: sugar, corn syrup, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, palm oil, concentrated fruit juice, skim milk powder, cacao mass, gelatin ... and so on.
Now, you may find this a little odd, but before I was exposed to the Gummy Choco, I’d never had chocolate-covered gummis before. (I’ll have some Muddy Bears up in the next week or so as a comparison). Somehow I always thought that the texture combo wouldn’t work, that the chocolate would be grainy and flaky compared to the gummi or that the chocolate would be subpar. Meiji has balanced theirs with a very soft gummi that’s pretty intensely flavored along with a generous and flavored white chocolate coating.
Strawberry - not quite pink, it’s almost lavender. The outside is very milky tasting and sweet. The strawberry gummy at the center is pretty intensely flavored. It’s like chewing on a fresh strawberry preserve ... but without the seeds. (The ingredients do say real fruit juice and no artificial flavors or colors either.)
Muscat - a yellow/green color that reminded me more of honeydew melon at first on the outside, but the gummi on the inside is definitely a light grape flavor. It’s not my most favorite of the three, definitely the most mild.
Orange - a lovely salmon orange color. The orange on the white chocolate coating is rather pronounced and reminded me of orange sherbet. There’s a brief taste of the chocolate layer then a zap of tangy chew from the soft gummi.
If the idea of white chocolate is just too difficult for you, Meiji makes a milk chocolate and strawberry version that’s also spectacular (and often sold in boxes instead of the tubes). I haven’t seen them in the States, but here are some more versions on Flickr.
Basically, I love these. I love the look of the package, I love the easy-to-dispense tube. The taste is great, often with flavor mixes there’s one that I don’t like, but I loved all of them. The price for an import candy wasn’t too bad ($1.49 at Nijiya Market in Little Tokyo Plaza) and it was absolutely fresh. There’s even 8% of my daily RDA of calcium in every serving. If they sold these at movie theaters, I might actually start going to the movies again.
They’re pretty popular and can be found in both Chinese, Korean and Japanese markets as well as various webstores. I’m not sure if they’re carried in comic book stores, but keep an eye out anyplace that you can find manga and other Asian imports.
(Meiji also makes other tubular goodness with their Coffee Beat.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.