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.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Grave Grabbers from Flix Candy are billed as a handful of fruit flavored gummy! and they certainly do deliver on both the hand and the gummy part.
Maybe it’s that they’re not shaped like something I would normally want to eat. Maybe it’s that they’re made in China. Or maybe it’s that I have such a low appetite for flesh.
They come in three flavors, and each one is individually and uniquely designed. Each piece is 1.94 ounces, and though not as large as an adult’s hand (they’re only about 4.5 inches long), they’re still impressive to handle.
Green Apple is the left hand (hah-hah, the others are right hands!) in a dark green with black fingernails and knobbly knuckles. It also has a lightly textured skin that looks a bit like a lizard’s or snake’s. The gummy texture is soft, but not too soft and sticky that it makes a greasy mess when you play with the candy. The flavor is rather mild but an actual pleasant green apple flavor. Almost realistic with some apple juice notes.
Strawberry is the skeletal one in the center. It’s a light and creamy white with gray cartilage. The fingers are longer than the others, but the palm is also less fleshy. (And the attachment of the thumb makes me think this is chimpanzee hand or foot more than a human hand.) It’s a very mild strawberry flavor. A little light tangyness but it’s mostly the florally & berry fruity that we’re accustomed to.
Blue Raspberry is a strange thing to call this, since there are no blue raspberries, they’re just a made up flavor and this isn’t even a blue colored candy. Instead it’s more of a zombie hand, sinew & open flesh, even some bones and gory bloody bits showing. The flavor was pretty unremarkable. I lost the package for this one and had to muck around on the internet until I found someone else mention with a picture.
They’re obviously too expensive for Trick or Treat, with a recommended retail of $1.25 (though you may find them cheaper). They’re a fun candy for kids to play with or to use as a decoration for a Halloween spread. The one odd impulse I have with this is to smack someone on the face with them a la a glove for a good old fashioned challenge. Luckily I’m alone in a hotel room today and there’s no one to do that to.
Flix also makes giant insect versions in similar flavors (though bolder colors). I think they’re far more inventive & creative than some of the other Flix items I’ve had, though still nothing that appeals to me.
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.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Just Born announced some new mixes of their classic Mike and Ike jelly rods for different seasons. The first one on the calendar is the Autumn Medley which features four flavors in a fall color array.
The package, at first glance, looks like the Tangy Twister, but on closer inspection has some pumpkins on it and a little scarecrow. It also has a little pile of fruit to represent the flavors inside. They’re Strawberry, Orange, Lemon and Cherry. If you picked up a regular bag of Mike and Ike you’d get five flavors, four of which are in this mix. The only one missing is Lime. So if you’ve always wanted a lime-free Mike and Ike mix, this is your product.
Instead of a box that can let the jelly rods get stale, this sealed plastic wrapper keeps them fresh. If you’ve never had Mike and Ike, they’re basically jelly beans. Rod shaped jelly beans that are available year round in mixes of fruit flavors (except for Jolly Joes which are all grape).
My positive experiences with Mike and Ike up to this point have been with their more intensely flavored products like the Tangy Twister and the spice-flavored Hot Tamales and Jelly Beans. I know I’ve had the regular Mike and Ike before, but never thought much of them so I’ve kind of ignored them.
Cherry - It’s easy to spot the dark red rods in the batch. They taste pretty much like they look, a jelly version of a Black Cherry LifeSaver but without the satisfying tangy counterpoint to the woodsy medicinal flavors. So they come off as non-medicated Sucrets to me.
Strawberry - The lighter red rods are supposed to be Strawberry, but there’s very little here. There’s absolutely no tartness, just a sweet and slightly floral flavor. All I can say is it didn’t taste artificial to me ... it just lacked any taste at all. Not that I didn’t enjoy the blandness.
Orange - This one has a little sour note at the start in the grainy shell, but the flavor dissipates to just sweet jelly with a touch of orange oil. They’re actually quite nice, the zest is not too strong and the texture is rather like the classic Orange Slice jellies.
Lemon - I’m always up for a lemon candy, it’s hard for me to name a yellow candy I don’t like. Oddly enough, the lemon was not as tart a the orange, which is disappointing, because I know Mike and Ike can do a nice lemon because they made a whole product called Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
What I think would be a fun are real harvest inspired flavors: things like Mulled Apple Cider, Baked Caramel Pear, Cranberry Orange and White Grape. But as a simple repackage based on colors, I guess they’re fine for folks who like the classic Mike and Ike.
There will be a version for Christmas that will be styled in green & red and a version for Valentine’s Day in pinks & purples.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The Russell Stover Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Pumpkin is what it says. A marshmallow in the shape of a pumpkin covered in a thin shell of semi-sweet chocolate.
The wrapper follows the same design, a stylized colored pumpkin drawing ... this one features a darker background from the milk chocolate version. It’s also smaller than they used to be. My 2006 review showed them at 1.25 ounces, but as sugar & chocolate prices go up, either the candy increases in price or gets smaller.
It’s a big, rather flat and vaguely pumpkin shaped piece. About 2.5 inches across at the widest. Even though they’re just wrapped in a little mylar sleeve, they seem to take traveling pretty well. This one only has a crack from me trying to get it to sit upright for the first picture, not anything that happened in transit or at the store.
Breaking it in half is not advised. This is a candy that’s best bitten & eaten in one sitting. The marshmallow is soft, moist and bouncy. It has a good pull, it almost looks like caramel or latex when I tried to pull it apart. The flavor is only the lightest vanilla, it’s mostly about the fluffy texture and sweet melt. The dark chocolate is decent. The sticky marshmallow keeps it from flaking off, even when it cracks. It also keeps the whole thing from tasting too cloyingly sweet.
I definitely prefer them over the standard milk variety and hope they do the Marshmallow Rabbits in a dark version next year.
For those watching their calories, this is a nice, spare treat. It’s only 110 calories but feels rather filling. (Of course as a marshmallow product it contains gelatin. They’re not Kosher and are made on shared machinery with peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and wheat.)
Other traditional Russell Stover Easter treats are now restyled for Halloween. So if you can’t wait until spring you can get Solid Milk Chocolate Pumpkins, Sugar Free Marshmallow Pumpkins, Caramel Pumpkins, Milk Chocolate Marshmallow Pumpkins, Coconut Cream Pumpkins, Strawberry Cream Pumpkins, Orange Marshmallow Pumpkins, Coconut Buzzard Nest, Strawberry Cream Buzzard Egg, Vanilla & Chocolate Creme Buzzard Egg, Marshmallow & Caramel Creme Buzzard Egg, Peanut Butter Ghosts, Marshmallow Ghosts and Coconut Ghosts.
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.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Last year I spotted Brach’s Gummi Candy Corn but it came in an insanely huge nearly two pound bag and I had to admit that I just wasn’t curious enough to bring home 30 ounces. I was hoping they’d come out in a smaller mixed bag, but I still haven’t seen them sold that way.
What’s cool though is that this 54 treat pack bag has each little portion already sealed up. (This is a general problem with most candy corn sold in stores - it’s not good for handing out for Trick or Treat.)
Brach’s makes pretty good gummis, more in the American tradition of the super-soft but also very juicy. I flipped over the package to find out about the ingredients on this one as was pleased to see fruit juice on there ... but curiously I didn’t see gelatin. These aren’t gummis at all ... they’re a jelly candy. Which is disappointing on one hand for someone hoping for some fun little rubbery candy corns ... but good news for folks who eschew those sorts of animal products.
Each little mixed package holds a random assortment of the four flavors and holds about 15 grams though I found that some had as few as 5 candies and other had more than 10.
They’re the standard shape and size of candy corn, maybe a little slimmer and the jelly seems to hold a point. They’re a bit matte but also translucent, so it’s an odd effect, like they’re made of beach glass.
The texture is a chewy jelly, not too sticky but it doesn’t have that bite that gummis have.
Each layer is actually different flavors. The top is orange - a general light & tangy citrus without much zest. The base is pineapple. Again, a nice punch flavor but not too deep or complex. Eaten together it’s much more like a tropical punch, and not really a great effect for me.
The color of these was definitely like frosted glass. The grape flavor had a bit of a cherry note to it, but that could just be proximity.
I got a burning feeling in the back of my throat, a little effervescent note after I was done. Not my favorite of the bunch.
Like most jelly candies there were little bits left in the corners of my teeth when I was done.
This cherry seemed to dominate every package I found.
It’s like cough drops. Each layer is the same, but the top pink part is less about the food coloring and more about the medicinal woodsy cherry punch.
Honestly, I liked them more than the grape. I didn’t feel the need to pick around them.
I don’t know why berries and kiwi get lumped together as flavor combinations so often. This color combo is rather odd - not that I haven’t combined these colors in outfits in the past.
As a flavor kiwi is a little bit melon and a little bit citrus ... and mostly bland. The berry side is similarly like punch but has some strawberry notes.
It was the mellowest of the flavors and actually went well combined with the others.
On the whole the mixture is fun. It’s vegan (unlike actual candy corn which usually has eggs in it) so for kids who avoid gelatin/egg products, this is a fun & colorful mainstream looking product. However, the package says that it’s processed on equipment that also handles the top allergens: eggs, wheat, milk, peanuts, tree nuts & soy.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I got these at Target, as you can probably tell by the package if you saw yesterday’s review but they don’t make them themselves - they’re just repacked. The bag says they’re made in Spain but I can’t find any note online of who actually makes them (Haribo has a factory in Spain but so do a lot of excellent Spanish gummi companies). You can even buy them in bulk online. The idea that any candy corn products are made outside of North America strikes me as a bit odd - as far as I know, we’re the only market for candy corn products. You don’t see it in Europe or Asia ... or at least you didn’t used to.
As freaky as they look, the idea of a puffy marshmallow-like candy corn was appealing.
Unfortunately these are not as marshmallowy as I’d hoped. Yes, they’re puffy and chewy, though denser than a regular marshmallow. They’re a cross between a traditional dense & translucent gummi and a marshmallow (many of the ingredients are the same, after all).
The bag, once opened, smelled again of that fake butter flavor. I don’t get it. When did candy corn flavor mean butter? I always thought it was toasted sugar and honey.
If you’ve ever had the Haribo Strawberry Puffs, these are very similar, just a little pointier and of course with a cute layered effect. They’re the same height as a regular piece of candy corn, just four times wider & three times thicker. The layers go all the way through, that’s no airbrush job on the outside.
Out of the bag they have less of the butter notes and smell more like a regular old vanilla marshmallow. But biting into it the butter scent returns along with a jarring tartness. It’s a tangy vanilla flavor - the only thing I can liken it to is a yogurt flavored gummi. The ingredients list lactic acid, so my dairy comparison wasn’t far off.
I’ve gotta say, I didn’t like them. I really wanted to ... the texture & chew with the lightness is really refreshing. But it just needed a lighter touch of honey or plain vanilla without the tang. But they would still make a striking decoration for a cupcake or in a candy dish.
Like the Chocolate Covered Candy Corn, they give you a lot of info about the origins: Candy Made in Spain, Package Made in China and Packed in Mexico. The expiry on these is January 2011! These are durable candies!
(I got to thinking that maybe Peeps should do a giant marshmallow candy corn. Just a thought.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.