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.)
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The newest thing about Candy Corn over the past five years has been flavors: Green Apple, Pumpkin Spice, Caramel Apple, Tangerine and on and on. The odd thing is that their kin, little shaped mellocremes, have always come in different flavors - harvest mixes come in maple & chocolate and the Easter specialties often had delicate citrus & berry flavors.
So now comes the ultimate mash-up of candy corn. Both flavored and covered in chocolate. It seems odd that this product hasn’t succeeded before.
I found this bag of Toffee Flavored Candy Corn covered in Milk Chocolate at Target. They have a special line of little stand up pouches like this marketed in their house-brand.
The package is cute & compelling - a dark orange accented thick cellophane bag with a clear window to show off the shiny chocolate covered mix. I thought it was a little expensive at $2.99 ... but $7 a pound for a chocolate item isn’t that bad, and this is a Candy Holiday.
About one third of the package is chocolate covered. The rest are plain Naturally & Artificially Flavored Toffee Candy Corn. The colors are a muted amber center with the stereotypical yellow base and white tip.
The package smells off-putting. It’s a fake butter flavor which leads me to a rant about toffee:
Toffee is carefully boiled sugar and butter. The essential qualities of toffee (as it’s made in America) besides the crunchy texture & cleave are the toasted flavors of the caramelized sugar and the creamy melt of the butter/heavy cream. It’s not about the butter flavor, it’s about the burnt sugar. So when someone offers me something toffee flavored I expect dark sugar notes not artificially flavored buttered popcorn.
I tried sampling it a few times and found it too artificial, so I left the package open overnight and that seems to have let some of the volatile organic compounds evaporate and it became a bit more appealing if bland. Rather like ordinary candy corn. I even detected the smell of milk & chocolate in there.
The plain candy corn is nicely textured. It’s soft but not too crumbly, it melts easily and though it’s sweet it’s not too sickly. It could have used just a tad more salt to sell the toffee flavor.
It seems more sugary than the uncoated stuff. The milk chocolate isn’t particularly creamy, though the flavor profile has a fair bit of the dairy component to really sell the toffee part. I liked the combination of textures - the fondant of the candy corn has a crumbly texture, kind of like the center of a York Peppermint Pattie. (Which makes me wonder why I’ve never seen Mint Candy Corn and then the logical conclusion of Chocolate Covered Mint Candy Corn.)
I give them kudos for the attractive mix and the innovation factor here. It’s also available in Green Apple flavor (maybe some green apple fans would love it - I’m not keen on the combo of chocolate & green apple).
The package gives full disclosure: Candy made in USA. Bag made in China. Packed in Mexico. (Best by December 27, 2010) It also says that it contains milk, eggs, soy and coconut and may contain peanut & tree nuts. The only thing it doesn’t mention is gluten.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Candy Season has started with the first Halloween candy entering the aisles as drug stores, discount warehouses & grocery chains move their summer & back to school merchandise to clearance.
I was excited to find the new Bat Dots in the large theater-sized box at Target over the weekend. They haven’t quite put out all their Halloween items yet, but I found these in the regular candy aisle on a little hanging display at an endcap. I first tried them after All Candy Expo and was looking forward to seeing this single flavor box.
Bat Dots are black but instead of being the black licorice Crows in a different box, they’re Blood Orange.
The package is great and plays with themes of the orange as a harvest moon, the word bat is juicy and the little bat shaped Dot uses an orange slice as a smile.
It’s unusual to find a box of Dots that has just one flavor, and for it to be blood orange is quite a coup for citrus lovers.
As far as flavor goes, these are packed with it. There’s an immediate tartness followed by some nice zesty notes and a strong orange juice flavor. They’re soft and easy to chew ... and for some reason they’re not sticking to my teeth quite as much as other Dots.
My only misgiving with these is the heavy use of food coloring so I get a little weird aftertaste ... if I don’t pop another one in my mouth right away.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Candy Corn Dots seem like a natural mash-up. They look pretty cute - though I have to say that they weren’t as consistent as the package leads me to believe. The layering is sometimes spot on, with a yellow third on the bottom and an orange top (no white tip) but other times I had to turn over the Dots to even see the yellow.
I didn’t know what flavor to expect but I girding myself for fake butter. Instead they ended up being a pleasant French vanilla or maybe pudding flavor. It was missing that light touch of honey that the better candy corn has ... but overall it’s a cute take on Dots.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Ghost Dots have actually been a seasonal product for three years now. Again, I give Tootsie some props for the package design and the concept itself.
They’re regular fruit Dots, but they’re all the same translucent & spooky beach glass light green color.
The spooky part is you never know what you’re going to get. It’s rather interesting to experience the flavors without the color contribution to the flavor event. It confirmed that I really don’t like cherry much, even if there isn’t a crazy aftertaste and I had trouble telling my citrus apart from time to time. It’s tempting to think that they should be glow in the dark, but I don’t think that’d be safe. (Though maybe it would be - kids could mount them on little sticks and carry them around while trick or treating for extra visibility!)
Rating: 6 out of 10
I really couldn’t beat the price on these either - for a buck they’re a fun change-up and hopefully they’ll go over well and return every year. (I haven’t seen them in the Trick-or-Treat size yet ... has anyone else?)
Friday, October 31, 2008
Each year around this time there are lists of the best and worst Halloween candies. At the top folks always seem to have Candy Corn, but right in there is another misunderstood and underappreciated candy, Smarties.
There’s not much too them, they’re a simple tangy compressed dextrose candy stacked into a tight roll and wrapped in cellophane. For almost 60 years CeDe Candy has been churning out the chalky, barely flavored tablets. It’d be a rare Halloween Trick-or-Treat bag that didn’t have at least one roll. More recently CeDe’s product line has expanded to include Bubble Gum Smarties, Mega Smarties and now Xtreme Sour and Tropical Smarties.
The Tropical Smarties roll is attractive, orange and yellow accents give it a sunny, citrus look. The tablets themselves don’t look or smell any different from the original though. Original come in green, yellow, purple, pink, orange and white, Tropical seem to come in green, yellow, orange, pink and white.
In the case of the Tropical array, when eating mindlessly the rolls had a soft sweetness to them with some notes of pina colada and banana/strawberry. In the particular the yellow ones are banana (in the regular array I think they’re lemon) and the white ones seem to be the pina colada.
All of this causes too much thinking for something like Smarties though. Though the different colors are different flavors they’re one of the few candies I won’t separate before I eat.
Tropical Smarties are pleasant, a little milder (if that’s even possible) than the Original.
Rating: 7 out of 10.
The first thing I noticed about the X-Treme Sour Smarties is that they’re more vivid. Not quite SweeTarts colors, but pretty close.
The colors are green, yellow, purple, orange and pink (maybe red). They seem a bit denser and less powdery than the Original.
The flavors are actually perceivable, though not terribly notable. The tanginess is very high pitched. Where SweeTarts are a mid-range tartness (malic acid) these seem more citric acidy.
I like the balance of flavor to tartness with SweeTarts, but I can see this different kind of tartness and the back seat the actual flavors take having its appeal.
Rating: 5 out of 10.
On the whole, I’ve always loved Smarties in the sense that I will eat them, all of them, than later I will feel sick, curse them and vow never to eat them again because of my stupid lack of self control. The ubiquity of Smarties around Halloween is also accompanied by some sort of mind-warping amnesia ray ... and I again repeat my demonstration of how much power these little tablets have over me.
(Note: Smarties are called Rockets in Canada. Smarties made by Nestle are little chocolate lentils and are sold everywhere except for the USA.)
Thursday, October 30, 2008
When I was a kid and we’d go to the Halloween Parade in town (Mechanicsburg, PA, if you’re curious), both folks from the floats and those watching from the sidewalks would throw corn. (Not on the cob, silly! Just dried feed corn.) I don’t know why we did it, but I kind of likened it to the harvest version of throwing rice at weddings.
This fun little remembrance has nothing to do with anything. Except that I was recently in Mechanicsburg and that it’s National Candy Corn Day and it made me think of throwing corn.
I picked up this Giant Eagle Candy Place Harvest Mix in Ohio. I believe they’re made by Mayfair. Though the colors looked rather faded in the package and the already known-quantity of the Brach’s Halloween Mix was on the shelves, too, I really wanted to try it. At 99 cents, the risk was minimal.
The assortment was much more broad than Brach’s. First, none of the shapes were assigned a particular color/flavor. Second, there were a lot of different shapes and this mix included both candy corn and Indian corn.
The shapes I found were: owl, skull & bones, pumpkin, jack-o-lantern, cat, witch, ear of corn, bat and mellowcreme pumpkin. The colors were orange, tan, yellow and brown.
The whole bag smelled kind of like band-aids and maple syrup.
Orange mellowcremes tasted like marshmallows and honey. Soft, smooth, very little grain and an even and sweet taste.
The tan shapes had a slight maple flavor to them and were my favorite in the bunch even though they lacked the touch of honey that the orange had.
The brown had a caramel and cocoa note, but it wasn’t very pronounced and seemed much sweeter than the other flavors.
Yellow tasted just like orange, which wasn’t a bad thing overall.
The candy corn were exceptionally smooth and had that light kiss of honey ... really good stuff.
While I didn’t like them as much as the Brach’s, this particular variety had no gelatin in it (but did have egg whites) and was made in the USA so there are many reasons why folks might prefer it.
Even though the colors aren’t as vibrant and the flavors not quite as remarkable it is a quality product and certainly worth the 99 cents I paid.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
They were on sale for $9.99, but going further into the store to the Christmas displays (yes, already out) they had several Christmas mixes that weren’t on sale ... for the same price.
The bag is big, as this is hollow chocolate, and holds 14.1 ounces of actual confection. Not a bad deal for 30% cacao milk chocolate, if it’s good quality.
There were two shapes and seven designs.
Each piece is rather light, weighing approximately 12 grams (about the same as a tasting square).
The designs are cute, the little figures come in ghost, witch, monster and jack-o-lantern ghost. The spheres are just different varieties of jack-o-lanterns.
The figures look like of like board game pieces, little pegs with flat bottoms (though much bigger, about the size of a meaty thumb). The spheres are about the size of a golf ball.
The chocolate itself is glossy and well molded. It smells, well, a little like parmesan cheese and caramel. Not entirely sweet or chocolatey. I’m guessing this is the high milk content (14% minimum) that comes from dried whole milk.
It takes a little getting used to, it’s rich and creamy, rather smooth but still has a strong dairy component that is less confectionery tasting and more like something I’d expect in a bechamel.
The foils are very pretty and nicely done. They’re a bit thin and I had to pick my package carefully as it’s easy to break these (I’m guessing some thumbs poked through two of mine before I got it home).
The ingredients include PGPR and whey (not allowed in the American definition of real chocolate) but also natural vanilla. But the package was fresh, which I think makes a big difference. (Expiration is July 2009.)
They’re well worth it on sale after Halloween if you can find them, but I think that the Christmas ones are a bit nicer. There’s more variety to the shapes, the balls come with little strings so that you can hang them as edible ornaments and I found the Santa to be quite attractive and would make a great centerpiece accent. But I wouldn’t buy a bar of this chocolate.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.