Wednesday, October 17, 2007
What’s so different about them is that they’re individually wrapped. Oooh .... you know what that means? They’re not conjoined. There’s no little sticky spot where they’re separated from their row of quadruplicate siblings.
It also opens up the possibility for some diversity in a single package. This bag of 54 individually wrapped Peeps has three different shapes: Googly-Eyed Green Mummy, Purple-Eyed Jack ‘o Lantern & Shrugging Ghost. (There are other mixes that have skeletons, bats and spiders.)
While I love the idea of being able to give out fun little sugar puffs to kids for Halloween, I feel like they may think it’s a practical joke when they try to get the little packets open. Let’s hope their parents let them have scissors, because that’s what I resorted to.
I thought these would be the same as regular Peeps, and I happened to have some regular Easter Peeps around for comparison. Here’s what I found:
The main thing that detracted from any recommendation for Spooky Friends is that they’re not as puffy and therefore do not work with Peeps Mash Ups as well. I rather liked the light vanilla flavor, but I missed the springly-lofty texture. They also didn’t seem to get stale as easily, but I’ve only had them for a week ... poking holes in each package in order to let them get dried out isn’t really that practical either. They have their selling points but they’re still not going to get a better rating than the original.
At about 9 cents a marshmallow, they’re cheaper per item than the Frankford Marshmallow Pals, but they’re more expensive per ounce. Since they’re both made in China, I can’t see why you wouldn’t go for the more detailed Frankford Marshmallow Pals ... unless you don’t like coconut flavor.
The package notes that Peeps are Gluten Free.
UPDATE 10/31/2008: It does not appear that Just Born continued this product. I have not seen it for 2008.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I puzzled over the Orange Marshmallow Pumpkin at the store for quite a while. Was the marshmallow orange? Was the coating orange? Or was it orange flavored? The small print gave me a clue, “Naturally flavored,” it said. “Covered in milk chocolate,” it said.
“Okay,” I said. “Into the basket you go!”
Opening it up at home I still didn’t smell the orange. After biting through the chocolate shell, the orange flavor became more apparent, as did the color.
The marshmallow is super soft, moist and a little sticky. The light kiss of orange essence really changes this from a ho-hum marshmallow product to something I ate all of without complaining that my candy blog makes me eat these things (okay, that really doesn’t happen). The milk chocolate, though sweet, was rich enough to set off the sweet marshmallow and add some nice creaminess to the whole. I enjoy these sorts of seasonal products from Russell Stover because I know they’re fresh.
I don’t know if I’ll buy them again, unless perhaps they’re 10 cents in a sale bin in November, but I’ll keep an eye out for an Easter version of them next year.
The allergy notice on the package mentions that they’re made in a factory with tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and eggs. It also contains gelatin, so is unsuitable for vegetarians. The orange filling also has artificial colors in it (Yellow 6), so folks looking to stay away from those should opt for the regular unflavored Marshmallow Pumpkin.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Here’s a jolly little set of marshmallows just for Halloween: Frankford Marshmallow Pals. They were pretty affordable, just $1.99 for a package of 18 individually wrapped marshmallows - that’s about 11 cents each. That’s always the tough thing about marshmallows ... you can’t just open a bag of Jet Puffs and toss them in trick-or-treaters’ bags, even though they’re pretty cheap. So the little wrappers help quite a bit on that front.
Shaped marshmallows are certainly nothing new and Just Born with their Peeps line may be the epitome of seasonal marshmallows. But Frankford has definitely come up with something that sets it apart.
There are four different shapes in this mix: Jack O Lantern, Green Dracula, Even Greener Frankenstein Monster and Orange Witch.
Each is decorated with frosting, and may I say they did a really good job. Though some of them were a little smashed inside the package, they puffed back up again pretty well. The sugary coating also kept them from sticking to the wrapper. Each face has little frosting eyes, often hair and an expression on its mouth. They all look slightly different, when I pulled out all the Draculas, some looked slightly Asian, others downright fierce and one a bit cross-eyed with something of a dorky smile.
The color of the face is the same color of the marshmallow through and through. (Unlike Peeps, who are only colored on the outside.)
The marshmallows themselves as firm but moist. They have a latexy quality that gives them a very long chew. The flavor is lightly coconut, which I found pleasant and summery. Honestly, I prefer my marshmallows to taste like something. The frosting added a little crunch and it was a relief to find out that it wasn’t waxy like the eyeballs on Peeps.
Though I’m not really keen on eating marshmallows alone, the flavor helped. The really cute attention to details and vibrant colors swayed me. As an indulgence, they’re quite low in calories (being mostly air and having no fat): 38 calories per Pal. They contain gelatin and are not suitable for vegetarians. The package does not mention gluten or nuts though there appears to be no wheat/nut products in the ingredients.
These were made in China.
Friday, October 12, 2007
A couple of months ago I got an invitation from Valerie Confections to preview their Mori Ex Cacao gift set. It’s a set of three skull-shaped chocolates. Rather than a little flat piece of candy, these are large and three dimensional with crisp and freaky details on the skulls, which are then filled with a premium truffle ganache or caramel.
The fissures in the skull can be made out easily, as can the individual teeth and with the three-dimensions of the skull, even the back of the head continues these details down to the base and roof of the mouth.
The Skulls were designed by Modern Alchemist Douglas Little and are about the size of a hefty plum. The design is based on DL&Co’s Memento Mori Collection, which features a similar looking skull candle and other small statuary pieces. A little bit more upscale than the traditional pumpkins and witches, this rather macabre take also features some incredible attention to detail.
First, the confections are hand “cast” with premium Felchlin Chocolate. Then each is filled with one of three centers. The chocolates are created in a three dimensional silicone mold, based on an original design by Douglas Little. After unmolding the chocolates are then airbrushed by hand with a cocoa-butter based “paint” which results in three different confections - one charcoal-black, one cocoa-brown and one bleached-bone white.
I didn’t get to eat the “real thing”, instead they created some tasting portions, which looked an awful lot like regular old chocolates (probably better for me that way). This means that my tasting notes are not based on the actual proportions of chocolate-to-filling you may get with the ultimate product, but all the other elements were the same.
I had my doubts, mostly because the caramel was so dark, I was afraid it’d be bitter and though it did have some burnt tones to it, it was complex and not too sweet. It went wonderfully with the chocolate.
Bitter Brandied Cherry
I say I don’t like cherry flavor, but these were real sour cherries, not some crazy artificial extract. The deep fruit flavors went really well in the ganache, a slight bitter note which I think tied into the macabre tone of the confections quite well.
Oh, this really lived up to its hype. The chocolate flavors were not overpowered by the spice. There was definitely a bit of throat burning going on, but again, it fit very well with the design and presentation as a whole.
Would I buy these? Certainly not for $100 a set ($40 for an individual skull of any flavor). I understand that the ingredients are premium and they’re really labor intensive. So it’s not that I don’t think they’re worth it, but the whole skull thing just isn’t really that big of a draw to me. I like my candy pretty and I never quite got how skulls and bones celebrate life. But if you are a fan of this type of design, and if you’re looking for something purely decadent to arouse all of the senses (this would be great to share as a couple) then this would be an excellent gift.
They can be purchased directly from Valerie Confections or from Dean & Deluca (they only carry the full set but also have some companion products that might complete the effect). They come in a lovely black silk box.
Monday, September 10, 2007
I browse eBay a lot, just to see what sort of candy is being sold. It’s a good place to “make a friend” in a particular area who can send you a special candy on a regular basis. Of course a good deal of the candy on eBay is also Limited Edition items, which can be devilish to find as inventories wear thin in parts of the country.
It’s also a great way for me to find out about newer Limited Editions. Like the Candy Corn Kisses that showed up there last week. I immediately searched all my best spots (RiteAid, WalMart, Target & CVS) with no results. So I emailed Hershey’s ... they confirmed that they exist at least.
Then yesterday I gave Target another try and there they were!
I must admit, they’re lovely. The wrappers are silver, yellow and orange with little flags that say Candy Corn.
Unwrapping the foil, they are super-cute layers just like candy corn. Wider on the bottom than normal candy corn, the proportions may be a little squat, the colors are also rearranged, with yellow on the bottom and orange in the middle, instead of the reverse. I can see why they did it though, it is a pleasant combo.
While I enjoy candy corn that has a slight honey or caramelized sugar taste to it, these go for the buttered corn flavor. I know that the Buttered Popcorn Jelly Belly is one of the most popular, but it’s never floated by boat. Same with this one ... a little caramely white chocolate would have made me very happy. This doesn’t. The fake butter just turns my stomach when I smell it. If I don’t smell it, then they’re not bad, not too sweet with a light little hit of salt.
Unlike many of the other white confection offerings from Hershey’s, these are not white chocolate (which has a cocoa butter base). The ingredients go like this:
I think the idea is cute and I could actually see these being a great cookie decoration (as suggested on the package with a peanut butter cookie recipe). Other than that, I’m going to just admire the photos and the idea and keep the package way from me. I couldn’t decide what rating to give this, mostly because my personal revulsion to fake butter flavor (it actually gives me a headache when someone makes microwave popcorn) is, well, a personal thing. The product is well executed ... I just wish they called them Butter Kisses and made them like real candy corn, not that Milk Maid Caramel Candy Corn. My nose said give them a two out of ten. But looking at the photos, I can’t help but bump it up to a four out of ten ... what can I say, I’m a sucker for design!
UPDATE 9/25/2007: I found out from Hershey’s that this is an item that they created exclusively for Target. So don’t bother looking anywhere else but Target & eBay for these.
UPDATE 9/5/2008: The Candy Corn Kisses have returned for 2008. I found them both at Target and Rite Aid, so they are enjoying a wider release this year.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
There used to be rules and people followed them. Oh, they were informal; things like no white shoes after Labor Day, your shoes should match your belt. Seasonal merchandise wouldn’t be put out until the previous holiday was over (no Christmas goodies before Thanksgiving). But those rules are long gone.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised to see Halloween candy out already at the RiteAid before Labor Day. But at least this was something different. Instead of fruity flavors, this twist is from Brach’s Milk Maid line and is called Caramel Candy Corn.
Most of us have a love-hate relationship with Candy Corn. Well, some folks have a love-love or a hate-hate ... which averages out in the big scheme of things to a love-hate for the general population. I hate-love candy corn. I don’t really like eating it, but I love looking at it and the smell of it.
This stuff smells really promising, if a little overwhelming. Like caramelized sugar. It smelled so great in the store, I really wanted to take it home. Of course in the car (which I admit was as hot as one of those scented oil diffusers) the smell started getting to me in the way that candle stores do.
It all boils down to this, if you like Buttered Popcorn Jelly Belly, you’ll probably like Caramel Candy Corn. I don’t and I didn’t.
The texture is good, a nice smooth fondant. The white tip is unflavored and the two lower layers, orange and brown, are butter flavored fondant. The caramel flavor that the smell implies is completely missing, instead it has that intense note of butter flavored popcorn just crackling away in the microwave.
I just didn’t like them as much as I wanted to. Not nearly as much as the Brach’s Autum Mix (candy corn, Indian corn and mellow cremes). I was really unhappy that it was $2.29 for the bag to boot ... yeah, it’s a 19 ounce bag, but what do I need 19 ounces of buttered popcorn flavored candy corn for?
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Yes, I’ve got the sweets for the Tricker or Treaters this evening. Even though I’m not home I left a deluxe bowl of goodies for my husband to give out.
You can’t see everything in there (and I can’t remember it all) but there are Junior Mints, Tootsie Pops, Blow Pops, Jolly Rancher Lollipops, Chewy SweeTarts, Kissables, SweeTart Gummi Bugs, Heath Bars, various full sized bars from some photos I took, Lik-m-Aid, Laffy Taffy, Chewy Runts ... I think that’s about it. I like to balance out the candy offerings with a variety of chocolate and sugar, lollipops were always a favorite of mine.Happy Halloween!
Monday, October 30, 2006
Honestly, I didn’t know it would be so hard to go green. Ten years ago, yeah, I think I would have expected it. But it’s 2006 and there are stores like Whole Foods and even Target and Wal-Mart are carrying organic foods. So why is it so hard?
Halloween represents over $2 BILLION in sales each year (and it grows and grows). The average household spends over $16 on Halloween candy, it seems that there’s room to give them more choices for wholesome and thoughtful candies.
The winners I found this year were:
How hard would it be for someone to make fun packs of organic chocolate covered peanuts or raisins? I’ve seen lots of natural gummis and fruit chews, but what about something that’s not bulk that you can give to the kids without them turning up their noses? Organic candy tastes as good (if not better) than regular mass-produced candy. Kids don’t even have to know it’s fair trade or organic ... they just want something tasty, something they probably don’t get every day.
The good thing is that you can make a nice assortment out of the above and still serve 40 or so kids with multiple treats and still stay within that $16 average. Maybe next year there will be more items on that wishlist available.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.