Thursday, October 31, 2013
What are you giving out this year?
As of now, I have some Charms Candy Corn Lollipops, Jolly Rancher Caramel Apple Pops, Airheads (the kids in this neighborhood really love them) and Payday Bars. I wanted another chocolate item and may still pick that up, probably the Unreal Peanut Butter Cups again, like last year. I try to balance the offerings so that there’s something gluten free, something nut free and something with chocolate and hopefully nothing that has slave chocolate in it.
The best news? After Halloween candy sales start tomorrow ...
UPDATE: I did go shopping at lunch today at Whole Foods and found individually wrapped Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups (on sale, 2 packages for $5.00) and Endangered Species Milk Chocolate Bug Bites (same sale price). CVS has stopped carrying the UNREAL brand. So it’s a chocolatey and hopefully ethically sourced Halloween.
Friday, October 25, 2013
There are often movie tie ins with candy, but they are most often just a packaging change. For the second of The Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire, Vosges Chocolate has released an interesting set of products themed with the movies characters and settings.
The Capitol Truffle Collection - $225.00
A ritual of degustation, this truffle collection is curated to guide your palate through opulence and ritual. The 18 different truffles in sets of two are an exploration of shape, texture, color and flavor. Rosemary with a touch of pink peppercorn is encased in pure, white chocolate. Coconut and banana are combined with dark chocolate and rolled in coconut charcoal ash. Candied walnuts and milk chocolate are thick and chunky, rolled in cocoa powder– to name a few…
Underneath the colorful truffles, 16 compartments await, each cradling a treasure to forward the degustation. Small vials of crushed violet petals, pearl dust, gold leaf and matcha tea are accompanied by detailed mixology instructions to create decadent libations. Trinkets and objects of desire dictate social rules and traditions.
The Capitol Truffle Collection includes: 36 truffles, accoutrements, and a menu of etiquette and recipes to serve an extravagant 18 course chocolate tasting
As a point of reference, a 32 piece truffle collection is $75.00. I don’t know what these other menus and recipes and accoutrements add to this, but it appears that it nearly triples the price. There is no smaller version of this either ... you just have to be willing to plop down the full $225 to get Catching Fire truffles.
The Hunger Games Katniss Chocolate Bar
Quiet your mind and engage each of your senses in preparation for this unique, cinematic chocolate experience. Breathe in the deep, smoky aroma of the bar before taking a bite. Let the rich milk chocolate melt on your palate, and savor the subtle, salty crunch of hickory smoked bacon accented by sweet, crisp apples.
Katniss chocolate bar parfum includes: apples pierced uncured hickory smoked bacon + alderwood smoked sea salt + 44% cacao milk chocolate.(Retail $7.50)
Contains: milk, soy, gluten free (not all the bars are). Manufactured in a facility that handles tree nuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, milk, wheat and soy.
I have to say, these are not flavors I would have quite picked out to represent Katniss ... but she’s definitely an unconventional girl. So an unconventional bunch of flavors would suit her. I have to say that it seems a bit fussy for her though.
The Hunger Games President Snow Chocolate Bar
Breathe in the aromatic tartness of the orange and chocolate before taking your first bite. Allow the chocolate to melt in your mouth, while the release of the bittersweet citrus caramel punctuated by nips of blistering pepper permeates your palate.
President Snow chocolate bar parfum contains: Blood orange & tellicherry peppercorns caramel + 72% cacao dark chocolate
Again, I’m not an expert on The Hunger Games at all, but if I understand this bar, it’s supposed to emulate the damaged feeling of the President’s mouth since he poisoned his political opponents?
The Hunger Games Effie Chocolate Bar
Breathe in the fragrant aroma of sweet strawberries before taking your first bite. Allow the bittersweet chocolate to melt on your palate, and savor the bar’s fruity bouquet and the pleasing crunch of candied French violet flowers.
Effie chocolate bar parfum includes: dried strawberries + candied violet flowers + 62% cacao dark chocolate
This bar actually seemed quite suitable for the character. Some light touches of excess but an undercurrent of seriousness with the dark chocolate.
This is the most interesting of the bunch of the bars, I actually saw these at Walgreen’s priced at $3.99, though they’re $4.99 on the Vosges website. You can get the full “book” of bars shown above or buy the bars individually. Each is themed for a different district. The inclusions and flavor profiles are ... well, quite a stretch.
Wild Ophelia Bars - retail $3.99
You may now commence your rants or analyses of how this licensing seems more like District 1 partnering/exploiting the kids than anything faithful to Katniss and her friends.
Friday, October 18, 2013
Name: Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups
Name: Lancaster Caramels
Name: Werther’s Original Caramel Popcorn
Name: Werther’s Original Baking Caramel
Name: Jelly Belly Camo Beans
Name: Fruit Vines Bites
Name: Ovation Mint Filled Break-A-Part
Name: Ovation Milk Pumpkin Spice Break-A-Part
Images courtesy of the respective candy company
Update 10/31/2013 - An earlier version of this post listed Welch’s PB&J Snacks, but I was just informed that the information is not accurate, so I have removed it.
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
When a candy season comes around, I take special interest in what’s new, what’s returning and trends on the store shelves with holiday candy. Here’s the 2013 Halloween shopping roundup.
Last week I was invited to participate in the Nosh Show podcast, we’re talking about candy and a bit about Halloween candy. You can listen to the Nosh Show:
FERRARA CANDY (Includes FARLEY’S & SATHERS and BRACH’S)
That aside, Brach’s seems to be their only brand with seasonal candies, though Lemonheads and Trolli Gummis are available in treating packaging.
(review) Available in snack packs for Trick or Treat
NESTLE & WONKA
Have you seen anything new & exciting in stores this year? What are you planning to give out to kids, if they come to your house?
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
I usually wait until a trade show rolls around to introduce new candy product notes, but I was really excited about the new products set to be presented at the The Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing show (NACS) in Atlanta from 12-15 October by Mars. So, I decided to roll out the announcement for these a little early. Sadly, nothing comes out this year, the earliest new release is January:
Name: M&Ms Birthday Cake
UPDATE: Here’s the review of Milk Chocolate flavored Birthday Cake M&Ms which started showing up in CVS stores in February.
Name: Mega M&Ms Milk Chocolate & Peanut
Name: Dove Promises Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel
Name: Twix Bites
Name: Milky Way Simply Caramel Bites
Name: 3 Musketeers Bites
Name: Snickers Rockin Nut Road
Monday, July 22, 2013
I’m taking a few days off. I’m on a cookie vacation. (No, that’s not a vacation from cookies, it’s a vacation with lots of cookies.)
I’ll be back later this week with more candy, but in the mean time, enjoy this photo of a Fran’s Almond Gold Bar which was “buttery caramel, toasted almonds and dark chocolate.” (Full package photo.)
Friday, July 12, 2013
I went through my list of candies that I haven’t reviewed and wanted to do a little roundup with at least some basic impressions. Today I have a little theme of Figs, since I had four products with fig as an element still sitting in the review queue.
I have a black fig tree in my back yard, this photo shows what was the best harvest of my 15 years in this home way back in 2006. This year I got one delicious fig off the tree, then returned two days later in hopes that the others were ripe only to find that the critters got them all. So I must turn to candy for my fig fix. (Well, that’s not entirely true, I buy fresh figs from time to time and dried ones as well.)
The packaging is mostly utilitarian but did an excellent job of protecting the chocolates inside. They’re not as decadent as some others I’ve had that might be soaked in liquor or filled with ganache. Instead this is the simple pleasure of dark chocolate and a sugary and crunchy whole, dried fig.
They were tasty, I enjoy the leathery and smoky notes of dried figs and chocolate. The chocolate was a little on the sweet side, I like a rather bitter chocolate with my very-sweet dried fruits. The figs were also a bit tough, but I suppose all that chewing just made them last longer.
For some reason I never documented the wrapper on this one, which is too bad. It’s the Dick Taylor Fig bar. It’s made in Arcata, CA, a place I used to live. It’s another bean-to-bar artisan chocolate company.
In this case the bar was beautifully molded and had all the things I liked about the fig/dark chocolate combo. There were lots of fruit and tannic notes, a bit of wood, tobacco and smoke. It was expensive though (I picked up the bar in NYC at The Meadow), I think about $9.00.
I finally found Liddabit in NYC when I was there last year, then a few months later there were places in Los Angeles selling them and a friend gave me this box of Liddabit Sweets Fig Ricotta Caramels.
The pieces are wrapped in wax paper. I wanted to love them, but there was something that wasn’t quite caramelly enough and not quite cheesy enough and lacking in the oomph and power of figs It could be the balsamic vinegar was too much tangy for a sweet. I love Liddabit’s bars, but I find that I’m very picky about caramels, especially when they have so many elements going on.
Little did I realize the extraordinary packaging within. First, the three ounce package has three one ounce bars. Each is individually wrapped in foil, then has a sleeve with a black and white fashion photos (each is different). They’re all tucked into the envelope style paperboard box. (All using recycled packaging.)
Dove and Seeds of Change (both run by Mars) tried this style of packaging a few years ago, but reverted back to the single bar. Personally, I prefer the inner wrapped portions, because I don’t eat a 3 ounce bar in one sitting and don’t have enough friends who can share one ounce portions at the same time. It’s easy to pull one out and toss it in a lunch bar or purse as well.
The chocolate itself is good, it’s quite dark and Seattle Chocolates definitely did well in their sourcing for this assortment of bars. In the line of bars there are a few quirky hipster sort of versions like Agave Quinoa Sesame but others are classic like Veracruz Orange.
I didn’t think there were enough bits of fig and pistachio in there, or maybe they weren’t distributed well. There’s a bit of salt, I think from the pistachios, that again wasn’t distributed well. On the whole it was good, but I only ate one of the three bars. It’s all Kosher and all natural.
On the whole, I want to give this line another try but they’re not a bean to bar company. So I find myself drawn to other bars that are truly unique and am probably missing out on products like the JCoCo line which is more of what I’d call a curated product - where the chocolatier sources finished chocolate and formulates inclusions and flavor combinations themselves.
Though I don’t think I found a new favorite in this series of explorations, all were good. (I think if I were to go buy a fig and chocolate item right now, it would be the Compartes chocolate covered figs.)
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Based in Southern California, Sugarfina brings a chic aesthetic to all their candy with their minimalist packaging in robin’s egg blue and square formats. The candy is sold in “bulk” that is, it’s repackaged by them and sold in an array of different weights. They have created a superb curated list of candies. Some you’ll recognize, but their biggest selling point is an array of exquisite European candies that I’ve never seen sold anywhere else.
Candy is sold in little boxes of different weights or in mixed boxes (they call Bentos) that make excellent gifts. Their team truly understand that candy should appeal first to the eye and then to the rest of the senses.
I still get plenty of offers for free candy samples, but lately it has to be something pretty special to get me to bite. But when you see this list of candies, you’ll see what got me interested. Today I’m presenting the assortment of gummis (and one jelly candy). All of the gummis are from Germany and most feature natural colors.
Bitty Berries is a mix of three different gummis. There’s a large raspberry looking gummi that has a rather raspberry flavor. Then there are three smaller berries, kind of like petite blueberries that are different colors and flavors. The light amber ones are like a white grape juice flavor, lightly tangy but with a black currant note to them. The pink version is and the purple is like a jammy raspberry. Blueberry, Raspberry, Blackberry, Cranberry and Bilberry.
They’re just exquisitely beautiful. Even when I wasn’t interested in eating them, they were just too cute to look at.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Champagne Bears come in two colors: a soft peachy pink and a lightly yellow clear. The clear is like a clean apple juice flavor with a light peppery note. The peachy one is, well, much the same. I couldn’t really tell them apart except that sometimes the pink one seemed to be a little more raspberry flavored. They’re firm and intense. They’re well formed and held their shape well, even though they were jammed into their little cube.
I liked them, but didn’t think that they were anything better than the new juicy Haribo. But I do like the colors and think that for a special occasion, they’d be a nice favor.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Sugar Peach Sweethearts - I was pretty scared of these. They smelled strongly of peach, not in a bad way but in a strong way. They were so strong that I had to take them out of the bento box and sequester them by themselves so as not to contaminate the chocolate pieces they were co-mingling with. So I was afraid that they’d be overwhelmingly chemical tasting.
Quite the opposite is true. They’re little miracle pieces, on the tongue they actual feel for a moment like a real peach. The texture of the sugar sanding is velvety like the fuzz of the peach. The flavor is at once tangy and fruity and honey-sweet and floral and woodsy, like actual peaches. There’s no weird artificial coloring in there to give it a metallic aftertaste. They’re a bit more tart that I’d probably like if I were to eat them by the handful, but as a little refresher on a hot day when I have a dry mouth, these are unbeatable.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Queen of Hearts were billed on the website as three different flavors: pineapple, grapefruit and black currant. They’re also three different sizes of hearts. So it’s a lovely looking combination, although the largest heard gets folded over a bit inside the little cube.
Pink was indistinct, but reminded me enough of pineapple to make me think that’s what it was. Slightly floral with a tart bite and a crisp flavor to it. It was more like canned pineapple though not as syrupy.
Clear tastes like peach. I’m not sure what flavor it was supposed to be, I was hoping it was the promised grapefruit, but it was tangy and a little peppery. (I did notice that the peach mentioned earlier were very strong, I was wondering if the flavor migrated from the more delicate grapefruit.)
The dark one was definitely black currant. It was strong and had notes of wine and deep boiled cherry.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Cuba Libre is simply amazing. It’s a cola gummi, so far so good, with a little softer bubble of rum within. It’s stunning. The cola flavor is spicy and tart, a mix of nutmeg, cinnamon and perhaps a little warm kick of ginger but nothing overt and then the acidic bite of lemon. The rum is sweet and a little on the caramel side. I’ve never seen these anywhere else, and I can’t believe they aren’t being imported and sold in the US by the cargo container as it is. If there’s a reason to order from Sugarfina, it’s the Cuba Libre gummi.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Minty Polar Bears are downright weird and I’ll go ahead and warn you that they’re not mint. They’re like a bubble gum flavored mentholated chewy cough drop. The first note on the tongue is a little tartness then a huge whiff of what I can only describe as acetone (which I sometimes get confused with banana flavoring). Then there’s a menthol hit, a little more of a sort of mild lime flavor and the bitterness of that zest. It all ends with a slight queasy feeling.
I’ve had eucalyptus gummis before and liked them quite a bit, so I was hoping for something like that. I find them curious enough that I continue to sample them from time to time. But I never feel like I want to eat another one, just that I should.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Heavenly Sours are little stars, comets and crescent moons in fruity flavors. They’re sour sanded and come in lovely naturally tinted colors. They’re not actually gummis, they’re jellies. They’re made in the US, not in Germany like most of the other gummis from Sugarfina. They’re tart and have nicely distinguished flavors. Orange is a zesty and tart orange. Lemon is wonderfully sour. Blue is raspberry and a little overdone. Red is cherry and is, well, cherry.
Rating: 7 out of 10
As a thank you gift or something for someone who has everything, this is a great option. It’s not cheap, so it’s not something I’m likely to treat myself to very often. They also have lots of themed boxes and kits, so it’s easy to pick for Coffee Lovers, Licorice Aficionados, or Caramel Fiends. The large bento boxes with 8 x 4 ounce boxes of treats are $50. By the pound, the candy is $17.50.
They do a good job of labeling for allergies as well, even if they won’t tell me who make those Cuba Libre gummis.They’re currently only available via the web, but there’s talk of a store in the future here on the west side of Los Angeles.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.