Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Jelly Belly prides itself on its extensive flavor list. (See Brandon’s exhaustive tasting notes and listings of all the flavors that have ever existed.)
Jelly Belly has had a chocolate pudding flavor in the mix for quite some time and I’ve avoided it for the most part. Chocolate is not a flavor, it’s an experience made up of far too many things like alkaloid compounds, monounsaturated fats and polyphenols that simply cannot be bottled and applied to other confections.
Jelly Belly went ahead and introduced a new bean anyway, Dark Chocolate. I picked up some samples at the Fancy Food Show, tasted a few and then put them away for a time when I wasn’t innundated with so many good things.
In short, chocolate jelly beans are to chocolate the same thing that Tootsie Rolls are. Something utterly different and unsatisifying if you were expecting anything approaching chocolate. However, if you’re looking for something that’s durable and attractive, but not necessarily tasty, these may be your new favorite.
They got the color right, they’re pretty. A little on the dark purple side (cuz of all those artificial colors like Red 40, Yellow 6 & Blue 2) and containing not more than 2% of actual chocolate.
But they’re postively bitter to me. I chomp down ... there’s a mild sweet taste, like cocoa made with hot water, but then there’s a strong bitter blast. I’m not sure if it’s all the antioxidants (hah!) or the artificial colors, but they’re just inedible.
I thought at first it was just a bad bag, or just me. So I opened a different sample bag that was sent to me later by Jelly Belly. Same thing! Turns out I’m not alone, both Caitlin & Brian at Candy Addict recorded the same reaction.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
This is one of the most incongruous bits of packaging I’ve seen in a while. Hot Tamales branded jelly beans, in spice flavors ... okay, so far so good. But the colors are all, I don’t know, racy.
Spice jelly beans are far from racy. They’re eaten by little nostalgic old ladies and middle-aged European guys as palate cleansers. These are packaged like they’re supposed to appeal to the NASCAR crowd (not that they wouldn’t enjoy them ... Mike and Ike even have an association with NASCAR).
But still, spice jelly beans are hard to find these days, and it’s even harder to find them made in the USA. (Yes, I get emails from people looking for American made spice jelly beans.)
Just Born is known for it’s jelly bean type products, which are their Mike and Ike and Hot Tamales as well as their lesser known line of Teenee Beanee, a gourmet jelly bean.
What strikes me as especially odd about these (on top of everything else) is that Just Born also has a line of spice jelly beans that Sera at Candy Addict just reviewed yesterday!
They’re lovely looking beans, a little bigger than the Jelly Belly everyone is so used to these days, but not as large as the Brach’s Jelly Beans.
The variety has five flavors (the only ones left out of the “traditional” spice mix are licorice and lemon): Wintergreen, Peppermint, Clove, Spearmint and of course Cinnamon.
The color mix is a little odd too, the assignment of colors defies ordinary candy traditions, but I suppose none of that is written in stone either. At least they have a key on the back.
Really, all that’s missing here is Licorice. But the Licorice beans were sold separately ... literally, in their own bag. There’s also a separate bag of Hot Tamales Cinnamon Jelly Beans, but that’s just silly! Hot Tamales are cinnamon jelly beans!
The beans are traditional pectin thickened, many just use corn starch these days. But they’re not Kosher for Passover (but plain old Kosher). They’re also gluten free. I don’t know if these will be sold year round of if they are just a seasonal offering.
Thanks to Rebecca on Flickr who helped me find these!
Friday, March 14, 2008
Gimbal’s is one of those candy companies where you’ve probably had their products, you just don’t realize it because they’re often sold in bulk. They have fun little sour jelly stars, sour sanded bears and licorice scottie dogs.
They also have an extensive line of Gourmet Jelly Beans.
They’re similar to Jelly Belly, they’re a similar smaller size, have different color codings for the flavors and in this instance, come in an assortment of dozens of flavors in one bag (41 in this case). I’ve seen these 7 ounce bags for sale at Walgreen’s, usually for about $2. I know that CandyDirect.com sells single flavors of these (and you may find them in bulk bins that aren’t identified by brand). At only $3.40 a pound online, that’s about a third off to half off the price of Jelly Belly.
I don’t have tasting notes for absolutely every flavor, but here are a few of the highlights of what I picked out of the mix over the past week:
Tiramisu - like a caramel coffee creamer.
Too many reds! There’s cherry, cinnamon, raspberry, fruit punch, red delicious. I had similar problems with the orange/yellow things. But this is an issue with many candies that have too many flavors in one bag.
I’d probably prefer to buy a more narrow mix of these, like just fruits or maybe carnival flavors (toasted marshmallow, bubble gum, red delicious, root beer… maybe someone needs to invent a funnel cake flavor).
The beans are nicely formed and all had an even amount of distinctive flavor.
Gimbal’s is not only Kosher, but also a facility free of most of the major allergens. They are tree nut/peanut, gelatin, gluten, dairy and egg free. So if you like Jelly Belly but have to avoid gluten and peanuts, this would be an excellent option. As a bonus, Gimbal’s are less expensive than Jelly Belly. Just harder to find.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Just to make things clear, the package says, “Tangy Fruit Flavors” ... just in case people thought they were some other assortment of flavors associated with Smarties. They never actually say which fruits they are, though.
Actually, I think Smarties are an ideal Easter candy, with their pastel colors and light flavors. I like Smarties. I like their lack of flavor, the way they dissolve so quickly and smoothly. I like their tiny tablet size, their light colors and complete indistinguishableness from one another.
These jelly beans were about the same price as others are these days, retail of $1.99.
The shell is a dry and a little crumbly and cool on the tongue (as dextrose usually is). The shells have a tangy and flavorful layer. The flavors aren’t very strong or complex. Grape is the most vivid, in that grape soda way. Green apple is pretty mild. Blue tastes like ball point pen ink smells (I think it’s raspberry). Cherry is very tart and then very sweet but less bitter than most pink/red cherry candies. Lemon was probably the sweetest of the bunch.
What was missing was the white Smarties, you know, that one that we all think is pineapple and is by far the best. (What? You don’t think so, too?)
The colors are bright and opaque, rather like highlighter pens. The funny part is that Smarties actually makes their lack of color in their compressed dextrose tablets a selling point. From their website:
In the case of these little jelly beans, I think they’re using just as much dye as everyone else. Most of all I noticed the similarities between the Smarties Jelly Bean and the SweeTarts Jelly Beans.
So I gathered up an assortment of both and put them side by side. The SweeTarts Jelly Beans are on the left and the Smarties Jelly Beans are on the right. They are extremely close in colors, although the Smarties are missing the orange one completely.
The beans were essentially identical with the Smarties being slightly more flavorful, mostly in the tangy layer. The colors very little but the purple and the green are the easiest to tell apart by looking at them and the blue in the SweeTarts version is punch flavor, not raspberry.
I really don’t have a preference of one over the other. If you have a choice, I say go with whichever is cheaper or whichever brand you feel you prefer to support.
They’re both made in Canada and come in 14 ounce bags, though their ingredients label differs slightly ... so it’s entirely possible that this factory churns both out under contract with Nestle or CeDe Candy.
While all of the Smarties compressed dextrose products are gluten, nut and milk free, the Smarties Jelly Beans are made in Canada and are made in a facility that processes all the hit-list allergens: peanuts, nuts, milk products, soy products, wheat, eggs and sesame seeds.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
It’s a candy resurrection story! Good & Fruity has been reissued by Hershey’s after being off the market for several years (could this petition have anything to do with it?). It should be available in stores any day now.
Good & Fruity is the companion candy to Good & Plenty, which is a sugar-shelled licorice. Really, there’s very little that’s similar about them, though at one time Good & Fruity was a candy coated fruit licorice nib.
The current incarnation of Good & Fruity, simply put, is jelly beans. Tiny, narrow jelly beans in a box.
They’re a little different from typical jelly beans, the shell isn’t as grainy, mostly because there’s so little shell. It’s crispy and has a light cool feel on the tongue with the sweeter flavors.
Lemon - tart, but not quite lemony.
Some of the G&F were a little inconsistent. Some were tangy, others were plain and sweet, like they’d missed their flavor coats.
The colors are vibrant and really compelling. Like little pieces of beach glass.
These are probably a good movie candy, a palatable mix of flavors, easy to eat with a very low mess factor. I’m just not that into them. They’re Kosher and unlike Good & Plenty, the colors here are all artificial so I guess it’s okay for vegetarians. Earlier versions of the candy were known as Good ‘n Fruity.
UPDATE 5/4/2010: For those who miss candy coated red licorice, you might want to find Wiley Wallaby Outback Beans. While they’re not exactly like the original Good ‘n Fruity, they’re closer than this.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Nerds just don’t appeal to me much, part of it might be that they’re kind of hard to eat (maybe they should be sold in straws like Pixy Stix?), but I love the idea of them. Enter the Nerds Bumpy Jelly Beans.
Where regular jelly beans lack texture, each Nerds Bumpy Jelly Bean has oodles of nooks & lumps on a crunchy candy shell.
Where regular jelly beans lack a flavorful punch, each Nerd has a tasty tart layer just below the candy shell.
Yes, they look like freakish confectionery mistakes or maybe wads of leftover acrylic paint. They’re hard and have uneven textured shells. But they’re also vividly colored, so there’s no confusing any muted colors (is this pink or magenta?).
The biggest contribution these beans have to the jelly bean pantheon is crunch. They’re really crunchy.
Orange: a nice mellow orange flavor, with a rather tart flavor layer under the shell.
Lemon: the tartest of the bunch, it does kind of lose its zazz when I got to the end of chewing it up when it was just a big wad of sweet.
Strawberry: I was afraid this was going to be cherry, it’s not quite the vivid red I photographed, just slightly on the pinker side of red. A nice sort of cotton candy delicate floral strawberry with a dose of sour power.
Green Apple: my mix seemed to have an inordinate amount of these, which is too bad, because they were my least favorite. They are sour and do taste just like artificial green apple.
Grape: fantastically artificial, like having a Grape Shasta (complete with a slight fizz mimicked by the crunchy shell).
It’s funny how excited I am about these. Let’s face it, there hasn’t been much innovation in the jelly bean world since Jelly Belly started adding more flavor by using both a flavored center and a flavored shell.
These are fun to eat because there are so many options. You can just pop them in your mouth and chew them up, or let them dissolve or nibble away at the crunchy coating.
The centers are clear and have only a light flavor and a vague tartness to them.
I think they’re a great change-up from the milder jelly beans out there and will definitely appeal to kids, but are still palatable for adults. I enjoyed all the flavors (though picked around the green ones after I finished my review). Still, I found that I couldn’t eat as many of them as I can eat jelly beans. The tartness gave me a tummy ache after about a quarter of the bag. (See the levels of testing at Candy Blog Labs that I go through?)
The interesting news though is that while I was shopping at Walgreen’s a few weeks ago, I also found this little bag of Giant Chewy Nerds. I bought them, at first thinking they were a clearance item, perhaps a test marketing. But the expiration is December 2008, so they were definitely fresh.
So, it looks like this is what they’re called in the “Non-Easter Season”. I can find no mention of either of these products on the Wonka site (does that surprise anyone?).
These have a variety of artificial colors in them as well as Carmine, making them unsuitable for vegetarians.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
I wasn’t quite sure what it was (and it was $12) but was led to believe that some in the assortment were nougats (hey, they’re French, I love French nougats!) and jellies. Though they’re kind of a traditional Christmas sweet, they’re actually available year round.
The pretty little wax-paper-wrapped treats had little curly fringes and inside the wrappers are little riddles, quotes or cartoons. In France you can just buy them by the handful, and I must admit they’re so cute I wouldn’t mind finding a Christmas stocking stuffed with them. They’re popular in the Lyon region, the legend says that they originated in a confectionery shop owned by a man named Papillot and were invented by one of his workers who was trying to create something pretty to woo a co-worker. Papillot saw the marketing possiblities of the frilly wrapped treats immediately as did the customers. Of course I’m not sure if this is just legend or not. Papillotes means curly papers if I’m to believe some web translators. Are curly papers in general named for this candy or did the man who own the candy shop bear the name Mr. Curly Papers? (Could someone who speaks French educate me?)
Whatever the origin, they’re cute and come in four varieties:
Red = Pistachio Creme - okay, maybe it’s not pistachio, maybe it’s marzipan. Anyway, it’s a little too floral/medicinal for me. The good news is that there were only two of these in my assortment.
Green = Hazelnut Praline - this one has a dark chocolate shell with a light nutty truffle filling with a strong hazelnut note to it. Creamy, smooth and satisfying.
Blue = Orange Truffle - this one was easy to tell apart, it smelled strongly of orange zest. The milk chocolate was a little sweet, but the pieces of orange peel in there and the creamy texture of the whole thing was quite nice.
Pink = p?tes de fruits - I’m guessing this was a pear jelly, it was sweet and flavorful with that little bit of pearish grit to it. Not really the best flavor for me, but nice enough. I would have preferred a citrus or perhaps a raspberry.
The mix I got favored the green & pink wrappers with the exception of two red and two pink, so I lucked out with getting my favorites in quantity.
The little riddles were, well, like those little riddles you get in candy:
The answer is une armure. Oh, man, that’s funny! (Thanks to Wikipedia I now know that the French also suffer from Knock Knock jokes, which they call Toc Toc.)
They’re a fun traditional treat the would make a nice little cultural exchange or just a bright little display on a table at a party. The chocolates are good, not phenomenal, but the story and interactivity with the little curls and wrappers is what sets these apart. (Here’s another French-filled review from Moko Wants Candy.)
Friday, November 16, 2007
Earlier this summer I reviewed one of the classic movie candies, Jujyfruits. While I’ve always been fond of the idea of them, and think that when they’re fresh they’re quite fun, they never had quite enough flavor for me.
Enter Heide’s newest addition to the Jujyfruit family (which as far as I know is an only child), the Sour Jujyfruits. (I’m not sure how long these have been on the market.)
The most significant difference between these and the regular Jujyfruit is the flavor set: Lime, Grape, Lemon, Raspberry and Orange. The licorice has been replaced with grape (and for obvious reasons, while some may enjoy a salty licorice, I don’t know of any sour licorice candies).
The shapes are the same though, with each color coming in all the vegetable and fruits.
And like Jujyfruits which sport a rather out-of-step package design (what’s with that font?) this package also has some cartoon kids sporting sour pusses. I’m not sure who they’re trying to appeal to.
Out of the package, they’re not quite as pretty as their original mellow counterparts. They have a sanding of sour & sugar. It’s not unattractive, by any means, but not quite the same as the soft translucence of the originals.
They’re also a lot moister. Granted, these come in a plastic pack instead of a box which I imagine allows for some drying. These are quite soft, though not as soft as Sour Patch Kids (and also just a denser shape).
The flavors are good.
The raspberry is strong and tart with a good floral counterpart.
The lemon has a great zesty essence along with the sour burst.
The grape is okay, it reminds me a lot of concord grape juice, which is a really nice change from the SweeTart grape that usually tastes like blue pen ink.
Orange is sassy with similar zest components as the lemon.
The lime is probably the weakest of the set of flavors, but still holds its own.
Overall, I like them. I like the variety of the shapes, I like the colors and the flavors and would really enjoy these as a movie snack. The production on them wasn’t quite as top notch as Jujyfruits. There were a few that were not quite the right shape or conjoined. But of course Jujyfruits are pretty inexpensive, so I can forgive that for a bag that I’m paying about a buck fifty for.
Has anyone seen them in stores?
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.