Monday, October 8, 2007
Gimbal’s LavaBalls aren’t a new product, I even saw them at the 2006 All Candy Expo. But I never saw them in stores (except online in 5 lb boxes), so I was hesitant to write about something that you couldn’t get.
Well, I found them, at Walgreen’s (and they’re probably in other places) ... so here’s a review!
Gimbal’s is an old San Francisco panned confectioner, run by the same family for four generations. They make a line of gourmet jelly beans, some fun licorice product and pectin/jelly items. The bonus with Gimbal’s (besides the high quality) is that their facility is practically allergen free ... their candies are free of gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, gelatin, gluten, eggs and dairy. They’re also Kosher. (They do use Soy.)
LavaBalls are chewy hot cinnamon candies. Like their name implies, they’re a spicy cinnamon.
They’re like a giant jelly bean. The gumdrop center is lightly spiced, kind of like a Spearmint Leaf, mild but still making a generous contribution to the overall flavor. On top of that is a little layer or super-spice that’s covered by the rest of the nicely warm candy shell.
They’re about the size of a marble, which is a satisfying size for a sizzling chew. They’re not too hot for me, but there’s a pleasant burn and sometimes they’ll catch me a little bit with a tickle in my throat.
The balls are about the size of a marble, so they’re bigger than their newest competitor, the Chewy Atomic Fireballs (which are not allergen free) and marginally spicier and just deeper in flavor.
I enjoy these a lot and would definitely find them good traveling candies, a movie watching snack and good for swift novel-writing. Each LavaBall has about 13 calories each.
They do contain beeswax (and artificial colors/flavors) so may not be suitable for vegans.
Friday, October 5, 2007
After reading the publicity materials and nutrition label on these, I don’t think they can be called candy. But I have them and some folks expressed interest in the new Welch’s Fruit ‘n Yogurt Snacks, I thought I’d do a review.
The snacks come in five flavors: Blueberry, Strawberry, Cherry, Raspberry and Peach. They are little, firm jelly pieces made with real fruit puree covered in a yogurt confection coating.
The first ingredient on the label is Fruit Puree (depends on the flavor, which always includes real fruit of that kind), followed by Fruit Juice Concentrates ... then Sugar. Of course the next item is Partially Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil, but I’m guessing that’s so low on the proportions it explains why the fat content is only 3 grams per serving (approximately 1 ounce or half the bag) and it says 0 grams of trans fat.
Not all the flavors interest me much, so I’m not even going to open the Peach ones. Some lucky Trick-or-Treater will get that later this month. While getting my samples on the last day of All Candy Expo the guy at the Promotion in Motion booth (they folks who make these for Welch’s) apologized for not having any Cherry. I told him that was no big loss either for me.
Generally, the little bits are kind of crumbly. The yogurt confectionery coating isn’t like a white chocolate, it’s not buttery smooth. It’s kind of like a flaky frosting. It’s not bad, it’s not too sweet and adds a bit of a milky flavor to the whole thing, but also a little chalky texture ... I’m guessing this because so many of the ingredients are dairy powders (whey powder, yogurt powder). But the coating has something to offer - both calcium (10%) and vitamin D (25%) as well as active cultures of Lactobacillus acidophillus and Lactobacillus caseii. Oh, yeah, and 100% of the RDA of vitamin C and 25% of your RDA of vitamin A.
Raspberry: lovely light scent, sweet and tangy. The jelly center is firm, with a nice crumbly chew. It’s not sticky, it’s not at all like a gummi or a standard jelly candy like Dots or tough like a fruit leather. It doesn’t have that fine smoothness that jellies of all kinds have, but the texture is pretty nice. The yogurt coating is only okay, as mentioned above.
Strawberry: smells like light spring flowers and cotton candy (pretty much how fresh strawberries smell to me). There’s a slight tangy ice cream scent as well.
Blueberry: this really tastes like blueberries, though it doesn’t have the deep flavor profile that the two other berry flavors sport.
The yogurt coating fell off of the centers when I jostled the bags around a lot. I would have recommended throwing these into a snack mix of some sort - nuts, maybe some chocolate panned nuts, dried fruits and pretzels. But I don’t know if the could stand up to it.
The ones shown here are a two portion bag (perhaps for parents to share with their kids or kids to share with each other). They’re also available in “snack packs” which have less than 100 calories (and I’m guessing are a little under an ounce).
Are they candy? No, they’re too fortified.
Are they something you might be able to sell your kids on instead of candy? Possibly ... it’s more likely you’ll be able to get your kids to eat these as a healthier snack than just chips or perhaps a finicky kid who won’t eat fruit might sample them. (There’s no significant fiber in there though.) As snacks go, I still think that the Florida’s Naturals Sour Fruit Strings do the best job of feeling like “no compromise” on taste, but if your kids like these and think they’re candy, then by all means, let them indulge in this instead of something worse.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
I’ve seen them at Japanese grocers and Aji Ichiban before, but never packaged just for Americans. And certainly never in these sassy little three puff portions.
Enter GudFud. They’re here to bring us the Asian foamy sweets. They’re packaged to look like they’re Japanese (terribly cute and with Japanese characters on the label, what they say, I know not) but they’re actually made in China. I tried some before and wrote about them here.
I’ve never considered jelly and marshmallows “food”, but perhaps I can start thinking of them as “foood.”
The little individually wrapped Fruit Jelly Stuffed Marshmallows are a bit smashed when inside the package but fluff back up pretty quickly. There’s a lot of packaging, which I guess I didn’t notice at first because it’s mostly clear. The fruity ones were cute and once unwrapped, completely identical on the outside.
The jelly center is where things get different. The jelly is smooth and soft, not quite flowing, but not quite firm like an “orange slice” would be. Really, kind of like the jelly you’d spread on your toast. The flavor is mild, a little tangy, not terribly complex ... just, well nice.
The mix of fruit and marshmallow isn’t really great in my mind. So I tried toasting a package or two. They toasted nicely, though the center didn’t get that molten consistency that I’m used to with Jet or Kraft marshmallows. The marshmallow skin puffed well and browned (well, one caught on fire, but consider it a sacrifice to the marshmallow fire god). Still, the toasted flavor and jelly didn’t really grab me either.
So what about a Chocolate Stuffed Marshmallow. Though each of these are the same, the little packages still have a different little character on them. Each with a different reaction to getting a chocolate bar stuffed into their cranium.
The chocolate filling isn’t firm, it’s soft and easy to bite. It still doesn’t have a lot of chocolate oomph to it, more like a chocolate cream.
I like that the package has three marshmallows in it and you might be able to just pick them up where you buy candy bars. For those on calorie-restricted diets, a single package with three marshmallows is only 50 calories and practically no fat. I don’t know how satisfying they’d be, you might burn more calories opening all the wrappers than you’ll take in from the treats.
I expect they’ll start showing up in stores soon (they pretty much debuted at the All Candy Expo). If they came in large bags they could be fun Halloween treats. (You can buy a box of singles through their phone order system.)
Check out Sera’s review on Candy Addict.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
A couple of years ago I tried a Ferrara Pan product called Narbles. I didn’t care much for it, mostly because it didn’t capitalize on the unique properties of a Lemonhead (though it didn’t actually promise any Lemonhead properties).
I don’t know if Ferrara Pan has been reading my blog (they might have, because I was suddenly able to get mixed bags called the Fruit Headline) but they have a couple of new products: Chewy Lemonheads (and Friends) and Chewy Atomic Fireballs which were introduced at the All Candy Expo last week.
Lemonheads have been one of my favorite candies since I was a kid. They were staggeringly affordable (the larger boxes used to be 10 cents), came in a shareable portion, looked really cool, packed lots of flavor and of course the box turned into a noisemaker. (Sadly they don’t use that kind of box any longer).
The candy balls are beautiful. Slightly translucent (if you like to put your candy on your new LED flashlight on your keychain), they feel as dense as the original hard-candy-centered version, but will yield to pressure when squeezed (just like real lemons!).
It took me a while to get used to them. When I eat a Lemonhead I usually “peel” off the candy shell with my teeth to get to the layer or super sour. Since these are soft on the inside, it took me a while to develop a technique ... but it only took one box.
The outside flavor is just the same as the old Heads, the inside is a rather flavorless jelly ball ... pretty much like actual jelly bean. Come to think of it, these are simply round jelly beans with a sour layer in there. I took a few of them apart to examine the innards (sorry, no gory photos of that). Each was color coded very lightly. I was surprised to find that they were actually lightly flavored. Not super zippy, just mildly fragrant to continue the experience all the way to the core.
Of the five flavors the Orange and Lemon remained my favorites, but the Grape was actually more pleasing than I expected. Cherry and Green Apple just weren’t floating my candy boat, but with 3/5 of the mix as standout winners, I can eat a few cherries. I give them a 7 out of 10.
The Chewy Atomic Fireballs were the big surprise for me. First of all, there was no announcement from Ferrara Pan before the show that they were introducing them (press releases? we don’t need no stinkin’ press releases!). So when I went by their booth I though they were just showing off one of their most successful brands in huge bins at the corner. But looking closely ... chewy!
I took three boxes and opened one. They’re dark red and not easily confused with the Cherryheads.
This is quite a different experience because the traditional Atomic Fireball is a panned cinnamon jawbreaker with alternating sweet and spicy layers. The chewy Lemonhead was an easy shift for my brain, simply a chewy center instead of a hard one. This new Atomic Fireball is more Firehead than Atomic Fireball ... or perhaps Chewy Red Hot.
The outer shell is lightly cinnamon and sweet. If you keep sucking on it gets hotter (but not unbearably) until the candy shell dissipates to reveal the spicy mantle over the chewy jelly core. The core is soft and chewy (perhaps a little sticky) and has it’s own level of background cinnamon-ness. So while it’s not quite the same as the jawbreaker’s layered experience, it’s still layered with a sort of alternating strong and mild spice to it.
They’re far stronger than Hot Tamales (though may be similar to the Hot Tamales Fire). I give them an 8 out of 10.
As a smaller portion, I really like the 25 cent, one ounce box (hey, it’s 100 calories folks!). The Chewy Atomic Fireball is a real winner, but be prepared as it does have a real burn and you can’t take it out of your mouth like a Fireball. The Chewy Lemonheads don’t quite thrill me, but part of that is that it’s so hard to top the lemony singularity that is the Lemonhead. I’ll probably give them a few more tries. I think I want a box of just the lemon ones for a pure experience. I hope they’ll sell them that way.
No word on when they’ll make an appearance in stores. Please post if you’ve seen them.
Monday, August 27, 2007
As German candy makers go, in my mind Haribo is most associated with Gummi Bears and Katjes is most associated with Licorice.
So here are some Katjes products that are gummis ... I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about them, mostly since I’ve never felt the need to stray from my favorite brand (except of course in service of Candy Blog). But back at the beginning of the year I got an email though, from a reader name Charlene who suggested the Katjes Saure Ananas (Sour Pineapple) ... which sounds just like something I’d dig. Though GermanDeli.com carries them I usually just wanna hold the package in my hand, so I went off to Cost Plus after browsing their online ad and seeing that they had Katjes on sale at two packages for $4.00. While I never found the Saure line, I did find a few other items.
Tropen Fruchte sounded just my speed in the gummi department - based on the cognates and pictures on the wrapper, I decided these are Tropical Fruit. (Okay, okay, the back of the package had an English sticker that said Tropical Fruit Gummis.) What appealed to me most was the supposed grapefruit gummi that was to appear inside.
I’ve gotta give them credit, there’s no need to ponder what the flavor are (once you translate them) ... they’re molded into each and every one: Grapefruit, Tropika, Exotic, Mango, Kiwi and Passion Frucht.
Regardless of what the candies actually said, they all tasted rather the same. Oh sure, the tropika tasted a little more like pineapple than the exotic, which tasted a bit more like passion fruit, but I felt the passion and intensity lacking in all of them.
And of course the grapefruit could not rival my other best pal, the Haribo Pink Grapefruit Slice. Katjes was more of a mellow lemon with a little grapefruit zest in it.
The other item I picked up was the Katjes Yogurt Gums. I have no idea what I was thinking. It’s completely unlike me to ever get anything “yogurty.” As a dairy product, I think yogurt is fine but I don’t like it in other things or even the flavor of it in other things. It’s just a personal thing.
The flavors sounded interesting: Himbeere, Erdbeere, Birne, Heidelbeere, Zitrone and Kirsche.
When I first tried these I detested them. They were soft and felt rather like something for a baby.
However, after letting them sit in the bottom of my desk drawer, then being retired to “maybe someday when I’m feeling too lazy to take new photos I’ll review these” box I tried them again. No longer as soft, but oddly grainy like a pear is, I kind of dug them.
The flavor wasn’t terribly tangy in the “dairy gone bad” way, more in the natural tangy fruit way. The gums have real apple pulp in them, which is probably why the pear (birne) one tasted and felt so authentically pear-ish.
I can’t say that I feel like buying either of these again, but I’m pleased that they use no artificial colors and often have fruit pulp, natural flavors and fruit juices in the candies. But for now, I’m going to stick to their licorice or pounce on their sours when I finally find them.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
I’ve always loved Jujyfruits, but probably for the wrong reasons. I never particularly enjoyed eating them, but they’re stunning to look at.
What’s particularly odd about Jujyfruits is that they’re less fruit flavored and more vegetable-oriented: asparagus (which I always thought was a little corncob), banana (the one that says Heide), grapes, pea pod, pineapple, raspberry and tomato (which I thought was the bottom of a bell pepper or just a flower). The shapes, further, have nothing to do with the flavors and are randomized so that all shapes come in all flavors.
And the flavors? Lemon, Lime, Cherry, Orange and Licorice. (Kind of like Chuckles which are also made by Farley’s & Sathers now.)
At the end of the last millennium, a customer survey revealed that the original spearmint green Jujyfruit was not popular enough and was replaced with lime. I rather miss that ... I liked being able to get a licorice and a spearmint candy in one package. Jujyfruits are rather soft when fresh, though not quite as soft as Dots in my experience. They’re chewy and pretty flavorful, though lacking in any tangy notes, it’s all sweet. They’re sticky and can leave big hunks congealed to the sides of molars. I really like the licorice one, which has very nice anise notes and a very clean flavor.
Candy Wrapper Museum has a nice image of an earlier version of the Jujyfruits box, which I much prefer. The current box is rather, I don’t know, primitive looking. (Keep clicking around at the other old Heide products there at the CWM, quite fun to see they had a Good & Plenty knock-off called Hi-D-Ho that were also pink and white.)
A little more history: The Heide company that invented the Juju candies was started by Henry Heidi, a German immigrant in 1869. The company introduced Jujyfruits and Jujubes in 1920. Heide continued as a family run company after Henry Heide died and was then run by his son Andrew and his grandson Philip. But in 1995 they sold out to Hershey’s. Hershey’s then sold Heide (along with their other famous candies Red Hot Dollars and line of gummis) to Farley’s & Sather.
While the Jujyfruits have remained relatively unchanged over the years, the Jujubes have gone through some substantial changes.
According to the Food Network show Unwrapped, the difference between Jujubes and Jujyfruits is really only that Jujubes use Potato Starch instead of Corn Starch as their primary thickener. Add to that, Jujubes are “cured” longer, so they’re firmer.
When I was a kid, Jujubes were always hard as rocks and only a fool would try to chew them. (We were all fools back then. Of course the cool part was to soften them up enough to chomp down and glue your teeth together ... what fun!)
The Jujube that both the Jujyfruits and Jujubes are named after is a little tropical berry that really has nothing to do with the candy, it was probably just a romantic sounding name and in the early part of the last century many candies tried to adopt such exotic names. Both candies actually used something called Ju-Ju Gum at one time as an ingredient (it’s similar to many of the other vegetable gums like Gum Arabic, Acacia, Agar or Guar).
Today Jujubes are a little softer, kind of like stale Jujyfruits. They also have a bit more range in their flavors which are: Lemon (yellow), Violet (purple), Lilac (orange), Lime (green) and Cherry (red). So they’re basically little floral pastilles that are slightly soft. (Think of them like the Grether or Doolittle pastilles.)
I haven’t had them in years and was actually rather pleased with them. I don’t think I really need a box of 6.5 ounces, a little tin filled with an ounce or two might do me for a week. All of the flavors, even the fruity ones, are rather delicate and floral. I wish they did still make the spearmint ones (but it’s okay if there’s no rose in there, I think two flowers is enough).
They’re just lovely to look at and because of their durable and inert nature, I feel fine leaving them sitting out on my desk without worrying about anyone eating them or them getting any staler. If you do find them inedible, a fun craft project is to stick an ordinary sewing pin through them and use them as push pins!
Overall, neither are candy I’m likely to buy or consume, but it was fun to revisit them and I’m glad they’re still around and have their ardent admirers.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Dots are one of those candies that I see a lot at stores, but I rarely see anyone buying them or eating them.
Originally they were made by a company called Mason, who also made Black Crows (a licorice gumdrop). Black Crows were introduced in the 1890s, but Dots came along a bit later in 1945. What’s fun about Dots is that they’re gumdrops, but they don’t have that sugar sanding on them. The Mason company was sold to Tootsie in 1972, but some folks still call them Mason Dots (even the Tootsie site refers to them on their nutritional data page).
They’re sold in a few different sizes, the regular single sized box, a fun size (often in assortments of Tootsie products) and the “Movie Box”. I have to say that the movie box I picked up last week makes these look darn appealing. And taking the candies out of the box, I was pleased that they really do look like they do on the box.
Dots come in five flavors that are supposedly random in the box:
This box had a clear plastic overwrapper, so these were fresh. The Dots were soft and easy to chew. Of course they’re also kind of sticky, not in the way that threatens fillings, but big lumps will get stuck on the sides of my teeth. I’ve had my share of stale Dots and they’re really not a chewable food.
Overall, they’re a nice candy. They don’t really thrill me much, but I had these sitting on my desk for several days and did actually eat them. I don’t see myself buying them for any reason though. If you’re a Dot lover, please testify to their enduring greatness.
Each Dot has about 12 calories and no fat (it’s all sugar, baby).
There’s no gelatin in these (that’d make them gummis) so they’re suitable for vegetarians and vegans who eat white sugar.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:28 am
Thursday, July 12, 2007
I’ve been holding onto the news since January and the Fancy Food Show that Jelly Belly is coming out with a line of all natural jelly beans. This means no artificial colors, preservatives or flavors (the colors I know are a big concern with some parents and hyperactivity in their children). Jelly Belly is currently test-marketing the new beans on the west coast at Whole Foods. The new line includes ten flavors at the moment. I picked up a package of Tropical Fruit Blend Jelly Belly.
This blend has six flavors: banana, coconut, lemon, orange, pineapple and strawberry. The flavors are actually from real fruits (the ingredients list things like coconut flakes, banana puree, pineapple concentrate, etc.). The colors are created using natural colorings like annatto extract, cabbage juice and curcumin.
The standout flavors for me were banana, which tastes like a really ripe banana and pineapple, which has a nice tangy bite to it and then a smooth sweetness.
If I have a complaint it’s that the color combination made it nearly impossible for me to tell the beans apart. The pineapple was kind of a colorless bean as was the coconut and the lemon on the yellow side and then the orange was more of a light peach but I still got them confused in dim lighting situations. The unmistakable beans were strawberry (though I didn’t care much for the flavor on this one, it tasted a little canned and metallic) and banana (the mottled one).
If I were looking for this blend of flavors and I had a choice between the all natural and the regular ones, I’d absolutely go for the all natural. They taste great and I already get confused about the color keys for Jelly Belly anyway.
The package also says that Jelly Belly - All Natural are gluten free and Kosher. They do contain beeswax so may not be suitable for vegans.
For those of you who don’t get the JellyBelly.com newsletter, they’re running some pretty awesome sales in their outlet. For some bizarre reason they’re clearing out their Christopher’s Fruit Gems at insanely low prices ($2.99 for a box of 2 lbs unwrapped or $14.99 for 9 lbs in a basket of the individually wrapped ones). They also have something for licoricians (licorice-lovers) with their 15 ounce licorice assortment at only $9.99. And finally, for fans of games of chance, from now until Monday, July 23, 2007 or while supplies last, if you order 2-4 bags of Belly Flops you pay only 6.00 each. But if you order five or more bags, the price is slashed to only 5.00 per bag! (That’s $2.50 a pound for Jelly Belly, not gonna do better anywhere else.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.