Friday, March 30, 2007
After the review of Lifesavers Jelly Beans, I kept hearing that the SweeTart Jelly Beans were also very good. (Actually, readers have been telling me this for a year, but I was hoping to catch them on sale after Easter last year, but wasn’t so lucky.)
So I went out last night looking for them. Luckily they were on sale ($1.50 a bag instead of $2.29) at RiteAid. I carefully chose a bag that looked like it had lots of yellow ones in it (the others looked very pink).
Unlike the Lifesavers Jelly Beans that made up flavors to include in the bag, the SweeTart Jelly Beans stick to the regular SweeTart flavors: Grape, Cherry, Orange, Lemon, Green Apple and Blue Punch.
The colors are typical of an assortment of highlighter pens (well, the purple one just wasn’t photographing well, it’s much more lilac that the photo makes it appear). They’re matte and opaque. They’re also not terribly regular in size and shape, with the colors sometimes looking a little faded in spots and other little bloops of other colors in them.
These beans are different. They candy shell on them isn’t like any other jelly bean I’ve had. Instead of just being a flavored sugar shell, these feel different. They’re a little crumbly and a little cool on the tongue. The ingredients lists dextrose as one of the main ingredients. Dextrose is the same sugar used to make SweeTart and other compressed sugar candies.
It takes a little getting used to, because at first it feels like the bean is past its prime or something. But then I really started to enjoy cleaving off parts of the shell in my mouth before chewing the rest up. They’re kind of like Lemonheads in that respect, except not as sour. The jelly center isn’t really flavored, but does have a slight tang to it (yes, I managed to just nibble off the shell on a few of them). The jelly center is the same for all of them as far as I can tell (Jelly Belly uses specific flavored centers for their beans, which is one of the reasons they’re so flavorful).
I really liked the orange and lemon, but found the grape to be a huge disappointment. It was completely missing that “malic acid” flavor of the grape SweeTart. The green apple also seemed a little weird, just not quite complete. The blue punch was much better than I expected and of course the cherry was just bitter to me. Though all of them are a bit tart, they’re not really sour like a SweeTart is. I can say from experience here that there’s no tongue damage from eating a third of a bag for breakfast (which there definitely would be with the regular chalky SweeTart).
I’m not as fond of these as I’d hoped, so they’re not going to knock the Lifesavers Jelly Beans off the current favored spot for the special Easter jelly beans. Part of it is the lack of visual appeal, they just look old. I also wanted them to be more tart. But I have to give them props for making me eat my jelly beans in a different way. I still have another bag of the SweeTart Ducks, Chicks & Bunnies (I finally found them at Walgreen’s) ... it’s gonna take a big candy innovation for something else from SweeTart to knock them off the top spot.
Monday, March 26, 2007
I thought I was done with the series of Easter candy, but then I remembered that I had these organic treats that I picked up at Show West.
Surf Sweets is a line of organic candies made by Santa Cruz Nutritionals. No artificial colors, no artificial sweeteners, non-GMO and gluten free but they look and taste just like mass-consumer brands.
The treats I’m sampling are their Jelly Beans, Fruity Bears and Gummy Bears. Since their colors are natural, they look a little more muted than many other candies, but still very pleasant and sparkly. Surf Sweets are also fortified with vitamin C (though it takes half a package to get a full day’s supply).
The jelly beans started off with a bang when I picked up the light yellow one and found it to be a tasty grapefruit. The beans are about the size of Jelly Belly, but a little less regular in shape. The shell was a little more grainy than many other jelly beans I’ve had lately, but very fruity with a good balance of sweet and tart. The other flavors, as far as I could tell were: Lemon, Orange, Cherry (no bitter aftertaste!) and Strawberry.
These are marked Vegetarian on the package, using fruit pectin as the gelling agent. They do have beeswax on them so some vegans may find them objectionable.
The little sugar sanded bears are very cute. They seem to come in the same flavor set as the jelly beans: Grapefruit, Lemon, Orange, Cherry & Strawberry.
I liked these a lot. I liked them a lot more than the jelly beans because the flavor was in the jelly, not in the sugary coating. The citrus flavors were my favorite.
These are also marked vegetarian but contain beeswax.
The Gummy Bears honestly looked no different than any other gummi. The little bear shapes were rather like the Trolli with their well definted paws and eyes. The gummi texture was bouncy with excellent well rounded flavor - good sweetness, good fruit and good tart. The flavors themselves were a little muddier in their distinctiveness. There was a berry, lemon and orange. There may have been two berry flavors, the colors weren’t that different and neither were the flavors.
These were not vegetarian because of the presence of gelatin and not completely organic.
I found them online for $1.75 a bag, which is about $10 a pound ... a bit more than Jelly Bellies and other gourmet sugar candies. If you’re looking for a slightly more wholesome candy for your kids (especially for their Easter basket) that doesn’t look like a compromise to them (unless they’re reading the packages), this is a great option. The flavor and eating experience is exactly the same - so your kids won’t feel like they’re getting a compromise candy. Let’s face it, part of the appeal of candy to kids is the look of it, and these gummi bears, in the palm of your hand, look like gummi bears. They won’t miss the artificial colors.
Monday, March 19, 2007
I found a great new candy store over the weekend. At the suggestion of a reader (thannks Jenny!) I journeyed to City of Commerce to visit Garvey Nut & Candy. It’s a warehouse, mostly wholesale, but they also sell retail. The bulk (and I mean bulk) of their products are sold in full cases, but it’s cash & carry, so no shipping costs incurred.
They had a small selection of items that were sold from open boxes. Just about all of it was from their Easter inventory. At FANTASTIC prices. One of the finds was the Jelly Belly Deluxe Easter Mix ... at $2.35 for a 9 ounce bag, it’s unheard of. The Jelly Belly online sells the same bag for $4.99 (in a prettier store, I’ll admit). If you’re planning a big party or wedding and live in the LA area, this might be just the place for you. High end chocolates and mints to bulk wrapped candies to nuts and nut mixes. For the Easter goodies they had the large packages of Peeps of all kinds for 99 cents, jelly beans (all sorts of Jelly Belly seasonal products), deluxe chocolate eggs (fudge, peanut butter, vanilla), baskets, tins and foil eggs by the kilo (some by Madelaine, which are quite tasty).
You may have to ask them for prices on many items and you may need help finding things. (Their website isn’t very good, so don’t bother.) They have funky hours too: 8AM - 4:30PM on weekdays and Saturday 9-2 (until Easter, then they’re closed on Saturdays until August). I’ll probably head back down there for a look at their Halloween goodies in the fall.
Garvey Nut & Candy
Okay, enough of that, you came here for some candy, didn’t you?
The Deluxe Easter Mix contains assorted pastel Jelly Bellys, bunny corn, mellocremes, gummi eggs and malted chocolate eggs. (It’s also supposed to contain chocolate eggs, but I picked through the bags to find one that had more malted eggs ... which I promptly ate. If you want a full account of them, check out Sera’s review at Candy Addict.)
The bulk of the mix seemed to be populated by these friendly fellows: Mellocremes. (Click on the photo for the full shape assortment.)
They’re flavored lightly: grape, lemon, lime, strawberry and vanilla. The flavors are light (especially light for a company that built itself on extra flavor). I didn’t care for lime at all, but the lemon and strawberry were quite nice. I don’t know which color was supposed to be vanilla (maybe there are white ones, I didn’t have any in my mix).
This is the Bunny Corn, and it’s pretty much the same recipe as the Mellocreme but a different shape. They tend to be a little firmer and as you might guess, they’re just like Candy Corn. They’re not flavored.
If the Mellocremes in white taste like this, I might be more fond of them. I rather like candy corn, in small doses.
There are only two colors on these, which seemed a little skimpy. Candy Corn usually has three colors (orange, yellow and white). But I guess Bunnies travel light.
The Jelly Belly website calls these Orange Creme Non-Pareil Eggs, which doesn’t really sound like much fun. So I’m going to call them Crunchy Gummi Eggs. They’re super-cute, with pastel colored crunchy spheres (non-pareils) on the outside and a tangy orange gummi on the inside. They’re larger than a jelly bean, about the size of a foil wrapped chocolate egg that you can often find in Easter baskets.
They’re much like the Crunchy Bears I reviewed a while back, except these only come in orange, which is fine by me. The gummi is super-soft and the crunchy coating gives it some fun ... it’s the crunchiest thing in the bag. Jelly Belly also makes a slightly related product with the Champagne Bubbles and Berries.
There were also some Jelly Belly scattered in, they came in Berry Blue, Cantaloupe, Cotton Candy, Island Punch, Lemon, Lemon Lime, Pi?a Colada, Pink Grapefruit, and looked oh-so-coordinated with everything else. (I picked out all the pink grapefruit while shooting the photos.)
Overall the mix was very pretty, and attractiveness is important with holiday candy. But I wasn’t really that keen on some of the elements (the Mellocremes, especially). It was a good introduction to the whole line of Easter treats, so now I know what to buy in a solo bag - the Orange Creme Non-Pareil Eggs. At normal mortal prices of $4.99 a bag, I’m not that wild about the whole shebang (so they get a 6 out of 10) as a sub-$2.50 find, they’re a 7 out of 10.
I’ve been rather peeved with Lifesavers for a few years. In fact, you might even call my rant about the Five Roll flavors changing my first Candy Blog post.
But if I was complaining before that the five flavor roll changed to accommodate new flavors, I should be pleased that the Lifesavers Jellybeans actually have all my favorite flavors (well, no tangerine, but orange will do nicely). My other pet peeve is that the colors on their logo no longer match the flavors. If you look at the package it lists the flavors on a different color stripe, but the color of the stripe doesn’t match the flavor. Oh well.
The Lifesavers Jelly Beans are about the size of Jelly Belly, but a little fatter around the middle. The colors are bold and appealing and the quality control was very good - the beans were very consistent.
Grape - has tones of both fake grape and a little smidge of concord in there, just like grape soda.
Overall, with only two flavors I didn’t much care for (cherry & peach), this is an excellent assortment. They’re not quite Jelly Belly (which pack flavor through and through), but for a fraction of the price they’re admirable. I actually liked them much better than the Starburst ones I tried last year. There’s another pastel mix of flavors as well: Red Raspberry, Mango Medley, Cotton Candy, Watermelon, Blueberry, Pina Colada, Strawberry-Kiwi, and Banana which also sounds pretty tasty. (I’ll probably give those a try if they’re sitting around after Easter on sale.)
Monday, January 22, 2007
I’ve seen these bars around, usually in big cities, usually in Kosher delis or Jewish neighborhoods. I’ve had Joyva’s products before, but always the halvah. The Joyva Joys is a long, flat and rather solid jelly bar covered in a thin shell of dark chocolate.
The jelly has a very strong floral scent and is raspberry flavored. It’s mostly sweet with a light tart bite to it. The jelly itself is medium pink, which I thought a little odd because the only way you’d know that is if you nibbled off the chocolate. For some reason I figured they colored it, but maybe not.
The chocolate is not terribly interesting, but I rather liked how it took a back seat to the jelly.
I enjoyed the bar for the most part. It wasn’t terribly sweet and it was different. The jelly was firmer and less sticky than something like a Chuckle or a Sunkist Fruit Gem - more like Jell-O. But Raspberry isn’t really my favorite flavor combo with chocolate. I think I’d enjoy an orange bar better, but I have no clue if Joyva makes an orange jelly. I get the sense that jelly candies like this are for old people or maybe I just think that because I’ve never seen anyone eating them. They’re probably a good candy to eat if you’re on a diet and want something chocolate, but not all that fat. They’ve got a pretty low caloric density for a candy with chocolate in it.
Note: Joyva Joys are thickened with agar-agar (made from seaweed), so they’re appropriate not only for those who keep Kosher, but also vegans (who don’t mind a little sugar), however, they are not Kosher for Passover as they contain corn syrup.
Friday, January 5, 2007
Here’s a strange product line from Hershey’s in the Philippines. They’re called Mallow Blast and are described thusly on the package:
I’ve tried other Asian marshmallows before with a fruity filling in them, but this was a first to have them dipped in chocolate.
The Grape Mallow Blast packaging was certainly fun looking. The overall package is a pack with five individually wrapped pieces. Mine were slightly smashed but otherwise unharmed by their journey.
The grape ones smell very strongly of grape jelly and no hint at all of chocolate. The little twist of marshmallow is about as big as my big toe, but with a fruity filling (my toes might be filled with fruit, I’ve never checked). The marshmallow is springy and not terribly sweet. The jelly center is firm and tangy and of course grapey.
The Orange Mallow Blast smelled more of chocolate. The orange inside was actually pretty nice. A bit on the artificial side, but with a balance of zest and tang to it. The chocolate was crumbly and not terribly creamy, but all things considered, it was tasty enough for me to finish off the package of five.
Of course it’s not real chocolate on the outside, but I guess the labeling restrictions are different for other countries. The package clearly calls it Hershey’s Milk Chocolate, but the only “chocolate” in there are some milk solids and cocoa powder much later on the list after the number three ingredient, hydrogenated palm kernel oil. That said, they’d probably make a good treat for dieters, as they’re rather satisfying but not that dense in fat calories (6 of them have 3 grams of fat and 150 calories).
I could see these being popular in the States. The way that they’re packaged though makes it easy for them to get crushed, so they’d probably have to place them in a little tray with sides or something to prevent that.
The Mallow Blasts are certified Hallal.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
I have my favorite candies, and I’ve been pretty faithful to them over the years. But there’s always this longing to experience new candies and how different cultures, countries and regions express their love of sweets. That’s part of the reason for Candy Blog, to help everyone overcome that fear of the new and different and embrace the new and different.
This is a story about my first “exotic” candy.
Sometime when I was a kid in grade school I was given Botan Rice Candy. I know I’d been exposed to foreign candy already (Torrones, Toblerone & other European chocolates), but this one was exotic because of the pictures on the box and that it had no associations with a holiday at all. It’s possible I had it at school as an observance of Lunar New Year, or just a show & tell from another child whose parents bought a box for them to bring into class. It came in a simple little box that’s pretty much unchanged today. At one end of the box was a little compartment that contained a little toy, like you would also get in Cracker Jacks back in the day. In the other 3/4 of the box were little cellophane wrapped jelly candies.
Things have changed a little since then. There is no longer a little toy in the box, but now a “Free Children’s Sticker” instead. But I guess this leaves more room for candy.
The candies are little cubes of jelly with a mild orange/lemon flavor wrapped twice. Though it seems like it’s not that different from those sugar encrusted jelly orange slices, these are less flashy. And this is what’s important about the Botan Rice Candy - the inner wrapper is edible. It looks like a slightly clouded cellophane, but it’s really made from rice and will dissolve in your mouth. (I was also fascinated with this ‘edible’ packaging in the classic Torrone as well, which have a starch wafer to keep them from sticking.)
What could be better for a kid looking to expand her horizons? A candy you could show to your friends and freak them out when you eat the plastic wrap plus a little toy!
Sometimes I like to pick the inner wrapper off as completely as I can. For no real reason of course. It’s not like it’s tasty. It’s kind of gooey, starts sticky and then becomes slippery on the tongue. Later when I had sake for the first time, it reminded me of yeasty rice candy wrappers. (Not really in a good way either, I don’t care for sake at all.)
As a candy, Botan Rice Candy is okay. It’s sweet and mild, though a little sticky sometimes. It has some of the barley sugar or millet jelly taste that I like, but the real appeal has to be the edible wrapper. There’s not much in the box either, at 3/4 of an ounce, there are only six pieces in there. With import costs, it’s usually about a dollar a box, even down in Chinatown where everything is cheap.
I went poking around the ‘net to see what else is out there and found another brand that also features the rice wrapper but looks like it could be of higher quality.
So, what was your first experience with Botan Rice Candy?
UPDATE: Several folks have mentioned White Rabbit in the comments since it also has an edible inner wrapper, here’s my review on that.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
You may not have caught the news recently that Ben Meyerson Candy Company was purchased by Jelly Belly. They aren’t known for much in the chocolate realm except for Christopher’s Big Cherry and in the sugar world, the Sunkist Fruit Gems.
I came across the Fruit Gems at Rite Aid and thought I should give them a go again. I used to buy them from Trader Joe’s in little tubs, but then I discovered the chocolate covered nuts and never went back. I figure the Gems are a bit like the West Coast version of Chuckles. But really they’re not. Chuckles are all essence and no juicy tang. When you’re branding something with the Sunkist name, I’m expecting a tangy juice.
What’s really interesting about these is how they differ from other jellies covered with sugar. Instead of having a rough outer coating, these are practically smooth, with the sugar mushed against the jelly center. They don’t sparkle quite as much, but then again there’s no little bits of sugar left in the package or crumbling off when you bite into them like you might get with Spearmint Leaves or Orange Slices.
Orange - it is tangy, nice rounded orange flavor. Not terribly vivid, more like pleasant.
Cherry - very cherry, kind of medicinal tasting. There was a long-lasting aftertaste with severe bitter notes. (Oddly enough, the package makes no mention of Cherry on the package, just a list of the other flavors.)
Lemon - mmm, zesty and tart and smooth. I love lemon.
Grapefruit - not that strong and with a slight bitter note that makes it believable.
Lime - yeah, lime.
Raspberry - floral with only the slightest sour bite. Again, it had a little bitter aftertaste, like the color red.
Jelly Belly will start making these soon, I’m not sure if they’re going to leave them alone or not. Jelly Belly has its own line of fabulous Fruit Pectin Jellies that I was blown away by last year. The Jelly Belly jellies are vegan (they use beet sugar instead of cane sugar), so it’s possible that Sunkist Fruit Gems will also become vegan as well (it’s hard to know whether they are or not right now).
My biggest complaint with these is that like Lifesavers, there is no variation in what you get in the pack. Starbursts and SweeTarts are variable, so you might get a lemon-heavy pack. And with the little see-through package, I might be more likely to pick up a citrus-heavy package. As it is, there are only three flavors I really liked here (orange, lemon and grapefruit), so I’ll probably continue to pass on these. Unless I see them in the tub at Trader Joe’s and it’s all citrus!
UPDATE 9/2/2008: An alert reader let me know that the little “single serve” trays are back on store shelves with the Jelly Belly logo on them, but instead of holding six fruit jellies, they now only have four.
Worst part of this news? The grapefruit one was missing. (What is it about grapefruit disappearing lately? Is it because of the news that grapefruit juice interacts with some prescription drugs?) This is not to say that the Sunkist Fruit Gems don’t come in grapefruit any longer, just not in this particular package.
Seeing how Sunkist is known as a citrus company, the fact that they made an assortment the neglects one of the citrus fruits and includes a berry is beyond me. The package is also similar to the old one and actually includes images of grapefruit (though the text clearly says which flavors are in the package).
The change in manufacturing location and ownership, as far as I’ve been able to tell, has made no difference at all for the actual candy. It’s still a nice, soft and flavorful fruit jelly without too much of a granulated sugar coating.
The only real difference here is that you get only 2/3 as much as you used to. I was hoping when Jelly Belly took over that they’d sell the jellies in individual flavors like they do with their famous jelly beans. No such luck yet. (For now whenever I see the Jelly Belly booth at a trade show I pick a half a dozen grapefruit jellies out of their sample bin and move along.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.