Monday, December 6, 2010
Jelly Belly is always innovating new flavors for their intensely flavored and tiny gourmet jelly beans. Recent introductions have been based on soda pop flavors, Cold Stone Creamery ice cream and cocktails. Other innovations have been in flavors with additional fortifications like the Sport Beans and antioxidant mix.
My favorites have always been pretty simple, the Citrus Mix and root beer.
The new Jelly Belly Jelly Bean Chocolate Dips are something a little different from the usual flavor variations. These are genuine Jelly Belly beans dipped in dark chocolate. They come in five flavors: Very Cherry, Orange, Raspberry, Coconut and Strawberry.
The flavors are either sold separately in bags or in a 4.15 ounce box like this that has a divided tray that labels the flavors.
As you can imagine, once the beans are covered in chocolate, it’s nearly impossible to tell which flavor is which. (I spilled mine after a few days and was then playing bean roulette.)
The first thing I have to say is that I was surprised at how small these were. They looked (and are) the exact same size as the regular Jelly Belly. How is that possible? Covering a regular Jelly Belly in even the thinnest sheath of chocolate would still make it bigger than a regular Jelly Belly. It turns out that the secret here is that the chocolate coating replaces the jelly bean’s shell. A jelly bean is made up of a jelly center and then a smoothly polished but grainy sugar shell. This is usually where most of the flavor is in traditional jelly beans, but Jelly Belly have flavored centers and shells. So how would this affect the Dips?
They smell sweet and a little like cocoa. The beans are tiny and a little slippery. The chocolate coating isn’t very strong or even very thick, but it’s glossy and has a decent cocoa flavor and smooth melt.
Very Cherry is just that. If there was one bean here that I might be able to pick out without a label, it’d be the very cherry. It’s very. The center is fragrant and intense and not too sweet. The texture of the jelly center is smooth and chewy, but with no hint of the grain that a regular jelly bean has.
Coconut is one flavor I’m glad that was included (banana would be another suggestion). It has a clean, tropical flavor and I can almost imagine the chewy coconut. But the fact that it’s only flavored coconut leaves it a bit thin in the end. The coconut bean goes well with most of the other flavors (not really the cherry).
Strawberry is sweet and floral, light and the least intense of the set.
Raspberry has a good, well rounded flavor, no tartness but a lot of jam and boiled berry notes. It’s very realistic but also very sweet.
Orange was oddly disappointing because it was so intense. There was a lot of zest and orange oil in the center, so much that it burned after a while and left a weird film in my mouth. I ended up avoiding them.
At first I didn’t like these much. The lack of the shell meant that they were lacking an essential element that makes them jelly beans. They were soft and jelly like but chewing them was more sticky than a plain jelly bean. Eventually they grew on me though, the texture combinations are unique enough to make these more than a passing fancy. They’re far more successful than Jelly Belly’s previous chocolate attempt with the JBz (think flavored M&Ms).
I can think of a lot of other flavors that would go well, such as banana, toasted marshmallow, licorice, cinnamon and peppermint. This particular box is expensive, at $6 for 4.15 ounces, but the single flavor pound packages on the website are only $9.99 a pound (my guess is that even though chocolate is more expensive than sugar, coating the jelly center in plain chocolate is much less labor intensive than making the high quality sugar shells & then printing them with the Jelly Belly logo).
The beans are not vegan (confectioners glaze plus milk in the chocolate) and there’s no statement on the package about their nut, gluten, egg and peanut status. (Contains soy, milk.) Though there are some artificial flavors in there, they do not have any artificial colors.
Jelly Belly has gone through a lot of brand extensions over the years beyond the flavor combinations of the actual jelly beans.
Jelly Belly Bubble Gum (not made by Jelly Belly)
Friday, October 29, 2010
The Lemonheads line is quite varied now, Ferrara Pan has gone beyond the single flavor boxes (lemon, orange, cherry, grape and green apple) and includes more of these flavored mixes including the Chewy Lemonheads & Friends and last year’s introduction, Tropical Chewy Lemonheads.
The box features anthropomorphic versions of the flavors, Cherry Lemon, Wild Berry, Blue Raspberry, Strawberry and Red Raspberry on stage as if they’re a rock band. Strawberry is a torch singer and Raspberry has drum sticks but no drums.
The pieces are attractive, they’re little spheres, slightly larger than garden peas. They’re slightly irregular but boldly colored and uniformly shiny.
Red Raspberry (dark red) has a nice tartness and even a slight dry finish, a mix of floral berry notes with less of the artificial coloring bitterness.
Strawberry (lighter red) is sweet with a light tangy note under the grainy shell. It’s not a very well rounded flavor and has a bit of a bitter note for me because of the artificial colorings.
Blue Raspberry (blue) is very woodsy and strangely chemical at the same time. There’s a floral raspberry flavor but also something kind of like artificial watermelon in there.
Wild Berry (dark purple) has a lot of flavors going on but is mostly a punch flavor, some cherry and raspberry is evident and maybe a little blueberry note in there. Not at all sour.
Cherry Lemon (medium red) was actually really good but strange. The lemon had a strong zest component but not much tang. The cherry was sweet and almost floral. It was definitely not the ordinary sour cherry flavored candy (and nothing like the Cherry Chewy Lemonhead).
The good thing about the mix is that it’s easy to just eat them without looking at the colors because the flavors aren’t that distinctive and never clash. The bad thing is that the flavors aren’t that distinctive and are so mild to the point that all of the best things about Lemonheads (the intense flavor difference between the shell and center) are lost.
I’ll stick to the classic, hard centered Lemonheads, but the Chewy Lemonhead & Friends are pretty good too, so good that I’m giving them out for Halloween as the non-chocolate option.
They’re not vegetarian/vegan because of the presence of confectioners glaze. They’re also manufactured in a facility that also processes peanuts, tree nuts, milk and soy. No mention of wheat. Not Kosher.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
After my review of Goody Good Stuff Sweet & Sour Mix & Match the company offered to send me updated samples. The Mix & Match I had was from an early batch of samples and didn’t have the final packaging. The hook with Good Good Stuff’s candy is that it’s free of many allergens and made with all natural colors and flavors. But the most interesting part of all this is that their “gummies” are completely vegetarian because they don’t use gelatin.
Instead Goody Good Stuff uses a combination of gelling agents (polysaccharides) such as carrageenan (from seaweed) and gellan (from bacteria). Traditional (true) gummis use gelatin, which is a protein. Though they all look the same in the finished product, the texture and behavior can be quite different.
So, the Goody Good Stuff Koala Gummy Bears are jelly candies. That’s cool. But wait a second, do they look like Koalas to you? Not to me. The ears are too small, the nose is all wrong. Most importantly these “koalas” have belly buttons. Koalas are marsupials (non-placental) and do not have belly buttons while bears are mammals and do have navels. They look like standard generic ursids.
But that doesn’t mean that this can’t be good candy. (Lots of candies are named incongruously, starting with Circus Peanuts.)
The Goody Good Stuff Bears come in five flavors/colors. The main difference between these and a traditional gummi is the texture. The Goody Good Stuff Bears are soft and chewy, but they’re more on the jelly side than the gelatinous side. When you take a regular gummi bear and pull it apart, eventually it will break - pull it long enough and it will simply snap, usually leaving clean edges and right angles. Pull a Goody Good Stuff Bear apart and it will stretch and stretch until it’s tiny little, sticky jelly strands. In the mouth the chew is similar until the dissolve comes, the Goody Good Stuff Bears dissolve into a bit of a sticky puddle. They remind me a little like okra mucilage ... in a good way.
The flavors are perfectly gummi-like:
Orange - good mix of zest and juicy tartness.
Strawberry - sweet and fragrant with a mild jammy flavor and light tangy note.
Lemon - strong lemon peel and oil flavors without as much of a tart bite as others.
Green Apple - very mild with notes of both apple juice and that unnatural “green apple” flavor. Bland but pleasant.
Pineapple - bold and floral with a little an authentic pineapple sizzle behind it all.
Though the flavors are not as intense as some other gummis, such as the ones from Japan, these are nicely flavored. The candies are well made, even though they’re all naturally flavored and colored, they’re vibrant looking and each tastes distinctive. They’re mainstream looking and tasting, I don’t think kids would know the difference.
The candies are made without any animal products (no gelatin, no insect-derived colors), however they do use a touch of beeswax so they can’t be considered vegan. They’re nut free, dairy free, gluten free, soy free and peanut free. They’re not easy to find in the US yet, but I expect that to change because of this important vegetarian distinction.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
The pineapple is a symbol of hospitality. Back in the early days of commercial cultivation in the eighteenth century they were extremely expensive, so when a host provided pineapple as part of a meal, guests were honored. Eventually the images of pineapples were also used in decorating, probably because of the tastiness of the fruit as well as the fun shape and symmetry. I mention this because of the charming image on the Hello Kitty Tropical Pineapple Marshmallow is of the white cat holding a pineapple, dressed in a sharp polka dotted blue dress and sporting a blue hibiscus flower at her ear.
Japan does marvelous things with marshmallow, I feel like they’re an extension of their gummi culture (after all, most of the ingredients are the same). Part of it, I think, is that marshmallows are formulated & marketed for people of all ages. Hello Kitty is obviously aimed at tweens and folks who are young at heart. But other varieties of marshmallows go for anime fans and there are even “beauty marshmallows” in Japan that purport to have rejuvenating collagen in them.
The marshmallows are light and about 1.25 inches around. They have little pinch points on the ends so they remind me of little sausages of balloons. The outside is soft and lightly powdery (corn starch).
The smell sweet and lightly floral, like a ripe pineapple in the store. The marshmallow texture is soft and latexy with a light bounce.
Biting into them I know that the center was going to have a little jelly reservoir. It was still surprising and ultimately nice. The marshmallow itself is sweet and has that pineapple floral thing going on, but the jam center definitely gave it some pop. The goo was a bit like the pineapple sauce on an ice cream sundae. It was sweet and tangy and had little bits of real pineapple in it.
After popping a few of them, I wondered what they were like toasted.
The aroma was amazing, I like toasted marshmallows, but this had an added flowery note that really smelled delicious. The outside toasted well, though the jam center didn’t get quite as molten gooey as I hoped. The toasting seemed to make it all a bit sweeter than it was at room temperature. They might make an excellent addition to a S’more - though the Strawberry version is probably a bit better flavor-wise.
As far as marshmallows go, I prefer them either covered in chocolate and used as an element in a larger candy (Scotchmallows) but my second choice is flavored. The jam center gives some texture variation and reminds me of a Westernized mochi. For someone who’s watching their weight or wants to give a small treat to a kid, marshmallows fit the bill - they’re low in calories plus there’s a lot of air in there. So you could eat the whole bag and it’s only 300 calories. (The other plus is there are no artificial colors in this version - though they do use artificial flavors but mostly real pineapple.) The whole Hello Kitty thing is really just about the packaging, but in this case I think the choice of licensing was at least with a quality product. I picked these up at a market in Little Tokyo, but I’ve seen the Strawberry ones at Cost Plus World Market.
Monday, July 19, 2010
It’s not hard to find candy that’s colorful and flavorful, but what makes it harder is when you want it to be all natural, free of the major allergens (wheat, soy, dairy, nuts) and vegan. So Goody Good Stuff is here to fill that hole in your life.
I picked up this sample of their Sour Mix & Match at some trade show and have been hanging onto it until it hit the stores.
Now here’s the thing, their marketing says that these are vegan gummis. Instead of gelatin, which is made from pigs, cows or fish, Goody Good Stuff is using a new gelling agent called gellan. (I first noticed the ingredient in Halal Mentos.) Gellan is made from bacteria, not vertebrates. It sounds like a great idea, however in practice gellan is closer to agar (that jelly stuff in petri dishes) that’s made from seaweed than gelatin. Gelatin is a protein; gellan is polysaccharide. They’re simply different, they do different things and behave in different ways.
At first glance jelly candies and gummis look very similar, but they don’t behave the same way. Gummis tear sharply - you can pull a gummi apart and it will make flat edges where it breaks. Pull apart a jelly and it just, well, pulls. It doesn’t bounce, though sometimes it might jiggle nicely. The great thing is that both carry fruit flavors really well, they create a smooth texture and often a glass-like appearance.
So with all that chemistry aside, I’ve got a handful of candy to taste. There are quite a few different pieces in this mix and match, but I could only review three versions because I needed at least three tries to taste the flavors. They’re like little bulbous, rounded planks - about an inch and a half long.
Without any clue as to what the flavors are supposed to be, and that these are British (which is always a little different in the fruity flavors), I can only describe what I’ve got.
Green & Peach - it tastes like peach. Both ends taste the same as far as I’m concerned, but there’s a weird “ketchup” note to it that I find a little disturbing. The peach is tangy and light with a good sour bite at the start. The jelly center is smooth and doesn’t stick too much.
Red & Yellow - tastes like strawberry lemonade. The lemon is strong, sour and zesty with a slight floral note I attribute to strawberry.
Orange & Blue - is shocking. The blue is amazing for a natural product. It’s zesty and well rounded and tastes mostly like grapefruit but maybe with some pineapple thrown in.
For those who were curious, here’s what’s inside:
These look and taste like there is no compromise. The colors are intense and I’d say kind of unnatural looking. The shape is fun and easy to grasp. They’re not messy at all, the sugar crust stays on so well there were scarcely ten grains in the bottom of the bag of these I had. They’re sour, but not that searing kind that’s likely to create blisters on the tongue after a serving.
I feel like kids or grown ups who have had true gummis before may be disappointed with the texture based on my expectations.
They also make a few other products that I’m quite eager to try: Strawberry and Cream, Cola Breeze, Sour Fruit Salad, Tropical Fruit, Koala Gummy Bears while the ones that I found less interesting were Summer Peaches and Cheery Cherries. These should be available in Stop & Shop on the East Coast and Booths and ASDA in the UK.
Friday, July 16, 2010
One of the most popular new items at the Sweets & Snacks Expo was Jelly Belly’s Cocktail Classics mix.
The five flavor mix reminds us that It’s five o’clock somewhere (and has trademarked the phrase, to boot). They’re based on popular fruity cocktails: Pina Colada, Strawberry Daiquiri, Mojito, Peach Bellini and Pomegranate Cosmo. They’re non-alcoholic and available in a variety of packages like 9 ounce bags, 1 pound tubs (best value) and this gift box that actually guarantees that you get the same amount of each flavor.
Pina Colada - a Pina Colada is a fruity tropical blend of strained pineapple and coconut cream along with rum.
Strawberry Daiquiri - a plain daiquiri is rum, lime juice and sugar (served over ice or chilled). Later it became a slush drink or frozen daiquiri. A strawberry version varies and can be the frozen variety with just a few strawberries thrown into the blender but sometimes strawberry liqueur is added.
Mojito - this drink has become very popular lately, it’s a mix of white rum, sugar (preferably cane juice), lime, seltzer water and muddled mint.
Peach Bellini - is a mix of peach puree and sparkling wine.
Pomegranate Cosmo - Cosmo is short for the original name of the Cosmopolitan cocktail. It’s a mix of vodka, Triple Sec (orange), cranberry juice and lime juice. I’m guessing the pomegranate version just subs out the cranberry juice for pomegranate juice.
As with most Jelly Belly flavor mixes, I love the quality of the jelly beans themselves. In this instance there were really only two I cared to eat, the Pomegranate Cosmo and Pina Colada, but given dozen of other great flavors that Jelly Belly makes, I’d still stick with the citrus mix. For me, it wouldn’t make sense to buy this mix. As a theme it’s fun and certainly pretty. The value for the box shown here is pretty bad - it’s 4.5 ounces and costs $5.99 on the Jelly Belly website - that’s over $21 a pound. So if you’ve got to have these, get them in the tub or bulk.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Sometimes I look at photos of the markets in Turkey, with stalls piled high with different kinds of lokum (also called Turkish Delight, locum or lokumi - I’ll just call it locum for this review) and wish that places like that existed a bit closer to me.
But it turns out that they do. No, they don’t sell in big open air markets. Los Angeles has its own classic locumist (is that a word?) called Nory Rahat Locum. In 1964 a Romanian-Armenian confectioner named Norayr settled in Hollywood and started making classic locum using his family’s 100 year-old recipes. Norayr retired and sold the company to the Jibilians in 1979, who in turn sold it to Sahakians last year when they retired.
They’re dedicated to making a local product, right down to the citrus flavors and nuts in it, the boxes for packaging. The only non-American content is the mastic used for the Mastica flavor, imported from one of the few sources, the island of Chios in Greece.
Locum is made from simple ingredients: sugar, water, starch and perhaps corn syrup and citric acid, some nuts, flavorings and colors. It’s rather like a dairy-free pudding. The mixture is boiled until the starch combines completely with the liquid and sugars to form a silky smooth paste. Then it’s poured and cooled in a shallow baking pan until it’s ready to be cut into squares. The traditional method of storing and serving involves tossing the cubes with a mixture of confectioners sugar and corn starch to keep them from sticking.
Nory Rahat Locum makes a huge variety of Locum products. They have the traditional rosewater, mint and orange as well as the nut versions including pistachio, almond, hazelnut and walnut. But what caught my eye were flavors like Bergamot, Licorice and Mastica.
I don’t know much about Mastic (or in this case Mastica). I looked it up of course, since the whole point of Candy Blog is to explore new flavors. I know that it’s a natural plant resin that can be chewed like chicle. You might even recognize it as the root of the word masticate (to chew). The mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus) is part of the Cashew family and is closely related to the Pistachio. I’ve had mastic gum before, I picked up some samples at some trade show along the way and it like the name implies, it’s like chewing on tree sap when you get it in its pure form. (Still stimulating and fresh-tasting, if a little hard to chew after a while.)
The idea of using mastic as a flavoring was new to me, even though the internet tells me it’s a classic confectionery flavor in the Middle East and Mediterranean.
The pieces appear uncolored, just a pale yellow. The texture is smooth and moist, with an easy bite.
The flavor is lightly woodsy, a little earthy. It reminds me of ginseng gum. A cross between tongue depressors, rosemary with a slight whiff of golden beets. At times it reminded me of office supplies, like Scotch tape, envelope adhesive and laser printers. There’s a fresh, slightly jasmine aftertaste. I know this all sounds unappealing but it’s soothing and comforting, like the smell of rain.
8 out of 10
Mint was bright green on the inside, like a traffic signal. This was some powerful peppermint. Probably too minty for me. It was smooth and had an excellent texture, the mint was so strong that it had a bit of a warm sensation for me but it did cut the sweetness. 7 out of 10
Rose - flowery and a bit like honey but without the over soapy notes that florals sometimes have. 7 out of 10
Orange - instead of orange blossom or orange zest this was like a whole orange flavor. A little like sweet, low acid orange juice without the pulp. It wasn’t my favorite in the bunch, I would have liked more zest in it. However, I can see this being a very accessible and easy flavor for those new to lokum to enjoy. It’s very similar to Orange Slice jellies, though so much smoother since there’s no granulated sugar crust. 7 out of 10
Pomegranate was deeply colored and had a scent that was a combination of rose and raspberry. The floral and berry notes were good, but I think this one suffered with an overuse of food coloring, which gave it a weird metallic/bitter tone that was inconsistent with a desirable flavor. 7 out of 10
Licorice (not shown) was a polite dose of anise, like those Anise Bears except so much smoother and a little warmer, like there was a touch of ginger in it. Again, the food coloring gave it a weird taste as well. At this point I should note that part way through my tastings of the locum I emailed with Armand Sahakian and noted the difficulties I had with the heavily colored flavors. He confirmed that he was planning to take the products all natural by the end of the year, so this will not be an issue in the future. 7 out of 10
Bergamot was uncolored, which really helped the flavors to take the center stage. It wasn’t as strongly flavored as I thought I could tolerate, just a light kiss of what most people know as the essential flavor of Earl Grey tea. Not too sweet, soft and smooth. 8 out of 10
The same locum also came in a nutty version: Bergamot and Pistachio. The floral and grassy notes of the soft and chewy pistachios go so well with the light herbal and citrus flavors of bergamot. If it weren’t so messy I’d probably eat the whole box.
The other nutty varieties were supplied to me in the more mainstream combinations. Hazelnut was in a vanilla locum as was Almond. They were mild and pleasant, sweet but then again the lack of the addition flavor really let the nutty notes come through. The hazelnut was really nice because the roasted flavors go so well with vanilla. It got me to wondering how this variety would do with a few cacao nibs tossed in.
8 out of 10
Part of me wanted more nuts, but that’s where it’s lucky that Nory has another line called Supreme Squares.
Supreme Squares (they also come in bars) are a thicker version of locum with far more nuts. I tried two versions, one is the Pistachio and Rose shown above, which had a light floral note with the sweet and grassy crunch of the pistachios. The chew of the locum was fun, not quite a caramel, but still a bit on the stringy side but ultimately smooth. I ate them all. Just to let you know, I had eight pounds of locum (yes, 8 full boxes) that I’d been eating over the past two months, this was the only box that I finished all by myself.
The second version I tried was the Almond which has a vanilla base, like the locum I tried. It reminded me a bit of a translucent jelly version of Nougat de Montelimar. In fact it would benefit from a little dash of honey. The vanilla gave it a sweeter taste but the super crunchy nuts balanced it out. I definitely preferred it to the standard, less-nutty variety.
The ratings for the nutty Locum and the Supreme Squares are a solid 8 out of 10.
Armand Sahakian has done a great job of updating their product website and doing more outreach in social media (facebook and twitter), it’s fun to see a candy with such a long heritage stay current. He tells me that the packages will also be updated as well. The boxes that I got all looked the same with simple stickers denoting what flavor was inside, the new ones will be specific to the contents.
The only issue I actually have with lokum in general is how messy it is. It’s a sitting down candy, not an on-the-run candy. It’s messy, though thankfully already portioned. The Brits have a great idea there with dipping it in chocolate, but that just adds another flavor to it. Also, in the case of Nory, the package sizes are just too big for me. I don’t want a pound. I have a short attention span for candy (even in my pre-blogging days). I might want 8 ounces, but not a whole pound. I might like even smaller - like 4 ounces or “bar format” that would just be a little tray with 2 ounces. The Supreme Squares are apparently available that way.
Nory has mostly California distribution (via Indo-European Foods and Kradjian Importing Co), though I believe it’s also available online. Markets that carry Turkish, Armenian, Greek and Persian foods are most likely to have them.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Last year Gimbal’s Candy introduced Cherry Lovers, a fanciful assortment of nine different cherry flavored jelly candies in the shape of hearts. It wasn’t my kind of thing and I wished that there was a citrus version. Gimbal’s went far more inventive than that and created Honey Lovers which features 16 different honey infused flavors of jelly beans.
Gimbal’s makes a wide array of panned candies and licorice but the big selling point for them is that they operate in a low-allergen facility. No peanuts, no tree nuts, no gluten, no dairy, no eggs and no soy. Honey isn’t just a flavoring here, the third ingredient on the list is actually honey. (The first two are sugar and corn syrup.)
The Honey Lovers come in either a 10 ounce bag or a 38 ounce resealable tub. Each of the hearts is colored and patterned to match their flavor. They also feature 25% of the RDA of vitamin C. On top of that, Gimbal’s is donating 5% of their sales to honey bee research at the University of California at Davis (which is just 100 miles or so away).
Golden Honey a wonderful and simple little jelly bean heart. It’s not a bright sweetness, it’s more of a concentrated honey with a little sugary grain from the shell ... which mimicked crystallized honey or honeycomb. The flavor was just a little different from the Jelly Belly Honey Bean, not quite as caramelized but still authentic.
Overall this was a very inventive mix. Of the 16 flavors there were only two that I picked out and refused to eat (Mocha Toffee and Popcorn), and another three that I picked around but didn’t toss back in there if I got by accident. But the ones I liked, I thought were stellar (Vanilla Honey, Honey, Meyer Lemon, Strawberry). Even if I didn’t like some, there were others whom I shared these with who did, so they are a real crowd pleaser. The only suggestion I’d have would be to have a smaller flavor mix (with 5-8 flavors in a more limited color palette) that might do better for themed buffets and folks who simply buy candy for the colors.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.