Monday, July 18, 2011
As the billboards around town keep reminding me, the Harry Potter film series ends with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2. This may or may not mean the end to the curious creations from the books and films, the candies made by Bertie Bott, a magical confectioner. His triumph and perhaps unique item is Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. The tale goes that Bertie Bott was making traditionally sweet flavored beans when he accidentally made one flavored like a gym sock and then struck upon the idea of making a flavor of everything, even things not intended to be eaten.
The reality of how Jelly Belly went about it is rather similar. Years ago Jelly Belly was trying to come up with a Pepperoni Pizza jelly bean. Something about the intensity of the flavors was more than a little off and what they created smelled so bad that they had to clear the candy kitchen and air it out, because it reeked of vomit. So when the opportunity to make the Bertie Bott’s came up, they resurrected the failed recipe and made it ever so slightly more vomitous. (In the current variety package, though, Vomit is no longer part of the mix. Perhaps a little too much reality.)
The Harry Potter books list dozens of flavors and the actual candy made by Jelly Belly does incorporate many (mostly the ones that would be recognized by Americans, not things like tripe or marmalade). This little box may contain the following flavors: Banana, Black Pepper, Blueberry, Booger, Candyfloss, Cherry, Cinnamon, Dirt, Earthworm, Earwax, Grass, Green Apple, Marshmallow, Rotten Egg, Sausage, Lemon, Soap, Tutti-Fruitti and Watermelon.
I’m not going to eat them. I’ve had quite a few of the flavors, even some of the non-traditional ones like Soap (floral), Black Pepper (spicy and well rounded), Grass (grassy) and Dirt (like beets). But draw the line there. I have no interest in rotten eggs, boogers, earwax or vomit. I appreciate the the sheer breadth of flavors in the package means that you actually have to pay attention to what you’re eating. I like that idea. When I eat the citrus mix, I don’t really care that much of I’m eating lemon or orange, because they’re both good. With the Bertie Bott’s, there are no guarantees.
Like all Jelly Belly products, they’re expensive. The Jelly Belly website lists this little 1.2 ounce box for $2.25 (though I’ve seen them for $1.50 at stores). But then again, they’re not really for eating by the handful, unless you have no sense of smell and therefore do not gag on the cacophony of unnatural flavors. (And if you can’t appreciate the wacky tastes, spare yourself the expense and just buy the regulars in bulk, the texture is the same.)
I thought Jelly Belly’s rehash of the Every Flavour Beans as a sort of Russian Roulette was pretty good. It’s called Beanboozled and you get a container of jelly beans that could be either of two flavors, a benign one like coconut or it could be the less desirable baby wipes.
I don’t actually find these tasty (as I’ve given them an 8 out of 10 rating indicates) but I do find them to be the most inventive and successful emulations of a fictional product I’ve ever encountered.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Gimbal’s is a Californian candy company that specializes in sugar candies and boasts a low allergen facility. Lately they’ve been introducing a new themed-flavored “Lovers” product every year. The first year it was a heart shaped Cherry Lovers, with nine different cherry flavored heart shaped jelly beans. Last year it was Honey Lovers with sixteen different honey tinted flavors. This year it’s its a bit of a tart twist with Gimbal’s Sour Lovers.
When I first saw the announcement for them, I knew I had to track them down. I had trouble finding Honey Lovers in stores, so I decided to order Sour Lovers online and avoid the store-to-store hassle. I was fortunate to find them featured in a special at CandyDirect.com where they were $7.00 for two 11 ounce bags including shipping. (Little did I realize that the actual shipping, from the San Diego area to Los Angeles would take 12 days, with little communication from the company about the delay.)
The package includes twelve flavors of tart jelly candies with a sour sand coating. The flavors are: Pomegranate, Fuji Apple, Grapefruit, Watermelon, Meyer Lemon, Tangerine, Baja Margarita, Sour Blueberry, Mango, Bing Cherry, Strawberry Daiquiri and Georgia Peach. I’m kind of particular about my sour candy, because I like a lot of intense flavor with the tartness, so these really sounded tantalizing to me.
The heart shapes aren’t as defined or quite as attractive as the Cherry or Honey Lovers, but I thought the size and shape, a sort of thick heart shape, was perfect. The sanding is light to keep them from sticking together, but I found that even in the low humidity of Los Angeles, they did get a bit tacky if they weren’t stored in a sealed bag.
I had trouble telling the colors apart. Since I had two bags, I mixed them up in order to find all of the colors/flavors. I have to say that the guide on the back wasn’t exactly helpful for the colors that had a few flavors associated with them, like the orange/peach, pink/light red/red and yellows.
Pomegranate - I found it difficult to identify this one, so I had to open both bags in order to find the slightly darker red Pomegranate. It has some floral notes that reminded me of raspberry but with more of a tannic bite. It’s missing some of the notes of actual pomegranate juice but still has a distinctive flavor unlike the rest of the pieces in the mix.
Fuji Apple - goes beyond the normal green apple flavor with actual real apple juice and peel flavors in there along with the fake green notes that we come to expect from candy.
Grapefruit - I could eat a bag of these. If they make another Lovers mix, I would pay a premium for it to be a Citrus Lovers. This had an amazing intensity, all of the notes a real grapefruit has from the juicy tartness, zest, sweetness and then that lingering bitterness.
Watermelon - Gimbal’s does a great job with flavors that I often find too artificial from other companies. This watermelon was definitely a little on the “candy” side of things, but really flavorful, floral and of course puckery.
Meyer Lemon - again, get me a bag of these. Meyer Lemons have a bit more of a mandarin flavor to them than the usual Eureka lemons, so they’re the perfect combo of tartness and juicy citrus flavors that do more than burn. (I actually drink Meyer Lemon juice from my back yard tree in a little mineral water - no sugar needed.)
Tangerine - this one sizzles with sour orange, it’s actually a bit more sour than the Meyer Lemon, and also not as zesty.
Baja Margarita - this take on the traditional sour lime really pops, it’s zesty but not all about the sour and I might have even tasted a little hint of salt on it.
Sour Blueberry - this one wasn’t quite blueberry, but I’ve been binging on the real thing. It was more like a sour raspberry, which you know, is also good.
Mango - I had trouble finding this one in the mix as well, and sometimes didn’t know if it was Peach (which is an opaque one). I really can’t say more than I’m not sure I ever ate one.
Bing Cherry - the bing cherry heart isn’t that dark in color, but does have a strong, woodsy flavor like a Life Saver but with far more intensity and tang.
Strawberry Daiquiri this was lovely, though maybe a little too sour, which covers up the great flavors. The floral notes were overshadowed by the citrus, but it’s a daiquiri flavor, so I suppose that’s to be expected.
Georgia Peach - I’m not usually fond of peach flavored candies, but this one has it all, actual fuzz flavor, a zing of sour and the sweet juiciness. It’s like a peach that’s not quite ripe. It has the added benefit of going well with the other flavors (except maybe watermelon).
The candies also have vitamin C in them as well as being made in a facility that’s gluten free, dairy free, soy free, peanut & tree nut free. They’re made with natural flavors and apple juice, but there are also artificial flavors and colors, too. As a true jelly product there are no fats or gelatin in them either (so they’re basically a vegan product since there’s no confectioners glaze or beeswax on them like the hard shell jelly bean versions).
I loved this mix. They’re zippy but have more well rounded flavors that will please adults. I can’t eat too many without burning my tongue, but then again, the intensity is really satisfying so I don’t usually want to eat more than five or six at once.
Full Disclosure: It’s come to my attention that I did not mention when I first posted this review that CandyDirect.com was an advertiser on Candy Blog. We no longer have any sort of business relationship. I made no attempts to hide my identity in the ordering process, though I can assure folks that I received no special treatment one way or the other in the price, shipping, handling or communication process. This post is not a review of CandyDirect.com, I only made passing mention of my experience with the company in the procurement of this candy because I always mention where I get my candy from. (I did subsequently get a free sample of the Sour Lovers from the National Confectioners Association after this review was posted and I ended up giving that bag away unopened.)
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
When it comes to classic American candies, the fruit slices are right up there at the top. They’re a simple mix of sugar, fruit flavors and a bit of thickener in the form of corn starch. You can even make them at home, but since the ingredients are so inexpensive they’re a great value as a store bought item.
Brach’s is currently updating their line of candies with new packaging and some new formulas. They’re also adding a twist to some old favorites, including the fruit slices with their new Brach’s Mandarin Orange Slices. In this case they’re calling them Mandarin Orange Jellies Made with Real Fruit Juice.
Personally, I’ve always loved Orange Slices, and their companion jelly candy, the Spearmint Leaves. I never really thought they needed much tinkering, though the best version I think I’ve had are the gourmet Gumdrops that Whole Foods sells that are made with all natural flavors and colors along with some more exotic flavors.
These fruit jellies are lovely to look at. They’re about the size of an actual mandarin section in this case, though a bit more stylized in their format with heavy little segments making them rounded and bulbous. The color is quite orange. I even noticed that the sugar sanding on the outside is colored. (Most jelly slices just have a plain, large grain sugar sanding to keep them from sticking together.)
These were obviously fresh, since they’re a new product. They’re soft but still firm enough to have a stiff bite to them. The smell was great, just opening the bag (or even re-opening the bag) was like peeling a fresh orange. As a jelly they’re smooth and dissolve easily in the mouth. (A gelatin based candy would be chewier and have a longer melting process.) The flavor has many different elements. There’s the typical orange juice note which has the distinct orange flavor and a mellow note of tartness. Then there’s a large hit of zest to the whole thing, a slight bitterness that pops in and then disappears. Incredibly there is something rather “mandarin” about the flavor that made it a bit different from the generic orange. The other item of note here is that the sugar sanding has flavor as well, just a hint of the zest.
They’re soothing. They’re not the most exciting candy in the world, but even with all of my choices (and believe me, at any given moment I have at least fifty different things to choose from), I still found myself eating these.
It’s hard to sell folks on a brand name item for a classic candy where there are so many different brands and generics available. I don’t know if I’d always reach for Brach’s when it came to Spearmint Leaves or Orange Slices, but if the price is the same or close enough, these are a step above.
Monday, April 25, 2011
P-Nuttles are a pure comfort candy. I associate them with vending machines and truck stops, and I can see why they’d be a favorite snack for both situations. They’re loaded with satisfying protein from the peanuts and a sweet crunch from the toffee coating. Throw in a little salt and it’s has a bit of a savory kick that makes it as much a snack food as a candy.
Peanuts that are individually covered in toffee are far easier to eat then barks or brittles, so I also congratulate Adams & Brooks on solving that dispensing issue.
I saw this new flavor announced last year at the Sweets and Snacks Expo and finally found it at my neighborhood Walgreen’s: P-Nuttles plus Coconut.
The concept is pretty simple, fresh roasted peanuts are coated in a coconut toffee. In addition to the toffee peanuts, a few coconut jelly beans are also thrown into the mix.
The peanuts are not large, but most are fresh and tasty. I ate about half of the bag and found only one bad nut. (It’s never fun, but this is the hazard with using natural ingredients.) The toffee coating varies, some had barely a sheen on them, but others a hefty shell. The flavor is sweet with a light touch of butter. The saltiness varies widely, as does the coconut flavor. Some were quite tropical tasting and others were very salty. I rather liked the variation. The jelly beans are small and pack a pretty good coconut zap. They’re sweet and chewy, though not terribly soft.
I didn’t get any coconut texture in any of this, which I quite enjoy. But the tropical coconut notes were a welcome addition to a rather comforting but bland peanut and toffee experience. I didn’t think I’d care of mixing jelly beans, a decidedly non-organic sort of texture product, with the more artisan peanuts covered in toffee. However, it worked very well. The smooth and consistent flavor of the jelly beans was a welcome sort of dependability when contrasting the varying peanuts and their cloaks of toffee.
Adams Brooks will be introducing more twists on the classic P-Nuttles later this year: P-Nuttles Peanuts Smokey Style and P-Nuttles Peanuts Chili*Lime.
The jelly beans contain confectioners glaze, so this combination is not vegetarian.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Starburst makes some excellent jelly beans and have expanded their line to include a couple of different flavor mixes similar to their fruit chew flavors. The new Starburst Crazy Beans are unlike the fruit chew ancestors. They feature a flavored and colored shell with a different colored and flavored center. There are six varieties in the package.
The package is fun, the bright purple and yellow certainly got my attention. The prospect of two flavors in one, instead of combining flavors is also appealing. The crazy part, I think, comes with the combinations that Wrigley’s has come up with.
The beans are opaque and note quite as jewel toned as the standard beans. There’s a slight mottling to the color which I liked, it was as if they were dyed little granite pebbles. The sizes are pretty standard and the quality of them is good - they were consistent and glossy. The package boasts that they use real fruit juice, but the ingredients say that it’s less than 2%. Unlike the regular Starburst chews, these have no additional vitamin C. They also contain a confectioners glaze so shouldn’t be considered vegetarian/vegan.
(These don’t go in the order of the photos above, just because.)
Grape-Ade (Purple) - the grape on the outside was easy to distinguish right away, just like a Pixy Stix. The lemon center was a little more muddled, but still had a little citrus note. Good start.
Peach-A-Palooza (Orange) - is definitely peachy on the outside. I don’t know what the center is supposed to be, but it tasted like cherry to me. Not a winner in my book, but I’m sure this is an ideal combination for someone.
Tropical Cherry Splash (Blue) - it’s unfortunate to find another cherry one, this one has a bit of a papaya note to it that makes me as equally unhappy as the peach. Pass.
Razzin Watermelon (Pink) - this pink one was a little confusing. It’s pink on the outside and blue on the inside. But the outside tastes like bubble gum instead of watermelon. And the inside is all sweet and fragrant like raspberry and strawberries. The shells on all of these were downright thick and crunchy as well.
Banana Berry Blast (Yellow) - it starts with a light whiff of banana but quickly becomes a standard tangy berry. I liked it though I would have preferred a little more banana in the mix.
Strappleberry (Green) - it’s true to its name, it’s a sweet golden delicious apple flavor mixed with a mellow berry note. These varied widely, some were puckeringly tangy, others were all sweetness and little flavor.
They’re much more expensive than other jelly beans, though I admit that they’re quite flavorful. However, this particular flavor mix didn’t really hit within my zone of interest. I’d prefer something a bit more on the traditional side or with more intense fruit flavors. (Or maybe they want to try doing candy coated gummis, since they’re already making Life Savers Gummis and Starburst GummiBursts.)
I feel like we’re running out of flavors and though there’s a large number of combinations possible - the results are merely proof of concept, not great candy.
I don’t know if these are a permanent item or just a seasonal one.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
It’s funny that I first found out about the new Dots Pink Grapefruit Sour Slices in Germany instead of right here in the United States. I was cruising by the American Pavillion at the ISM Cologne candy fair and spotted them right away on display as a new item. And of course the fact that they were grapefruit really made them stand out.
Tootsie has really expanded their Dots over the past five years with more than just new flavor assortments like Tropical and Yogurt. They also make seasonal varieties for Christmas, Valentines and even an Independence Day version. What’s interesting about these Dots, aside from the fact that they’re sour and sanded instead of smooth is that they’re also a single flavor.
The Dots are made of two colors, to mimic the layering of colors on a wedge of pink grapefruit. The base is supposed to be yellow and the top is pink. Though the package calls them Sour Slices, they’re the same gumdrop shape we’re all used to. They smell soft and sweet and were fresh and bouncy.
The outside coating is sweet and sour though lacking much in the way of other flavors. But the gumdrop center is all about grapefruit flavor. There’s a good, well rounded grapefruit zest base, a hint of bitterness and a long, sweet finish to it. The citrus oils linger with a satisfying ring.
I was hoping for a little bit more pop, but then again I found it easy to eat a few handfuls (the Sour Dots were just a little too zingy for me to do that and I only liked three of the five flavors). I’m really looking forward to seeing these on shelves at stores around here. I loved the Grapefruit Dots in the Tropical Mix, now I can buy the single flavor. I know they’re already available online, so some shops may already have them. They also come as Watermelon Sour Slices and Peach Sour Slices.
Dots are made in a peanut free facility and are also free of traces of tree nuts, eggs and gluten. Kosher and I’m guessing they’d qualify as vegan, too (all artificial colors & no beeswax).
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
The Judson-Atkinson Candies Tropical Sours are called the original soft center sour. They’re kind of like giant sour jelly beans, each is about the size of a hazelnut in the shell.
This theater box holds 4.5 ounces. Like many of Judson-Atkinson’s other candies, the packaging isn’t exactly compelling, but it’s at least easy to spot.
White is Pina Colada. It starts out with a light sweet coconut flavor, once I cracked the grainy candy shell I got a little burst of floral and lightly tangy pineapple. It’s not a sour candy at all, but it’s still like a great, mellow gourmet jelly bean.
Pink is watermelon. I don’t consider it to be a tropical flavor and it certainly wasn’t a sour flavor either. It was sweet and about as powerfully flavored as real watermelon is. I wasn’t disappointed that there were only five of these in the box.
Orange is some sort of tropical fruit like Mango. It’s hard to tell without a guide, but there was a peachy note to it and a light tangy flavor as well with some woodsy elements that remind me of mangoes.
Yellow is a mystery. It’s tart but not overly so, it’s not citrus flavor as far as I can tell and not pineapple. It was pleasant but not vibrant enough to go in a package called Sours.
Red is Fruit Punch and is quite a refreshing sort of berry flavor. I liked it, it was tart without the tangy notes completely blasting away the red raspberry flavors.
All of the flavors were nice enough but none qualified for a the category of Sour. They were barely on the range of “hint of tangy”. As giant jelly beans in tropical flavors, they’re decent enough. I paid far too much for these. I see the regular boxes of Sours at the drug store for a buck which I think is quite fair for pure sugar candy made in the States.
The candies aren’t marked Kosher and is tree nut free (though is processed in a facility that utilizes milk, soy and peanuts). There’s no gluten statement and they’re not vegetarian/vegan because of the presence of carmine.
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)
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