Thursday, October 22, 2009
Every once in a while I wander into a Gelson’s grocery store. If you don’t have this small upscale market chain in your area, perhaps you have a similar one. Regular food you see everywhere, only more expensive, but then they also carry hard to find and superior items. They do have a good produce selection, but charge a premium.
What I find interesting about the store is the candy. They have Twizzlers and 3 Musketeers but they also tend to have an odd idea (or maybe perfectly appropriate for their customers) of what Halloween is like. Their trick or treat selection tends to be a little upscale.
One of the items in their area was not a trick or treat item, but just a Halloween themed one: Jelly Belly Deluxe Halloween Mix. I got a similar mix a few years back for Easter, but this one seemed a little different so it was definitely worth a try. (Even though it was $3.99 for a 9 ounce bag.)
The mix likely offers something for everyone. There are mellocreme items, a few jelly beans, crisped rice milk chocolate balls and some licorice dots.
There aren’t that many jelly beans in there. As far as I can tell, they’re lemon, licorice and orange. All are definitely favorites of mine, so we’re off to a good start.
The story goes that the Goelitz family was making Candy Corn sometime around 1900, one of the earliest candy corn makers (and they made a lot of other mellocremes, which they called Butter Creams). They might not have been first, but they’ve definitely be doing it uninterrupted for over 100 years.
The Candy Corn in this assortment is the big stuff. It’s basically an equilateral triangle, but the tip is just a bit pinched. (Yes, they look a little breast-like to me.) The texture is smooth and the flavor quite mellow. Not as salty or honey tasting as the Brach’s/Farley’s stuff. There is a slight butter note to it.
Mellocreme pumpkins are cute. They’re quite squat and about half the height of the Farley’s/Brach’s stuff, but with a much more pronounced stem. They’re quite firm, but still have a smooth and not-quite-grainy texture. The flavor was surprising. It’s supposed to be orange, but it was just horribly bitter to me. I can’t fathom why, as they’re not that intensely colored, but I ate them several times over a week and each time they were just so bitter to me that I couldn’t finish a whole one.
The yellow ears of corn are the cutest of the bunch. Long and narrow, they’re a pretty big punch of pure sugar. The design on them isn’t very well defined so they didn’t photograph well. The flavor is lemon. It’s sweet and more of the floral lemon, now the tangy or zesty kind. Far too sweet for me.
To break up all that sweetness, I indulged in some of the foil wrapped chocolates.
The odd thing about the package was its vagueness. There was no inventory of the stuff inside. The ingredients were just a huge messy listing of all the ingredients of each element in one list (which I think is a huge disservice to customers).
I was careful to pick a bag that had a lot of the foiled chocolates, so I wasn’t disappointed here.
The balls are small and are the perfect single bite of milk chocolate with crisped rice. I wouldn’t call them the perfect milk chocolate and crisped rice though. It was sweet, perhaps a little waxy. The texture of the chocolate wasn’t quite creamy enough for me, but at least wasn’t grainy. Compared to the other items though, they were far from sweet. So at least they were a little counterpoint.
I wasn’t sure what these would be (again, no inventory), but I recall seeing these in the Licorice Bridge Mix years ago.
The flavor of the licorice is a little different from the Licorice Jelly Belly. It has more anise and a less watery flavor.
The issue for me again though was the bitterness of the artificial color from the nonpareil coating.
It’s a fun mix that everyone should find something in it they like. I found that there was too much I didn’t like for the price though. Jelly Belly also makes a Fall Festival Mix, which is all flavored mellocremes in different shapes. They also make three different flavors of the giant candy corn: traditional, chocolate and cinnamon.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Just Born announced some new mixes of their classic Mike and Ike jelly rods for different seasons. The first one on the calendar is the Autumn Medley which features four flavors in a fall color array.
The package, at first glance, looks like the Tangy Twister, but on closer inspection has some pumpkins on it and a little scarecrow. It also has a little pile of fruit to represent the flavors inside. They’re Strawberry, Orange, Lemon and Cherry. If you picked up a regular bag of Mike and Ike you’d get five flavors, four of which are in this mix. The only one missing is Lime. So if you’ve always wanted a lime-free Mike and Ike mix, this is your product.
Instead of a box that can let the jelly rods get stale, this sealed plastic wrapper keeps them fresh. If you’ve never had Mike and Ike, they’re basically jelly beans. Rod shaped jelly beans that are available year round in mixes of fruit flavors (except for Jolly Joes which are all grape).
My positive experiences with Mike and Ike up to this point have been with their more intensely flavored products like the Tangy Twister and the spice-flavored Hot Tamales and Jelly Beans. I know I’ve had the regular Mike and Ike before, but never thought much of them so I’ve kind of ignored them.
Cherry - It’s easy to spot the dark red rods in the batch. They taste pretty much like they look, a jelly version of a Black Cherry LifeSaver but without the satisfying tangy counterpoint to the woodsy medicinal flavors. So they come off as non-medicated Sucrets to me.
Strawberry - The lighter red rods are supposed to be Strawberry, but there’s very little here. There’s absolutely no tartness, just a sweet and slightly floral flavor. All I can say is it didn’t taste artificial to me ... it just lacked any taste at all. Not that I didn’t enjoy the blandness.
Orange - This one has a little sour note at the start in the grainy shell, but the flavor dissipates to just sweet jelly with a touch of orange oil. They’re actually quite nice, the zest is not too strong and the texture is rather like the classic Orange Slice jellies.
Lemon - I’m always up for a lemon candy, it’s hard for me to name a yellow candy I don’t like. Oddly enough, the lemon was not as tart a the orange, which is disappointing, because I know Mike and Ike can do a nice lemon because they made a whole product called Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
What I think would be a fun are real harvest inspired flavors: things like Mulled Apple Cider, Baked Caramel Pear, Cranberry Orange and White Grape. But as a simple repackage based on colors, I guess they’re fine for folks who like the classic Mike and Ike.
There will be a version for Christmas that will be styled in green & red and a version for Valentine’s Day in pinks & purples.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Last year I spotted Brach’s Gummi Candy Corn but it came in an insanely huge nearly two pound bag and I had to admit that I just wasn’t curious enough to bring home 30 ounces. I was hoping they’d come out in a smaller mixed bag, but I still haven’t seen them sold that way.
What’s cool though is that this 54 treat pack bag has each little portion already sealed up. (This is a general problem with most candy corn sold in stores - it’s not good for handing out for Trick or Treat.)
Brach’s makes pretty good gummis, more in the American tradition of the super-soft but also very juicy. I flipped over the package to find out about the ingredients on this one as was pleased to see fruit juice on there ... but curiously I didn’t see gelatin. These aren’t gummis at all ... they’re a jelly candy. Which is disappointing on one hand for someone hoping for some fun little rubbery candy corns ... but good news for folks who eschew those sorts of animal products.
Each little mixed package holds a random assortment of the four flavors and holds about 15 grams though I found that some had as few as 5 candies and other had more than 10.
They’re the standard shape and size of candy corn, maybe a little slimmer and the jelly seems to hold a point. They’re a bit matte but also translucent, so it’s an odd effect, like they’re made of beach glass.
The texture is a chewy jelly, not too sticky but it doesn’t have that bite that gummis have.
Each layer is actually different flavors. The top is orange - a general light & tangy citrus without much zest. The base is pineapple. Again, a nice punch flavor but not too deep or complex. Eaten together it’s much more like a tropical punch, and not really a great effect for me.
The color of these was definitely like frosted glass. The grape flavor had a bit of a cherry note to it, but that could just be proximity.
I got a burning feeling in the back of my throat, a little effervescent note after I was done. Not my favorite of the bunch.
Like most jelly candies there were little bits left in the corners of my teeth when I was done.
This cherry seemed to dominate every package I found.
It’s like cough drops. Each layer is the same, but the top pink part is less about the food coloring and more about the medicinal woodsy cherry punch.
Honestly, I liked them more than the grape. I didn’t feel the need to pick around them.
I don’t know why berries and kiwi get lumped together as flavor combinations so often. This color combo is rather odd - not that I haven’t combined these colors in outfits in the past.
As a flavor kiwi is a little bit melon and a little bit citrus ... and mostly bland. The berry side is similarly like punch but has some strawberry notes.
It was the mellowest of the flavors and actually went well combined with the others.
On the whole the mixture is fun. It’s vegan (unlike actual candy corn which usually has eggs in it) so for kids who avoid gelatin/egg products, this is a fun & colorful mainstream looking product. However, the package says that it’s processed on equipment that also handles the top allergens: eggs, wheat, milk, peanuts, tree nuts & soy.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Last year Trader Joe’s introduced what I think was their first original candy bar. The Lumpy Bumpy Bar did not live up to my Trader Joe’s expectations (and they rarely disappoint me).
This year they have the new PB&J Bar which features peanut butter, milk and dark chocolate and raspberry jam.
The box is hot pink with eye-numbing blue & orange text. It in no way reflects my expectations for what’s inside. Again, I think it’s some sort of medicated soap or analgesic.
Like the previous bar, it’s much smaller than the box (well, I can’t name a candy bar that isn’t smaller than the volume of the packaging) - the box is 4.5” long and 1.5” high & wide. The actual candy bar is about 3 inches long and about 1 inch high. But then, you know, it was easy to get back into the box after taking the picture.
But still, what is it?
The bar is quite interesting to look at, though I couldn’t figure out where the dark chocolate is ... maybe there’s a slim layer between the jelly and peanut butter.
The peanut butter is quite dark and has a deep roasted flavor. It’s not terribly sweet and of course is not only salted but has little bits of potato chips in there for additional texture and salt.
The bite of the bar is interesting. The peanut butter has an easy give, but the jelly bottom layer is quite firm. However, it is very jelly like in that it doesn’t stick to the teeth like gumdrops do. The flavor doesn’t come out right away, there is a berry note, but it isn’t until I chew it up that I got the nice, deep jammy raspberry flavors (seedless).
The two ounces felt like quite a lot of food, and I actually ate the bar in two sittings - 1/3 when I took the photo and the other 2/3 while doing the review. The calorie total is 300, a smidge more than I like in a single portion.
Since there are no other readily available bars like this, I give it high marks for filling a niche. I’m definitely more likely to pick it up over the Lumpy Bumpy ... but there are so many other items at Trader Joe’s that I prefer, I’m not sure it’ll ever happen.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Candy Season has started with the first Halloween candy entering the aisles as drug stores, discount warehouses & grocery chains move their summer & back to school merchandise to clearance.
I was excited to find the new Bat Dots in the large theater-sized box at Target over the weekend. They haven’t quite put out all their Halloween items yet, but I found these in the regular candy aisle on a little hanging display at an endcap. I first tried them after All Candy Expo and was looking forward to seeing this single flavor box.
Bat Dots are black but instead of being the black licorice Crows in a different box, they’re Blood Orange.
The package is great and plays with themes of the orange as a harvest moon, the word bat is juicy and the little bat shaped Dot uses an orange slice as a smile.
It’s unusual to find a box of Dots that has just one flavor, and for it to be blood orange is quite a coup for citrus lovers.
As far as flavor goes, these are packed with it. There’s an immediate tartness followed by some nice zesty notes and a strong orange juice flavor. They’re soft and easy to chew ... and for some reason they’re not sticking to my teeth quite as much as other Dots.
My only misgiving with these is the heavy use of food coloring so I get a little weird aftertaste ... if I don’t pop another one in my mouth right away.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Candy Corn Dots seem like a natural mash-up. They look pretty cute - though I have to say that they weren’t as consistent as the package leads me to believe. The layering is sometimes spot on, with a yellow third on the bottom and an orange top (no white tip) but other times I had to turn over the Dots to even see the yellow.
I didn’t know what flavor to expect but I girding myself for fake butter. Instead they ended up being a pleasant French vanilla or maybe pudding flavor. It was missing that light touch of honey that the better candy corn has ... but overall it’s a cute take on Dots.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Ghost Dots have actually been a seasonal product for three years now. Again, I give Tootsie some props for the package design and the concept itself.
They’re regular fruit Dots, but they’re all the same translucent & spooky beach glass light green color.
The spooky part is you never know what you’re going to get. It’s rather interesting to experience the flavors without the color contribution to the flavor event. It confirmed that I really don’t like cherry much, even if there isn’t a crazy aftertaste and I had trouble telling my citrus apart from time to time. It’s tempting to think that they should be glow in the dark, but I don’t think that’d be safe. (Though maybe it would be - kids could mount them on little sticks and carry them around while trick or treating for extra visibility!)
Rating: 6 out of 10
I really couldn’t beat the price on these either - for a buck they’re a fun change-up and hopefully they’ll go over well and return every year. (I haven’t seen them in the Trick-or-Treat size yet ... has anyone else?)
Thursday, August 20, 2009
I’ve heard about these giant jelly beans they grow down in Texas. They’re made by Judson-Atkinson Candies, which makes the popular Cherry Sours (not my favorite, but they do come in tangerine in the assorted mix) but are pretty hard to find.
I stumbled across this smart little half pound bag at Robitailles Fine Candies and carefully selected a bag that had all the colors. It was hard because there were only about 24 in the bag and seven colors.
You might think looking at that bag that it’s tiny or light, but these quantum singularities of sucrose are hefty. The bag might have been slightly bigger than a 3x5 card but then remember ... a half a pound! So if you’re looking for something to put in a sock instead of a roll of quarter when beating that guy who refuses to pay up on those bad debts ... this is the candy.
The photo above really doesn’t give the scale. They’re about an inch and a half long, but the picture makes them look like teensy licorice pastels.
So when I was shooting them, I though, I’ll put something in there for scale. For some reason instead of a coin or M&M, I went with my finger (because they’re about the size of the top two knuckles of my index finger). But then I remembered after looking at the photo ... my fingers are abnormal ... and not a very attractive addition to Candy Blog. (You can view it here.)
The Orange jelly bean is very crunchy and hard on the outside. The interesting aspect here is that it’s apparent that the jelly center is flavored. (Many regular pectin-style beans are not - the flavor is in the innermost layer of the shell.)
So the next flavor I tried was Cherry Red. This was, in fact cherry. It’s a soft and medicinal flavor, not tangy, just sweet but with a little cherry blossom note to it. I hated it.
Black Licorice is pretty intense. The anise flavor is light & bright but has a lingering burning sensation that builds up over the several bites that it takes to consume it. It lacks the deeper woodsy licorice notes but it’s still rather nice. The food coloring makes my tongue green/black and leaves a bitter aftertaste.
Purple Grape might be more vile than Cherry. It’s bitter and floral and insanely sweet.
Lemon Yellow is quite zesty which helps to balance out the sugary grain to the shell.
White Vanilla was confusing at first. I thought maybe it was coconut but then I realized that it wasn’t even vanilla, just kind of unflavored. But I was grateful for the break from food coloring.
Pink Strawberry tasted rather like bubblegum at first ... and may actually be bubble gum flavor for all I know. It was sweet and bitter and reminded me of bad childhood friendships.
I think there’s also a green one, but I didn’t get that in my mix.
The citrus ones were passably interesting. I have to say that they’re much better than the Hiding Eggs, but I wouldn’t call that a recommendation. I liked the novelty of the size and enjoyed feeling like a giant for a little while. But the intense crunchy shell (which is very much like the Easter marshmallow eggs) didn’t really do much more than add crunch & extra sugar instead of some flavor.
So this just goes to show that the proportions of modern jelly beans (both the Pectin Bean size and the chic Jelly Belly size) are optimal.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I was in Starbucks over the weekend, which is pretty rare for me. In this instance I was waiting for a coffee drink I was picking up for The Man, so I looked around at the gift offerings, snacks and candy. It’s rare for me to double back, wait in line and purchase something after I’ve already ordered but here I was, doing just that.
In the case of these Assorted Gum Drops it was a no-brainer. First, they were only one dollar. I had a buck (and no sales tax). Second, they were all natural and came in four flavors: Tangerine, Pineapple, Raspberry and Watermelon.
How often do you see pineapple or watermelon gum drops? I don’t see them often enough, that’s for sure.
Of course I hopped back in the car and put them in the center console and promptly forgot about them until Monday at lunch. I feared they would be a melted blob ... happily even though the car interior was well over a hundred, they looked exactly like the moment I purchased them. Firm and distinctly separated.
They’re little gum drops. They range from the size of a green pea all the way up to a garbanzo bean. Since they’re a bit artisan (which is code for inconsistent) they varied quite a bit. For some reason all of the pineapple ones were about half the size of the watermelon.
The texture is firm, but not as hard and clingy as something like Dots. They’re also not quite as sticky as jelly candies like Spearmint Leaves.
I chose my bag poorly and most of them were watermelon instead of pineapple and tangerine which I fully expected to love.
Pineapple - were nearly clear. They had a firm bite, they weren’t quite a jelly or pate de fruit. Sweet and fragrant, they’re not tangy and not quite jammy either. It tasted more like a really subtle coating on a candied apple. I was sad to see that I only got four in my package.
Watermelon - these light pink pieces didn’t smell like much, but biting into them they were definitely watermelon. And not that fake watermelon flavor that Jolly Ranchers come in. They had a tangy bite as well, and maybe even a little hint of bitterness towards the end (something that seeds can do sometimes). They were refreshing.
Raspberry - was a dark red. They were quite deep and sweet with a little woody essence of the seeds. It tasted like boiled berries, not quite as fresh and clear as some fruit pate I’ve had.
Tangerine - these were nicely done. Not quite as tangy as I’d hoped but a good blend of juicy sweet and zesty.
Since Starbucks has a reputation for being absurdly expensive, I was pleased overall that these broke that stereotype. It’s a nice portion for one person or to share. The flavors probably go best with an iced tea instead of coffee. Unfortunately the label says that they’re made in a facility with wheat, eggs, soy, nuts and dairy ... so it’s not the perfect substitute for those who can’t touch the rest of the stuff in the pastry case.
I’d love to see a spice version which would go great with coffee or most teas.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Every once in a while when I’m at an Italian restaurant, I see a bowl of tiny waxed paper candies offered by the hostess desk. They’re usually green and look a bit like confetti. I used to get these in my stocking as a kid (in the eucalyptus version). They’re Italian jujubes called Puntini ... tiny little firm jelly disks that seem to last forever.
I got a whole bag of the Frutti Tropicali (Tropical Fruit) version from Candy Warehouse a few weeks ago and have been enjoying these tiny nibbles that come in five flavors.
These are tiny little candies. Think the size of CeDe Smarties. About one half an inch around and a quarter of an inch high, the disk has a slight depression in one side.
Drop one on a hard surface and it sounds like a bit of plastic. Smooth and dry to the touch, it looks more like a piece of unpolished amber than candy.
While it may not look like candy immediately, it tastes like it. This little nubbin of yellow has an immediate flavor of pineapple. Granted, it’s more like canned pineapple, but still tangy & floral.
It dissolves slowly, and as it melts away it has a bit of a glycerin texture that I find soothing to my throat. Of course if you’re not patient enough to let it dissolve, it can get stuck in the teeth.
The candies are mostly all natural. They’re naturally colored and flavored with some artificial flavors as well.
What I surprised about, since this was the first time I’ve had them with an actual packaged to check the ingredients, was that there is no gelatin in them. They’re thickened with Gum Arabic and starch. So these are completely vegan (the pink color comes from elderberry juice not cochineal).
The passion fruit was kind of like a punch flavor with a little hint of hibiscus ... not quite like the passion fruit flavors I’m used to. But what worked really well here was the texture, that smooth and gooey style works to sell the passion fruit as that’s what the fresh seeds are like.
Guava was my least favorite, but that’s a personal thing. I’m not that keen on fresh guavas and this has that same musky flavor to it - kind of like a really potent cantaloupe rind. It’s tangy and sweet and definitely fragrant.
Besides taking rather long to eat, these are ridiculously low in calories for a candy that’s not made with any low cal sweeteners. They clock in at less than 3 calories a piece ... yeah ... you can eat a whole ounce of them (which would be about 30 of them) and only take in 75 calories.
Tangy and zesty. I didn’t really get that key lime chalky note, but the zest seems true and more on the grapefruit side of things to keep it from going into bathroom cleaner territory.
The zest actually gives a lingering bitterness to it, but also means that the flavor lasts as well, giving this a good freshening aspect.
One of the other things I enjoyed, besides having a jar of them in my office with their bright & summery colors was the size. There’s a place in this world for a tiny candy. They’re pretty discreet to, so it’s easy to suck on one in a meeting without having a big bulge in your cheek if you need to talk.
This one was rather vividly colored orange.
Before I looked up what the flavors were supposed to be, I thought this was tangerine. But Mandarin Orange is probably a better description.
It’s tangy and has a zesty pop to it. It tastes a little like marmalade from time to time, less like an orange hard candy or a Tang drink mix.
I was really pleased with these, far more than I thought I’d be. They’re rather enduring. Simply packaged, compelling and probably a flavor for everyone in the mix. (I definitely want to try the Sambuca or Licorice version.)
I actually saw these for sale in little tins at Starbucks on Sunday, so they’re available in more reasonably sized packages than the internet ... but once you fall in love with them, the investment for a 3.3 pound bag might be worth it.
Note: the importer’s website says they are Gluten Free. Unfortunately there is no listing that says they’re Kosher.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.