Friday, February 19, 2010
The product is simple yet unique. A pectin gel stick flavored with wine and then covered in dark chocolate.
The box is a half a tube, rather elegant looking matte black with a swirling puddle of chocolate with three chocolate sticks rising from it. The packages are color coded with colored foil tops. In this case the Port version is red, the Cabernet is silver and Champagne is gold. The box is careful to point out that it’s made with real wine reductions but contains no actual alcohol. (There are also some artificial flavors in there.)
The half round box opens kind of like an envelope (or a car trunk) along one of the long sides. Inside much of the box is empty, with a sealed tray of the sticks nesting on the flat surface. The inner wrapping does a nice job of keeping them fresh and moist. But the chocolate also does a good part of the work as well.
The little fingers are elegant and lovely. The dark chocolate is crisp, smooth and matte. Just opening the box, the scent of “wine” is strong. The notes are yeast, rose petals and grapes plus a little hint of smoky dark chocolate.
The flavor of port is authentic, though a little sweeter than the real thing. It’s a bit grapey but has a nice rounded profile of deep tannins, some soft acids and florals. I’ve have other wine gels before that are several times the price but basically as satisfying. (Those have been straight gels though, covered in sugar instead of chocolate, which I think goes very well and keeps the sweetness down.)
The chocolate itself didn’t wow me. It’s a little bit on the sweet side but vegans will be happy to hear that there’s no milk or any other animal products in here. (Though it is made on shared equipment, so those with allergies to milk, peanuts or tree nuts should steer clear.) It’s also gluten free.
Retail is $4 for a 3.5 ounce package (about 12 sticks) which is a decent price for something that I don’t expect most folks would just sit around shoveling into their mouths like malted milk balls or jelly beans. It’s more of a little accompaniment for other treats, like a cookie plate, bowl of ice cream or dessert. Since it’s mostly a jelly product, it’s a lot lower in calories (less fat) than many other chocolate candies.
I picked up this box at the this year’s Fancy Food Show because I couldn’t actually find them locally.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
I’m not generally keen on cherry flavors, but I do love real cherries and I’m generally a fan of Gimbal’s products. This bag of little heart shaped jelly bean type objects boast nine different cherry flavors plus vitamin C and real cherry juice. Gimbal’s makes their candies in the USA in a factory that’s Kosher, peanut free, tree nut free, dairy free, gluten free, gelatin free and soy free. So for allergic folks these are pretty special. (Sorry vegans, though the colors are artificial they do use beeswax and confectioners glaze.)
They’re drop dead gorgeous. A riot of reds, pinks and purples they seem to go beyond the frilly satin hearts of the season. They’re a little rustic because each heart is unique and not quite perfect.
Wild Cherry - plain red - you know, cherry. Tart, sweet, floral and deep woodsy notes. But not quite that good. The medicine flavors are kept pretty faint here.
Cherry Vanilla - white with red speckles - like a cherry marshmallow, mostly a soft flavor with a strong fake vanilla flavor to it. Pretty much pleasant.
Black Cherry - deep red - tastes mostly like red. The cherry flavor is pretty intense as far as these hearts go, more on the woodsy side compared to the Bing Cherry.
Chocolate Cherry - brown - oh, this is quite a tragic flavor, not quite cherry and mostly empty cocoa flavors. It’s like a very bad Cherry Tootsie Pop.
Cherry Cheesecake - pink with red speckles - a tangier version of the Cherry Vanilla, this one had a yogurty twang to it and but still a marshmallowy flavor.
Cherry Daiquiri - deep pink with red speckles - this one was rather fun, kind of a lime and vanilla with a hint of cherry cough syrup. A little bit like aftershave though.
Bing Cherry - lighter red - Tangy and sweet, a well rounded cherry flavor. A little chemical aftertaste from the food colorings, but about as good as the Jelly Belly I usually avoid.
Cherry Cola - dark red - at first I liked the cherry cola, because it tasted like cola, even had a weird effervescent quality to it (maybe that was just the tangy part playing with my mind) but then the cherry kicked in and ruined it for me. But that’s just me.
Kiwi Cherry - pink with green speckles - this was just terrible. Maybe it’s because I had a recent run in with fresh Durian, but I just couldn’t get that out of my head when it came to this one. The kiwi flavors were more like melon and onions than kiwi, though the cherry seemed about average.
The didn’t do a thing for me. The colors were pretty, the shapes and distinctiveness of the flavors was actually pretty good. But I wouldn’t consider these a breakthrough candy so I found it odd that the National Confectionery Sales Association awarded Cherry Lovers best new Premium/Gourmet product:
Robby at Candy Addict had a better opinion of these. I’ll just consider them very pretty Valentine’s decorations in a bowl.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Marich Confectionery is a California candy maker that specializes in panned items and novelty molded creams and fondants for all holidays. I’ve recently fallen in love with their extra dark chocolate panned items like 72% Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews and Dark Cacao Nib Toffee (which I’ve bought twice with the intention of reviewing but ended up eating).
Their new Black Heart Licorice items are all natural and instead of being wheat-based with molasses, these are more of a gumdrop style dense jelly candy.
I picked up my samples from the Fancy Food Show last month. They were showing off two versions: Black Licorice and Black Cherry Licorice.
The package design is nicely done. The six inch stand up box with the cut out window shows off the candy and is no bigger than it needs to be. The tab on the back folds into a little slot and keeps the candy closed and pretty fresh inside its inner cellophane bag. There’s a little story on it about a candy maker creating the candy to woo a woman, but I skipped right to the candy. (You can see a snapshot of the ad about it here.)
The Black Heart Black Licorice are darling little matte hearts. They feel a little rubbery, like they’re made out of silicone. The scent is only very lightly of anise.
The texture is a smooth and dense chew, a bit firmer than a Dot, but still easy to bite. The flavor is clean and clear - anise with some deeper woodsy licorice. It’s not very sweet, in fact, these have a bit of salt in them (75 mg per serving). Though they are colored, it’s all natural coloring so there are no strange artificial bitter flavors to get in the way of the real stuff.
They do stick in my teeth a little bit, so that’s a distraction. The flavor isn’t too strong to mean that I was constantly munching them without getting that overly full or burnt out feeling.
The surprising item for me was the Black Heart Black Cherry Licorice. I didn’t even want to take the samples, but figured they were red and would photograph well, I should at least try them. When I read the ingredients, it actually sounded pretty good. Again, all natural so no nasty Red #40 to give me a weird aftertaste ... but there’s also licorice root extract in there too. So it’s truly red licorice.
They don’t smell promising to me, like black cherry flavoring. However, the texture is quite dreamy ... it’s silky slick and easy to chew. The flavor is tangy and has a black cherry note to it. It’s woodsy and has an actual cherry pie flavor and then just a hint of the bouncy sweetness of licorice. The whole thin isn’t too sweet either, again, the benefit of the touch of salt in here. Wow, a cherry candy I actually like, because it actually tastes like cherries. For those who don’t like licorice, it’s not a bold anise flavor, just a different kind of sweetness that highlights the woodsy notes of the cherry flavors.
I don’t know if they’re in stores yet, I didn’t see them at Whole Foods, which is usually where I pick up Marich candies (though I also see them at Gelson’s in Southern California as well). I expect the price to be around $3.50 to $4 per package, so a little steep.
Monday, January 18, 2010
A few years ago Jelly Belly was taking suggestions for their new bean flavors. I was actively advocating honey. I know, it’s not dazzling like Juicy Pear or knock-your-socks-off like Buttered Popcorn, but let’s face it, honey is one of humans’ first candies.
Honey actually made it to the final cut of the flavor voting, but the trendier Acai Berry won (with honey as a close second). The good news is that honey made a good enough showing that Jelly Belly went ahead and made it anyway! Which is good, because I’d much rather have a spoonful of honey than of acai berry.
The beans are dark amber and ever so slightly translucent.
They’re soft and mild - really like a less sweet globule of honey. The texture is smooth overall, though with that slight grain of the thin jelly bean shell. There’s a little bit of a fresh aftertaste, kind of like jasmine tea.
It’s too bad that they’re not all natural (there are some artificial colors in there) but they use real honey in them, and that definitely is apparent.
Honestly, I didn’t think much of them when I had them the first time, but the true honey flavor comes through and I found myself wanting more later. I can’t say eating a huge bag of them would be a goal, but they were a nice little mid-day refresher. My confidence level that these are going to appear in stores is pretty low. I don’t expect to see them at the grocery store, but perhaps in the stores that carry the single flavors in bulk ... so the Jelly Belly website is probably going to be the best bet. (A custom mix I’d make for myself would probably be to mix the honey and Citrus Mix for a special sort of cough drop if only they’d make a mentholated jelly bean.)
Jelly Belly are gluten-free, dairy-free and gelatin free plus Kosher.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
They’re a pretty simple candy and also rather hard to find. I picked these up at the Dollar Tree, but I haven’t seen them anywhere else in the past five years or so.
Chuckles are now made by Farley’s & Sathers but they were the brainchild of Fred Amend back in the 1920s. He was the fellow who go the bright idea to do a sugar crust on gum drops to keep them from sticking together and retain their jelly softness. The company was sold to Nabisco in 1970. At first it was a great marriage. Nabisco wasn’t known as a candy company yet they’d acquired the number one jellied candy brand. They even sponsored Evel Knieval’s attempted jump over Snake River Canyon in 1974. But Nabisco was going through its own growing pains, as it was itself acquired and apparently forgot to manage the brand. Then in a strange turn in the 80s, several former Nabisco executives bought the Chuckles brand and jelly candy company and tried to bring it back to its former glory by moving into gummis as the trend emerged.
I’m having a bit of trouble tracking the history from there. I believe that Chuckles were sold in 1987 to Leaf (Huhtamaki Oy) and then Leaf was sold to Hershey’s in 1996. Farley’s & Sathers acquired it in 2002 along with other jelly candy brands like Heide Jujyfruits and JuJubes.
About 2/3” in diameter and a 1/2” high they’re a small bite of candy. Each is shaped the same, a six pointed berry. They’re really very similar to Jujyfruits except they lack the variety of shapes.
The flavor array is identical to the classic Chuckles: Licorice, Cherry, Orange, Lemon and Lime.
The exterior is soft and dry - no sugary coating, no residual corn starch and no greasy mineral oil. The texture is very smooth, more like Dots than Jujyfruits. They’re soft and completely about the sweet and zest, not any tartness or tangy notes.
Licorice was a disappointment. It was mostly soapy and not much in the way or licorice or anise. Perhaps it got a little too much cherry near it. There’s also a bit of a menthol or minted note to it.
Cherry is quite bold. It reminded me of cherry LifeSavers, at least the smell of someone eating them nearby. Rather pleasant until the bitter Red40 aftertaste hit.
Orange is where things picked up. The citrus zest was strong, almost bitter but in an authentic way.
Lemon was also pretty zesty and fresh.
Lime was off the rails and into fragrance. I had a similar reaction to Chuckle’s green as well. It’s not the end of the world, I can eat around it.
They’re pretty and certainly pretty cheap. They do stick in my teeth in little globs and chunks pretty much like Dots.
I don’t see myself buying them again. I liked the orange and lemon, but I can just get Orange Slices if I’m in that sort of a mood. I can see these being used for decorating cupcakes or gingerbread houses, especially since they’re so inexpensive.
(The Chuckles company was one of the last companies to make the Pine Brothers glycerine cough drops I absolutely loved as a kid.)
Thursday, December 17, 2009
The box sports a modular and moderne design created by someone who liked to show off their typesetting skills. They’re:
On the back it goes on in all caps:
I had a headache from all the shouting and exclamations.
The chocolates are quite pretty to look at, like a selection of gaudy bakelite coat buttons. The five flavors are naturally colored domes with a similar construction. Inside is a ganache with a little dollop of fruit jelly. The top is a shell of chocolate or white chocolate and the base is sealed up with more chocolate of some sort.
They’re one inch high and about one inch and a quarter in diameter. For the most part they’re one bite, but of course I did a lot of biting in half and peeking so perhaps I wasn’t eating them the way those fancy Belgians intended.
Cranberry (white chocolate) - a white chocolate shell with red blush filled with a milk chocolate ganache and a cranberry jelly all sitting on a white chocolate base.
You know what I think about when someone says cranberry jelly? I think tart. I think cheek drawing tartness. What I got here was something a little less startling. The milk chocolate ganache was a rather dairy, which is not a flavor I think goes particularly well with cranberry, I think a dark chocolate would join with the acidity and berry notes better. It was sweet and set off well by the slightly tart cranberry jelly, but the white chocolate shell & base just made to far too sweet in the end.
This was another bland floral jelly with no real note that came through the white chocolate, it was all overshadowed by the dark chocolate base. Not that it was a bad thing, but a pom white ganache truffle sounded pretty good.
Cherry (milk chocolate) - a milk chocolate shell with brownish red hue filled with a white chocolate ganache and a cherry jelly sitting on a milk chocolate base.
The scent on these is an overwhelming woodsy-cherry with some medicinal maraschino thing. It’s quite distracting and swamps the box every time I open it. The jelly itself is rather mild and sweet with an authentic flavor of cherry. The sweet milk chocolate has a little dairy going on, a little creamy party that’s actually rather good. So though I didn’t like the bad influence the cherry had on the box, they were one of the better cherry chocolates I’ve had in a long time.
It seemed like the orange ones got a more liberal heaping of the jelly, so the flavor was more intense right away. The jelly is tangy and zesty, smooth and not a trace of grain. I would buy a whole box of these.
Raspberry (white chocolate) - a white chocolate shell with red/brown stripes filled with a white chocolate ganache and a raspberry jelly all sitting on a dark chocolate base.
The ganache is soft, creamy and sweet, a little fluffy and generally unflavored. The raspberry jelly does nothing, not even a tangy bite or a floral note. The dark chocolate base actually does a lot of heavy lifting here with a bittersweet overtone in an otherwise “cherry infused” piece.
So my ultimate reaction to these was that I was torn. They’re good quality, I appreciate that they’re beautiful and have some uncommon flavors. The ingredients may be all natural (including the colorings) but there’s also canola and palm oil in there (good quality ganache is made with butterfat). In the end each piece wasn’t distinctive enough and the colors weren’t well defined so I couldn’t even tell what I was eating. They just didn’t satisfy any craving within me for either chocolate or creamy.
Belgian Chocolate Fancies are marked gluten free and say that they’re processed on equipment with tree nuts & eggs (and of course contain dairy and soy). So it may be a lovely hostess gift for a chocolate-loving peanut-allergic pal.
Friday, December 4, 2009
A couple of month ago I reviewed the set of trio of Dots candies for Halloween: Bat Dots, Candy Corn Dots & Ghost Dots. For Christmas Tootsie can only muster one holiday version: Christmas Dots.
Christmas Dots are red and green with white snow caps. So they’re festive looking, but are they festive tasting? Well, they’re Cherry and Lime flavored with Vanilla tops. Neither Cherry nor Lime have ever been considered a Christmas or even Winter flavor as far as I’m concerned (though I think vanilla is a nice touch).
The smell like vanilla. In fact, they smell an awful lot like the Candy Corn Dots, which I thought were more like vanilla pudding Dots (in a good way). These are like Jell-O and Cool Whip Dots in my two least favorite Jell-O flavors.
The lime is tangy and has a good zest note to it, but it also has a severely bitter component. The vanilla offsets it well, kind of like a lime creamsicle.
The cherry is very strong though not as much on the tart side of things, so it’s quite sweet. It’s also bitter, but in a more artificial coloring note than an actual natural citrus oil way. The vanilla balances this rather well, though I still didn’t like them at all, I found eating the vanilla tops to be palatable enough.
It might have been fun to really mix it up with these with something like Spearmint and Cinnamon with Vanilla. As it is, these are pretty enough to eat, but prettier to just decorate with.
In an unrelated story (to Christmas candy), Tootsie and the Orthodox Union announced that Tootsie candies including Tootsie Rolls, Frooties and Dots will be Kosher, with items arriving on store shelves soon.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Heide Red Hot Dollars have a colorful past. The original Heide Red Hot Dollars were raspberry flavored, but when they were bought by Hershey’s in the 90s, they thought the name was confusing, so they changed it to Red Raspberry Dollars, which was obviously more descriptive but also lost the decades of product identification. To make things more confusing Farley’s & Sathers bought the brand (which includes Jujyfruits) and introduced these Red Hot Dollars, which are cinnamon flavored.
When I tried Red Raspberry Dollars last year I was a little frustrated because I wanted to try their spicy Red Hot Dollars. I was too cheap to actually buy them via the internet where shipping candy is often in excess of the candy cost, so I just kept my eyes open. When I was the NACS show in Las Vegas last month I mentioned my difficulties in finding them to the Farley’s & Sathers representative and he helped me out by giving me two boxes. (But no real help in finding them again.)
The box was frustrating. Dots usually have a cellophane wrapper on the boxes. But Heide candies are just a plain paperboard box with product rattling around inside. But what they lack in moisture seals they more than make up for in glue. It was impossible for me to open either box at the flap ends without tearing the layers of paperboard to bits. But fortunately this frustrating package did keep it fresh. They were soft and pliable.
The thick “coins” look exactly like the raspberry ones. They don’t smell either, so don’t throw these in a bowl together unless you love both.
They’re soft like Dots, a little softer than Jujyfruits tend to be. The matte surface doesn’t have a greasy coat like some gummi products do. The gumdrop texture is dense and firm and very cinnamony. Some were hotter than others, enough to make me sweat sometimes.
I really enjoyed them and had no trouble eating both boxes in a matter of weeks. They’re a great candy to keep at my desk because they’re not messy, easy to offer & share plus they don’t give me any sort of weird candy breath. I enjoyed the smooth texture more than the grainy jelly bean known as Hot Tamales, but they really did get stuck to my teeth.
Vegans may be able to consume these; there’s no beeswax or confectionery glaze and the colors are all artificial. It all depends on how you feel about mineral oil and sugar. They’re also Kosher.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.