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.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Classic Lemonheads are one of my favorite candies. Even though I have to eat a huge variety of new to me candy for the blog on a regular basis, I still find a bit of room to indulge in Lemonheads from time to time.
There’s nothing else like the line of candies - a hard and mildly flavored candy core covered with a grainy and intensely flavored coating then a shiny coat.
A couple of years ago Ferrara Pan expanded the line with their Chewy Lemonheads. They’re kind of an amped up jelly bean. A chewy jelly center with the same grainy and blisteringly sour layer covered in a light shell. They came in the same flavors we were accustomed to with the Lemonheads and Friends.
Now Ferrara Pan is mixing it up again with new flavors, this time only in the Chewy line with their Tropical Chewy Lemonhead & Friends.
It’s an odd name, and kind of misleading. There are no Lemonheads (there are pink-lemonade-heads though) in here, now the name has become a brand and shorthand for a whole line of candies.
The unique proposition here is that there are two flavors in each piece. The shell is one flavor and the core is another. (Sounds kind of like Skittles Crazy Cores, doesn’t it?)
The flavors are Kiwi-Strawberry, Peach-Mango, Berry-Banana, Cherry-Watermelon and Pink Lemonade-Lemonade. The colors are muted and tropical, definitely different at a glance from the regular Lemonheads which are far brighter.
This blue shell is almost aqua and the inside is supposed to be yellow according to the key on the box, but it’s more green to me.
The shell is that blue raspberry flavor that was invented by confectioners and has little relation to any real fruit flavor. There’s no tangy layer between the shell and the jelly center. So it’s a sweet berry outside with a mild banana inside. It’s pleasant enough and did start off the tasting with a tropical bent.
The shell is medium green and the center is a light red.
The outside doesn’t taste like much, but there is a pleasant tangy pop between the layers on most of them (some were just all sweet). The strawberry center is floral and tasted a little like cotton candy. It’s mostly an inoffensive piece of candy. Not intense but just a little more interesting than a standard fruity jelly bean.
The red shell on this one has a lighter pink center. (A green shell with a red center would have been rather more like a watermelon though.)
The red is intense and bright and the cherry flavor is strong and medicinal without the robust sour cherry note that I was hoping for. (There was also that bitter aftertaste from the food coloring.)
Pink on the outside and yellow on the inside.
I don’t really know what pink lemonade is, most of the time it’s just lemonade with a dash of red food coloring, though I think classically it’s lemonade with strawberries. In this instance I think it’s the former. The outside is just a little bit lemony and the tangy layer is, well, only slightly tangy. The center does have a little lemon zest to it. All this really does is make me want a Lemonhead. As far as I’m concerned the Pink Lemonade-Lemonade Chewy Lemonhead is for wusses who can’t handle the real thing.
The outside is a great peachy orange color. The center is green.
Experience has taught me that I’m rarely pleased with peach or mango flavored candies. It’s not that I don’t love peaches or mangoes, but they’re very hard flavors to duplicate. Probably because so much of their flavor also depends on the texture. In this case the flavors are quite mild but passable. The peach outside is sweet and like canned peaches (lacking that balsam note that some candies try to include). The inside is a little more woodsy and green tasting, a little grassy and a little like pine. I can’t say I loved the, but I didn’t pick around them as much as the cherry.
I read a lot of other reviews on these when they first came out (I finally found them in stores here in California earlier this month) and I have to wonder if they punched them up recently. Or maybe they’re just plain inoffensive and I’m not angling for a fight. Because Mr. Lemonhead is my bestest lifelong friend.
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.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.