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.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Spearmint Leaves are such a simple candy. A firm jelly molded in the shape of a mint leaf and flavored with spearmint oil (or a reasonable facsimile).
I don’t how long they’ve been around (earliest mention on Google’s news archive is 1928). There’s no fantastical tale of their historical debut at any World’s Fair or even a county fair. They’re probably just a novelty shape of a traditional spice gumdrop. I don’t know who invented them or even who makes the best ones. Even passably good ones are good enough for me.
They’re sold without any fancy brand names, simply Spearmint Leaves. You can get them in bulk, in tubs at the office supply stores or in peg bags at the drug stores.
The ingredients are identical to gum drops. They’re sugar, corn syrup and a bit of corn starch for jelling. Then a little artificial flavor & color to complete the illusion of a platform shoe equivalent of a real leaf of mint.
I picked up my package of Walgreen branded Spearmint Leaves from their 99 cent peg bag selection. I usually look for bags that appear dry and the candies move around easily but that the candies also have a little give when squeezed. Too much moisture is an enemy of jelly candies. It makes the granulated sugar coating sticky and allows their qi to leak out.
I picked a good bag. The color is rather light and oddly on the blue side. The shape of the leaf is a bit narrower at the top than the bottom and has a nice point to it on the end with a little stem. So the molding is nice. The granular sugar coating is good - there’s enough to keep them from sticking but not so much as to overpower the flavor.
The texture inside is smooth. It’s not sticky (at least not as sticky as Dots) and not too sweet. The spearmint notes are dead on - aromatic and kind of sparkly. There are small spots where the spearmint flavor really tingles to the forefront.
It’s a fresh feeling, but not like eating a mint. I can eat a whole bag if I don’t control myself. They’re even still good when stale and a bit tacky.
I know they’re not the sexiest, hippest candy but to be around this long without any sort of marketing support is a testament to their excellence.
Other big candy companies that make Spearmint Leaves are Brach’s & Farley’s and probably others, if you have a favorite, please let me know. It’d be nice to find a company that makes all natural ones (which really shouldn’t be that hard to do) - the closest I’ve come are the fruit flavored gourmet Gum Drops from Whole Foods.
This package isn’t marked Kosher and it says that it’s a product of Canada & USA (I can’t quite figure that one out). They are marked Gluten-Free. (And are probably also considered vegan.) They’re also silly-cheap, so it’s a low risk sort of thing.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
As I was on my little candy walkabout late last week I noticed a lot of popular candies have a tropical flavor mix. So I decided to start picking them all up and do a little roundup.
For the most part I consider the tropical flavors to be pineapple, mango, papaya, durian (not that I advocate its use), carambola (starfruit), passionfruit, banana, lychee, guava and coconut. Citrus goes in there but things like strawberries and melons are definitely not a tropical fruit (my rule is if it can be grown in Ohio, it’s not tropical).
First, I have to say that I’ve never had Nerds Rope before. It arrived on the scene sometime after my candy experimental days (you know, when you’re a kid) but before it was launched as a new product during my Candy Blog phase.
But the concept is simple, a sticky gummi rope is rolled in Nerds. In this case it’s a Tropical Nerds Rope.
The candy is kind of odd in that it’s rather over-packaged and overpriced (look how long the rope is compared to the wrapper). It’s less than an ounce but costs the same as a regular candy bar. But then again, it’s a 100 calorie snack! (90 to be precise.)
There are no flavors actually mentioned on the packages, just eensy images of Nerds in swim trunks and flower leis. In this case the gummi cord at the center is a sparkly green. The tangy Nerds are mostly pineapple tasting.
The chewy center and excellent Nerd stickage makes this much less messy than I had anticipated. The combination of textures and flavors is really nice. I enjoy the pineapple quite a bit (maybe some papaya in there) and don’t really feel the need to try any other flavor after this. (I could see a build your own rope kit too, a little length of gummi and kids could roll their own.)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Made in USA by Wonka/Nestle)
Now and Later were off limits to me for a long time, mostly because I thought they were too risky for my teeth. But now that I have a good dentist, I’m not as apt to give into such unfounded fears.
Tropical Now and Later has a flavor assortment that’s right up my alley: Mango Melon, Pineapple and Banana. (I’ve never met a yellow flavor I didn’t like.)
Often mango flavored candies taste a lot like peach to me. And peach flavored candies often taste more like over-syruped peach pie than actual peaches. This was pretty much like that. The dominant flavor was of the musky mango with a little cantaloupe thrown in.
It got tangier the more I chewed, which I enjoyed, because that took over the flavor profile for the most part.
These are everything you’d expect from a banana taffy. Bold and artificial tasting with a strange blast of dry cleaning smell in the back of my throat and the old standby - fingernail polish remover.
Still, I love banana taffy.
This is only slightly lighter than the Banana, but luckily they print the name of the flavor on there.
Tangy and fruity but with a strange, warm Play Doh note in the middle.
I found them pretty much irresistible even if they were rather fake.
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Made in Mexico by Farley’s & Sathers)
On the back of the box of Mike and Ike Tropical Typhoon is a flavor guide. It includes little images of fruits: banana, kiwi, lime, mango, strawberry and pineapple (also on the front).
The flavors, on the other hand, don’t quite match up.
Blue = Caribbean Punch: the initial flavor is a bit green & pine-ish. Then it becomes more punch-like. It’s all sweet and no tangy.
Peach = Mango: a little tart at first, then rather floral. Not exactly mango but definitely not peach and the longer I chewed the closer it got to the rosemary notes that mangoes have.
Red = Strawberry-Banana: the initial note here is sweet banana, then a little strawberry bobs by for a little floral note.
Green = Kiwi-Banana: it starts like the strawberry banana but then just stops ... it’s not that it’s an all banana flavored Mike and Ike, but just half-flavored. Some of them had a slight tangy melon flavor on the shell, but not all of them and it certainly didn’t taste like kiwi to me.
Pink = Paradise Punch : just a slight tingle of tangy in there, but it’s mostly a sweet punch flavor ... like the Caribbean Punch but without the strange balsam notes.
Overall, too much like the original Mike and Ike - too bland and not enough real punchy flavor in there. I really wanted some pineapple flavor in there, too. I’ll stick to Tangy Twister (which has Pineapple) or the Alex’s Lemonade Stand mixes.
Rating: 6 out of 10. (Made in USA by Just Born)
I have to say that I’ve always regarded the Tootsie company as rather traditional and slow to adopt to changing American tastes. But then it’s like they have this strange rebellious group known as the Dots Makers. They’re fully encouraged to do bizarre flavor assortments from the crazy Ghost Dots at Halloween (to be paired with Bat Dots this year which are Blood Orange flavored - which I would have called Blood Dots) then the Yogurt Dots but the real innovation came in the limited edition line called Elements that came in single flavor packages of Cinnamon, Green Tea, Wintergreen and Pomegranate.
So Tropical Dots are kind of tame in comparison, but they must be popular because they’ve been around since 2003.
Bright Pink = Tropical Nectar: it tastes like Hawaiian Punch with a strong bitter aftertaste. Sweet, tangy and definitely with that “tropical candy flavor” that I think is papaya.
Orange = Wild Mango: tart and rather citrusy with a pretty good imitation of mango flavor in there. Still tastes like the mango version of Tang.
Turquoise = Paradise Punch: an insane color for a candy, it’s rather similar to the Tropical Nectar but with more of a citrus twang to it and less aftertaste.
Yellow = Grapefruit Cooler: why didn’t someone tell me there was a grapefruit Dot? These are fabulous and I want to buy them by the box. The first notes are tangy then there’s a deep zesty flavor that has a black cherry note to it that dissipates and then it’s just a nice grapefruit & citrus flavor.
Green = Carambola Melon: - when my mother came to visit last time we went to a new Korean market in Little Tokyo (that replaced my favorite market, Mitsuwa). They had these little melons called Korean Melons ... they were small, about the size of a papaya or mango. Bright yellow with some mild bumps and distinct ridges. I bought two. I cut them up and was rather unimpressed with the flavor - like weak Musk Melon. The problem was later in the evening I kept smelling something like garbage. I turned out it was the melon. (I really like the idea of a one-serving melon though.)
Anyway, this one is supposed to be starfruit and melon. I don’t know starfruit that well. I usually eat it off of garnishes at dessert displays, but I’ve never actually bought my own from the produce department and tasted it. It had a rather musty taste to it that was also on the violet side of things ... it was just weird, but not in a terrible way, just in a “this is new to me” way.
The box was wrapped in cellophane so the Dots were soft and fresh. This didn’t stop them from sticking to my teeth, but still, it’s worth it for their smooth texture.
Rating: 7 out of 10. (Made in USA by Tootsie)
The final item on my list is Tropical Razzles.
Like all Razzles, they look terrible out of the package.
Yellow = Pineapple: Nice tangy burst but with a light flavor & texture of a chewable vitamin C tablet. It holds its flavor pretty well, though becomes less tart and more sweet towards the end when it becomes as appealing and chewed paper.
Pink = Strawberry-Banana: nice mix of strawberry & banana notes, almost reminds me of the old Wacky Wafers at first. Chewing too long just disappoints, I vote for spitting out when it become sweet but the grain wanes.
Red = Tropical Punch: definitely like Hawaiian punch. Strong bitter aftertaste & cherry notes towards the end. The gum was much tougher on this one too.
Orange = Tangerine: more orange than tangerine. The tangy notes aren’t as forward as some of the others. When the flavor is gone there’s a weird metallic aftertaste.
Green = Kiwi-Lime: if there was kiwi in here, I missed it completely. This was lime. Very lime, nicely tangy with a little bitter zest note (or maybe the food coloring).
Overall, I think that Razzles suffer from too much artificial coloring. After chewing the pieces they’re extremely dark & vibrant ... that’s a lot of food coloring. If I wanted to treat it like candy (which I do), it means a lot of sticky leftover bits in a very short period of time.
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Made in Canada by Concord Brands)
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Well, let me make a correction: yes, I’ve had packages before ... but I’ve never actually opened them up and eaten them.
The previous flavors were Blueberry (blue), Strawberry (red), Mixed Berry (purple), Raspberry (pink), Wild Berry (green) while the new flavors are Blueberry, Strawberry, Blue Raspberry, Peach Berry and Wild Berry. So besides a color shift for some of the returning flavors, the new flavor here is Peach Berry.
Strawberry (pink) - a mild strawberry flavor. Sweet for the most part with a little tangy layer around the sugary shell.
Blue Raspberry (light blue) - again, mild. I really couldn’t tell it was raspberry specifically, but at least there was no red food coloring aftertaste. The tart bite was completely missing.
Blueberry (blue) - I’m rarely fond of blueberry flavored candies, as blueberries aren’t that intense to begin with and are best fresh or in pancakes. It’s sweet and has a bit of an iced tea vibe to it ... nice, but rather bland.
Peach Berry (peach) - I’m not sure who thought peaches & berries go together, but it doesn’t make much of a difference on this one since the flavor is boldly peach and only vaguely raspberry. Well, the bold part is an overstatement, the peach isn’t in my face like Jolly Ranchers, just a sedate sort of background note.
Wild Berry (dark purple) - I got only one of these, so it’s hard to make much of an assessment based on that. It tasted a lot like the raspberry, perhaps a little more intense.
Overall, I think it’s just my personal preference for more intensely flavored candies that are assertive in their flavors. But as far as flavor mixes go, I like that these are all in the same flavor family and if I mixed the colors in the same mouthful, there isn’t a bad combination to be had. Add to that, the jelly bean quality here is very smooth and I enjoyed the color variations. The bag is a decent value since it holds 2.12 ounces, I’ve found that the bags are fresher than the theater boxes.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Surf Sweets has been making fun candies that are also mostly organic and made from non-GMO ingredients for years. What’s fun about them is that other than the ingredients, they don’t look like a compromise to kids. They’re fun shapes and flavors and even the all natural colorings don’t look faded and suspicious.
The Gummi Swirls area also fortified with vitamin C (no big deal there, lots of candies are) and 100% of the RDA of calcium.
Hmm, calcium? That’s stuff tastes pretty nasty sometimes.
The package doesn’t mention it, but these little gum-drop-sized candies come in three flavors: orange, strawberry and cherry.
The little pieces are truly lovely. The white background color and the little swirls are then graced with crunchy granulated sugar.
The bite is firm, they’re not quite gummis (they’re vegetarian, so actually contain no gelatin, think of them more like jellies or gumdrops since they use fruit pectin) but chewy. The flavor is good, not overly tart or sweet but also not terribly intense. They’re simply nice. There’s a bit of a creamsicle vibe to them, a slight creamy background to the flavor. If I let them dissolve a bit on my tongue I was getting that hint of chalky grain that antacids can have. (But pop & chew and it’s not at all detectable.)
My only real complaint is that I can’t tell the cherry from the strawberry. If they’re different colors, I’m not wise to the subtlety. (Maybe one is cream with pink strips and the other is pink with cream stripes.)
I really like this brand, they’re obviously more expensive than the mass-manufactured options, but the ability to buy without artificial colors and the fact that they don’t look “special” to kids must be a huge relief to parents who keep their kids on a more restricted diet. Surf Sweets has also started making smaller packages (.9 ounces) for lunches, party favors and Halloween treats.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.