Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Jelly Belly is introducing a new product to their Confections line. Not quite a jelly bean and not quite a gummi bear, these are Licorice Bears. I previewed these little guys at the Fancy Food Show in January but it was nice to have more than three to give them a real taste drive.
These sassy, spicy and soft bears aren’t quite like black vine licorice either. The texture is rather like a smooth gumdrop. They’re made with corn syrup and a potato starch base, which makes them softer on the tongue and easier to dissolve than a wheat & molasses based vine. (All that ingredient talk really takes the magic out of it, doesn’t it?) The natural and artificially flavored bears are super sweet but have a nice woodsy and clear licorice/anise flavor to them.
The size and shape is rather close to the Haribo bears I’m so fond of.
I would find these irresistible in a bowl or jar in front of me. The bag I got as a preview sample from Jelly Belly is just about gone (and I just got it on Friday, which is saying a lot about my lack of control). I much prefer these to the black jelly beans, something about the consistent texture that I really like. Unlike Black Crows, they don’t stick to my teeth in the same way, either.
I’m not sure how easy these are going to be to find, I even had trouble finding them on the Jelly Belly site at first . But the price is decent enough, only a little more than Jelly Belly beans at $4.99 for the half pound bag. I’m rather fond of Licorice Pastels and I’m wondering if these could be panned with a crunchy candy shell ... that might be heavenly.
There’s no gelatin in this product, so it’s suitable for vegetarians (and I’m pretty sure they use American-grown beet sugar as well in all their products, so these would be okay even for vegans). There’s also no wheat in there.
(As a silly side note, I took that photo of the bag of Licorice Bears seen at the top. Later I went to the Jelly Belly site and found that while my photo looks lovely and professional, it also looks exactly like theirs which led me to wonder why I bothered taking mine. Oh well.)
UPDATE: It looks like Jelly Belly sent these samples out to a few places. Candy Addict’s Caitlin just posted her thoughts as well.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Nope, no special text on these, they’re totally a regular product now.
So, go about your business. No need to hoard them or buy them on eBay. Just buy them whenever you want them.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
The dark trend continues. If it can be made dark, it will be made dark. So it is written in the marketing analysis ... so it is done.
Hershey’s brought out the Kissables with a huge marketing blitz in 2005. They’re tasty little hybrids of Hershey’s Kisses and M&Ms. There’s no way they’re ever going to shove a peanut in the center there, but they can easily make them with Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate so they have. For a while they were showing off Hershey’s Special Dark Kissables in large bags, they’ve finally made it to the single serve bags, so I thought it was time to give them a try.
The wrapper is a pleasing brick-maroon color that evokes the feel of rich chocolate. The little candies come in four colors: lavender, maroon, dark purple and brown. Not quite as sassy feeling as the Kissables ... not even as many colors. They feel morose, a little depressed.
They have the nice light crunch of the Kissables and a good creamy dark chocolate center. They’re a little chalky tasting, only a slight bitter hint towards the end, but generally very sweet.
I decided I was obligated to compare them to the Dark Chocolate M&Ms.
M&Ms come in more colors but the dark chocolate inside is just as sweet, but a little mellower overall. The Special Dark Kissables seem a bit crunchier, a bit more chocolatey. Neither wows me with their complex chocolate taste. They remind me of Sno-Caps, but with less mess and more color (not that it would matter in a dark theater).
Both dark chocolates contain milkfat and lactose, so are not appropriate for those who shun dairy. The M&Ms give you 1.69 ounces per package, Kissables only 1.5. The Kissables bag is plasticized, the M&Ms are only a glossy paper.
After sitting here with both in front of me, I found myself reaching for the Kissables more often. They just felt creamier, less chalky and a little richer, so they get one point higher than the Dark Chocolate M&Ms did.
Monday, May 14, 2007
It’s summer movie season. I’m not much of a movie-goer, mostly because I don’t like to go out (I have this same problem with vacations), but I do enjoy movie cuisine of the sweets variety. (Nachos and hot dogs do not belong at the movies ... those are ballpark foods.) Today I have three classics.
Sno-Caps were introduced in the twenties by the Blumenthal Chocolate Company. These are just tiny chocolate chips with a coating of white nonpareils. The combination of the mellow semi-sweet chocolate with the sweet crunchy white dots makes them ideal for munching for two hours. The box encourages me to “Mix it Up! with Popcorn” but I’m kind of a sweets purist at the movies ... just candy, thanks!
The semi-sweet chocolate isn’t terribly smooth, but it has a good chocolate flavor to it and a little dry and bitter hit towards the end. Of course the sweet little sugar spheres mellow that out pretty quick. The crunchies encourage me to chew these instead of letting them melt. But sometimes I like to let them all melt in my mouth so I’m left with a mess-o-nonpareils for some real crunching.
At the very end things can get a little messy with the orphaned nonpareils at the bottom of the box ... or the bottom of my purse if the box isn’t sealed completely. A quick tip of the box and I have some good crunching. If I miss my mouth, well, luckily they’re rather inert.
(Note: Sno-Caps semi-sweet chocolate now contains milkfat, so is not suitable for vegans.)
Rating: 7 out of 10
Goobers came along in 1925, though the idea of chocolate covered nuts had already been around for centuries (though not very affordable until the turn of the century). To me Goober was a character on The Andy Griffith Show. It wasn’t until years later I found out that goober is actually slang for peanuts. (That was about the time that I started seeing Goober from Smuckers on the store shelves (peanut butter and jelly in the same jar).
Goobers are one of those easy to eat candies that don’t get you all hopped up. There’s a lot of protein in there from the nuts, so they don’t get my blood sugar all in a tizzy. The chocolate is very sweet and not terribly smooth, but with the crunch of the nuts in there I rarely suck the chocolate off, so it’s not very noticeable. My only complaint with Goobers is that sometimes the peanuts aren’t very good. It could be that I’m getting an old box or the peanuts quality control isn’t that good. A bad peanut is, well, bad.
There was a jingle for Goobers & Raisinets which has always stuck in my head (probably from around the same time as the Mounds & Almond Joy song).
Rating: 7 out of 10
Raisinets were the third part of the movie candy puzzle, they were introduced in 1927. The idea of Raisinets had been around for years, often sold as part of a mix of panned nuts and dried fruits known as “Bridge Mix”.
These are nicely sized raisins, soft and chewy, sweet and tangy. The chocolate, on the other hand, is super sweet, slightly grain and rather bland. As a kid I pretty much detested Raisinets. I eat them far more often now, but unless the chocolate is really good, I’d rather eat raisins.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nestle has a strange website to promote these candies, called Nestle Classics which emphasizes them as good movie candy. It’s kind of odd, since the only candy in their “Classic” lineup that they originated is the Nestle bar. All the other bars and candies in the array were acquired from other companies (Chunky & Oh Henry).
So, what are you eating at the movies this summer?
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
I tried the Theo Chocolate BonBons earlier this year and have had the bars sitting around for a while. I’m feeling quite pressured to eat them all (though they need to be savored) before Los Angeles gets so hot it bursts into flames (oops, we’re already on fire).
Theo makes chocolate from bean to bar (actually roasting their own beans on site) using fair trade and organic ingredients. Don’t let all that squishy-hippy stuff fool you, this is quality stuff without compromise.
Even the wrappers are sassy and fun (designed by KittenChops) instead of making you feel like you did a good deed. Come on! Half the fun is feeling that your chocolate bar is an indulgence ... a wrapper that tells you how many lives you may have saved, how many species will continue to exist because of your support ... all the wonderful skin-clarifying, artery-blasting ingredients that are contained within might be nice (and might get you to buy it) but they aren’t going to get your salivary glands going.
The dark bars contain 65% cocoa solids, so these are dark, but not too intense.
The Theo Chocolate bars are actually called 3400 Phinney Bars, named after the address of the Theo Chocolate Factory in Seattle. Not only are they not afraid of you knowing where they are, they actually welcome visitors and offer tours with tastings, of course, as well as a factory store. I’m hoping to get up there next fall to really dive into their complete chocolate experience.
The Milk Chocolate bars boast 40% cacao content, so they’re pretty rich.
All the bars a welcome change from the ordinary candy bar. The two I would find myself munching on regularly would be the Nib Brittle and Chai Milk Chocolate. They are expensive though, so only for special occasions. I could see tucking these into a special picnic at Pt. Dume or going to the Hollywood Bowl for a concert, but I just can’t buy them every day ... but knowing that the cocoa is grown responsibly (socially & environmentally) would help me pony up the dough.
You can find the bars online at Theo, Chocosphere and at stores like Whole Foods. The bars are
now Kosher (as of March 2008).
Thursday, May 3, 2007
Quetzalcoatl is one of the gods of the Aztec pantheon with a serpent head and feathers. He was the morning star, the giver of agriculture and creator of books & calendars. Most importantly, the legends say that he gave cacao to the Aztecs. (Truly making it a food of the gods, as the botanical name for the plant implies Theobroma cacao.)
The traditional chocolate of the time was made by taking whole beans and crushing them/grinding them on a metate (also used for corn). The resulting paste (what we now call cocoa liquor) was combined with milk or water and spices to make their chocolate. Xocoatl, the early name for chocolate actually means “foamy water.”
Gary Guittard created this bar using whole cacao beans and no added cocoa butter. So the ingredients are just about the shortest you’re going to see on a chocolate bar: Cacao Beans, Pure Cane Sugar, Soya Lecithin, Vanilla Beans.
The package characterizes the bar thusly:
This bar is dark and roasty with strong woodsy flavors in the cedar family along with smoke and tobacco. There are a few dried fruit flavors in there as well, with some raisin and cherry notes. It has a dry finish and is very filling. I have to admit that I’m a big fan of high-cocoa butter chocolate bars, as I think the butter buoys the flavors so that they can roll around on the tongue a little longer and you can tease out more of the intricacies. I was really missing the extra fat here.
This isn’t a bar I’d eat all the time, but I like it as an educational piece of chocolate.
As part of the effort to Keep it Real, I asked Guittard if they’d be willing to donate something to the cause that I could give away. So after I pledged my $100 Chocosphere gift certificate to the lovely chocolateactivists who took the challenge, I also got a package of a dozen of Guittard’s bars (a $38 value) plus this extra bar for my own enjoyment, of course. I did a second drawing yesterday using all those people who entered with the “raffle ticket” that commented to the FDA (to kind of even the playing field). The winner was reader desertwind! Congratulations ... I hope you enjoy the array of fine (and real) bars.
I found this bar at a store called Kearn’s on Beverly Blvd. in Los Angeles. I’ve passed by this little convenience store for 13 years without ever stopping in. Because it’s in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, I thought they might have an interesting selection (and perhaps some leftover Passover Coke). They carried a good line of candies, with a strong focus on jelly based ones (Sunkist Fruit Gems, anyone?). They also had some imported items, especially ones from Israel in the Paskesz brand.
I’ve had a few Paskesz candies and find them decent middle of the road fare, rather like Hershey’s or Mars but with a good wholesome twist on the ordinary crunch.
Looking at the Milk Munch bar it was pretty obvious that it’s a Milky Way knock-off (Mars knock-off for your European readers).
The milk chocolate is unremarkable. It’s sweet and creamy, but lacks any real chocolate flavor contribution here. The main flavor here is the rather cereal tasting nougat. Salty and perhaps a little malty, it tastes a bit like cookie dough. The caramel is nice and soft, but again, not very flavorful.
I was hoping for a Milky Way Bar here, but I got something a little more toned down but far saltier ... and Milky Ways are pretty sedate as it is. But there was something more dense about the nougat portion that just didn’t please me. And at more than the price of a regular Milky Way, it just wasn’t worth it.
Note from wrapper: made under the supervision of Rabbi O.Y. Westheim, Manchester
Friday, April 27, 2007
I tried the Dove chocolate last year and was pleased with it. It’s kind of a slick chocolate, both in packaging and in texture. They market this as silky, and I’m not sure if it’s the level of fat in it or the size of the particles of cocoa solids ... or perhaps both.
While I’m not that keen on the plain bars, I got a note from some marketing folks offering me some of their other products and I figured, “what they hey!”
The Dove line is built around their plain dark and milk chocolate, sold in single-serve bars and the more popular “Promises” which I think of as a hybrid of Hershey’s Kisses and Perugina Baci (pure chocolate plus a little note in the wrapper).
These aren’t called anything ... just Smooth Milk Chocolate with Caramel. The bronzy foil holds a little rounded chocolate square with a filling of a caramel-like goo.
The wrappers also have little notes inside. Mine said things like Smile at yourself in the mirror and Sing along with the elevator music ... honey, I don’t need my candy telling me to sing out loud in public. I’m sure the folks at the Ralph’s on Glendale Blvd. are well aware of me belting out the 80s tunes when I visit and would probably hide these candies from me if they knew what they were telling me to do.
The chocolate here is smooth and creamy, perhaps a little sticky and sweet. The caramel filling doesn’t really have enough of the true caramel qualities I like, such as a burnt sugar taste or soft chew. I wanted more salt. But the whole thing is tasty and certainly worth the price of admission (free with my comp). But the thing that’s most appealing to me was how photogenic they were.
6 out of 10
The second item that’s much more up my alley is the Smooth Milk Chocolate Covered Almonds. I think the publicist who sent these to me intended to give me the dark chocolate ones, as there were two bags of milk chocolate in my little box. Oh well. The almonds are rather good, not as large and choice as the Trader Joe’s version that I often pick up, but there wasn’t a bad one in the bunch. They’re nicely toasted and crunchy. The chocolate is sweet and offsets the almond’s toasty flavors pretty well.
7 out of 10
At a regular price of $3.50 a bag, I don’t think I’d get these, except maybe if I was stuck in an airport and looking for something to bring on the plane. Both bags are easy to open and reclose, which is always a plus. I would probably pick them up on sale if I could get them for something like $2.50 though.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.