Friday, March 14, 2008
Gimbal’s is one of those candy companies where you’ve probably had their products, you just don’t realize it because they’re often sold in bulk. They have fun little sour jelly stars, sour sanded bears and licorice scottie dogs.
They also have an extensive line of Gourmet Jelly Beans.
They’re similar to Jelly Belly, they’re a similar smaller size, have different color codings for the flavors and in this instance, come in an assortment of dozens of flavors in one bag (41 in this case). I’ve seen these 7 ounce bags for sale at Walgreen’s, usually for about $2. I know that CandyDirect.com sells single flavors of these (and you may find them in bulk bins that aren’t identified by brand). At only $3.40 a pound online, that’s about a third off to half off the price of Jelly Belly.
I don’t have tasting notes for absolutely every flavor, but here are a few of the highlights of what I picked out of the mix over the past week:
Tiramisu - like a caramel coffee creamer.
Too many reds! There’s cherry, cinnamon, raspberry, fruit punch, red delicious. I had similar problems with the orange/yellow things. But this is an issue with many candies that have too many flavors in one bag.
I’d probably prefer to buy a more narrow mix of these, like just fruits or maybe carnival flavors (toasted marshmallow, bubble gum, red delicious, root beer… maybe someone needs to invent a funnel cake flavor).
The beans are nicely formed and all had an even amount of distinctive flavor.
Gimbal’s is not only Kosher, but also a facility free of most of the major allergens. They are tree nut/peanut, gelatin, gluten, dairy and egg free. So if you like Jelly Belly but have to avoid gluten and peanuts, this would be an excellent option. As a bonus, Gimbal’s are less expensive than Jelly Belly. Just harder to find.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
It’s a candy resurrection story! Good & Fruity has been reissued by Hershey’s after being off the market for several years (could this petition have anything to do with it?). It should be available in stores any day now.
Good & Fruity is the companion candy to Good & Plenty, which is a sugar-shelled licorice. Really, there’s very little that’s similar about them, though at one time Good & Fruity was a candy coated fruit licorice nib.
The current incarnation of Good & Fruity, simply put, is jelly beans. Tiny, narrow jelly beans in a box.
They’re a little different from typical jelly beans, the shell isn’t as grainy, mostly because there’s so little shell. It’s crispy and has a light cool feel on the tongue with the sweeter flavors.
Lemon - tart, but not quite lemony.
Some of the G&F were a little inconsistent. Some were tangy, others were plain and sweet, like they’d missed their flavor coats.
The colors are vibrant and really compelling. Like little pieces of beach glass.
These are probably a good movie candy, a palatable mix of flavors, easy to eat with a very low mess factor. I’m just not that into them. They’re Kosher and unlike Good & Plenty, the colors here are all artificial so I guess it’s okay for vegetarians. Earlier versions of the candy were known as Good ‘n Fruity.
UPDATE 5/4/2010: For those who miss candy coated red licorice, you might want to find Wiley Wallaby Outback Beans. While they’re not exactly like the original Good ‘n Fruity, they’re closer than this.
Friday, March 7, 2008
It’s funny how many different interpretations there are in the confectionery world for the word “creme”. In the case of Cadbury Creme Eggs, it’s simply a runny fondant. In the case of many of the Hershey’s Kisses it’s a firmer fat based ganache style and in Starbursts it’s just a flavor.
In the case of Nestle, it means “something softer than chocolate”. I picked up their Nestle Crunch Creme Egg with Caramel and Butterfinger Creme Egg at the drug store to complete my All Egg Week.
At 1.1 ounces, the Nestle Crunch Creme Egg with Caramel is virtually the same weight as a Cadbury Creme Egg, but slightly narrower and denser.
The outer shell looks almost like dark chocolate. It has a pleasant little squiggly design and the name Nestle on both sides of the egg.
It’s easy to bite without any mess. The chocolate shell is pretty thick and contains the fillings well (no sticky eggs for me). The base of each half of the hemispheres is filled with a firm and lightly salty chocolate creme studded with crisped rice. Each side is a little shy of full and that reservoir holds a scant bit of flowing caramel along with a rather large void.
The caramel is a bit salty, not very caramel flavored, but I don’t expect that from Nestle. The chocolate creme is still chocolatey without any greasiness or sticky-milk qualities. I wanted more crunches though, I really like crisped rice and think this would benefit from more of it.
It’s a very dense egg, I think I might prefer it in a slightly smaller form (maybe a half an ounce like the Canadian Cadbury Eggs I tried last year) but it’s a rare egg these days in the drug store that’s just going for chocolate (with that little bit of caramel & crunchies).
I give it a 7 out of 10.
Nestle also makes the Wonka Golden Creme Eggs, which are pretty much the same thing except there are graham cracker flavored bits in there instead of crisped rice.
The Butterfinger Creme Egg says it’s 1.15 ounces but I have my doubts with that huge void there. At first I thought it was just that one that was a little underfilled, but the second one (still wrapped in the photo) had a similar large cavern of nothingness.
It smells sweet chocolatey with a good roasted peanut butter undertone.
My major complaint with Butterfinger bars is that they don’t use real chocolate on the outside. In the case of these (and the Butterfinger Jingles), it’s real Nestle Milk Chocolate (which still isn’t spectacular) ... well, that’s what the foil says, “Butterfinger Pieces & Peanut Butter Creme in a Milk Chocolate Shell” but I’m kind of unclear when I read the ingredients that featured the second ingredient as “confectionery coating” but that may be a mock white chocolate base of the creme filling.
All that aside, it’s an enjoyable egg. The center has all the flavor of a Butterfinger. That buttery flavor with the little crunchy bits of peanut butter brittle (that don’t stick to your teeth!) a little bit of salt to even out the very sweet chocolate shell. It’s nothing like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg, but that’s okay, they’re both pretty inexpensive, get both.
A solid 7 out of 10 for this one as well.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Okay, this probably one of the saddest names for a fine Easter confection I’ve ever seen: Hollow Eggs with Novelty. See’s has gone through the trouble of naming every last one of their 102 boxed chocolates. Okay, some of them are ordinary names, like Buttercream, but others are original like Scotchmallow, Chelsea, Bordeaux & California Brittle.
Naming aside, everything else is spot on. The little carton holds the chick-egg-sized, foil-wrapped hollow chocolate eggs just like a half a dozen eggs you’d buy a the grocery store.
The foil is nicely applied (you’d be surprised at how hard it is to find foil-wrapped eggs where you can actually read the lettering on them). The blue, magenta and pale green colors are pretty sedate but match really well with most of the other Easter offerings at See’s. Each foiled egg has an interesting little rattle to it when shaken. There’s definitely something in there, and my guess is it’s a novelty. (It does sound kind of like the whole thing is plastic, but trust me, it’s chocolate.)
The outside shell is milk chocolate, the interior chick is white chocolate. The ingredients label is a little vague about that chick but the ingredients are still pretty pure: Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Milk, Chocolate, Soy Lecithin, Vanillin & Salt. The shell has a geometric pattern on it ... kinda like an eggshell looks when you roll a hard boiled egg around.
The price isn’t bad, especially when you buy the batch of 6. At $5.60 each is less than a dollar and are a little less than an ounce each (26 grams).
The first egg I opened I carefully sliced through the seam with an exacto blade. Now that I’ve eaten several, I can tell you the trick if you want to split it open cleanly ... hold the egg firmly and press along the seam at the widest part of the egg very gently. Most times it will split cleanly. Sometimes you end with your thumb through the egg ... just like when you play with real eggs!
The milk chocolate is nice. It’s sweet and has an mellow dairy component, not very malty or dark ... just a nice middle-of-the road chocolate flavor.
The white chocolate is very sweet but milky and mostly smooth. The appearance of them varies. Some are pristine little chicks, others are a little smudged up from rattling around in the chocolate shell (well, I’ve been rattling them around). It’s a nice couple of bites, I probably wouldn’t want more, but white chocolate is inextricably tied to Easter for me, so I enjoy it for the nostalgia alone.
They don’t sell these as solo treats, just in the half dozen box or in other pre-mixed baskets. Though I think they’re great, I just don’t see myself buying these when I can have the Scotchmallow Eggs (except those aren’t individually wrapped for nestling in baskets so someone will have to put a whole box in mine) at the same price. But if you’ve got a group to please, this is a good way to go.
Each egg has about 145 calories each.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
It looks good, but it’s always bad.
Why do I keep buying it?
For you, dear readers. It’s a public service that I’m obligated to perform.
The thing about Palmer is that they have so many other things going for them. They have cute designs, usually their packaging is nice, they’re Kosher and of course they’re made in the USA (Pennsylvania for locavores). But it’s like they go out of their way to disappoint once the stuff hits my mouth.
“Sugar, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Palm Kernel Oil and/or Palm Oil), Whey, Cocoa, Lactose, Skim Milk, Soy Lecithin, Vanillin, Artificial Colors (Blue #1, Blue #2, Red #40, Yellow #5, Yellow #6 & Red #3). May contain Peanuts/Nuts.”
Look how far the cocoa is down on that list, #4 ... I think it’s only in there for coloring!
The rabbit is admirably attractive. It has a nice dark sheen, it’s shiny and has little details like the winsome eyeroll and it’s holding a flower. It took me a while to figure out that the white blob at his belly is a little fluffy white chick ... maybe. It’s also pretty thick. It’s just a little shorter than the Russell Stover one and weighs and extra quarter of an ounce. The walls of the shell are a bit thicker.
But you know, the taste is not that good. It has a cool feeling on the tongue, it’s very sweet and has a fudgy grain to it. It tastes nothing like chocolate, more like milk powder and peanut shells. (Oddly, that’s not really a bad taste, just not chocolate and not as sweet as I’d have thought based on the ingredients.)
The serving size is the whole rabbit, which clocks in at 260 calories, with only 50% of that from fat. Yes, the rest comes from carbs (usually chocolate is a 60/30/10 mix of fat/carbs/protein ... with some room for movement depending on dark or milk varieties - some extreme darks I’ve had are 85% fat).
Sometimes I wonder if Palmer is doing the cocoa industry a service by buying beans that would otherwise be turned into compost or rot in the co-op storehouses. I don’t think I’d mind their products if they were sold as “biodegradable decorations” ... but sadly the appearance of a nutrition label seems to indicate they really do think people want to eat it.
Considering the fact that there are actually good real chocolate bunnies around at similar prices if you keep your eyes open (Russell Stover isn’t quite as cute, but there’s also a Hershey’s version, too), there’s no reason to buy these except for off-label uses: Easter dioramas, photo shoots or just buy them all as a public service to remove them from the shelves so that others may not be faced with similar disappointment.
R. M. Palmer Hollow Milk Chocolate Flavored Bunny ... the Easter equivalent of a lump of coal.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
In general, it’s a great idea. Why not have pretty foil confections?
Hershey’s has a few heart-shaped chocolates this year, but they’ve also created a special mix called Heart’s Desire. It features Hershey’s Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate Hearts, Reese’s Peanut Butter Filled Hearts and Hershey’s Special Dark Hearts (natural source of flavinol antioxidants (tm))
I was actually kind of pleased that they weren’t completely pink and red and pink. Instead the color coding is a little more intuitive. The Special Dark employs the global-standard purple, the milk chocolate is in the typical pink and the Reese’s is in gold.
They’re about 1.25” wide and 1.5” tall and weigh about .29 ounces each. (A Hershey’s Kiss weighs about .16 ounces.)
Special Dark - I used to think that the Special bar was just that. Mostly because I thought that it was my mother’s favorite chocolate bar. Back when it first came out in the 70s there simply weren’t any mass-produced dark chocolate bars available at the corner store. (To get a dark chocolate fix I had to eat chocolate chips.) I didn’t care much for it as a child, I found it a bit waxy and bitter. As an adult I find it chalky, grainy, too sweet and lacking in real chocolate oomph. It contains 45% cocoa solids, which you would think would make it extra chocolatey, but it is simply middle or the road fare. It’s not true dark chocolate as it contains milkfat. They are pretty though.
Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate - this version is, I guess, Hershey’s answer to critics who said that their chocolate tastes weird. The “extra creamy” kick may come from extra emulsifiers, this one sports both soy lecithin and PGPR. This version of Hershey’s chocolate actually tastes quite a bit different than the typical Hershey’s bar or Kiss. It is sweeter and lacks those deep musky dairy notes. Instead this has a bit of a toasted marshmallow taste ... and very little chocolate-ness. (I did some calculations ... standard Hershey’s chocolate is 27% carbs, the extra creamy variety is 29% carbs. So there you go, it is actually made up of more sugar.)
Reese’s Peanut Butter Filled Hearts - this was the one that I bought the bag for. In fact, I looked around at all the bags and picked the one with the most gold wrappers visible. The outside was a little greasy but still smelled over wonderfully roasted nuts (I love a fresh Reese’s!). The inside wasn’t quite the soft crumbly version of Reese’s peanut butter, instead it still had the same “crumb” to it, but it was slicker, maybe a little sweeter or a little oilier. It didn’t quite satisfy me the same way that a peanut butter cup does, but still, it’s a Reese’s!
They’re a pretty assortment, rather traditional and in a rare, large bag (16.5 ounces.). I don’t think I’d buy them again for myself, but everyone at the office seemed pretty jazzed when I popped the remainder in the communal candy jar (but then again, all that’s been in the jar for the past week is Tootsie Rolls).
I don’t know how far in advance Hershey’s makes these, but the expiration date is June 2008 ... that doesn’t seem like a very long shelf life to me.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
There have been a lot of variations on the Hershey’s Kiss. Some of them good (I loved the original Candy Cane Kisses when they were made with cocoa butter) and some of them dreadful (Candy Corn Kisses). But through all of this, like the many variations of Pocky & KitKats, I’ve realized that the original was fine and I’d much rather have that. Except now when I look at the little foil wrapped friend I have a mix of associations. (If this were a movie this is where there’d be a montage of happy moments and then scary or unpleasant bits where I ate a Candy Corn Kiss or the horror of opening a drawer and finding a stinky bag of Candy Corn Kisses.)
I couldn’t bring myself to buy the big bag, so I was happy to see this pack of 5 mega Kisses.
The construction is as you’d assume. A milk chocolate shell and a “artificially vanilla-flavored creme” center.
Because they are packaged differently than the foil wrapped brethren, these are exceptionally shiny and pristine, which is an appealing aspect. They smell sweet and a little cheesy.
They’re a little smaller than the foil wrapped kind as well, but also come unwrapped ... so no little flags or bits of foil to roll into tiny spheres.
It was sweet and less chocolaty. The “creme” center was really creamy, more like smooth fudge.
It just didn’t excite me. I had them sitting around for a while and couldn’t be bothered to eat them. (I found the Bee Mine more compelling, at least with its overt badness.)
I think Hershey’s should just do what they do well and stop mucking around. Yeah, I know it’s hard after making Kisses for 100 years, they want to mix it up. But really, you don’t last 100 years when you go too far off the rails. (However, I know there’s a Cheesecake version out there that I’m still curious about.) These do not say that they’re a limited edition item, but they also have little tulips on the package (a spring thing?) and aren’t listed on the Hershey’s Kiss page.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Back when I could eat all the dairy I wanted, I loved milkshakes. Thick, chunky milkshakes with lots of malted milk in them. I prefered chocolate shakes, but my second favorite was strawberry. There’s something about the creaminess of ice cream and the fresh taste of strawberries and then that extra dark kick of malt that got my tastebuds-a-tingling.
But I admit that I didn’t just swoop into the nearest store and pick up the new Whoppers Strawberry Milkshake.
I mean, it’s not like Whoppers are fantastic to begin with, they have that greasy, waxy fake chocolate on what is an otherwise decent malt ball (see review of the candy coated holiday version). But I figured if I was going to eat fake chocolate, it may as well be fake strawberry confection.
I admit they smelled nice. Kind of like summer & shortcake, cotton candy & carnival midways. And they are quite pretty. Instead of an unnatural fuschia as I thought they might be from the image on the box, they were actually a lovely soft pinkish/peach color.
The candy coating was a little waxy, but sweet and had a nice creamy but mild strawberry flavor to it. No tartness that I’d associate with the berry which is often present in ice cream that uses berry pieces.
The malt center is crisp and mellow, it doesn’t have a super-strong malt hit, but still a very nice salty counterpart to the sugary outside.
I wish they used a real white chocolate compound with real cocoa butter in them, but Hershey’s is having other troubles and can’t be bothered with quality at the moment. But for what they had to work with and for 99 cents, they came up with a pretty good item here that actually delivers what they say on the package.
They’re a bit fattier than the Sno-Balls I had over Christmas (I haven’t compared them to Robin’s Eggs, which haven’t hit the stores yet) so I’ll probably stick to the sugar shell ones if I need a cheap malt fix and can’t fine real milk chocolate covered ones. Whoppers has also introduced a Reese’s Peanut Butter themed one. But to be honest, I think that a chocolate malt ball is just fine the way it is.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.