Thursday, December 1, 2011
The Trader Joe’s Classic Holiday Candy Mix qualifies as classic solely in its looks. They’re cute little pillows and waffle pieces of hard candy but come in a curious array of flavors that are as much tropical as they are wintery. Pomegranate, Cherry Cream, Passion Fruit, Cranberry Orange and Lemon Ginger. The flavors are all natural and the colors are created with vegetable and fruit extracts.
The packaging is simple, the box is a little smaller than a box of raisins or prunes. Inside is a half pound of hard candy in a simple cellophane pouch.
The pieces have that classic Holiday Mix look to them. Most are the standard pillow style of hard candy. The hard candy is briefly pulled (either by hand on a hook or by machine) to add air and a silky shine to it. That is then wrapped around a slightly aerated but not as attractive center. The the log is then rolled down into a rope which is then put into a cutter that gently squeezes the candy as it cuts it. Other pieces are rolled through a mold that give the waffle weave before they’re cut.
Cherry Cream is deep red with amber stripes. The cream flavor is a little artificial, like a butter flavor instead of a real creamy note. Kind of like a cream soda. The cherry flavor is good, like a black cherry but with a sort of burnt berry pie note to it. Sometimes I thought that it tasted like Dr. Pepper.
Cranberry Orange (orange and dark red) was easy to spot, as the pieces were mostly half orange and half red. The orange flavor was front and center, the cranberry was just a tartness in the background with a little strawberry floral note.
Pomegranate (pink, white & deep red striped pillow) It’s enchanting to look at an a nicely rounded pomegranate flavor with a lot of raspberry notes.
Lemon Ginger (yellow and white) were the easiest to figure out. This one tasted a little sparkly. Most of the pieces were the flat waffle but there were a few short straw ones too. The lemon is quite zesty and the woodsy ginger has a very slight warmth to it.
The candies are made in Mexico. I believe this is the same facility that also makes the Trader Joe’s Old Fashioned Sweet Sticks and the Life Savers all natural knock-off Sweet Story (and probably also the Organic Lollipops which are also sold as Yummy Earth). They’re made with glucose syrup which is from wheat, so they may not be suitable for gluten-free folks. There’s no other statement about allergens such as nuts or dairy products. They’re made with cane sugar but no other animal products so it’s up to you if you think they’re vegan. Kosher.
It’s a good price for all natural hard candy. It’s not extraordinary candy and probably only suitable for someone who actually like hard candy. The charming homespun quality does present a beautiful tableau in a dish and would probably be great as a decorative element on a Gingerbread House.
Monday, September 5, 2011
Trader Joe’s has been stepping up their introduction of classic candies lately. They have their gourmet versions of Milk Duds and Dutch Mints. I was quite shocked and delighted to see these Trader Joe’s Candy Coated Licorice a couple of weeks ago.
The box has a great, comforting design on it that conveyed everything I needed to know about the product. It’s licorice, it comes in pastel colors and it’s candy coated. But the really appealing part of this product for many people will be that it’s made without artificial colors or preservatives and contains no animal products. (It is missing the Trader Joe’s vegan symbol though I can’t find anything on the list of ingredients that would be considered non-vegan, except perhaps titanium dioxide, which is neither animal or vegetable, it’s mineral.)
If you were afraid that natural colors would be muted and bland, let me allay that fear. These are bright - a deep purple, bright yellow, brilliant orange and a clean white.
The candies are short little pieces, squat and with all the candy coating, rather rounded. They reminded me a bit of the Wiley Wallaby Outback Beans, made by Kenny’s Licorice. However, these have a few key differences. First, they’re made in Mexico and Kenny’s is made in the USA. Second, the Kenny’s had a rather soft shell to it. The Trader Joe’s Candy Coated Licorice is quite crisp.
The shell is thick and very crunchy. As with many natural or artificial colors, some taste different from others. The purple and orange candies have a light violet floral note to them. Otherwise the candy is all about sweetness, licorice and molasses. The candy shell provides a long, sustained sugar zap while the center is quite soft and has a slightly doughy chew. The molasses is a little bitter, smoky and woodsy. The licorice is light and sweet with a hit of anise as well as a grassy note of fresh fennel.
They’re a lot more affordable than the new Panda Candy Coated Licorice, which is also slightly different as the shells are flavored.
As much as these have going for them, first they’re dirt cheap at 99 cents for a 6 ounce box, I can’t say that they’re my absolute favorite candy coated licorice of all time. For me there’s too much shell and not enough intense licorice flavor. But the texture mixes are balanced very well. I’ve eaten three boxes so far, so these are definitely my go-to munching licorice. But I’d like an Extra Licorice version, maybe that has a little hint of anise in the shell itself.
Monday, August 15, 2011
Jolly Rancher (part of Hershey’s) introduced their Jolly Rancher Fruit Chews ten years ago. The chews are individually wrapped and have a texture similar to Starburst or an intense taffy. When I first tried them they were sold in a long stack of pieces, much like Starburst.
When I was at the convenience store a couple of weeks ago I saw the newer packaging which is a little, brightly colored paperboard box. It holds the same amount of candy, 2.06 ounces 14 pieces). The Jolly Rancher Tropical Fruit Chews come in four flavors: Pineapple, Strawberry-Kiwi, Lemon-Lime and Tropical Punch.
What exactly makes these Jolly Ranchers? When they were first introduced Jolly Ranchers became widely known because of their smooth dissolving texture with no air bubbles and intense flavors. Their slogan is Famous for Flavor and when I think of the brand I do identify it with my first experience with Green Apple. The company was founded in 1949 in Colorado, but the national obsession with the candies didn’t begin until after Beatrice Foods took over the candy in 1966 and distributed them nationally.
Hershey’s now owns Jolly Ranchers and has expanded the brand to include Gummis, Lollipops, Jelly Beans and Chews. All feature intense flavors but very generic flavors on the whole with bright colors.
The chews are rectangular, one inch long and 3/4 of an inch wide. They’re soft and pliable and a cross in texture between Starburst and Now and Later.
I was happy to see that I picked a box where Pineapple was the densest flavor. The chew doesn’t smell like anything but has an immediate tart and floral flavor of pineapple. The texture isn’t entirely smooth like Starburst, but retains its flavor and texture, kind of like gum all the way to the end when it dissolves.
Lemon-Lime was quite zesty and has a little sizzle to it, it’s so intense. The flavor is more on the lime side of lemon-lime, but not so tart that it’s unbearable. It reminds me of a Gin and Tonic without the Gin.
Tropical Punch was in the intense red wrapper and was nearly maroon when unwrapped. The flavor is peppery and very much like Hawaiian Punch, strong guava and papaya notes along with some hints of raspberry and pineapple. There was a slight artificial color aftertaste, but it couldn’t really rival the riot of artificial flavors.
Strawberry-Kiwi was pink and looked like bubble gum. The flavor combination was really intense and I could actual perceive the different fruits - the Kiwi was grassy and had notes of the seeds and the strawberry was tangy and with the toasted sugar flavors of cotton candy.
Overall, it’s a good flavor variety to add to Jolly Ranchers line. I question the packaging in a box. It’s nice to pick through the assortment for the flavor I want, but the box was only about half full, so it took up far more volume than necessary. I like the compactness of the Starburst style package, which also protects the pieces very well with double sealed wrapping.
They’re made in Mexico and are not Kosher and have no notice of nuts or gluten or any other common allergen (it does contain soy). It does contain gelatin so it’s not suitable for vegetarians.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
It’s their new Air Delight Aerated Milk Chocolate. I’ve already covered the Air Delight Kisses, which were sent to me by the National Confectioners Association back during The Sweets & Snacks Expo. The bar was supposed to go on sale shortly after that in June nationwide. Believe me, I tried to find it. Southern California may be the first for movie premieres, but we’re often the last for candy rollouts. I tried Walgreen’s, RiteAid, Target, Ralph’s, Gelson’s, Von’s and CVS. Eventually, by mid June the Kisses showed up at the drug stores, but I still couldn’t find the bar. Even more frustrating, the CVS store I was in was advertising the bar on their PA system ... but didn’t actually have it in stock.
I finally found it the other night at a different CVS, and on sale (buy 2 and get 1 free).
The package describes the bar as:
Finally, an end to the effort! I bet you didn’t think about how much effort it actually was to melt things in your mouth. You know, the opening and closing and then application of heat. All of that is solved with this new chocolate bar ... it’s so light, it practically inserts itself into your mouth. Wait, no. No, it doesn’t. You apply the exact same effort, except for the possible fact that this bar weighs 1.44 ounces instead of the 1.55 so it is actually a lighter bar.
The bar is thick but also a bit more narrow than the standard Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar. Both bars I picked up were unbroken and unblemished. They have six narrow segments that cleave off easily to reveal the little air bubbles within.
Since the bar is aerated, the snap and bite is softer. It’s not that it’s melted or anything, it’s just quieter or something. It does seem to melt quicker and has a stronger scent (perhaps because of the increased surface area on the exposed surfaces). The flavor is undeniably Hershey’s Milk Chocolate. If you don’t like the sweet, caramelly and tangy flavor of Hershey’s, you’re really not going to like this. The fudgy cheesecake flavors are more noticeable now that the texture matches that more closely. It’s really filling, I was surprised. I took each section as two bites and took quite a while to eat it. It felt like a lot more chocolate than 1.44 ounces.
As far as the success of Hershey’s aerated bar, I’d say they’ve done a great job. It’s exactly what you’d want if you wanted a bubbly Hershey’s milk chocolate experience. I found it far too sweet and gave the back of my throat that “acidic burp” feeling. So if you’re looking for a satisfying actual chocolate experience, you might want to step up to something a little higher quality. But if you’ve always wanted a Nestle Aero bar that you can buy at your local store without the import premium, this may be your thing.
This bar was made in Mexico. There’s no allergen statement anywhere on it (though it does actually contain dairy and soy, so you know those for sure).
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Willy Wonka invented the Everlasting Gobstopper, a candy for children with very little pocket money. The basic concept behind a jawbreaker style candy is that they last a long time. The current, smaller versions of the Everlasting Gobstopper are not everlasting. In fact, they’re maddenly short lived, which is fine because they come in boxes that hold dozens of them. For quite a few years the Everlasting Gobstoppers have come in seasonal varieties, such as the Snowballs (white, green and red) for Christmas and Heartbreakers (thinner shells and heart shaped). For Easter there are Wonka Everlasting Gobstopper EggBreakers.
I love the little box. It holds 3.5 ounces and I picked it up for $.99 at Target, though I’ve seen it for as much as $1.59 at other stores. The box is really compact and cleverly designed and decorated. It’s easy to flip the little window open to dispense and the box holds what feels like a lot of candy. I’ve seen Wonka use these before with their Wonka Runts Freckled Eggs.
The ovoids are about 3/4 of an inch high. They eggs come in five glossy colors: yellow, turquoise, green, purple and light red.
The outer color is flavored, but it’s all very light. The lemon is just a kiss of sweet lemon essence. The purple is more like a bouquet of lilacs than fruit-flavorful, the red is a dash of berry and green might be a just a whiff of apple.
The dissolve is smooth, smoother than most other jawbreakers on the market. The layers underneath become lightly tangy though no more flavorful. After two thin layers the shell on the compressed dextrose center is easily crunched. The centers are white and if they’re flavored it’s something generic. I get a bit of pineapple from it, but it could be lemon or even orange for all I can tell.
It doesn’t matter that everything is so muted. The look, sound, texture and the interactivity is what makes this a special candy. They’re lovely to look at, sturdy and are simply interesting to eat. The shape is mouth friendly (not quite a friendly as the Heart Breakers) and the flavor array is spot on. I know they could be more intense, but I liked the subtlety of them.
I plan on picking up more of these, especially if I see them on sale after Easter even though the regular Wonka Gobstoppers are about half the price.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Brach’s makes a wide assortment of classic nougats. They’re probably best known for the little block of white nougat that has the jelly bits in it, but what I appreciate are the hand-crafted icon nougats. They make them for Christmas where the center of the nougat is a tree or snowman. For Valentines Day the Peppermint Nougats have a heart inside.
Also for Valentine’s Day Brach’s (now part of Farley’s and Sathers) makes a Cherry Cordial Nougat. The bag was quite a good deal, at only $1.00 for 12 ounces of candy. The package says that the candy combines two favorite tastes to create the perfect treat, chocolate and cherry.
Since I’m not a cherry lover, it’s hard for me to say anything more than this: If Hasbro made Cherry Play Doh, this is what would come out of the Fuzzy Pumpers Candy Shop. They smell like maraschino cherries that have been marinating in the ink that goes in Dry Erase Markers. The texture is soft and less grain than I imagine Play Doh actually is, but just as maleable.
They’re lovely to look at, but they smell disgusting and for me, they taste even worse. The cherry flavor combined with the faint hint of cocoa and the red food coloring aftertaste is just too much for me. I think the other nougats Brach’s make are great, but these are a huge miss for me.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Newman’s Own Organics has also joined in the all natural licorice arena. The front of the package is simple and classy. It’s a soft creamy color though made of a lightweight mylar and has an old timey font for the logo. It also mentions that the candy is made with organic sugar.
They come in four flavors: Strawberry, Tangerine, Pomegranate and traditional Black. I looked at three different stores for the black but couldn’t find it, so this is a review of the fruity flavors, which are pretty much their own type of product and probably shouldn’t be lumped in with black licorice.
The back of the package has more info as well. They mention that they’re fun to eat, full of flavor and low fat, which is a great thing to mention. These twists are very low in calories, my calculations put them at 88 calories per ounce (because they’re wheat based) or about 25 calories each.
Each twist is only 4 and a half inches long. They’re shiny and quite firm, but not at all sticky or oily. They’re also stiff but pliable enough to bend completely in half without cracking or crumbling. They have a little hole in the center, but it’s rather narrow and sometimes smashed, so I wouldn’t quite call them straws.
Strawberry (left) smells sweet and floral. The texture is really tough though generally smooth after chewing. The strawberry flavor is tangy but a little watered down. They take a lot of chewing, which I guess makes them last a long time but it also makes me dread eating more than one, especially since some of the bits stick in my teeth.
Tangerine (middle) smells fantastic. It’s a realistic zesty citrus smell that got me drooling quickly. This version was just a little softer, but also a bit easier to bite and chew. However, the citrus blast was just too much. The tartness was mild, not even as noticeable as the strawberry, however the zest was too oily and ultimately bitter. The bitterness lingered, a kind of caustic burn on my tongue and gums.
Pomegranate (right) looked pretty much like the strawberry but smelled like raspberry. This stuff was tough, like chewing Kevlar or something. The flavor was a great blend of berries, deep and fruity with a long floral note afterwards that gave my mouth a fresh feeling. There was only a hint of tartness (which is too bad because I like the dry tangy note of real pomegranates). But the texture was just so much work. Sucking on them just gave me a puddle of paste in my mouth. I couldn’t finish them.
Overall, I’m not hopeful about trying the black licorice variety when I find it. The texture is just so far off from what I expected or even find pleasant. I generally find Newman’s Own candies to be hit and miss, they’re often too sweet, lack a strong sense of flavor and are overpriced even for organic products purchased at Whole Foods. They’re made in Mexico and there’s no statement on there about nut status or other allergens (except the obvious ingredients like wheat).
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Brach’s Christmas Nougats are classics. The disk shaped, mostly circular candies are wrapped in clear cellophane with green triangles on a red band at the edges where the wrappers are twisted. They’re about an inch and a half around. The style highlights the look of the candy, which features a green triangle (Christmas tree) in the center of the white chew. There are little red bands around the edge as well. To make the pattern, the candy is constructed like a giant burrito, the triangular green piece at the center, a little red piece for the “trunk” and then the mass of white nougat is wrapped around that with the strips of red added at the end. Then the whole thing is rolled out into a long rope and sliced to reveal the design.
The base of the candy is called nougat and I admit that there is some egg white in there, but the texture isn’t quite nougat as far as I’m concerned. It’s not as chewy as a taffy, but not as fluffy as most nougats. So I’m just going to call it a chew.
They’re soft and easy to chew, not stringy or particularly sticky but could be considered clingy. They’re strongly flavored with peppermint, but it’s a clean flavor. The texture is mostly smooth, though there were some grainy bits of sugar now and then. They dissolve pretty quickly, so I found it easy to eat them one after the other. There’s a little hint of salt to keep them from tasting far too sweet. They’re fresh, most definitely, I’m sure that old ones get tacky and stiff.
I can see why these are a classic for the holidays. They’re a little on the bland side for me, not quite enough like true nougats and I didn’t care for the aftertaste from the artificial colors. They’re quite pretty and easy to share.
They also come in Wintergreen and Cinnamon (I haven’t found those in stores).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.