Friday, September 24, 2010
As some of you who follow along on my twitter or flickr photostream might know, I’m an avid whale watcher. For the past six years I’ve been a certified naturalist with the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and American Cetacean Society and lead whale watching trips as a volunteer from December to April in the nearby Santa Monica Bay when the Gray whales migrate by.
I love it so much that I often go up to Santa Barbara in the summer to see our other nearby visitors: Blue whales and Humpback whales who come to feed near the Channel Islands. Unfortunately I also have a problem with motion sickness. So I’m often seen on the boats eating little ginger candies (and sharing them with other like-stomached passengers).
Ginger has been proven to reduce nausea. The great thing about that is that I love the taste of ginger and it’s not an expensive product for the most part.
I found these Newman’s Own Organics Ginger Mints at Mother’s Market in Orange County. They were only a buck and a nice compact format, like a roll of mints instead of an awkward package of individually wrapped candies (the wrappers can get blown away on a boat and into the water) or a tin (which can easily spill while I’m trying to open it).
The little disks are about 3/4 of an inch around and have a little “Newman’s Own Organics” engraved into them.
They smell toasty and earthy with a light citrus note. They’re sweet and a little chalky on the tongue, like Life Savers Wintergreen at first. The ginger is readily apparent, very woodsy and with a strong warming property that kept the back of my tongue and throat burning.
They dissolve quickly or can be chewed easily, which I guess speeds relief. I don’t know if ginger really works for tough stomach upset, but I find that occupying myself with hard candies (even non-ginger kinds) helps. Anything that keeps nausea from really taking hold can help since the cruises are only 2 to 3 hours. They’re sweet and not that complex overall, there’s no lemon or honey in them. But they seem to do the trick for me. I like how small and portable the package is.
As an organic product, as you can guess, they’re natural and contain no colorings. They’re Kosher and vegan. However, they are manufactured on shared equipment with peanuts, nuts, milk, wheat and soy.
I’ll leave you with a photo from last weekend. There is a strange and welcome gathering of Blue whales off of Los Angeles right now, at least 30 individuals hanging out within 5 miles from shore. They’ve never been spotted here in these numbers like this before. They’ve been feeding on a huge upwelling of krill, and I guess they’ll stick around as long as there’s food. So if you’ve ever wanted to see the biggest animal on earth (ever), get yourself out to the sea. I go out with Voyager Excursions.
Monday, August 23, 2010
I picked up a handful of these enigmatic peanut butter bonbons in Ohio at the Dollar General Store. I really had no idea what they were, but at 33 cents each it was hardly a gamble.
I was concerned they wouldn’t travel well, but they did surprisingly well considering the mileage and temperature/humidity variations.
I had to take the wrapper off completely to find out exactly what they’re called and who makes them. They’re called Milk Chocolate Bonbon Whisper. They’re made by Arcor in Mexico. Now, I’m not a huge fan of Arcor’s chocolate candy. But since I already had these in hand I tried to keep an open mind.
Not only is the package vague, but it also leaves out the most important part about this candy, the peanut butter. The domed chocolate pieces are about 1.5 inches in diameter. Nicely formed, they’re glossy and rather cute. I picked up four of them and three made it back in good shape (and even the smashed one was still edible).
The construction is simple and rather familiar. There’s a large sphere of peanut butter surrounded by a light wafer then covered in milk chocolate. It reminds me of a New World Ferrero Rocher (swapping peanut butter for hazelnuts). There are no crushed nuts on the outside though.
The piece is about .7 ounces, so about the same heft as a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. It smells lightly like peanut butter, a little hint of a grassy note instead of the dark roasted flavors of Reese’s. The chocolate looks light and milky, and though I was concerned that it wasn’t real chocolate but the ingredients listed cocoa butter and I think the soybean oil is in the peanut butter filling.
The chocolate isn’t fabulous, it holds everything together and is rather soft, but it’s not overly sweet or grainy. It just doesn’t have much of a cocoa punch. So the focus of the bonbon becomes the center. The peanut butter filling is smooth and fresh. It’s not greasy but feels a little empty at moments, like there’s a filler in it (maybe that soybean oil that’s so high up on the ingredients list). It’s sweet and salty and has a good overall peanut flavor. The crispy wafer is overshadowed a bit but still provides a nice crunch.
The wrapping is just a large piece of mylar. It wraps the piece very well though, even though it’s not completely sealed. The ingredients and manufacturing information was nearly impossible to read. The mylar is gold and the printing is blue. I ended up taking photos of the info and then blowing it up on the computer and adjusting the levels in order to read it.
It’s an odd little candy. It’s a great idea, but it lacked a bit of oomph and balance of textures with the flavors. It needs better chocolate and I think it could use little bit more crunch. But the price is certainly decent and the originality of the candy is a plus.
Friday, May 28, 2010
They come in a rather petite package, it weighs only 1.28 ounces, which is a pretty remarkable difference compared to the standard Butterfinger bar which clocks in at 2.1 ounces. Of course that does mean that there are fewer calories per serving, here a bag is only 170 calories (133 per ounce) while a bar is 270 calories (129 per ounce).
The package is a simple pouch, a little taller than a bag of M&Ms and in a bright yellow and orange with blue accents.
The Snackerz look every bit as appealing as the actual Butterfinger bar. They’re a bit chalky and smell like sugar and fake butter. They’re about 1.25 inches long and .75 to 1.00 inches wide. They’re decorated with little zags of orange icing confection. They’re an irregular puff shape, there’s a little pocket of Butterfinger creme in there.
The crunch is like a sweet version of Fritos or a breakfast cereal. Inside the sweets, salty and buttery flavored cream has a little hint of roasted nuts. The cereal and peanut butter combination is fun and different enough. The mockolate coating is a joke, it’s fresh so there’s no hint of rancid cocoa or anything that I get from Butterfingers now and then. But there’s no rich cocoa to go with it.
A few years ago I tried something called Butterfinger Stixx, which were a little wafer tube filled with a similar creme, but the difference there was that they were covered in real milk chocolate. That was a great idea. This is mediocre at best ... a smaller portion than most candies offer at this price but sub par ingredients.
After seeing what Nestle did with the Wonka line to create products with better ingredients, this is just plain disappointing. I know they can do better.
Made in Mexico, no Kosher statement on the package.
Friday, April 30, 2010
The Wonka Exceptionals Fruit Jellies are a bit more classic. They’re simple cubes of real fruit jelly made from all natural ingredients in Mexico. They come in single flavor boxes, the initial varieties are Grapefruit, Goji Berry and Red Apple.
They are packaged similarly to the Fruit Marvels. The label sleeve is over an eye-popping magenta and maroon box. Inside the box is an unlabeled purple mylar bag. It’s a lot of layers, and while I enjoy the fancifulness, it’s really wasteful.
The package simply describes them as fantastically flavorful soft jellies dusted with sugar. I also got a press release that said:
The ingredients go like this:
The beta carotene is the only ingredient that isn’t marked as all natural, though it’s certainly not an artificial color.
I’ve had a lot of pate de fruits over the years, which are full fruit jellies. They’re usually thickened with the actual fruit instead of corn starch though sometimes there’s additional pectin (depending on the fruit). Though the new Wonka Fruit Jellies don’t quite rise to the level of pate, they do a good job with the texture and are less sweet than gum drops or fruit jellies like Boston Fruit Slices.
The scent is a beguilingly authentic grapefruit peel. Grapefruit is a favorite smell for me, even clinical testing backs up its use for aromatherapy - the smell of grapefruit soothes, engenders trust and youthfulness (for women being sniffed by men, anyway). I like it because it smells like something I want to eat. It’s a mix of balsam, lavender, lemon and windy beach.
The half inch jelly cubes are rough and dusted with sugar. They’re a little messier than a gum drop but not as dusty as Turkish Delight. They’re soft to the touch but firm enough that they can’t be squeezed flat very easily. The moist jelly has a nice give, it’s not a sticky as a gum drop, these are more of a jam you can eat.
The flavor is mostly about the zest and grapefruit peel but there’s a light juice note with a little tangy snap. They’re not too cloying or sticky sweet, but not quite intense enough for me to call them a true pate de fruits.
The berries are related to tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. They have tiny little seeds in them but they’re edible and provide a little bit of texture, though not quite like, say, kiwi or fig seeds do.
The package says nothing about where the flavor for these comes from, just that it’s natural. The whole point, as far as I can tell, of people eating goji is because of its high antioxidant properties, so just flavoring something with goji seems like a miss.
They’re sweet with a little tangy note. Kind of like raisin and orange. Not really that interesting to me.
Note: the Goji variety of the Fruit Jellies uses cochineal color, so they are not vegan.
The flavor notes are reminiscent of apple cider. There are notes of apple peel, a mellow and honey-like sweetness along with a light tart bite.
My hesitations with these are because of the excessive packaging, but for a natural fruit jelly product they’re priced rather well but still quite a bit steeper than other gummis or jellies. (They’re about twice the price per ounce compared to the Wonka Sploshberries.) The size of the pieces is perfect, I just pop them in my mouth, no messing biting & putting half aside. I do love grapefruit, which is a hard flavor to find, and apple lovers may enjoy a real fruit experience too. Goji can go, hopefully replaced by something really inventive ... maybe we’ll finally find out what a snozzberry is.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Nestle is going full-tilt to reinvigorate their stagnant Wonka candy brand. Last year it was gummis (Sluggles, Puckerooms & Sploshberries), this year they revised their chocolate bar line under the new Wonka Exceptionals and now they’re introducing some new sugar candy items to the Exceptionals line. The first is called Fruit Marvels which are vaguely described on the packaging as hard candies with soft centers, delicately sugar dusted. They come in three flavors: White Grape, Pomegranate and Clementine Orange.
There are two formats for the packages. The first is the tins, which hold 1.9 ounces (14 pieces) and retail for $1.99. Though that’s a little expensive, there’s a second more cost effective option which is the 5 ounce box which retails for $2.99 (and you can refill the tin).
The box is imaginative and quite different from the holographic mylar/plastic of the chocolates. These stand up boxes come in two parts. There’s a tall tab top box with a dizzying purple/lavender design, over that is a sleeve. The sleeve is taped to the box and features little circular cut outs that reveal the patterned box underneath. Like the Wonka Exceptionals Chocolate Pieces, even the UPC code gets Wonka-fied.
Inside the box is another package, a long mylar pouch with the candy in it. They’re not marked for the individual flavor, as I discovered later on when I ditched the boxes and carried all three pouches around in a ziploc bag while I was tasting.
The front of the package states Made with Natural Ingredients* and then directs folks to read the list of ingredients to explain the asterisk. Flipping over the box the ingredients are really easy to understand. For the White Grape they were: Dextrose*, Sugar*, Corn Syrup*, Pear Juice Concentrate*, and less than 2% of Modified Corn Starch, Tapioca Dextrin, Natural Flavor*, Tumeric Color, Citric Acid*.
I find this a little confusing ... they’re saying it’s made with natural ingredients, but not saying that all of the ingredients are natural. (So just about all food products would qualify under this “Made with Natural Ingredients” thing.) I appreciate that they’re not saying that highly processed ingredients like modified food starch is natural, but I’d prefer if they just said “made with real fruit juice but no artificial flavors or colors” and left it at that. Both Clementine & Pomegranate have Carmine coloring, which is a natural coloring derived from insects but of course not considered vegetarian/vegan, may be an allergen for some sensitive folks and is not kosher/halal.
The Pomegranate Fruit Marvels tin is simple. Inside are tucked over a dozen little candies. The tin is about 3.5 inches in diameter and just shy of an inch thick - a little big to tuck in a pocket. There’s a piece of waxed paper cushion on the bottom and on the top. The tin is easy to open and close, but stays closed so I wouldn’t worry so much about this coming open in the bottom of your bag.
They’re about .75 inches in diameter with a sugar sanded coating and soft coloring. The candies are really a puzzle at first. I didn’t understand what they were by the description, but I guess that’s why they called them Marvels.
The outside is a hard candy shell, it’s made of dextrose like SweeTarts, but it’s not compressed like other powder candies, instead it’s panned (added as a liquid layer that forms a hardened glaze after many coats). Inside is a firm and flavorful jelly. It’s like a super jelly bean in a way but remember that the shell is very thick.
When I first popped it into my mouth I thought it would be like a Gobstopper, many flavored layers and then a jelly ball in the middle, but it is actually faithful to the scale on the package. I tried sucking on them first. The sugar sanding is rough at first but that dissolves away quickly to the shell. The shell is dextrose (glucose) so it has a slightly cooling effect and it has a kind of thinness to the sweet note instead of the round syrup sweetness of sucrose (sugar). Eventually there’s a little hint of the floral berry flavors of pomegranate. There’s a layer just between the jelly center and the shell that has a little burst of sour.
I pulled quite a few of the candies apart. I found I preferred biting them to letting them dissolve. It’s not advisable to just crunch them up at first until you gain some experience at it, I think letting them warm and dissolve a little helps.
You can see the thickness of the shell here and how it’s dense but kind of crumbly.
The jelly center is complex. It’s smooth and thick, it’s also nicely flavored without being too sweet or tangy. Though I don’t think any candies really capture pomegranate flavor well, these are still an excellent flavor no matter what it’s called. It’s more raspberry to me - floral and jammy.
The sanding isn’t messy, no sticky fingers, but there is a bit of sugar dust in the bottom of the tins or the bags which can get everywhere.
The Clementine Orange Fruit Marvels sounded really good. I love citrus and the less-common oranges often have wonderful notes that make things so much more interesting than just eating spoonfuls of Tang drink mix. Clementines are a tasty little citrus, they’re easy to peel and are usually seedless - they have the tangy profile and juicy taste of a tangerine.
The outside sanded shell doesn’t give much indication of the flavor inside, just a soft orange color.
The flavor is truly like a tangerine. There are bold juice and citric acid notes but there’s also a really good zest component that sets it apart from straight-laced orange. There’s no bitter or lingering orange peel aftertaste though.
The White Grape Fruit Marvels are nearly colorless on the outside but a little on the yellow side after cracked open. (They were devilish to photograph, but I think you get the idea with the other two.) White grape was always one of my favorite fruit juices as a kid, so I’m very familiar with the flavor. This is extremely faithful. There’s a concord grape note to it, but also a brighter and lighter feeling to it, a little like champagne.
All three flavors are distinct and faithful to their profiles. The candy itself is unique, I’ve never had anything quite like it before so I give Wonka high marks for not just regurgitating the ordinary with a frivolous name and funny packaging. I like the concept of the boxes and that they’re more cost effective than the tins but still $3 for 5 ounces of sugar candy is on the high side, even for something that doesn’t have artificial flavors/colors. Also, the amount of packaging is silly, the outer sleeve could easily disappear without losing the feeling of upscale decadence.
I’m a little unclear about the target market for these, I’m guessing they’re not for little children like many other Wonka products lately like Kazoozles. Perhaps they’re targeting young adults, especially since the tins are great for sharing. They might also appeal to folks who want an intense flavorful indulgence without too many calories. Since they’re all sugar there’s no fat and each piece is about 12 calories. The tin makes each piece feel rather special. (Honestly, it seems like the target market is for grown ups for never quite grew up, which would be me.)
I like where Wonka is going lately.
These are in limited release right now, they’re available exclusively at WalMart stores until June 2010 when they’ll start appearing at Target. The candies are made in Mexico.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Wonka introduced a line of jelly beans back in 2006 (original review). They were matte, opaque pastel jelly beans with a strange grainy shell but familiar SweeTart flavors.
This year the product seems to have been reformulated, though there’s no mention of it on the package which is also redesigned. Readers alerted me that they were different this year.
The 2010 version of SweeTart Jelly Beans are more vibrant and come in the current SweeTart flavors of Cherry, Lemon, Grape, Blue Punch, Green Apple and Orange.
I noticed the color difference before I even took the bag home. They’re more opaque and shinier with consistent colors. They’re at once familiar and a little different.
The version I’ve had before had a grainy and cool-to-the-tongue shell. When I saw these and remembered the comments, I was wondering if Wonka was just using the Spree Jelly Beans which have a harder shell.
The shell is more crisp than the previous version and the flavors seem a little more distinct and intense. They also seem to be more faithful to the flavors of the chalky original SweeTarts disks. But what’s missing is probably the tangy hit that the real SweeTarts have.
As you’ll notice, I found quite a few abnormal ones in my bag. These were a few that had distinctive shapes, quite a few were just larger than what I’d call normal or smaller than what I would have thought should be the target. They all tasted fine - the narrow ones obviously had more shell to them proportionally.
They’re still nice - the grape is much better as it is tangier now. I enjoyed the citrus flavors even though they weren’t particularly sour. Green apple is okay, though bland and I usually pick out the cherry and blue punch ones but if I ate them it’s not the end of the world.
In the end, the update is definitely different but I wouldn’t call it an improvement. I think it brings them more in line with what I’d expect from a product extension but still not as good as actual SweeTarts. Now if they could only do the SweeTarts Chicks, Ducks & Bunnies with all the flavors of SweeTarts we’d have something to talk about.
The versions I’ve tried before (2007 & 2008) were made in Canada. This bag was made in Mexico. There are no allergen statements on the bag, so they may be nut free/gluten free and contain no animal-derived products.
Monday, October 19, 2009
There are dozens of new version that are flavored, but by far the most popular and best selling is the classic stuff that comes in the Harvest Mix of mellocreme items.
Farley’s is an old company, making candy under the Farley’s name since 1891. They’ve distinguished themselves by making a huge variety of generic and popular candies such as gumdrops, candy coated peanuts and hard candies. In 1996 Farley Candy Company merged with Sathers Candy Company, a company with a strong distribution arm to become Favorite Brands International. In 1999, Nabisco bought up Favorite Brands and then within a year Kraft Foods purchased Nabisco. Then in 2002 Kraft Foods sold off Farley’s Candy Company and Sathers Candy Company which became Farley’s & Sathers Candy Company, Inc. Since then Farley’s and Sathers has swallowed up a few other candy companies, most recently Brach’s in 2007. Other brands include the classic Fruit Stripe Gum, Heide, Now and Later, Trolli Gummis, Super Bubble and Bob’s.
I found this Farley’s Harvest Mix at the Dollar Tree. The Harvest Mix (or Autumn Mix) is usually a combination of Candy Corn, Indian Corn and Mellocreme Pumpkins. This is no different. I found the bag a little odd. It’s a pretty big bag, and I think that 9 ounces for a buck is a good value, but the bar seemed barely half full.
Farley’s Candy Corn is made in Mexico, as is Brach’s ... which as I mentioned earlier (if you didn’t skip that paragraph) is now owned by Farley’s & Sathers, so I have to wonder if it’s just the same stuff. Both are made with honey and both contain gelatin (most other brands of fondant type candies are made with egg whites).
They look very much the same (well, most candy corn looks the same). I wouldn’t call the attention to detail fantastic, some were smudgy at the margins of the colors, others were of course shortened two color or one color versions. But the general flavor of them was a smooth and sweet dissolve. The texture is only slightly grainy and satisfyingly dense with a light moisture to it to keep it from being completely crumbly.
The honey note is noticeable as is a little hint of salt, which keeps the sweetness in check.
Instead of three color stripes, there are only two here. A deep brown base and an orange top.
The brown base has a light cocoa flavor but the orange top seems less like the traditional candy corn. It doesn’t have that little bit of salt or honey flavor. It’s just bland and sweet. There’s not enough of the cocoa to balance out all that sweetness, so this Indian Corn, though it has a nice texture, is just too sweet.
I also got a little bit of a bitter aftertaste from it, which I suspected was from the food coloring. (More orange means more Red #40.)
The green stem and deep creases give them a nicely stylized look of real pumpkins. (If real pumpkins were smaller than your thumb and had flat bottoms.)
Like most other Mellocremes, these are just a dense sugar fondant. The flavor isn’t as pronounced or salty as the corn, so it’s all sugar. The texture is extra smooth, as the centers are quite soft.
But the sweet is simply too electric for me. It shoots bolts straight through my teeth and into my brain, leaving me feeling weary and abused after eating a half. There’s also the orange aftertaste, a lingering metallic note.
UPDATE: I talked to a representative at Farley’s & Sathers who confirmed that the Farley’s Candy Corn & mixes are now the same as the Brach’s. (They kept the Brach’s recipe.) So there you go ... I just re-reviewed the same product.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Last year I spotted Brach’s Gummi Candy Corn but it came in an insanely huge nearly two pound bag and I had to admit that I just wasn’t curious enough to bring home 30 ounces. I was hoping they’d come out in a smaller mixed bag, but I still haven’t seen them sold that way.
What’s cool though is that this 54 treat pack bag has each little portion already sealed up. (This is a general problem with most candy corn sold in stores - it’s not good for handing out for Trick or Treat.)
Brach’s makes pretty good gummis, more in the American tradition of the super-soft but also very juicy. I flipped over the package to find out about the ingredients on this one as was pleased to see fruit juice on there ... but curiously I didn’t see gelatin. These aren’t gummis at all ... they’re a jelly candy. Which is disappointing on one hand for someone hoping for some fun little rubbery candy corns ... but good news for folks who eschew those sorts of animal products.
Each little mixed package holds a random assortment of the four flavors and holds about 15 grams though I found that some had as few as 5 candies and other had more than 10.
They’re the standard shape and size of candy corn, maybe a little slimmer and the jelly seems to hold a point. They’re a bit matte but also translucent, so it’s an odd effect, like they’re made of beach glass.
The texture is a chewy jelly, not too sticky but it doesn’t have that bite that gummis have.
Each layer is actually different flavors. The top is orange - a general light & tangy citrus without much zest. The base is pineapple. Again, a nice punch flavor but not too deep or complex. Eaten together it’s much more like a tropical punch, and not really a great effect for me.
The color of these was definitely like frosted glass. The grape flavor had a bit of a cherry note to it, but that could just be proximity.
I got a burning feeling in the back of my throat, a little effervescent note after I was done. Not my favorite of the bunch.
Like most jelly candies there were little bits left in the corners of my teeth when I was done.
This cherry seemed to dominate every package I found.
It’s like cough drops. Each layer is the same, but the top pink part is less about the food coloring and more about the medicinal woodsy cherry punch.
Honestly, I liked them more than the grape. I didn’t feel the need to pick around them.
I don’t know why berries and kiwi get lumped together as flavor combinations so often. This color combo is rather odd - not that I haven’t combined these colors in outfits in the past.
As a flavor kiwi is a little bit melon and a little bit citrus ... and mostly bland. The berry side is similarly like punch but has some strawberry notes.
It was the mellowest of the flavors and actually went well combined with the others.
On the whole the mixture is fun. It’s vegan (unlike actual candy corn which usually has eggs in it) so for kids who avoid gelatin/egg products, this is a fun & colorful mainstream looking product. However, the package says that it’s processed on equipment that also handles the top allergens: eggs, wheat, milk, peanuts, tree nuts & soy.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.