Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Sometimes I want a little more information on the package. I saw these at Trader Joe’s last Friday and I was intrigued. Trader Joe’s English Soft Peppermints. I liked everything I saw. Peppermint, good! English, yes, they know good candy. Soft, why yes, I like soft things. Even the blue tin was compelling. But what were they?
The back of the package didn’t tell me much more except that they were actually a product of The Netherlands (and not English as the name may have led me to believe). The ingredients were pretty simple: Sugar, Cream of Tartar and Natural Peppermint Oil.
What what manner of soft mint were they?
Open the package and it’s clear. They’re pillow mints. Lovely, king sized pillow mints (not those domestic throw pillow mints you get at the drug store!).
They smell of sweet peppermint and at first as light and cool on the tongue. Then the blistering peppermint kicks in. It’s like the word “English” is code for"Altoid” or something.
I enjoy pillow mints and their Butter Mint brethren, but the intensity of these doesn’t make for popping them one after the other very pleasant. Perhaps that’s a good thing, I could learn a little self control through negative feedback behavior modification. With fresh breath as a side effect whether I’ve learned anything or not.
As a breath mint, these are fine and dandy. As a candy, they’re not quite munchable.
Friday, December 7, 2007
You know what’s great about the Holiday season? Hostess gifts. People come to my house and for no reason I can tell other than crossing the threshold they feel like they have to give me something. And the gift most often in their hands is some sort of sweet goody.
I should just leave the door unlocked from November on!
My brother-and-sister-in-law brought some wonderful New Mexico goodies for my husband (posole & green chiles) but I got some Jo’s Candies Peppermint Crunch. The box makes it look like a pretty simple confection: dark chocolate over crunched up peppermint candies.
Oh, they’re so much more than just chocolate and crushed candy canes. I was worried that the center would just be a mint honeycomb (not that it would be bad that way). Instead The center is a mix of white chocolate/confection with crushed hard candy mints then covered in a dark chocolate.
This makes the center easy to bite but still satisfyingly crunchy, not overwhelmingly minty or tacky/sticky to chew.
They’re also all natural and Kosher. That means that even the little crunchy candies don’t have that dreadful Red #40, instead they use Red Beet Juice. Jo’s Candies are kind of pricey but quality ingredients, good packaging and freshness costs money. I’m deeply curious about their Dark Chocolate Turtles and the Mint Coco Jo’s that sound like a much better Girl Scout Cookie.
The little squares a dang pretty, glossy and dashed with little dark chocolate squiggles. The dark chocolate coating is pretty thick on the top, thicker usually than the photo above shows. So the proportions are pretty equal.
I think they were intended as a gift for me and my husband, but I don’t see myself eating his green chiles, so I’m pretty comfortable eating the whole box on my own to keep things equal in the relationship.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
First, the description: Real Junior Mints (tm) made with a real candy crunch. Are there fake Junior Mints (tm) out there ... is this an issue? There are other dark chocolate peppermints out there, sure, but is there anything that’s trying to occupy the Junior Mints (tm) niche? What makes them Junior Mints anyway? Is it the dark chocolate and flowing fondant? Because the Junior Mints Deluxe had the Junior Mints name. So it’s not size or proportion.
The thing I have the real hangup on is the “CRUNCH!” that they advertise. The little image on the box shows what looks like a Starlight mint, which is basically a hard candy with peppermint flavoring ... they’re good crunched up and put in things (see my list o’ uses for Candy Canes). At first I though they were nonpareils, which are little spheres of sugar found on SnoCaps.
But on closer examination they weren’t. They’re too irregular. So I read the ingredients: Sugar, Semi Sweet Chocolate, Corn Syrup, Flaked Corn, Yellow Corn Flour, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Corn Starch, Confectioner’s Glaze, Modified Food Starch, Peppermint Oil, Invertase, Invert Sugar Syrup, Artificial Color (Red 40) and Corn Syrup Solids.
In an effort to figure out what these nibbles are, I’ve boldfaced those ingredients that are not found in regular Real Junior Mints (tm). Seems like we have some red polenta or something. Definitely not crushed Starlight Mints (like those little candy flakes on the Peeps Peppermint Stars). One thing I’m quite sure of, they’re not that tasty. They don’t dissolve like a bit of candy crunch should, but they do remain crunchy no matter how long you roll them around in your mouth!
They just don’t look that good. They look like they fell in something. I like traditional Junior Mints, they’re pretty! Usually so slick and dark, these are lumpy and malformed. The taste is pretty much the same but the crunch isn’t crunchy enough, doesn’t add any pep to the whole thing. If it was real candy (you know something that you’d actually buy and eat separately ... tell me you’d eat flaked corn, yellow corn flour, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and corn syrup solids!) then I think they’d have something. I haven’t been particular fond of the other versions of Junior Mints so far: Pastel, Inside Out or Heart Shaped (only because the red ones tasted weird). I think I’ll just stick with the Real Junior Mints from now on.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
On my recent trip to San Francisco I was excited to check out the licorice assortments at both Miette Patissiere and The Candy Store, as both were known for their large variety for sale. I wasn’t disappointed at all! (The only sad part was that they were $12 a pound.)
Fruit Filled Rockies - these are gorgeous little nibbles. The dark licorice tube is filled with a firm fondant-style fruit creme. Not quite sweet, they do have a salty bite through and through. There are two different pinks there, one raspberry and the lighter one is, as far as I can tell, orange. The brown one is more smoky, with a strong salty component. 6 out of 10
Schoolkrijt by Venco (Netherlands) is a very common licorice in Europe, kind of like our Good & Plenty but much milder. It’s much like the Rockies, in that it’s a tube of licorice filled with a creme. Then the whole thing is panned with a crunchy mint shell.
The flavor combo is kind of medicinal, like a cough drop, but I rather like that. Peppermint, licorice and some molasses. I’ve had these a couple of times before, but this particular sampling was very fresh. The outside was crisp and the inside was soft and chewy.
UPDATE: Seems I couldn’t get these out of my mind and have bought at least two pounds (not at once) since this review for personal consumption. So the rating gets updated to a 9 out of 10
Griotten by Venco (Netherlands) were completely new to me. If I’ve seen these before I’ve completely blocked them out. They look like little raw sugar cubes, but pick one up and it’s too light for that. Why, it’s a little spongy too!
It’s like a cross between a marshmallow and a gummi. Soft and chewy, but not too dense or tacky.
The flavor is mild, with only a delicate hit of licorice and anise and not terribly sweet either with a mix of the grainy sugar coating and a little salt. 7 out of 10
The smoky molasses is a good background for the light licorice flavor. No salt here, just a light coating of sugar to pull it all together. Very soft, very chewy. Kind of chocolatey. 7 out of 10
The cute little buttons are nice and soft. While I like a hard glycerine-style licorice sometimes (Katjes), I really enjoy the chew of licorice as a feature. As a lightly salted licorice, it was very mild, but I was disappointed that it didn’t have a huge licorice kick.
There was a slight metallic tinge for me and a fleeting glimpse of damp cat-inhabited basements. 5 out of 10
Honey Tops (Netherlands) were the one piece that I thought was one that I’d had before, it didn’t look quite the same, not quite as amber and there is no bee on this hive. The flavor is a round with only the slightest honey tint, some mild licorice (no anise). They’re pretty firm. These and the Kokindjes were the last ones I finished. 5 out of 10
(I was guessing at the brands here based on who sells what. There could be other companies that make these same varieties.)
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Marshmallow purists probably don’t think much of flavored marshmallows, in fact I don’t usually care much for them beyond the kiss of honey or toasted sugar notes.
But Peeps Peppermint Marshmallow Stars have changed that. They’re light, peppermint flavored marshmallows, just in time for Christmas.
The stars are very puffy and fluffy. The outer sugar coating seems to be well adhered, I’m guessing the flat surfaces have a lot to do with this. The whole marshmallow is peppermint flavored, rather strongly and the pink peppermint sparkle-flakes are also strong peppermint.
If I had any complaints at all about these it’s that they didn’t get stale very easily. I opened a package last week and left it open, but the marshmallow is still rather soft and only slightly tacky. It gives it a nice chew, but I was hoping for something a little drier.
I actually ate a whole tray of these.
And then read the ingredients to see that they contain Sucralose and AceK. Sigh ... artificial sweeteners. (It said less than .5% of the candy was composed of these, but when sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar, they don’t need to put much in and it did shave 20 calories off the total for a serving compared to a regular Peep.) I felt really betrayed, though I can only blame myself for not reading the ingredients completely before eating them. (I did have a stomach ache for the rest of the morning, but that could have been caused by, well, eating a tray of marshmallows for breakfast or the ibuprofen I’ve been popping lately.) I thought they were really tasty and I would actually buy these and eat these again if they didn’t have those artificial sweeteners. I just have to ask ... why?
I can’t figure out how to rate them now. I was all set to give them an 8 out of 10. For now I’m going to give them a 6 out of 10.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Even though they stopped airing those commercials a long time ago, they’re still a cultural reference point for people around the world.
What are Mentos? They’re simply a small mint chew covered in a candy shell. I favor them in instances where I used to chew gum, especially on planes. A little fresh breath and ear poppin’ all in one. And based on their commercials they aid in creative problem solving. Peppermint is good ... fruit is merely okay in the United States. Of course in outher countries they have far more choices.
Enter the Asian Mentos once again! I’ve had these stashed away for months from Santos.
Mentos Xtrm: Peppermint are Mentos on Altoids (if Altoids were a form of steroids). They’re called “Strong Chewy Dragee” on the wrapper.
They come in a navy blue bag and are individually wrapped (a great feature, I think, why can’t we get them this way in the States?). Each little dragee is light blue and smells like absolutely nothing.
However, after biting into it, it’s minty. Whoo boy is it minty! In the same, “Goodness it’s so minty it’s almost bitter” way that Altoids are, there’s still a pleasant sweetness to it, and of course the chew.
Mentos Xtrm: Spearmint have a lot going for them. First, we don’t even get Spearmint Mentos here. I’ve heard you can get them in Europe (I’ve had my minions look for them in the past) and definitely in Australia.
So I can’t say how they compare to the regular ones, I can only say that I love them. Yes, they’re very strong, but the spearmint flavor is so distinctive and a little more woodsy than the Peppermint. The only problem I have with spearmint in general is it later leaves me with an odd low metallic taste in my mouth hours later. This, of course, is cured by eating another one. (Sneaky devils!)
These were made in India and have no gelatin in them, so they’re suitable for vegetarians (and vegans so long as you don’t have problems with glycerol mono stearate). Also certified Halal.
They’re good. I’ve enjoyed them and I’d definitely buy them again. I carry them around in my bag and think they’ll make wonderful noveling candy (and good for road trips when you need to keep alert). However, I’m going to throw the last dozen or so into the Limited Edition Giveaway box!
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I’d buy them by the tray, which was usually about 99 cents at the IGA that I rode my bike past on my way home from my art class on weekends. They seemed a suitable treat for a budding artist. Wrapped in pretty foil ... named for a mountain range in Peru, but called by the French liquor flavor creme de menthe. At that time in my life I despised alcohol, except for a drizzle of Creme de Menthe on vanilla ice cream.
Over the years those tray package became more expensive and they started putting fewer candies in there. I recently bought a box for $1.00 and it had a scant 2 ounces in it ... but hey, it was back to the original price point! The candy is mockolate with a mint confection in the middle. They make a pretty cross section of dark looking chocolate flavored coating and the light green stuff in the middle. They have a cool feeling on the tongue and of course a pleasant mintiness that doesn’t overwhelm.
Restaurants that serve them with the bill may even be perceived as classy. (Well, it’s classier than getting nothing at all!) The Tootsie site even claims that Andes Mints are the number one selling after dinner mint. I wonder what the number one before dinner mint is? I give them a solid 6 out of 10 as an adult, but back when I was a kid they were probably an 8 out of 10.
Andes has come out with a few other versions over the years ... none that I’ve tried. But I saw a display of the new Andes Dessert Indulgence at the All Candy Expo and was fixed up with ample samples. The Limited Edition Dessert Indulgence array comes in an 8.5 ounce bag with an assortment of three flavors: Raspberry Cream, Lemon Meringue and Key Lime.
Each piece is individually sealed in a plastic wrapper instead of wrapped in foil. They’re substantially bigger than a standard Andes Mint as well. Why? I have no idea. But the base ingredients are still the same: sugar and partially hydrogenated oils.
Key Lime has only two layers, a base of light green and then a top level of a lighter green with little flavor crystals which is kind of like faux zest. The scent is fresh, like limes. However, as most folks who have had both key limes and more commonly used Persian lime there is a difference. Key Limes have a deeper flavor and a strange thick consistency to their juice. Persian limes have a high intensity and clear flavored tartness and a wonderfully bitter zesty flavor. This tastes like Persian lime ... or Lime Blossom candles.
Lemon Meringue flavor should be characterized by a nice tart custard with a balancing toasted meringue that is less that a sweet complement and more of a fluffy cooling bath for the mouth. The Lemon smelled, like the lime, a bit floral and pleasant enough for me to want to stick a wick in it. The texture evoked similar feelings, as it wasn’t nearly as creamy as I’d hoped. It did have a pleasant tartness to it, but not that toasted, almost marshmallow flavor to complement it.
Raspberry Cream was such a disappointment. It smelled really strong ... too strong. The ingredient list does boast “freeze dried raspberry puree” and I have no doubt about that. The waxy texture and overly sweet start is then met by a strong taste of chopsticks ... or dried grass clippings. I know what the taste is, it’s raspberry seeds. It’s that taste you get when you puree unstrained raspberries and the seeds get in there, but in this case they became a really noticeable flavor. Hey, maybe it added some fiber!
Sometimes I like “white confections” but in this case, I felt pretty sick after eating five of them while typing them up (I’ve had about 10 total since I took the photos over the weekend). They just didn’t sit well with me. I really wanted them to be something else, which is always a bad idea. I should just accept them unconditionally for what they are. But they don’t have cocoa butter in them and the flavors are just ... well, not satisfying to me, not enough to get me to eat any more of them. So into the Limited Edition Giveaway they go! They only get a 4 out of 10.
Each piece contains 50 calories (regular Andes Mints have only 25 each).
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Dove has been adding to their line of Promises, the little chocolate nuggets they sell. It’s nice they have such a diversified line and I do enjoy a little foil wrapped treat. Lately they’ve been stuffing caramel see review) inside those little nuggets of milk or dark chocolate. Now they’ve added a few more versions of those to the line by flavoring the caramel:
Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Flavored Caramel - this was less caramel and more like a hazelnut creme. It had a nice nutty flavor to it, though I didn’t quite identify it as hazelnut. A little salty hit cut through the sticky sweetness of the milk chocolate.
Most of my little pieces were dented. I don’t know if that was a function of the travel or if they’re particularly delicate. (5 out of 10)
The Mint Caramel Dark Chocolate terrible, terrible pieces of confectionery nonsense. Gobbledygook, I tell ya! Gibberish! There’s nothing wrong with caramel, nothing wrong with dark chocolate, nothing wrong with mint. But put them all together and you get this humongo double take of “what the heck were they thinking?”
The caramel is just weird - it’s like it’s over emulsified, if there is such a thing. It’s gooey, but has no buttery element, no burnt sugary elements ... it’s become its own strange, pudding-like product. That’s it! It’s like peppermint-butterscotch pudding ... with dark chocolate. It’s just all kinds of wrong when I think too hard. (4 out of 10)
The strangeness continued with the Dark Chocolate Raspberry Caramel.
Luckily I didn’t have a whole bag of each of those, just a little handful ... and now they’re on their way to Kimberly, who won the drawing! (I should have had her sign some sort of a waiver.) Again, it’s like raspberry flavored butterscotch pudding. I just didn’t like all the flavors together and the salty hit of the caramel with the raspberry was just over the top. (4 out of 10)
The happy news is that the rest of this is all good. The more traditional new offerings to the Dove Promises line are just the regular milk and dark chocolate with some crushed almonds added in.
Almonds are a personal favorite of mine, I practically live on them (really, I eat them just about every day as a snack). What’s always bothered me about Dove chocolate is its foolish consistency ... it feels too perfect, too manufactured and lacking any personality. The crushed almonds in the Dove Dark Chocolate with Almonds fix that.
They add some texture, they add some extra flavor, a little crunch ... they just complete the Dove Dark Chocolate. Any trepidation I had about their chocolate has disappeared with the added element. (8 out of 10)
The Dove Milk Chocolate with Almonds benefits similiarly from the crushed almonds. It makes the milk chocolate, which was always a little sticky sweet to me, more malty and rich. The milky flavors now take on a toasted, darker tone.
They please me. (7 out of 10)
A single Milk Chocolate with Almonds has about 45 calories in it.
I don’t have the nutritional info on the Caramel line or the Dark Chocolate with Almonds, just the Milk Chocolate with Almonds, as that’s the only one I have the complete packaging for. I’m not sure when these are showing up in stores, they’re not on the Dove website yet. Anyone see them in stores yet?
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.