Friday, August 27, 2010
While in Illinois last month I visited Caputo’s Market, which boasts a huge selection of candies from all over the world. I tried some Polish candies and also picked up a few mixes of Italian candies from Cedrinca. I’m familiar with the brand as I’ve tasted a few of their mints and fruit candies at Italian restraurants when a handful is usually presented with the bill at the end of the meal. (Usually an Eastern US thing, on the West Coast they just have a bowl by the door.)
Caputo’s had a great selection of Cedrinca but I opted for a mix so I could get to know more of their items. This version is called Gran Mix and says Caramelle ripiene assortite which I took to mean assorted filled candies. And that turned out to be exactly what these are!
Cedrinca boasts that these are all natural candies, no artificial colors, flavors, additives or preservatives. Each candy was also individually wrapped and most were labeled to show what was inside.
The majority of the mix was a mix of little rod shaped candies. Most were marked on the wrapper what they were.
The first notable one was Menta Ripeno Al Cacao which were a light mint hard candy filled with a chocolate paste. I’ve had a lot of experience with those disappointing starlight mints with the chocolate (why would you finish an excellent meal with a piece of candy like that?) and this was nothing like that. The chocolate filling was a like a fantastic chocolate buttercream. It tasted fresh and creamy and like real cocoa.
Mandorlatte looked the same but was crunchy delight with almonds and milk. It was fascinating, like vanilla pudding distilled into a hard candy. The crunch was almost like the center of a Butterfinger bar, the flavor was sweet and milky but with a hint of lemon and almond. Some had a slightly soft creamy reservoir, others were just the crispy stuff. Either way, I loved them. Fascinating and like nothing else, so of course I pulled those out of the mix to save for later.
The colorful metallic wrappers with the gold swirls on them were fruity, Bonbon Fourre. The outside was softer than the other candies, it was a hard candy but still a little bit on the mushy side. Crunchy into them to get to the jam center was easy. Savored in layers, it was okay, but I preferred to chew the whole thing up to mix the stiff chew of the candy outside with the tart fruity goo inside. They were supposed to be different flavors, but I never really noticed much of a difference. They were all perfectly pleasant but not intense or distinct.
I don’t know what fruit they were supposed to be. These weren’t labeled, just color coded.
Caramella (peach wrapper) - a light, rather white large filled hard candy. It looked like the one above, but completely uncolored. The hard candy shell was lightly tart and vaguely fruity. The gooey jam filling was nondescript. It wasn’t citrus, perhaps it was peach. Tangy, very sweet but not very flavorful. I got another one that was in a purple wrapper that was also simply marked Caramella. It looked just the same (no artificial colors here, in fact, I don’t think they used any colorings on the candies themselves). The filling was a light yellow color and reminded me of red currant.
Espresso this was the variety of this format that I got the most of. The candy shell was the darkest of the three though it didn’t smell like anything at all.
Inside the candy was a thick coffee tar. It was a lightly grainy paste that tasted just like the sludge at the bottom of a coffee pot left on the warmer over the weekend. Yes, it was bitter and a little sweet, but also a bit burnt like charcoal. It was a curious candy, because it didn’t really please me, yet I kept eating them.
Cappuccino - the candy shell was crisper and had an excellent crunch. The candy shells was lightly coffee flavored, but mostly sweet. The filling was very interesting, it was a frothy sweet, slightly salty cream with little shards of bitter coffee hard candy. The combination of textures is fun and the light coffee flavor did give me the impression of a cappuccino with lots of sugar in it.
I’m a huge fan of assortments like this. It’s a great way to sample the whole line of products and narrow in on what you like before taking the leap of a full bag. The price is a little steep for sugar candy, but the fact that they’re all natural and that many were unique help to offset that. It’s a low-risk/medium-reward purchase. I think if I were to buy them again, I’d focus in on the Mandorlatte and Cappuccino. (Both were available at Caputo’s as single flavor packages.) I picked up a chocolate variety too, called Puccini that I’m still working my way through.
Monday, August 9, 2010
While many mints these days are touting how strong they are or that they’re sugar free, the Choward’s line just plugs away at the same mildly-flavored line. They’re not easy to find, so when I spotted these at the Albanese Candy Factory Outlet, I grabbed both the Choward’s Spearmint and Lemon. They have classic textured foil wrappers and list that there are 15 mints in the package.
Choward’s Spearmint are plain white, the ingredients list no colorings. The little squares are are nicely formed. They’re about 2/3 of an inch square and have an excellent embossed Choward’s logo across the center on both sides. They stack easily and have a pleasant texture of unglazed fine bone china.
The spearmint is completely mild. It’s sweet ... much sweeter than I expected. Since they’re made with actual sugar instead of dextrose, it’s noticeable. (Dextrose or glucose is said to have only 74% of the sweetness of sucrose.) Since it’s not very minty, it’s hard to pay attention to anything but the sweetness. But I suppose maybe it’s a good deal - you get more sweetness for the same number of calories.
I found them fun to eat, but really not much for a long-lasting minty freshness. As a breath freshener, well, they didn’t make things worse. Just a little sweet pick-me-up. I can see them going well with mild drinks like tea.
The Choward’s Lemon is a bit more of a curiosity. The ingredients are interesting in that the flavoring is just oil of lemon and citric acid (for tartness). I was expecting a bit of a lemon mint, instead it’s kind of like a SweeTart.
The crunch is smooth and hard and like the Spearmint, it’s quite sweet. But the citric acid gives it a little sour kick. The lemon oil is zesty and certainly more complex than SweeTarts. They less grainy texture took a little getting used to. Ultimately they were just too sweet for a sour chalky candy (I guess that’s why I like the dextrose-based ones) but I liked the texture quite a bit.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Tic Tacs are the world’s #1 selling breath mint. (Though really, only two of the current five regular flavors are mints, the rest are fruity.) They’ve been made in dozens of flavors and color combinations over the years, these new flavors are pretty ordinary but then again probably necessary.
They’re both exceptionally summery colors - bright green and aqua blue.
The samples I got were in the “Big Pack” which isn’t really that big, all things considered in the realm of candy portions. They’re one ounce of Tic Tacs in a clear plastic dispenser.
A few years ago Ferrero introduced Tic Tac Bold! They were stronger versions of Tic Tacs and came in translucent instead of clear plastic containers. They were good - obviously stronger than the regular Tic Tacs and meant to compete with Altoids. But the texture was different and they didn’t catch on.
This new Power Mint Tic Tac comes in the same packaging as the other Tic Tacs, which is great as far as I’m concerned since there’s no need to put them in a different box.
The blue color is inviting, though unnecessary. The regular white Freshmint has a light start with a vague anise note. The Powermint starts out that way as well, though goes to a strong peppermint much quicker. The mint is very strong, one Tic Tac goes a great job of powering through coffee breath. They’re not terribly sweet or chalky, just a quick chew to disperse the minty flavor. Sucking on them, they still dissolve the same however I got a very strong blast of mint there in the initial layers that burns.
Green Apple Tic Tac are surprising first of all because I thought there were green apples all along.
The texture starts with the same slick, smooth and cool shell. Then it gets a little tangy and a little flavorful underneath. I had especial trouble just letting these dissolve, I had to crunch them. The green apple flavor is exactly what you’d expect from a fake fruit. It’s sweet, chemical and lightly tangy. There’s no weird aftertaste but also not much freshening power to it. They don’t go with a lot of foods, like mint or coffee. But after an onion bagel, this might be a nice break.
Neither are my favorite Tic Tacs. I prefer the classic Freshmint and miss Cinnamon.
Monday, April 26, 2010
The box for Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites says New! in the corner, but I know these have been around for at least 18 months. There’s no expiry date on the package, but the fact that I haven’t seen them at the drug store before gives me hope that they’re fresh. They certainly looked and smelled fresh.
The product itself references several other confections. The original Cookie Dough Bites are little soft and chewy bits of “cookie”, like eating uncooked dough without the chance of salmonella since they’re egg free. To make them a little easier to eat they’re covered in chocolate. In this new version they’re Mint Chocolate Chip, which is not a cookie flavor but is actually an ice cream flavor. Of course cookie dough is also an ice cream flavor now. Everything is an ice cream flavor now. If it’s not, watch some Iron Chef, I’m sure it’ll turn up there.
The box isn’t very attractive, though at least it stood out from the other Cookie Dough Bites varieties because this one is green, which means mint. I don’t care for the sheer number of fonts on the front (at least 6) while the back is even worse.
The nuggets are little discs of “cookie dough” covered in milk chocolate. They’re nicely panned but not so highly glazed so they’re waxy (though there is a little shellac coat on there that’s hardly noticeable). They’re about the size of a peanut but of course some are larger or smaller - some are conjoined twins.
They’re called mint chocolate chip and the image on the package shows the cookie middles with little chocolate chips but I never saw any. I bit many in half, but there was no indication of chocolate chips in mine. They’re covered in a milk chocolate and smell rather minty, kind of like ice cream. The centers are a little grainy, they way that cookie dough is, a great texture. The slightly gritty and minty center goes well with the sweet and milky chocolate outside. There’s no real cocoa flavor to it, but the mouthfeel is good. They’re sweet and the center is just a little salty, but they’re just lacking something.
I know that there are lots of folks who just love Cookie Dough Bites, but they’re just not my thing. I prefer a more substantial textural difference and better quality chocolate. I don’t need partially hydrogenated vegetable oils in my candy.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
The Girl Scout Handbook is the first recorded transcription of the recipe. For the uninitiated, S’mores are constructed like this: a fresh toasted marshmallow is mashed on top of a piece of milk chocolate between two graham crackers. Three great tastes are made better by their association.
I don’t consider S’mores themselves to be a candy, because they violate one of the primary rules of candy: it must be ready to eat and require no cooking or assembly.
The Russell Stover Giant S’mores Bar takes the assembly and toasting out of the equation.
I had to buy my bars online at the Russell Stover webstore because I couldn’t find them in any of the shops near me. At $1.49 it’s a bit more expensive than other candy bars, but it’s also unique so I figured it was worth it.
The bar looks exactly as it’s depicted on the wrapper. The 2.5” graham cracker squares sandwich a large square of milk chocolate covered marshmallow.
In all instances at least one of my graham crackers wasn’t quite stuck to my marshmallow, but reassembly was simple.
It was messy, biting into the corners was fine, but the deeper I got into the bar the more crumbling of the graham cracker and flaking of the chocolate I got. The marshmallow center was moist and fluffy, just like all the other chocolate marshmallow products from Russell Stover. The chocolate tasted milky and fresh. The graham cracker tasted like cereal and kept it all from being too sickly sweet.
In case you’re wondering, yes, you can microwave it. I put it in the microwave for 15 seconds, but took it out at 12 when the innards came oozing out. It makes a horrible gooey mess and the marshmallow deflates into a sticky latex bonding agent that gets dry and tacky. I lost a lot of it to the plate.
I’d say in the future I will just lay in a stockpile of whatever seasonal marshmallow product is around, like the Marshmallow Egg and then get my own graham crackers to make my own since these are so hard to find. It’s a great idea and pretty well executed with good quality ingredients.
The other item that prompted me to do my web order was the Russell Stover Dark Chocolate Mint Dream. They’ve been out for about a year, but I hadn’t seen them in stores. (I thought for sure they’d do an Easter version.)
The dark chocolate puck is a fluffy mint cream covered in dark chocolate.
It’s about the same size as the holiday Eggs, at 1.125 ounces it’s a nicely sized portion and rather economical on the calorie front with only 140 calories.
I bought three of them and all of them had cracks with innards leaking out. But still, they’re handsome and well proportioned at about two inches in diameter and about 1.25 inches high.
I feel a little bad reviewing these because of the cracking problem. I can’t say for sure what the filling is supposed to be, as I wasn’t sure if the leaking problem meant that the texture changed. The inside was similar in texture to the Raspberry Whip, but perhaps smoother. It’s almost a marshmallow, just as fluffy but the ingredients list no gelatin.
The mint is light and fresh, the center has a little salty note to it to even out the sugary sweetness. The dark chocolate isn’t terribly rich but it’s still creamy and not so sweet that it makes it all too cloying. It’s different from the fondant style of a Junior Mint, far fluffier and creamier. It’s enrobed instead of panned with a light glaze, so the chocolate melt is better. I would probably buy these again and would be willing to re-evaluate the breakage and seeping issue at that time.
Friday, April 9, 2010
It’s so frustrating when I know that there’s a candy out there I want to try but I just can’t get a hold of it. The Pink Grapefruit Tic Tac have been around for a couple of years, but as far as I knew they were sold only as a “big pack” and only at WalMart.
I’ve been scouring eBay and the discount dollar stores ever since, hoping they’d turn up. Thankfully last weekend I found them at the 99 Cent Only Store - and for only 59 cents a package. I bought two, because I knew I’d love them.
The box holds exactly one ounce, which sounds like a single portion to me, the way I eat Tic Tacs. (I eat them like they’re candy.)
They’re a beautiful shade of pink (carmine but at least the ingredients are all natural). They don’t smell like much, but they sound great in the package when I shake it.
They’re soft and smooth, a little slick on the tongue at first. Then they give up the flavor. The grapefruit is a good zesty blast, especially after the pink outside coating comes off. It’s tangy but I wouldn’t call it sour. I usually chew mine, so I was getting a big dose of grapefruit. It’s pretty intense if you eat a lot of them in a row since they use real dry pink grapefruit juice. In fact, after about half the package it was making my tongue vibrate a little bit from the citrus oils. There’s also a little bit of a mentholated after taste, it doesn’t really make them minty, but it does make my breath feel fresher when I inhale.
I would definitely buy these on a regular basis if I can find them reliably.
I saw that Ebidebby found them and Candy for Dinner also The Candy Enthusiast had the Citrus Punch Limited Edition version that included Pink Grapefruit.
Ferrero has changed the packaging just slightly. The old polystyrene that made such a satisfying rattling sound is gone and now they’re using polypropylene which cuts energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions. Of course it’s also important to reuse and then recycle the packaging when you’re done. The polypropylene is a little softer so the candy boxes don’t crack as easily as they used to. Do you have any tips on what to do with the boxes when you’re done?
Monday, March 29, 2010
Last year I picked up the Marich Select Easter Mix. While I thought it was a beautiful assortment what I really wanted for that price was something equally cute but with more chocolate. I’ve been so pleased with Marich’s expansion of their line of all natural and organic panned items, it’s also nice to see them doing products more in the novelty area that still fit with that line.
So not only are these new All Natural Holland Mints just the right combo of mint and chocolate, they’re also all natural. So my previous complaint about the artificial flavors and their aftertaste messing with the overall experience is gone completely.
Holland Mints go by a few names, depending on who makes them including Dutch Mints and Wedding Mints. They’re a simple minty fondant ball covered in dark chocolate then a crisp candy shell.
Honestly, I wouldn’t have known that these were all natural if someone didn’t tell me. The colors are cool and muted but still vibrant and appealing: magenta, pale blue, pale yellow and white.
The version I had last year had a polished shell, these are a matte version which I actually prefer. They’re smooth and cool on the tongue at first. I’ve mentioned before that these were what I thought the York Pieces should be like. It leaves me to wonder why I’m trying to make something from Hershey’s into something else when there’s already a product that fits the bill for me (and is priced far better than the York Mints that come in the tins).
I can eat them several ways. Sometimes I let the shell dissolve, then getting a smooth hit of the bittersweet chocolate then a powerful blast of the mint fondant. Other times I cleave the shell off to crunch it up and get to the chocolate quicker. Then there are days where I just feel like chewing the whole morsel up for a crunchy, sweet, chocolately and minty combo.
Marich’s All Natural Chocolate Jordan Almonds are what I’ve always wanted Almond M&Ms to be.
They’re a premium nonpareil almond at the center, fresh and perfectly roasted. Then it’s covered in truly rich dark chocolate then a crispy candy shell.
They’re huge, sometimes twice the size of the Almond M&Ms. They’re also beautifully panned and consistent (something that M&Ms haven’t been in the past 10 years or so).
Instead of the matte shell of the Holland Mints, these are a polished and shiny shell. The colors seem more intense though they’re the same: magenta, yellow, light blue and white. I usually steer away from pink or red candies because of the foul bitter aftertaste of Red Dye #40, but these are all natural so all I taste are almonds, sugar and chocolate.
The chocolate is what stands out here, while it’s not a thick layer, it’s creamy and smooth without a trace of graininess or chalkiness. Yes these are more expensive than M&Ms, but they’re just so much better. I hope these are a year round item from Marich.
I got these half pound samples from The Natural Candy Store but I’ve also seen them at Whole Foods in the candy case. I haven’t seen them in the stand up boxes yet. Though they’re all natural there are no statements about other allergens like Wheat/Gluten and they’re not Kosher.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:06 am
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Godiva, who is always good at merchandising, has a limited edition Shamrock Mint Truffle. These dipped bonbons are right up my alley, they’re a a classic mint ganache with Godiva chocolate chips enrobed in a dark chocolate shell and strung with a lucky green shamrock.
Godiva was kind enough to send a box of them to me, you can also get them as singles in the store. A box of 5 retails for $12. (The samples I got came in a box of six ... dunno why that was.)
The spheres are beautiful. I’ve mentioned before that I prefer enrobed chocolate over molded pieces, there’s something about the tempering of enrobed chocolate that I think has a better mouthfeel. So these had me right away with their excellent attention to detail. The little clovers in a white chocolate colored light green were cute - the flavoring wasn’t too sweet and didn’t distract from the rest of the confection.
The pieces smelled mostly of minty chocolate. The whole thing reminded me of mint chocolate chip ice cream. The shells were thin and coated the cream filling expertly - none had any cracks or leaks.
The filling was creamy smooth with a light mint touch. They were sweet, but the dark chocolate did a good job of balancing it out. They really were the bonbon version of mint chocolate chip ice cream. The only hesitation I had with them were the colors - I don’t know what the ingredients are but the center looks like it might have a touch of coloring in it, which makes it look like grout, not some sort of decadent peppermint ganache. There’s no reason why this couldn’t be a year round item (though I could see a little peppermint candy candy decoration for Christmas).
I ate the whole box with very little help: Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.
Johnny also has a review of them.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.