Friday, August 10, 2007
This Week in Candy keeps growing, doesn’t it? This week I have lots of fun little niblets to pass along.
First of all, NancyLand travels to the land of giant Marshmallows to give a peek into their cultivation. You have to see it to believe it. (I’m not sure how I feel about the cultivated version over the machine made.)
I saw this article earlier this week and I’m glad someone’s saying it. Kids should not be eating diet food. Childhood is a time for kids to acclimate themselves. There’s a natural process where they learn about what to eat, cravings and satisfaction. Giving kids low calorie, fat free and no calorie snacks just messes with that. Keep the sugar free stuff for people who really need it ... not perfectly healthy children.
I’ve mentioned a few times that Hershey’s is having some trouble (closing plants, higher prices for raw materials and fuel, poor financial performance), Brandweek had an interesting article that may explain part of consumers sudden disenchantment with the company: Consumers To Hershey: Candy Isn’t Health Food by Mike Beirne.
Basically, Hershey’s should go back to doing what they did best: inexpensive, quality candy for the masses and leave the high-end stuff to their Artisan Confectionery division.
Speaking of artisans and confections, how about original oil paintings of your favorite candy bars? Tom Brown has paintings of landscapes, too, but really, it’s all about the classics ... like Hostess Cupcakes, right? Sadly none of these choice treats are for sale in his eBay auctions right now. (Maybe I’ll have to go see his show.)
My brother came for a visit a while back and mentioned that he couldn’t find his favorite candy bar any longer: the Snickers Cruncher. So I emailed Mars to get the full scoop and this is what I found out:
So is it gone? Or just put on hiatus. If you want to make sure they know you love it, be sure to write to them so your comments can be shared with their marketing staff.
Consumer Reports came out with another one of their strange ratings list. This time it’s about Dark Chocolate. They taste-tested 14 commonly available dark chocolate bars: Chocolove, CocoaVia, Dagoba, Dove, Endangered Species, Ghirardelli, Green & Black’s, Hershey’s Cacao Reserve, Lindt, Newman’s Own and Valrhona.
The number one bar? Hershey’s Cacao Reserve Extra Dark with Cacao Nibs. (I thought it was a nice bar, but certainly not the best I’ve ever had.)
For all time best dark chocolate, I think I’d have to go with the Chocovic Ocumare at the moment (taking into account the price and taste).
In other less serious candy reviews, check out the candy everyone’s been talking about this summer: McPhee’s Lollipops in the shape of historical figures like Sigmund Freud and Abraham Lincoln.
Recap of this week’s candy reviews:
Monday: Milka Alpenmilch (6 out of 10)
Tuesday: Atomic Fireballs (7 out of 10)
Wednesday: Mentos Plus Citrus Mix (9 out of 10)
Thursday: Werther’s Original Caramel Coffee Hard Candies (7 out of 10)
Friday: Romanego Dragees, Cordials and Fondants from Italy (7 out of 10)
Average rating: 7.17 ... 12.5% chocolate content (if you count Milka as chocolate)
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
There was a cool article out of the AP that got featured on Yahoo News and CNN yesterday about the FDA Petition from the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
Bridges did a great follow up on the story, which is refreshing when so many of these issues seem to drop off the face of the map.
It mentions that there were 1,500 responses to the FDA on the Citizens Petition ... way to go chocolate fans!
It mentions that this may have an adverse effect on the economy of cacao growers and middlemen in the tropics. There are 50,000,000 people around the globe that make their living from chocolate, of course this has huge economic ramifications, even if it ends up being a 5% fat swap in chocolate.
It makes mention (towards the end) of the positions that Mars, Nestle and Hershey put on the record back in 2000. (A story, I might add, that I covered here back in this post.)
Big Chocolate doesn’t want to comment any longer ... Hershey’s, Nestle, Mars, the CMA ... they didn’t have anything to say for the article.
You can read the FDA statement that they put out around the time when the public comment period ended.
Here’s the interview I did for NPR last month about it where I think I took an admirable stand against some of the GMA’s positions.
Friday, August 3, 2007
I forgot to mention the huge supply of Asian Mentos that Santos brought me (but you probably have some clue when you saw the Fuji Apple). So be on the lookout for reviews of the coveted Mentos Plus Citrus Mix, Mentos Xtrm (Spearmint & Peppermint), Summer Cherry, super-cute mini Mentos Lime Mint Cool Chews and even a different Sour Mix that has Pineapple in it. (Photos here to keep you as excited as I am.)
In other chew news, I found a blog post from a Canadian that mentions their version of the Carnival Flavors Skittles that have been all the buzz this summer. Theirs is called Skittles Unlimited and comes in a black package. See Amby’s post with photos. It looks like the same flavors as ours. They have them in Australia too, but the flavors are different: *popcorn, *jam donut, *toffee apple, fairy floss & bubble gum.
In other fun foreign candy news, I also saw this post on TalkLotaChocolate about something called Clickos “Happy Peanuts” from Germany. Sure, they sound like Goobers or Peanut M&Ms ... only made from happy peanuts.
Freakgirl posted this photo of a cupcake and then this post about the pictured cupcake. Yes, the two Elvis Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (miniatures) in the cupcake sound good (one inside and one on top), but so does the insane fresh banana buttercream frosting mounded on top.
USA Today published one of the strangest lists of the 10 Great Places to Milk Chocolate for all it’s Worth. Of the 10 I’ve actually had three (considering they’re all over the world, I consider that pretty good.) The choices are odd though. Naked Chocolate in Philadelphia and not someplace like Jacques Torres in NYC? Or Max Brenner in any one of their locations? Nothing from Australia. And Scharffen Berger represents the West Coast?
Here’s the Weekly Recap of Reviews:
Monday: Payday Fresh from the Factory (8 out of 10)
Tuesday: Mentos Fuji Apple (8 out of 10)
Wednesday: Ferrero Raffaello & Rondnoir (6 out of 10 & 8 out of 10)
Thursday: Confetti & Agrumetti Lemon, White Chocolate & Almonds (8 out of 10)
Friday: Candy Dump: The International House of Chocolate Bars Mallorca Bars from Spain, Cacao et Chocolate from France and Dark Angel from South Korea (6 out of 10 & 8 out of 10)
Weekly Average: 6.83 (for 12 items) ... 58% chocolate content.
Friday, July 27, 2007
I got up early this morning to do an interview on NPR‘s “Here and Now” with David Boeri and his guest from The Grocery Manufacturers Association. You can listen online. (Read through all my other chocolate change and the FDA stuff here for background.)
Robert Earl, Senior Director of Nutrition Policy for the GMA was rather strong in his position that changing technology is a benefit to us both economically (cheaper food) and to the nutrition profile of foods (healthy!). It’s odd, I’ve never heard “technology” thrown around so much in conjunction with our food. It’s food ... I’d always thought it was low-tech. But I’m kidding myself.
My major beef, and of course I brought it up, was that Mr. Earl stated that the swapping of cocoa butter for vegetable fat was not covered in the petition (at about 1:50 in the timecode):
Seriously? Then why ask for the Chocolate Manufacturers Association’s endorsement? He does go on to make the point that consumers are demanding good quality chocolate, and I don’t argue that’s what we look for in our “chocolate bars”, but this will be very muddy with the lax permissions when you go to the ice cream shop and think you’re getting actual chocolate chips in your chocolate chip ice cream or actual chocolate in your chocolate croissant at the bakery. Anything that uses chocolate as an ingredient will become fair game for the cheaper vegetable fat substitutes.
If you haven’t listened to it (it’s only in RealPlayer, so I totally understand), I made the point that whether or not the GMA specifically laid out that the petition includes chocolate, it is in Appendix C (PDF) and statements from Hershey & the Chocolate Manufacturers Association have indicated that they think that they would be able to under the “safe and suitable vegetable fats.”
In my discussions with the producer before the interview I found out that no one else in the Chocolate Manufacturers Association or Hershey’s wanted to take part in the interview. The Chocolate Manufacturers Association has posted plenty of documents on their site giving their position (PDF) as well as the National Confectioners Association (link), and of course Guittard at Don’t Mess with Our Chocolate has posted a point by point analysis of that (PDF #1 & PDF#2).
In much funner news, I just got a big package of stuff I bought from ArtisanSweets.com. Full picture array here. I got: - Romanego Panned Sweets (cordials, jordan almonds, panned pistachios & pine nuts and coral cinnamon & orange peel), Fig & Almond Nougat from Montelimar, Nutpatch Nougat (already reviewed that!), Alemany egg yolk marzipan with a burn sugar crust, Alemany lavender honey, Hammond’s hand made candy sticks (cola, strawberry, and blackberry/apple). Some of it I’ll review, some of it’s just for eatin’!
The cool thing is that Artisan Sweets is running a sale right now, all Nougat is 10% until Wednesday, August 1st - just enter the coupon code NOUGAT at checkout. One thing I have to say, everything is so wonderfully packaged, it’s like it’s gift-wrapped. Each item is wrapped either in colored tissue and/or purple bubble wrap, all nested in recyclable kraft paper.
Here’s the Weekly Recap of Reviews:
Monday: Dots (5 out of 10)
Tuesday: Jujyfruits & Jujubes (5 out of 10)
Wednesday: Sour Gummi Bears (7 out of 10)
Thursday: The Simpsons Fruit Snacks (5 out of 10)
Friday: Cherry Almondine M&Ms (6 out of 10)
Weekly Average: 5.5 ... 0% chocolate content.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Food safety (and Easy Bake Oven safety as well) has become a large issue not just in the United States but also in China. There’s a lot of fur flying around between the US and China on the issue, but I thought I’d just address a few things as they pertain to candy.
First, there’s White Rabbit, a beloved vanilla taffy with a rice paper wrapper from China. Earlier this week the Philippines declared that they detected formalin (a nasty carcinogen) in the candy (even in the candy made in the Philippines) and ordered it to be removed from the shelves.
Now, it’s entirely possible that the contamination is true and that it’s happening somewhere along the supply chain, perhaps in the warehousing or the repackaging for particular markets. I don’t know what to make of it and if you put one of the candies in front of me, I might eat it. But I sure wouldn’t eat more than one. I’ll keep eye on the story. (Here’s my White Rabbit review ... one of the very early ones from the archives.) There was a food contamination hoax earlier this week.
In other news domestically Artisan Confections has recalled some lots of the Scharffen Berger Kumasi Sambriano bar because of possible milk contents that aren’t marked on the wrapper. My feeling on that is if you don’t have a problem with milk, go ahead and eat the bar, but if you are in a household with folks that do, be sure to return it.
In a follow up to the Cadbury Salmonenlla contamination in the UK, the chocolate manufacturer was fined 1 million pounds (about two million dollars American) for their negligence in the matter. I’m sure it also cost them a lot in lost sales.
Just to cleanse our palate, here’s a completely unrelated and absolutely safe photo of an almond chocolate cluster from Charles Chocolates. (Think of it as the Candy Blog equivalent of a Unicorn Chaser.)
Monday: L’Artisan du Chocolat (7 out of 10)
Tuesday: Flamigni Torrone (9 out of 10)
Wednesday: Rum Cordials (8 out of 10)
Thursday: KitKat Inside Out (5 out of 10)
Weekly Average: 6.375 ... 25% chocolate content.
Monday, July 16, 2007
There are two challenges going on right now from candy companies that are engaging consumers to get involved.
New Flavor Selection
The first comes from Just Born and Mike and Ike. They’re looking to add a new flavor assortment to their current repertoire that includes:
The items up for a vote are:
There’s no listing for what flavors are actually in any of those assortments (for all I know, they’re the same assortment of flavors, they’re just calling them different names!).
You can vote at the Mike and Ike website. By voting you’re giving them an email address ... and you don’t really win anything, except perhaps the satisfaction of the flavors you want.
Endangered Species is prepping a new bar and are looking for an animal to feature on the package.
You can vote here. Give your top three choices. For more about endangered species, check here at the IUNC Red List. And of course don’t suggest an animal they’ve already covered, so check those out here and here.
I’m not gonna say what my votes were for, but there weren’t any whales or dolphins on my list (as you might think).
Sunday, July 15, 2007
The first is the Storck Chocolate Riesen in the individual pack (thanks so much for the heads up on their existence!). I finally found these at the Shell station on Hollywood where I fill up when I want a car wash. The pack looks a little bit like a roll of Starburst, it’s long and narrow. It holds five unwrapped caramels. They were tasty, though I think they might have been softer than the individually wrapped ones (or it could be the candy-unfriendly heat around here).
I picked up the Sour Patch Fruits because many folks recommended the assortment after my Sour Patch Kids review. The big difference here is the addition of grape and watermelon and the substitition of Raspberry for Cherry. If you know me, you’ll know where I’m going with this.
The watermelon is rather true feeling but the grape is very odd. I usually like SweeTart type grape items, but when I first tried this one I’d just brushed my teeth and for some reason that combination made it taste of sulphur. (Of course there are very few candies which do well after a hefty serving of toothpaste and it shouldn’t be a requirement.)
That aside, the great thing about the assortment in Sour Patch Kids for me was that my least favorite flavor in the mix was lime. In the Sour Patch Fruits the lime ranks as the third favorite flavor ... right in the middle. (Watermelon, Grape and then Cherry fall below.) So there’s just not enough flavors that I like here to keep the assortment in balance. I think it’s great though that they offer both assortments to satisfy folks who prefer one assortment over the other. (And yes, you can get all watermelon if you like!)
In other posts I’ve seen around the other candy blogs, here are the other reviews I’m going to try to track down the candy for:
Terry at The Chocolate Review has an array of Niederegger Marzipan. I’ve always been fond of the idea of the stuff, but not the actual flavor (amaretto just doesn’t do anything for me). But I did try the Niederegger capuccino marzipan bar a couple of years ago and think that this assortment would be similarly enjoyable for me.
Rebecca at Sugar Hog had a similarly lovely assortment from Europe called the Ferrero Garden. I know they’ll probably never sell these in the States, but there are always friends that are willing to pick up stuff for me at Duty Free.
The week in reviews:
Monday: Trader Joe’s Espresso Chocolates (9 out of 10)
Tuesday: 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate (7 out of 10)
Wednesday: Dogs versus Cats ... fruit snacks that is (5 out of 10)
Thursday: Jelly Belly - All Natural (8 out of 10)
Friday: Baby Bottle Pacifier Tarts (6 out of 10)
Weekly Average: 6.67 ... 33% chocolate content.
Coming up this week, I took at little tour of the new Valerie Confections store (write up on Chowhound & photos here) and also finally visited L’Artisan du Chocolat (a high end chocolatier here in my neighborhood in Los Angeles).
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
There are a bazillion candy bars in the world because people have different preferences and determinations of why they buy & eat them (dietary restrictions, politics, price, availability). While I review candy, I’m giving my opinion with information about all my other preferences as a touchstone and I respect other people’s opinion (that’s why there’s a comment section on this blog!). I don’t think I’ve ever gotten in someone’s face and said “this bar is better than that one and you’re a fool if you believe otherwise.” (Okay, I’ve been a bit harsh on Arcor.)
The funny thing about the whole article was the comparison between Cadbury made in the UK and the American Cadbury chocolate manufactured with some UK ingredients here by Hershey’s.
Anyone who’s been following along with the story about the FDA considering the dilution of the definition of chocolate will recognize that the stuff that Cadbury sells as “chocolate” in the UK doesn’t even qualify as such in the US. (So it’s good that the article is titled best candy bars and not best chocolate bars.) Also that last bit about soy lecithin makes it look like there aren’t any emulsifiers in the UK version, which are listed quite clearly right after that vegetable fat. (Honestly I’d like to see the complete lists side by side.)
I have to give it to the Brits though, they still have the Curly Wurly ... what a sad country we are that the Marathon bar is gone. Here’s my roundup of English candy ... which I generally like quite a bit! (I don’t think it’s better or worse than American and I’m glad that so many of the traditional English candies are still around ... Allsorts & Barley Sugar anyone?)
As for Hershey bars tasting like ear wax as Kevin Ellis was quoted in the article, well I’ve never tasted Kevin Ellis’ ear wax, so I can’t comment about his opinion, but I’ve always likened Hershey’s to being like a yogurty chocolate (the tangy milky taste) instead of the dried milk flavor of Cadbury. To each his own.
(I haven’t done many head to heads, but here’s one on the Milky Way/Mars bars from UK, Canada and US.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.