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.)
Monday, July 9, 2007
I finally found a video on YouTube of the most disturbing Skittles commercial ever. And that’s saying a lot, because just about all of the Skittles/Starburst commercials are disturbing on some level. I love their inclusiveness (they embrace the disinfranchised and marginalized, as far as I can tell).
You might be old enough to recognize the fellow being milked ... that’s David Groh (not Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, silly!). David Groh is an actor who is best known as Rhoda Morgenstern’s husband, Joe Gerard. (The best part of that show was Julie Kavner who went on to become an integral part of The Simpsons.)
Anyway, back to the commercial at hand ... I guess the most disturbing part is that he has six teats. Which is really odd ... cows only have four and of course humans only have two. Pigs, I think, have six or maybe eight. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this. You’re either going to love it or hate it. (I’m just glad they don’t say that Skittles have David Groh milk in them ....)
Here’s the recap of the week in Candy Blog reviews:
Monday: Twix PB (6 out of 10)
Tuesday: Nestle Crunch Crisp (4 out of 10)
Thursday: Sour Patch Kids (7 out of 10)
Friday: The Candy Dump: Chocovic Jade, Gazillions, Fauchon Hazelnutties, Fruities & Fruitips (6 out of 10)
Weekly Average: 5.875 ... 44% chocolate content (if you count the Nestle Crunch Crisp as chocolate).
Monday, July 2, 2007
I was running a little slow over the weekend, so here’s TWIC a little late. I’ve got some fun links of candies I’m eager to try but haven’t found yet:
Friday, June 15, 2007
This has been going around for a few months, it’s the Charlie the Unicorn and the Candy Mountain animation from FilmCow.
My favorite part is that the Y in Candy is the lead singer in the musical number. There are a gazillion homages on YouTube as well, but you should probably see what my blogger-bud Sean Bonner and his friends did late one night.
I think of myself as a candy cheerleader in many ways, that’s why there are more good reviews here than bad ones. But I have to respect other people’s least favorite candies ... especially when they dramatize it so well. The fellows at Handsome Donkey created a video of the 5 Worst Candies of All Time. (Found via Robyn at Serious Eats.)
This one isn’t video and isn’t really very happy either. But poignant. It’s a photo essay of the old Brach’s candy factory in Chicago. It was closed and production was moved off to Mexico where sugar and production costs are cheaper.
Tom Regan who took the photos was kind enough to give me permission to post this little mosaic of them here, check out the rest of them on Flickr.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.