Monday, March 2, 2009
I bought another molded Palmer Easter item. (A product which I generally consider a biodegradable decoration, not actually meant to be eaten.)
I have to hand it to R.M. Palmer. They do a great job of keeping their prices low and their designs contemporary.
Quax: The Yummy Ducky pretty much had me with the packaging. (It certainly wasn’t the description of Hollow Milk Flavored Candy Duck that sold me.) It looks just like a bathtub rubber ducky. But it was also on sale for only a dollar.
Quax is a bit smaller than the average toy duck. He’s about 3 inches from beak to tail and three inches high.
He’s well molded, with a seam through his head and down his sides. (I would have thought it would be constructed with mirror-image sides, but this way presents a flawless face.)
He sounds like plastic, looks like plastic but thankfully smells like an Easter basket. (Mmm, vanillin.)
The ingredients are what I’d expect from Palmer:
The packaging seems a bit excessive for such a tiny candy toy - it’s 4 inches wide and 6 inches tall. But it does have a little to and from tag area on the back for gifting.
So I got out a bowl of water and plopped my Yummy Ducky friend into it.
Sure enough, he floats. He floats just fine. But he’s not balanced, so try as I might, I couldn’t get him to bob like a duck should, upright (or even tail up like a feeding duck might). Instead he did the duck equivalent of belly up and rested on his side. What this duck needs is a keel. Or feet. Then I think we might have something, an edible decoration for a punch bowl.
At this point I was pretty happy with my one buck purchase. It was cute, it smelled better than some vinyl toy and provided at least 800 words for my review without even cracking it open.
But I have to actually eat some, don’t I?
So I bit off the top of his skull.
The milk flavored candy has a very strong vanilla flavor with a little bit of dairy/dried milk going on. It’s incredibly sweet, actually throat searing.
It’s not that bad! Since it’s not trying to be actual chocolate, it succeeds at being better than plastic. I don’t plan on finishing it, but it was a fun little novelty item. It might even be amusing if they made them in a few sizes. You know, because they’re really not for eating, just decoration.
For those of you who for some reason now want to watch Ernie sing Rubber Duckie, here it is on YouTube.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
They were on sale for $9.99, but going further into the store to the Christmas displays (yes, already out) they had several Christmas mixes that weren’t on sale ... for the same price.
The bag is big, as this is hollow chocolate, and holds 14.1 ounces of actual confection. Not a bad deal for 30% cacao milk chocolate, if it’s good quality.
There were two shapes and seven designs.
Each piece is rather light, weighing approximately 12 grams (about the same as a tasting square).
The designs are cute, the little figures come in ghost, witch, monster and jack-o-lantern ghost. The spheres are just different varieties of jack-o-lanterns.
The figures look like of like board game pieces, little pegs with flat bottoms (though much bigger, about the size of a meaty thumb). The spheres are about the size of a golf ball.
The chocolate itself is glossy and well molded. It smells, well, a little like parmesan cheese and caramel. Not entirely sweet or chocolatey. I’m guessing this is the high milk content (14% minimum) that comes from dried whole milk.
It takes a little getting used to, it’s rich and creamy, rather smooth but still has a strong dairy component that is less confectionery tasting and more like something I’d expect in a bechamel.
The foils are very pretty and nicely done. They’re a bit thin and I had to pick my package carefully as it’s easy to break these (I’m guessing some thumbs poked through two of mine before I got it home).
The ingredients include PGPR and whey (not allowed in the American definition of real chocolate) but also natural vanilla. But the package was fresh, which I think makes a big difference. (Expiration is July 2009.)
They’re well worth it on sale after Halloween if you can find them, but I think that the Christmas ones are a bit nicer. There’s more variety to the shapes, the balls come with little strings so that you can hang them as edible ornaments and I found the Santa to be quite attractive and would make a great centerpiece accent. But I wouldn’t buy a bar of this chocolate.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Since we now have officially nominated presidential candidates from both the Republican and Democratic parties, I thought it was time for another election-themed candy review.
These are from Moonstruck Chocolate Co. in Portland, Oregon. They’re called the Election Collection composed of two truffle shapes, in the shape of an Elephant, the mascot of the Republicans and in the shape of a Donkey, the mascot of the Democrats.
I picked these up at Chocolate Maya in Santa Barbara over the weekend. They weren’t cheap, I paid $3.50 each. On the Moonstruck website they’re going for $15 for a set of four. This is how they describe them:
(Honestly, I didn’t know they were different until after I bit into them ... cuz I didn’t get any literature with them and just assumed that political truffles, like Americans, were all the same on the inside.)
The shell is a white confection, perhaps white chocolate, colored a pale gray. The detail is quite nice (though mine was missing an eye ... or maybe it was closed and winking at me).
I was curious what was inside his ears (LA Burdick does little mice that have almond slices for ears), so I snapped one off. Inside is a piece of chocolate.
The inside of the Republican is pure darkness. The truffle ganache is a frothy but melt-in-your-mouth-good bittersweetness. What surprised me most after that first bite shown was what was inside the elephant’s head. I expected truffle all the way through, instead he has a white chocolate ganache brain. While I think it’s a cute idea and perhaps a wry political comment (I won’t go into all possible interpretations) I found it watered down the chocolate punch of the body.
This filling is sweeter, it’s a milk chocolate cream with crushed almonds and a little spice of cinnamon. It’s not quite a gianduia type nut and chocolate confections, more like an almond butter mixed with milk chocolate. Smooth, but slightly textured. At first it was a little coconutty to me, but that could have been the gray confection shell or just the way the milky chocolate reacted wtih the almonds. As a sweeter confection overall, I wasn’t as thrilled with it as the elephant’s dark ganache, but the donkey had nothing in his head but the milk ganache, so at least he was consistent.
The pieces are quite nice to look at and good quality and distinctive flavors. I would have preferred that they were both just bittersweet through and through (and perhaps a real dark chocolate shell under the gray coating). It’s nice that they’re more than a novelty item; they have as much substance as style ... how often does that happen in partisan politics?
Monday, September 1, 2008
While I’m a big fan of excess in the right circumstances, I was puzzled about what could be so great about a giant gummi other than the fact that it weighed over 12 ounces and was four inches tall. One of the great things about gummi bears is the variety and the fact that you can put a whole one in your mouth, or several at a time for flavor combos.
But this had a lot going for it, first, the price wasn’t bad. At $3.99 for 12.3 ounces (350 grams) it was at least what I considered a fair deal. Yeah, it’s made in China (not one of my favorite gummi-producing countries) but the ingredients looked decent enough to get this just for the sheer joy of photographing it.
They come in five flavors: Cherry, Blue Raspberry, Grape, Green Apple and Orange. Obviously I chose orange, mostly because I thought it would photograph best but also because I think orange is a good flavor.
The packaging is spare and still great. It’s basically the mold for the bear, a hard clear plastic shell, sealed with cellophane tape all around. When done with the bear, the little plastic box can be re-filled and closed up and even has a little loop hole at the top for hanging.
The nutrition facts are a little odd. They think this package holds only one serving, which is 1120 calories.
He’s a little shiny and filmy on the outside, as many gummis are. (This one has carnauba wax.)
The gummi itself is very soft and pliable, quite bouncy and stretchy.
The big question after opening it was serving suggestions.
I trotted out the giant gummi yesterday when we had friends over for the block party on our street. Ernessa is a huge gummi fan, so she was quite smitten with the idea of a large gummi. Her husband, Christian, is one of my few licorice buddies (though he’s a fan of the salted stuff) ... it’s good to have candy friends.
So I served it up on a paper plate and we debated whether to cut him down the middle (there’s a seam) or across. I decapitated him. (There was talk of just picking him up and taking a bite but that’s the candy-equivalent of double dipping.)
A few slices of the head and we were all enjoying a piece of the gummy. It’s very soft, more like a piece of firm Jell-O than a gummi bear. It smelled great, like fresh orange juice. The texture as very smooth and melted in the mouth better and didn’t require a lot of chewing, it was almost like a piece of intensely flavored Turkish Delight. It had a lot of zesty notes to it, a good tingly tartness and of course a sweet and mellow background flavor.
I was pretty impressed with this bear. I was expecting nothing more than flash and style and no substance. I can say that at least in the orange flavor they delivered a really good gummi bear experience. The ingredients list both pectin and gelatin, which is what I owe the even texture to. I’m not sure how well this would do sitting out of its little clear plastic housing. It sat up well for the photos, but I don’t know how it’d do in humid or really hot conditions.
They’d be a fun hostess gift, a great addition to a gift basket or Christmas stocking or if you could find a good deal in bulk, a party favor (and maybe place card holder). As something for one person to eat, it seems a little silly, but it’s definitely a fun thing to share with others. On the whole I prefer the variety and look of the regular-sized ones.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Please note, I’m not a gamer. I do play, but not enough to be anything more than personally aware of how addictive and fun these things can be, but it takes a special game to suck me in. At home we have an XBOX 360 right now (loved the Lego Star Wars last summer), before that it was a PS2 and before that it was a Turbo Grafx (well, that wasn’t technically mine, I was “storing” it for my brother while he was living in Europe).
I’ve never played the Wii, but I totally see the attraction and I love the selection of games.
To capitalize on the affection folks have for their platforms, Au’some has these cute little Wii Klik-on Candy Dispensers shaped like the innovative game controllers (Wiimote).
It’s just a dispenser, like PEZ, and it comes with four rolls of candy - two Smarties-like rolls and two mini-rolls of Smarties Bubble Gum. The rolls fit in the battery compartment (because they’re the same size as batteries).
In order to load the candy package, just slide the faceplate up and it reveals a small empty space (probably where there’d be some circuitry if it worked). The candies are placed flat then the controller tipped down slightly, the little trigger button on the underside of the top is pressed, and bingo, a piece of candy comes out.
PEZ does not fit in the Wii Candy Dispenser, just like Nintendo Wii games don’t work in XBox 360.
I think the design of the item is pretty cute. I wish it put out really cool candy, it’s like they spent all that time on the plastic box and then said, “Eh, throw some Smarties in there.” It doesn’t even hold a whole roll of Smarties at once (though the battery compartment holding more is pretty ingenious). Filling it with something better would improve the appeal of this.
The retail price on these is $2 or so, but who knows what they’re going for in the wild. I got this one as a sample from All Candy Expo. They can be found on the internet and at places like Urban Outfitters.
Rating: 5 out of 10
On the other side of things, Au’some has another line of candies also themed off of a more classic Nintendo product: Mario Bros. They’re called Nintendo 3D Gummy Candies.
The Donkey Kong & Mario Bros. characters have been around since 1981 and have become recurring characters in the Nintendo game pantheon, so these aren’t some flash in the pan licensing tie-ins. Even if you’ve never played or haven’t in years, most of us have great affection for the little Italian plumber who battles the strange ape named Donkey.
Mario is a hardworking guy. Not only does he hold a contractors license and perform excellent plumbing work, in the original version of the game he was a carpenter. He’s also a superhero. He can rescue a damsel in distress or vanquish an infestation of angry apes all on the clock.
The Mario 3D Gummi is, well, awesome. It’s actually three dimensional. At about 2.75 inches tall, he’s the same height as his gummi brethren, though pretty narrow (I guess he slimmed down for his session with the mold-maker). His little hat has an M on it and he has big work boots.
The texture of the gummis short, that is, biting into it, it’s not at all stringy. It’s more like Jell-O than Swedish Fish.
Mario is Strawberry. He’s sweet and slightly floral, a little tangy and has a well-rounded artificial berry flavor. I think he’s two bites, but it’s up to you.
Donkey Kong actually started this whole thing with his game named after him. Mario was simply known as Jumpman back then. Donkey didn’t have much of a personality either, he was just angry and grabby.
In later years Donkey Kong started wearing a tie, which might have caused part of his anger issue (it was the go-go-eighties, even Donkey Kong learned a lot from Gordon Gecko). But Donkey Kong never really returned to his primary role, this is the sad fate of monsters.
In this gummi Donkey Kong is Orange in both color and flavor. He’s actually rather sparkly. The flavor of the gummi isn’t particularly complex, rather like concentrated Tang.
Definitely one of my favorites and it wouldn’t be a batch of gummis without Donkey Kong or an orange flavor.
Diddy Kong is probably not even technically a Kong. (I think they call him a nephew somewhere, but that’s like saying that humans and orangutans are cousins.) Though he’s some sort of ape, he’s not the same species as Donkey Kong. I think he’s some sort of chimp, as far as I can tell (he has smaller, narrower chest).
But he also wears a cap and tee shirt. While Donkey Kong was the big bad guy in many of the adventures, Diddy is the one who sets off to rescue Donkey Kong, in a way redeeming the Kong family name.
(For a while I thought it was Donkey Kong Junior, feel free to dispute this in the comments.)
He’s a lovely aqua color and Raspberry flavored. Tangy, pretty zesty and flavorful.
Finally we have Yoshi. Yoshi is some sort of baby dinosaur and is one of the only characters who displays any sense of self preservation (when you’re not in control of course) and actually runs from danger.
His large snout makes it nearly impossible to sit this gummi upright (if you feel like lining them all up like some sort of action figure display). I took this photo by holding him in place, releasing my finger, then snapping the shot before he fell over.
While he’s cute and has wonderful detail with his little crest and buggy eyes, the flavor is weird. I think it’s supposed to be watermelon or green apple. It’s kind of metallic but tangy. It’s not bad as long as you don’t get too hung up on what it is.
The Nintendo 3D Gummy Candies are available in bags at grocery stores, drug stores and at other specialty shops. I got mine from CandyWarehouse, who sells them in bulk, just individually wrapped. (Of course you also end up with a 100 of them.) It’s a much better price than most of the smaller packages. Individual wrapping means they stay fresh and you can throw them in a bowl at a party or gaming night.
Rating: 7 out of 10
(If video games aren’t your bag but you think that this 3-D Gummi technology is cool enough to eat, try the Wildlife ones where they also say that they’re donating money to protect endangered species.)
Victoria has a cool list of other Nintendo-themed candies at Candy Addict.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Here are a few combo candy-toy items for Easter baskets and beyond:
I thought this little M&Ms mini figure was pretty cute. He’s made of some sort of durable hard plastic, not that cheap thin stuff.
The little figure is full of mini M&Ms. They’re regular M&Ms, not the Easter pastel version, but I’m okay with that.
The most vexing thing about this is the little hat that twists/pops off to reveal the candy. It was like a frelling child safety cap without the insane instructions.
There were a few varieties, including Green, Red and Yellow. I liked the Blue because it felt most like Easter pastels even if he did have some sort of a goofy look on his face. I don’t know if the bunny hats are swappable for other non-holiday novelties.
It was expensive for the scant amount of candy involved, $1.99 regular price. But a fun grab next week on sale, perhaps.
When I was a teenager I had a thing for sheep items. (Well, in college we actually had a sheep living at a house I was renting a room at, but he was more of a lawnmower.)
My obsession caused me to rewrite passages of Shakespeare with sheep in mind:
I’ve kind of moved on from the sheep thing (though if I ever have one I get to name, he’ll be called Fleance).
While this little cheap plastic egg with sheep features was only 99 cents, it also only has give Hershey’s Kisses in them. (At least they’re pastel foil.)
Moving up in price, Candyrific recently expanded their toy/candy line with some M&Ms themed items.
They fall more in the realm of toys than candy containers and are pretty fun combinations.
The first is a set of fans. Candyrific came out with a really good candy novelty a couple of years ago, which is the fan that has little LED lights on it and a candy container in the handle. This new version has the M&Ms characters in various colors holding the fan. The central container at the base of the handle holds .7 ounces of regular M&Ms. (There’s supposedly a version of this for Easter, but I got the year-round version as a sample and haven’t seen the pastel ones with bunny ears in stores.)
The second is a miniature Etch A Sketch that holds a small fun-sized pack of M&Ms.
I have to admit that I enjoy these a lot. I don’t care about the candy inside. I wish that they lit up like the other versions do, but I’m guessing the money they spend on those LEDs in this instance goes to M&MS for the licensing of the characters. But at least they have real M&Ms in there.
They’re well made and even have a real battery compartment that can be opened and replaced for actual lasting play.
I really could have used a few of these last September during that blackout on Labor Day weekend where my house was over 100 degrees inside.
The fan blade is made of a soft foam, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t hurt myself with it. Maybe if I stuck it in my eye. (Please don’t try that, or if you do, please don’t blame me.)
The other fun item is this little Etch A Sketch with a couple of M&Ms on there. They come in a few different colors, but they’re pretty much the same. I had an Etch A Sketch as a kid and enjoyed it ... actually got pretty good at drawing on it. This one doesn’t work quite as well, the little stylus draws a very thin line, probably a little too thin on the first pass, so I ended up going over my lines twice.
The biggest drawback is trying to clear the Etch A Sketch, which everyone knows involves turning it over and shaking it wildly. With the M&Ms in the little container part it makes a lotta noise and to clear the EAS properly, I broke some of my M&MS.
There is an easy solution to this of course, just take the lid off (the part that has the EAS on it) and just shake that. Like my problems with getting the hat off of the Easter minis, I’m sure a child would figure this out much quicker than I did.
The last item is a bit of a re-review of one of my favorite candy novelties so far, an Easter version of the Gummy Lightning Bugs.
This version has little gummy rabbits and is called Lightning Bunny Candy by Kandy Kastle. They’re all one flavor, instead of a mix. I was worried when I saw that they’re all red, but it’s cool, they’re strawberry, not cherry.
For only 99 cents there are 9 little gummis and the cute purple light up tongs.
The package said that the tongs were redesigned. Actually, it says “New & Improved Tong Included” so they’re better than before and there’s only one. (Tongs, I’m guessing are like scissors and pants and are always plural.)
The tongs aren’t really improved, if you ask me. They’re just shorter than before, probably easier to grasp for little fingers and they don’t stay on as readily, which probably provides a lot more longevity.
This is the kind of exploratory toy that I think is good for kids. It makes them slow down and really look at everyday things in a different way.
I tried them on some other items, they don’t open as widely as they used to, so anything as large as say, a Spearmint Leaf is too big. But small items like jelly beans (awesome!) and chocolate covered coffee beans (boring) are the right size.
I think adding a little toy in an Easter basket is fun. (I think the best one I ever got was a kite, which me & my brother and sister took out to the field across the street behind the cemetery and promptly got caught in a tree within an hour.)
The Hershey’s one isn’t the best toy in the world, but the design is nice. The filled M&M is also nice and certainly well built, but doesn’t offer much opportunity for interaction. I can see it being collectible though. The fan & Etch A Sketch are the best of the bunch, but a little pricier for “candy” items at $3.99 retail, but still a good value for a small toy.
If parents are looking for a way to still have a bit of bounty in the basket, a novelty item that contains a small amount of candy (especially something that can be refilled on a regular basis) is a good compromise. I mean, I wouldn’t have felt cheated if I got one of these as a kid.
They all get a solid 7 out of 10. The Lightning Bunny was made in China, in all other cases the candy was made in the USA, but the toys were made in China.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
This is another one of those cool idea novelty Easter candies that just doesn’t have a name. Marshmallow Peeps inside a Milk Chocolate Egg just does not roll off a whiny child’s tongue in a desirable way. There is a little ribbon on the top of the box that says “Just Hatched”, so I think if they’d gone for something like Peeps Chocolate Egg Hatchlings or something, it might be a smidge more compelling.
Names aside, it’s pretty easy to figure out what this is. It’s a solo yellow Peep inside a milk chocolate egg.
The egg is wrapped in gold foil with a life-sized Peep in yellow. The egg has a little flat spot on the bottom of the larger end so it sits up rather easily, even without the clear plastic packaging.
What I find rather fun about the Peep inside is that it’s an only child. Peeps in the larger broods always have at least one little joint where they’re in the row with their siblings. This one has no conjoining scars.
The Peep is a little softer than I’m used to, perhaps the moist and nutritive atmosphere of a milk chocolate egg keeps it factory fresh. Still, it’s a Peep.
The chocolate shell is thick and firm. It’s not great chocolate and includes real vanilla but PGPR. The chocolate is passable, not as good as the Russell Stover Bunny, and certainly not the See’s Hollow Eggs with Novelty or Lindt. The chocolate and Peeps combination is kind of fun, Peeps need a little something with them, if you ask me, but I’d like a stronger milk flavor to my chocolate in this case or something darker to offset the sugar crust.
The foil is pretty thick and makes it easy to save at least half of the shell for later (the package says there’s two portions ... I’m not sure if they mean that you eat half of the Peep for each portion or not.
It was a bit pricey at $2.99 for mediocre chocolate ($1.00 an ounce). I think you’re better off getting the classic Lindt Gold Bunny (and you get to choose milk, dark or white these days usually for about $1.00 an ounce) for about the same price and then just get a whole tray of Peeps.
However, as a learning experience, if you have kids and want to talk to them about where birds come from, this is actually a pretty accurate little candy ... you know, there’s a tiny baby bird inside a chocolate shell. It’s absolutely better than giving live animals to a kid for Easter. (Don’t forget the Make Mine Chocolate campaign.)
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Okay, this probably one of the saddest names for a fine Easter confection I’ve ever seen: Hollow Eggs with Novelty. See’s has gone through the trouble of naming every last one of their 102 boxed chocolates. Okay, some of them are ordinary names, like Buttercream, but others are original like Scotchmallow, Chelsea, Bordeaux & California Brittle.
Naming aside, everything else is spot on. The little carton holds the chick-egg-sized, foil-wrapped hollow chocolate eggs just like a half a dozen eggs you’d buy a the grocery store.
The foil is nicely applied (you’d be surprised at how hard it is to find foil-wrapped eggs where you can actually read the lettering on them). The blue, magenta and pale green colors are pretty sedate but match really well with most of the other Easter offerings at See’s. Each foiled egg has an interesting little rattle to it when shaken. There’s definitely something in there, and my guess is it’s a novelty. (It does sound kind of like the whole thing is plastic, but trust me, it’s chocolate.)
The outside shell is milk chocolate, the interior chick is white chocolate. The ingredients label is a little vague about that chick but the ingredients are still pretty pure: Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Milk, Chocolate, Soy Lecithin, Vanillin & Salt. The shell has a geometric pattern on it ... kinda like an eggshell looks when you roll a hard boiled egg around.
The price isn’t bad, especially when you buy the batch of 6. At $5.60 each is less than a dollar and are a little less than an ounce each (26 grams).
The first egg I opened I carefully sliced through the seam with an exacto blade. Now that I’ve eaten several, I can tell you the trick if you want to split it open cleanly ... hold the egg firmly and press along the seam at the widest part of the egg very gently. Most times it will split cleanly. Sometimes you end with your thumb through the egg ... just like when you play with real eggs!
The milk chocolate is nice. It’s sweet and has an mellow dairy component, not very malty or dark ... just a nice middle-of-the road chocolate flavor.
The white chocolate is very sweet but milky and mostly smooth. The appearance of them varies. Some are pristine little chicks, others are a little smudged up from rattling around in the chocolate shell (well, I’ve been rattling them around). It’s a nice couple of bites, I probably wouldn’t want more, but white chocolate is inextricably tied to Easter for me, so I enjoy it for the nostalgia alone.
They don’t sell these as solo treats, just in the half dozen box or in other pre-mixed baskets. Though I think they’re great, I just don’t see myself buying these when I can have the Scotchmallow Eggs (except those aren’t individually wrapped for nestling in baskets so someone will have to put a whole box in mine) at the same price. But if you’ve got a group to please, this is a good way to go.
Each egg has about 145 calories each.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.