Tuesday, April 12, 2016
They’re basically Swedish Fish.
The ingredients feature naturally derived flavorings and colorings. They come in four flavors and shapes.
The red flavor of the classic Swedish Fish is rather unique, though now duplicated by other candies and confections. It’s most like lingonberry, which is similar to a raspberry and pomegranate mix with a sprinkling of fruit punch.
In the case of the Red Lobster here, the berry flavors are very similar to the Swedish Fish, but has none of the bitter aftertaste of the artificial colors that the North American version have. (The actual Malaco Swedish Fish, if you can find them, use natural colorings.) The flavor here is good, well rounded, floral and lingering with a sort of fresh green note.
The Blue Dolphin is described as huckleberry flavored. I have to say that I’m at a loss to place huckleberry in my memory. In this case, the dolphin is rasbperry, with a light tangy note but much lighter than the lobster, more citrusy.
The Orange Rockfish is orange. It’s very plain. The zest notes are pretty pronounced after the chew is over, but it was not terribly interesting. There were very few of them in my bag.
The Yellow Seahorse is mango-peach. This was a really weak flavor. The peach and mango were less than nuanced and were more like a candle scent than a flavoring. The tart bite was the only thing that kept it from being something I’d stick in a drawer to make my towel smell sweet.
The texture of the pieces varied a bit as well. The lobster and rockfish were very soft and smooth. The dolphin and seahorse had a little bit drier and stiffer chew on the outside, which was more like the classic Swedish Fish.
These are not gummi candies, which usually contain gelatin, these are just jelly candies. (Nothin’ wrong with that, it just seems like so many jelly candies can’t be happy with who they are.)
I’m not sure if anyone needed a Swedish Fish knock-off of a full flavor variety. In this case, I’d say that Trader Joe’s could just stick with the Lobsters, or even make a bunch of different red shapes and throw them in a bag.
May contain traces of peanut, almond, cashew & pecan. Also made with sunflower and corn but are gluten free. Though they don’t have the vegan symbol on them, there are no animal derived ingredients and they are Kosher. It was interesting to see that these were made in the United States, as so many Trader Joe’s candies, especially the naturally flavored sugar candies, are not.
What’s Good at Trader Joe’s also has a review.
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Late last year I got these preview versions of the new Vote For Your Favorite Peanut varieties. The idea is that during the US Presidential Primary season, Mars would introduce a trio of flavors to choose from, and the public would vote. The three versions are Chili Nut, Honey Nut, Coffee Nut.
The Honey Nut M&Ms are a milk chocolate coating with a whole peanut in the center and a crisp shell. Somewhere in there is also a honey flavor ... in the shell, is it a honey roasted nut? I have no idea.
I pulled a few apart and didn’t find any evidence of honey roasting, but they do smell a little bit like maple syrup and vanilla. The shell on this variety also seems crisper. The whole effect is a rather clean, sweet flavor but basically a regular old Peanut M&M.
(Note that the packages I got were not final and the M&Ms were all the same color in each bag, in the final versions released to the public there are actually three colors for each variety.)
The Chili Nut M&Ms are probably the most daring of the bunch. Sure, spicy things are trendy, but the major candy companies have stayed far away from the chili heat, sticking to the pumpkin, ginger and cinnamon spices.
The combination of the peanuts, milky chocolate and mild cayenne pepper is very nice. The heat varies from time to time, but generally has a throat warming appeal that builds the more you eat. But it never gets too hot, which makes for a different experience without alienating folks who can’t tolerate a lot of pepper. (I’m afraid I’m one of those, I’m not great with capsaicin, the heat in red peppers, but I love all other spices like mustards, curries, black pepper and ginger).
Coffee Nut M&Ms is such a promising flavor. The roasted flavors of peanuts, coffee and chocolate should be an ideal combination. Added to that, I absolutely loved the winter 2015 Cafe Mocha M&Ms.
The shell is great, the peanuts are large and crunchy ... but the overwhelming flavor isn’t necessarily coffee, but it’s more of a buttery, woodsy flavor. I wanted to give the candy the benefit of doubt, so I bought a full 10.2 ounce bag at CVS just to be sure. Still, I’m getting this weird buttery coconut note.
I think it’s fantastic that Mars is paying a little more attention to the Peanut M&Ms, since most of the flavors we see are for the Milk Chocolate or white varieties. None of these varieties is something I plan to buy again before they disappear.
Thursday, March 24, 2016
Just Born continues with their Peeps limited edition flavors. This season they’ve released three new Delight versions which are fruity flavors dipped in a white confection tinted and flavored to match.
I found two varieties and picked them up: Raspberry Delight and Lemon Delight Peeps.
The Raspberry Delight Peeps package shows both red and blackberries, though the description isn’t any more specific than simply raspberry.
The face that the inside and the outside of the Peeps are color-coordinated is oddly unsettling. The sugar crust is sparkly and a rather vibrant purple, but the innards are oddly dead looking.
The texture is exactly what you expect with a Peep, a crusty sugar shell, a light flavor and bouncy marshmallow texture. I actually enjoy slightly stale Peeps, so I let these packages sit open for a week after taking the photos of them. (So I ate one in its fresh state and the others in their stale state.) The raspberry is very mild, floral and a little jammy. There are little sour crystals in the crust and maybe in the fudge. The fudge is sweet, but also lots more flavorful than the marshmallow. I can’t say that I liked it, but it did add a textural difference and a little creamy note to the whole thing.
In this instance I liked this better than the Candy Corn and Pumpkin Spice Peeps, but not by much.
The lemon flavor is mostly sweet and has a “cleaning product” sort of vibe, with the light citrus scent but very little nuance. The flavor also has a few hints of salt and sour, which does give a little respite from the sugary notes. Overall, they’re perfectly edible, but the fudge element is grainy and sweet and waxy.
The Lemon didn’t work as well as the Raspberry, but still came off as a decent piece of candy. I find these little dipped Peeps to be ridiculously expensive for the type of candy they are. I buy them because they’re novelties and there weren’t many other new Easter candies this year. In the future, I’d prefer to just find a good small confectioner that makes their marshmallow in house and uses high quality, high cacao chocolate.
Monday, March 21, 2016
This new version, sold in bags of minis, is called KitKat Premium Hazelnut. Japanese confectionery has a successful track record of adapting French techniques and flavors for the Japanese market, so I was very interested to see how the global Nestle corporation did in this version.
The little minis are quite small. It’s not just a shorter, half sized version of the standard four fingered bar. These are two inches long and 1.2 inches wide.
The flavor is called hazelnut, but what’s most interesting about the picture on the package, is that it features feuilletine along with some hazelnuts. Even if you don’t recognize the word feuilletine, you’ve probably had a version of it before. Think of a very crispy crepe, or the flaky layers of a sugar cone. It’s a caramelized sort of cookie that’s usually crumbled and added to other things, like chocolate ganache or cream centers.
The ingredients for this version of KitKat unfortunately show that this isn’t a true chocolate product, as many Nestle chocolate items tend to be these days. The chocolate coating includes vegetable oil, though a lot less sugar than the usual chocolate coating, so part of what gives this a premium feel is that it’s not as sickly sweet as the standard milk chocolate KitKat.
These little bars smell like sugar cones and roasted hazelnuts. It’s quite appealing. The chocolate coating is rather slick and has a little bit of an oily melt, but also a good roasted coffee and woodsy chocolate flavor. The center looks light and crispy, just like the usual wafer layers, but it has the precise flavor and texture of feuilletine. It’s a little grainy and as a more caramelized crunch to it. Magic. Still, the oily and slick mockolate coating lacks the complexity and texture of real chocolate. In this context, it seems to work on a candy level, but I wouldn’t dare call it premium.
They’re extremely satisfying, or not, because I actually wanted to eat the whole package. Sadly, the package only has 12 little bars (a single serving is listed as 3 bars). It’s an expensive treat and the ingredients don’t live up to the price. But the end result was too tasty to keep from giving it a solid review.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
See’s is on trend this year with their new seasonal Lollypop variety, Strawberry Cream Lollypops.
The pop smells mostly of butter, but vaguely like strawberry as well.
The blocky shape isn’t the best for comfort, but it’s certainly a generous amount for a lollipop. For the most part the dissolve of the See’s pops is smooth. It’s more like a hard caramel consistency than a hard candy. The candy isn’t aerated, so there are fewer voids which makes for a creamy experience and a little slower melt.
The strawberry flavor here is very mild. I was expecting something similar to a strawberry ice cream flavor, mostly the sweetness mixed with milk and maybe a little jammy note. There’s no hint of either a fruity tartness or yogurt tang. It’s all sweetness, though not cloying or throat searing. The strawberry has a very slight boiled berry note but mostly it’s the floral scent.
The lollypop is merely pleasant. It didn’t think it’s vivid enough or, if that’s not its intent, creamy enough. I ate all three that I bought, but I’ll switch back to the standards or wait for the exceptional Root Beer to return.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Mars has a few seasonal varieties of M&Ms available this year, including the White Strawberry Shortcake and Easter Sundae M&Ms (which are Target and Walmart exclusives, respectively). For the masses who can’t shop at those stores or don’t want a which chocolate product, there’s one other Easter version that’s new this year: Malt M&Ms Mini Eggs.
I was very excited about these by the name, since Mars already has a great line of malt products available in Europe under the Malteser name. This is not that, in any way.
The new Malt M&Ms Mini Eggs are Crispy M&Ms in their format and ingredients. The only difference is not the addition of malt in the center, but butter flavor.
I picked up both the regular M&Ms Crispy in their Easter colors and the Malt M&Ms Mini Eggs for comparison, when a reader alerted me that they were no different.
There are some small format differences. As noted in the name, the Malts are mini, and they are slightly smaller than the regular Crispy M&Ms, but not something that you’d notice right away. But then again, the Malts aren’t really egg shaped at all, they’re just inconsistent so that some of them are kind of egg shaped and others are spherical.
The candies on the left are the Easter colors for the regular Crispy M&Ms and the handful on the right are the new Malt M&Ms Mini Eggs. Slightly different colors, but similar irregular shapes.
The difference isn’t inside, either. The ingredients and the structure are the same. The crispy rice center is light and airy, but basically flavorless, it’s a little like cereal, a little malty. Outside there’s a little hint of chocolate, not much but with a bit of a milky note. The candy shell is crisp. But as I mentioned earlier, this Malt version is not malty, the outside has a butter flavor to it, and I have to emphasize that it’s just a flavor.
I’ve had these two bags for almost a month, I’ve finished the regular Easter crispy M&Ms but I can’t bear to even have the Malt bag open near me. The smell is disgustingly artificial. It’s not malt at all. I don’t know what Mars was thinking with this product version, but they should definitely consult with other parts of the company that actually make malted items in the future.
Monday, February 22, 2016
Easter is a special time in the candy cycle, because it’s really the only time of year that white chocolate is embraced. Fortunately there are some products that are actually good, not just a white confection but actually made with real cocoa butter and lots of milk. (Many white confections are just sugar and tropical oils.)
The new White Strawberry Shortcake M&Ms are a Target exclusive this year, and if you’re a fan of the other white chocolate holiday versions like the Candy Corn M&Ms and the White Peppermint M&Ms, these may be just for you.
The pieces are larger than standard M&Ms, they’re puffier and a little less regular. They’re delicate pastel colors in pleasing creamy pink, eggshell and white, kind of like a strawberry shortcake with a whipped cream dollop. That’s about as far as the shortcake theme goes, which is fine with me. (The Dove Strawberry Shortcake Crisp things were weird.)
The package this year holds 8 ounces. Years ago the limited edition flavors came in a 9.9 ounce bag, they’re reliably shrinking over time.
The pieces are uncolored in the center and not layered like some. The white chocolate is creamy and sweet and has the floral flavor of fresh strawberries. There are no dried strawberry bits in there, like some previous products have included.
The shell is crunchy and the center is sweet but balanced with the more milky flavors. There’s a lot of fat in there, from the cocoa butter, but they didn’t have a greasy texture. (But that could be that it’s kind of chilly, the Candy Corn version they make in the fall comes along when things are still warm in my area, and the cocoa butter can migrate through the shell in the heat. The flavor in this case reminds me quite a bit of the old Nestle Qwik strawberry milk.
I’m keen on these, but they push all my buttons. They’re pretty and not overly colored, they have a good flavor that’s not too artificial and the ingredients (though there are artificial colors and flavors) are petty decent. I hope they return next year with a wider release.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Easter is a time for the iconic Cadbury Creme Egg. However, it doesn’t come in a lot of flavor variations. So it’s understandable that someone else wants to get into the cream egg marketplace.
I found these Minion Milk Chocolate with Banana Cream Egg at Cost Plus World Market. It was hard to find out who actually makes them, because it’s not Cadbury. The foil wrapper was hard to read, but eventually I was able to flatten it out to see that it’s made by a company called Treat Street, that mostly makes licensed novelty treats.
It’s a great idea, to make a cream egg with a different flavored filling, and in this case it’s brilliant that they’ve picked banana and partnered that with a Minion themed foil wrapping. They’re quite arresting when viewed in the full bin. But the most notable part of this design is that all of the eggs are Stuart, as they all have one eye (I suppose they could also be other one-eyed Minions, but it’d be silly to pay a licensing fee to make candies with a minor character).
My issue with only one design is minor, because the foil itself is quite adorable. The egg inside is completely ordinary looking. It’s the same as a Cadbury egg, except it’s missing a starburst.
The banana center is very yellow, in fact, one might call it Minion Yellow. Before biting the egg just smells like milky chocolate. After biting, well, it’s all banana. The filling is gooey, a little bit thinner than the Cadbury variety and a little less grainy. It is absolutely sweet and has a strong artificial banana flavor, though it’s also a little on the green side. Some banana flavors can have a lot of acetone notes, this one at least seems a little bit more unripe.
The most disappointing part of the egg construction is that there is not one cream compartment in the center. In the case of these knock off eggs, they’re obviously made in halves which actually have a full coating of chocolate that creates a chocolate septum when biting into the whole egg. This means more chocolate and less filling. It also means that there’s no “yolk”. Though the filling is extremely sweet and quite strongly flavored, there’s so much chocolate to balance it.
As far as a knock-off egg, this one is very good. The chocolate is passably good for a novelty item and the filling is distinctive. Since it adds its own twist with the banana as well as the foil design to go with the Minion character, I’d call it a win. However, I can’t imagine ever buying this unless I was specifically looking for a banana Easter item or something for a Minion fan. The price of $1.49 was a bit steep as well for the quality level.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.