Thursday, February 23, 2006
These were a revelation when I had them as a kid. It was one of the earliest recollections I have of considering product design from top to bottom. (Well, that and AIM toothpaste which was a big deal back then.) The name of the product, the shape if the candies and of course the flavors all seemed to indicate that there was someone behind all this. Before that, I think I just though that kindly cooks slaved away in “test kitchens” to come up with new candies, or everything had just always been that way.
Bottle Caps are little crumbly, chalk-like candies flavored like sodas. They come in cherry, root beer, cola, orange and grape. I’m not sure if there was ever a Dr. Pepper/Mr. Pibb flavor, but it certainly doesn’t exist now.
The packaging varies, sometimes you can find them in packets (like the Razzles) and sometimes in rolls like this. I like the rolls because they’re compact, but it does make it hard to avoid the colors you don’t want to eat (that’d be Cherry for me).
Seeing how there are so few Root Beer flavored candies, this is one that always calls to me. The root beer of a Bottle Cap is vastly different from a Root Beer Barrel hard candy. A hard candy relies on the herbal/balsam qualities of the flavor along with a fair dose of sugar. This candy has a bit of a sour bite, I think to mimic the acidic carbonated drink and has a slight cooling quality on the tongue. It’s plenty sweet and has that root beer essence to it, but misses on the more complex flavors of the actual root beer flavor. The orange and grape are nothing to write home about, they’re just a fruit flavor with the sour/cool bite to them. The Cola flavor is equally interesting, with its earthy acidic bite and unique flavor. I like the flavor of cola, though I really don’t like soda (I wish other things came in cola flavor, like Root Beer Barrels).
I can’t say that I feel like buying them again. I don’t think I’d had them for about 15 years and I could probably go another. I think I like the idea of the little snack packs better, maybe I’ll have to get some for Halloween this year and then have two or three to satisfy that wee craving. I know Bottlecaps have their feverish defenders and that’s cool. I’m not saying it’s a bad candy, I think it’s delightful and original. Just not for me.
Note: this candy was manufactured in the United States.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Sometimes I’ve just gotta buy something because of the way it looks. I saw someone posting photos of this candy on Flickr a few months back. If I hadn’t seen what was inside the box, I’m not sure I would have bought it. The box is 5” wide and 4.5” deep (and only .75” high). The little candies are depicted on the package as well as a diagram of them (in Japanese) on the back (see the website for the text if you’re curious).
I’ve always been pleased with Morinaga’s products. They’re one of Japan’s finer mass-market candymakers. Their ingredients are good quality and they have a fantastic way with packaging.
The candies are “white chocolate” (made with real cocoa butter) with green tea in it (matcha). They’re shaped into pretty little candies - a fan, a flower, a leaf.
There are two different kinds - a dark matcha shape with a chocolate base and then a version with a white chocolate outside with a green tea inside. Though they look different, besides the little bit of dark chocolate on some of them, they taste the same. If you’ve ever had green tea ice cream, that’s basically what this tastes like. Sweet, milky green tea in a solid creamy form.
Some matcha treats have a grain to them, but these are pretty smooth with a mellow, earthy flavor that has only a slight bitter note in the middle. The floral notes stay with you long after you’ve finished them, it’s a pleasant feeling, not like coffee breath. As white chocolates go, this is the way to eat them. They’re pretty, they have an actual flavor and they probably give you a good boost of antioxidants. These are the perfect little gift for someone. The packaging is sweet but they’re not too expensive (even for an import). They’d also be a nice finish to a Japanese-style meal. The package says that a single serving is the whole box, but at 167 calories per ounce, you’ll be doing your heart a favor if you share.
Note: You can order them online from JBox or scour the Japanese markets for them. They may be a seasonal item. This post is pretty much a blatant photography exhibition, they were just so ding-dang cute!
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
I think it might be marshmallow day here at CandyBlog.net.
Last week I was at the Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax to meet up with some other bloggers and I knew I had to stop at Littlejohn’s Candies because a reader told me they had the best toffee. Of course once I got there my eyes were drawn to these plump caramel kisses - soft caramel drenching a puffy marshmallow. I completely forgot about the toffee.
So, I got two, one in chocolate and one in vanilla. (And a pecan praline which was divine and I ate before I could take a photo of it.) I figured I can always go back for more toffee ... and another pecan praline.
Once I opened the wrapper it was obvious that these caramels were made with lots and lots of butter. They were creamy, very smooth and exceptionally sweet with a slight hit of salt to it. The marshmallow center was smooth and light without being too foamy. The center also wasn’t very sweet, so it gave a nice backdrop to let the caramel dominate the flavor stage. The chocolate caramel wasn’t as tasty to me, there wasn’t enough chocolate to set it apart from the regular caramel and I plan on sticking to the vanilla in the future.
These are messy candies. They stuck to the cellophane wrapper and to my fingers as I held it. They’re too big to put in your mouth all at once (about the size of a squashed golf ball), so eating them posed a challenge. I ended up with sticky fingers. In the future I think I’ll leave them in the cello and scrape them off with my teeth.
Since the Farmers Market and the adjacent Grove shopping center are such a tourist destination in Los Angeles, if you do come to the city be sure to seek this place out for something a little different from the tourist fudge that you find at many places. (Though they certainly have fudge.) It’s a classic, working farmers market and they actually make the candy right there with big plate glass windows so you can learn all of their sugary secrets.
There are a couple of other iterations of the famous red foil Rocky Road. One is Mint, which I found only recently but was in such bad condition, I could hardly give it a fair review. The second is this one, which I found at the Rite-Aid which is Dark Chocolate.
This bar comes in a pleasant, lightly gold-tinted wrapper. I’ve decided that all Rocky Road bars are dented and cracked as a consequence of the scant packaging. No matter, it doesn’t seem to affect the taste at all. This bar doesn’t smell quite as chocolately as the milk chocolate one does, but does have a very sweet aroma.
The marshmallow is thick and foamy, but not very moist. It has some good give to it without being too rubbery and a not-too-fake vanilla taste to it. There’s very little contribution from the cashews in the chocolate coating except for some texture. I think the bar might be better served without them, but then I’d probably notice that the quality of the coating chocolate isn’t really that good.
Overall, I liked it quite a bit better than the traditional milk Rocky Road, but its rarity is an impediment to purchasing it again. I’ve been in plenty of Rite-Aids in Los Angeles and this is the first time I’ve seen this there and it’s not good enough for me to keep going back to that particular Rite-Aid (Santa Monica Blvd. & La Brea).
Monday, February 20, 2006
I know there are times when I’m thinking about the future of candy and I say to myself, “why can’t red vines be more like string cheese?”
Well, Twizzlers has answered the call of curiosity: What would happen if you made red licorice in the string cheese format?
First, it’d be pretty. That’s part of why I bought this, it was so cute. It looks like telephone cable! But it doesn’t taste like it. Second, it’d be interactive. The candy is basically red licorice laces twisted together and lightly fused into short ropes. There are three colors of the laces: red, orange and yellow.
This flavor is called Paradise Punch. I was hoping that each of the strands would be a different flavor, but it didn’t taste that way. They were all that typical red fruit punch flavor. What was rather overwhelming was the chemical taste, like plastic or some sort of volatile compound. The lingering chemical smell and taste just left a bad taste in my mouth. They were soft and chewy, just not tasty.
I tried taking it out of the package (in case it was the wrapper) and leaving it out for a while, but that didn’t seem to make the flavor dissipate. Which makes me wonder if that’s how it’s supposed to taste. I actually do love Twizzlers and maybe if I see the regular red flavor (or a Twizted red and black) I’ll give it another try. For now, I’ll have to pass on the chemical cocktail.
Friday, February 17, 2006
There are some candy aficionados who turn up their noses at hard candy. Sure, they might think a candy cane is nice as decoration, but certainly not meant to be eaten and savored. I actually like hard candy a lot. I like Lifesavers (or did until they mucked around with the flavors in the standard five flavor roll), I like starlite mints, lemon drops and I love barley sugar candy. When I saw these at the Japanese market, I was hoping they were barley sugar, though it didn’t say that was part of the ingredients. In fact, I’m not sure what they are except for solidified, cello-wrapped heaven.
These little morsels look like drops of honey. There are two flavors, the golden ones and the darker ones. I have no idea what flavor they are, but the dark ones taste like sweet black iced tea. The lighter ones taste like sweet sugar with a hint of jasmine. The little bottom of them forms a pentagon and has a little hole in it. There are virtually no air bubbles or voids anywhere in the candy, which makes them exceptionally smooth.
The little cones (about one inch tall) fit nicely in the mouth and have no sharpness to them that can cut the roof of your mouth, which has always been the danger with cheap sour balls. These dissolve slowly and release a delicately sweet flavor across your mouth that will linger for hours after you eat them. They’re crunchable too, as I am prone to chewing up my hard candies. The black tea ones (which I’ve already eaten all of) have a strong tea flavor to them with not a hint of bitterness. The sweet aromatic jasmine in the light ones (or whatever flavor it might be) is clean and fresh.
For some reason these were strangely expensive. At $2.29 for a scant three and a half ounces, I’ve gone and gotten myself addicted to some pricey boiled sugar. The brand, Shirakiku, is known as a tea and snack brand in Japan and to many Americans who buy Japanese teas (like my favorite Genmaicha) and those seaweed rice crackers. I have not been able to find anything about this candy anywhere online, though it’s possible that the English word “juntsuyu” isn’t quite accurate (as is often the case with the American labels slapped on the back of these import packages). So if any of my sweet Japanese readers can help me figure out what these are, I’d be ever so grateful.
UPDATE 4/18/07: JBox is now carrying Juntsuyu (at my request, thankee-thankee). For the record, since I did this review I’ve eaten three more bags of these and also put them in the Christmas Stockings last year.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:40 am
Thursday, February 16, 2006
There are a few new red licorice products out lately. Both Twizzlers and Wonka are in on this new explosion, perhaps fueled by Airheads’ new products.
The SweeTarts rope is one of those new products. Kind of like the Twizzler Twerpz, these are a cherry red licorice tube filled with a blue, sour paste which is then dotted with little crunchy Nerd bits.
The texture mix is really interesting. You have the rather bland chew of the licorice, which is soft and clingy. Then you have the soft, frosting-like sour paste that doesn’t have much flavor in it’s own right, but has these little crunchy bits that are powerfully packed with more sour.
I tried eating this several ways. I tried the traditional bite and chew method, which mixed the flavors and textures and variations of sour and sweet very nicely. Then I tried squeezing the rope until the blue sour paste came out. That wasn’t as satisfying because I couldn’t get most of the paste out that way.
I was tempted to find a sharp knife and slit the straw open and scrape out the blue goo ... but then I thought that was a little too evil and I just ate the rest of it the normal way.
The photo on the package of the cross-section shows colored Nerds in there, but I think they kind of dissolve after a while.
I think this is a fun new candy and I’d probably eat it under the right conditions, but in order to get me to buy it again, it’s gotta come in a citrus flavor variation. Given the choice, the Twerpz are gonna win out. I like the filling in those a bit better (it’s more like a Starburst fruit chew).
If you’ve tried them and want to tell Wonka what you think, they have an online feedback survey. This product was manufactured in New Zealand. I don’t think I’ve picked up a Nestle product in a long time that was actually manufactured in the United States. On another strange note, the Rope was rather hard to photograph. Something about its matte texture just sucked the light in and gave it this weird velvety look in the photos. They’re not really that alien looking.
UPDATE 4/5/2009: It appears that the SweeTarts Rope has been discontinued. However, Nestle is introducing a new product called Kazoozles that looks an awful lot like these. Keep an eye out for them.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
I bought this tin of Java Bark on sale just after Christmas from Crate & Barrel. At only $4.50, marked down from $15.00, I couldn’t resist. Besides, I was buying some Mint Cookie Joys, so the shipping was a done deal.
I wasn’t quite sure what Java Bark was going to be, and it’s not quite what I was expecting. I didn’t know if was going to be chocolate or toffee or good. And it was none of those things.
Basically it’s a sweet coffee flavored “chocolate” with chocolate cookie chunks in it sprinkled with a coffee powder and then drizzled with some white chocolate. They’re cut into squares (about 2”) and individually wrapped. Then they’re tucked into a pretty oval tin.
Did I mention the tin is really pretty?
The little plastic wraps are incredibly hard to open for some reason, which leads me to believe that these are not made by Harry London, who made the Mint Cookie Joys, because those little cello sleeves were easy to open.
Once open the squares have a very sweet, coffee smell to them. The “chocolate” has a rather graham flavor to it, a bit grainy and after looking at the label, I see that it’s not really chocolate at all. The cookie bits are firm and crunchy and actually really good, mostly because they add a dash of salt to the sweet and chalky combination. The coffee powder (coffee grounds) gives the whole thing and unpleasant grain but a good boost of flavor.
The nicest thing about these is that I can bring them to work and set the tin out and no one will think I’ve pawning off Christmas candy on them. And that’s just what I’m going to do. I’ve gotta make room for the Valentine’s sale candy.
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