Thursday, November 20, 2014
It’s November and all over the world men are growing mustaches in support of men’s health issues and research. This annual holiday is known as Movember and can be tricky for children to participate in, since they’re usually facially hairless.
Enter a Christmas treat that’s available a little early ... the Trolli Santa & Elves Mustaches.
The package says: Wear it on your lip, then wiggle it into your mouth. Different mustache shapes and flavors twisted together for awesome gummi good times.
The flavors are Cherry, Cherry & Lime and Strawberry & Cherry.
For the record, I rarely like cherry flavored candies ... and I don’t actually like mustaches.
The Green and White is Cherry & Lime: the texture is soft and chewy, very nicely molded and quite easy to bite. The tartness of the lime is apparent, though the cherry is still the dominant flavor. The color is strange but actually looks pretty good on the face.
The Red and White is Cherry & Strawberry: this is a little more mild than the lime one, the strawberry notes give it a floral berry note, but still has enough of a tangy kick to keep me interested. The cherry is balanced, definitely a partner and not overwhelming. I could tell the flavors apart, easily, even without looking at the colors.
The White is Cherry: I was actually hopeful that the lack of red food coloring would allow me to really taste the cherry flavor. The black cherry notes are woodsy and deep, with some excellent jam flavors in there. I thought this was an excellent cherry gummi. Nothing I’d want to keep beneath my nose for any length of time, but quite appealing.
These are genuinely fun, a unique version of a candy with an interactive element that both girls and boys can enjoy. (I can see them featured in lots of Christmas photos.) I didn’t care for the cherry ubiquity, but maybe there will be an Easter version in all citrus flavors.
Gummis are made with gelatin, so not appropriate for vegetarians. This version contains coconut oil and is made in a facility where milk, tree nuts, peanuts and soy are present. There was no statement about gluten. Trolli also makes a version called Swirly Mustaches in vibrant colors.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Christmas candy is mostly about peppermint and chocolate and shiny colored foil wrapping. Holiday gum is rather unusual, so I was pleased to see Concord Confections part of the Tootsie Roll company has a variety for winter: Dubble Bubble Snow Balls.
I enjoy novelty gums for the same reason I enjoy other candy coated morsels: they’re fun to look at before eating. The Snow Balls are extremely cute. Each is the size of a garbanzo bean and rattle around easily in the theater size box. What I also liked about this particular gum was that they were white ... there was no artificial coloring (though there is titanium dioxide as a whitener), so I didn’t have to worry about anything getting into the flavor except what they intended as the flavor. The gum is made with sugar and corn syrup with no artificial sweeteners.
The pieces are beautiful. They’re rough and white and though spherical, they don’t roll around. The bite was wonderfully soft and easy to chew, but the flavor is ... well, it’s kind of like fabric softener at first. It’s floral - somewhere in the neighborhood of violet and maybe musk. After chewing (two pieces seemed like a good portion), the crunchy shell and gum base were very soft. However, within a minute, the sugar dissipated to the point that the gum was getting quite stiff ... another two minutes and it was an unchewable lump that was less appealing than a wad of paper. My style is to switch out at that point anyway, so I just spit out the first piece and repeat.
Now, since this was bubble gum, I should comment on those qualities. It works. The bubbles can’t get that big, as the gum base is too stiff and unforgiving. But it’s not particularly sticky, which is a plus. But it’s most definitely not bubble gum flavored, and any children you give this to might be turned off by the soapy notes.
After chewing, even a half hour later, I did notice a lingering floral taste in my mouth, rather like jasmine tea.
Dubble Bubble is peanut free and gluten free ... and in this instance is also free from dyes but may contain traces of soy. The gumballs are made in Canada.
Monday, November 17, 2014
I feel like there is a perfect gum out there for me, I just haven’t found it yet. So when I saw Simply Gum at the checkout at Lolli & Pops one afternoon, I bought it on impulse just because of the name of the flavor: Fennel Licorice.
Upon further reading I saw that there was more going on here than just the unusual flavor and enticing package. Simply Gum is made with real chicle instead of synthetic gum base along with organic sugar and glycerine.
The packaging is spare and thoughtful. Inside the flip top, there’s a little sleeve that holds “post chew wraps”, so even thought the pieces don’t come in little papers, there are papers to responsibly dispose of your gum when you’re through.
Though the box is square and the nuggets inside fill the package, after I dumped them out for photographing, I found that there was a spacer bit at the bottom. As if they’d either originally specified more gum in the box but later decided for less but didn’t want to change the package, or it’s just intended to mislead the consumer. The box only says 12 pieces (there were actually 18 in my box but they’re not consistently sized), but never says how big each piece is, the weight I came up with in the stats box is from weighing the pieces.
The nuggets are just that, a rope of the brown-sugar hued gum is snipped into pieces. They’re a little smaller than a regular portion of gum, but not by half. When I chewed it, I wanted maybe 1.5 times as much.
The pieces don’t stick together, they have a little rice powder on them (kind of like a corn starch). They smell like fennel, just like sticking your nose in a bottle of fennel seed. The chew releases the sweetness quickly, and instead of becoming more firm, like most gums do, this became thinner. It was too thin really. It’s like riding a bike in the wrong gear, my jaw is going too fast for this gum. I’m just spinning and the gum is squishing around.
Aside from the texture, I love the flavor. It was earthy and substantial. The licorice flavors weren’t overly sweet or metallic. The mineral notes weren’t rusty. Instead it tasted rather of beets. I felt like it freshened my mouth, yet still went well with coffee or tea. The flavor lasted quite long and though the sugar was gone, fennel and licorice have a natural sweetness that lingers. But the gum base was just too squishy.
So, if you’ve been looking for an all natural gum that chews better with a glass of iced tea than hot tea ... well, this is your gum. I might try another flavor, like Maple, just in case the particular batch I got was anomalous. However, it’s pretty expensive, at $3.50 a box.
Friday, November 14, 2014
Bourbon, a Japanese snack company, has been making Everyburger for at least 11 years (previews review). They’re an ingenious little snack ... a sesame cracker that looks like a bun filled with a chocolate cream (to look like the burger patty) and a vanilla cream (to look like the cheese). The cookie part is quite savory with a strong sesame flavor and the cream filling is sweet.
The Everyburger is similar to Pocky, a combination of a less-sweet cookie or more European-style digestive combined with a creamy coating.
I bought my package of Everyburger Black Cocoa & Vanilla in Little Tokyo at Nijiya Market, which has a good selection of Japanese candies (if you’re in Los Angeles). The package was, however, priced at $2.99 for only 64 grams. Kind of steep for what are sandwich cookies. Bourbon has introduced a “bitter” version before (photo evidence)
The box is quite enticing, it’s very dark brown with a friendly Everyburger logo on the front and enough images that non-Japanese readers can figure out what’s inside.
Part of what prompted me to buy this, aside from my love of Japanese candy, was the internet tizzy generated earlier this fall when Burger King released their Black Burger in Japan. This burger, if you don’t want to look at the photos in that link has a black bun and black cheese.
One thing I noticed I have not been saying is “I wish Oreos were more like burgers.” If I was saying that, I would think that Everyburger is the answer to that request.
The black cocoa flavors, which are very similar to the Oreo cookie, are wonderful. It’s crisp, it has some bitterness and a rich sort of brownie flavor. The center is another story. The texture of the creams is fantastic, it’s like a white chocolate truffle ... but then there was a plastic outgassing note. I thought maybe it was me, but I saw other comments on the internet that mentioned the same thing with all the Everyburger varieties. If I ate them quickly, one after the other, it wasn’t noticeable. But with only eight of them in the package, that can’t go on very long. The other differentiating factor are the little “sesame seeds” on top, which do taste like sesame and add a smoky, nutty note.
They’re cute ... but I’ll probably just stick with Oreos.
Thursday, November 13, 2014
Now, there’s nothing new about Christmas-themed candy corn, Reindeer Corn has been around at least since 1997, probably longer though perhaps by a different name. What I was intrigued by when I saw this on the shelf was that it’s called Candy Cane Candy Corn. Though the package doesn’t actually describe what’s inside, I was left to hope that it was peppermint flavored until I read the ingredients which list peppermint oil.
It was expensive, for candy corn, at $2.99 for the bag, but it is 15 ounces, which is just shy of a pound ... and more candy corn than I actually needed.
The pieces are actually different from Reindeer Corn, the current Jelly Belly version features a red base, green middle and white tip. These have a red base, white middle and green tip. Honestly, if I was making this, I’d make them in two colors only - red base with white tip and white base with red tip ... the effect of the randomized pieces would be much more candy-cane-ish than the inclusion of green.
The red base, however, uses Red #40 to color it. Which I don’t like. Which disappoints me.
In the package the candies smell pleasantly minty, but not overwhelming.
The pieces are beautifully formed and very nicely made. There were very few broken or incomplete pieces. I always like how Brach’s balances the slender look of their candy corn with a tender bite. They’re soft but not crumbly or sticky.
The mint flavor is like the fondant filling of a peppermint patty. So basically, if you like peppermint patties without the chocolate (and maybe a little food coloring) then you’ll find these refreshing. I compared the minty flavor to the center of a Pearson’s Peppermint Pattie (because that’s what I had sitting around in inventory) and found that the fondant inside the patty is a little fluffier, but otherwise has the same smooth texture and mint density.
I think this is a great idea. It’s a great little after dinner mint that looks great in a bowl but isn’t chalky or messy or too sensitive to heat. I’m shocked that I’m not only giving these a positive review, but going further to recommend them. Often I end a review by “wanting” something else out of the product, like a different flavor version, but this is good the way it is.
(Okay, I still kind of want root beer float candy corn.)
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Mars made an exciting announcement earlier this fall that they’re bringing M&Ms Crispy back to American stores starting January 2015.
Some folks at Mars were good enough to send me some samples (though not in the final packaging, so I included the press release version of the package design for reference).
You can read more on Crispy M&Ms in this write up I did a few years ago when I reviewed the European version. Basically, the American version of Crispy M&Ms came out in 1998 and were discontinued in 2005. They had their fans, and current social media allowed them to speak directly with Mars to voice their enthusiasm for the return of the candy.
The Crispy M&M, if you’ve never heard of them, are described as feature a unique, crispy center covered in creamy milk chocolate, enclosed in a colorful candy shell. The center is like a little cereal puff.
The new package will hold only 1.35 ounces, which is more than the Pretzel M&Ms which are only 1.14 ounces but less than the standard Milk Chocolate M&Ms which is 1.69 ounces.
The new version comes in the same color array as regular M&Ms: red, orange, yellow, blue, green and brown.
The pieces are much smaller than I expected, since I’ve had the European versions, which are closer to the size of a Peanut M&M. These are a similar diameter to a Milk Chocolate M&M, but puffy. But they’re also quite irregular. They’re lumpy and sometimes close to spherical, while others are long or pointy in spots.
They’re easy to bite and crunch, and extremely light. The center crunch is kind of like the flavor of a corn flake ... very mild with only a hint of salt and malt. But for the most part they’re neutral. The chocolate is sweet, but otherwise generic. The crunchy shell provides a different sweetness compared to the chocolate and a different more brittle crunchy compared to the centers.
Overall, it’s a pleasant snack that I have no trouble scooping by the handful. But it made me wish for something else ... I wanted a Malted Milk M&M. This is not so hard for Mars to manage, they’d just take the Maltesers they make in the UK and give them a colorful candy shell.
The earlier versions of Crispy M&Ms used a blue wrapper, but that has since been usurped by the Pretzel M&Ms, so the 2015 version will be in lime green packages. I can’t say for certain that these are better or similar to the originals, as it’s been a long time since I’ve had them. They definitely fit into a niche that’s not well served in the chocolate market right now, which is the crossover with snacks. Here’s what the Crispy M&Ms announcement said about it:
M&Ms briefly had Mint Crispy M&Ms as a limited edition.
The European Crispy M&Ms featured mostly natural colors for the shells, which meant a slightly muted palette. Natural colors can sometimes bring their own flavors, though, so some folks can tell the difference between the colors (I can usually pick out the yellows and oranges by taste). It would have been interesting, though, for Mars to make this revival of Crispy M&Ms with the European colors, just to see if that would catch in the US.
I’m curious to see how Crispy M&Ms do this time around. The survival rate for revived candies isn’t great, but the success rates for completely new candies aren’t any better. I have no stats for that, just personal experience paging through the blog at home many candies I’ve reviewed over the past 9 years that don’t exist any longer. Maybe read about M&Ms Premiums or compare the early Mega M&Ms that were discontinued, and the new version.
They are far more consistent (less bumpy) than the samples I used for this review. Though they weren’t any smaller than the smallest from my sample, they were all small pieces. This could just be the way that they were packaged, that the weight difference means that the like sized pieces end up on the bagging platform together. I would need to buy more bags to be sure, but it’s something I’ll keep my eye out for in other reviews. I did eat a whole bag and though it’s not very much at 1.35 ounces, it was filling enough.
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
I’ve reviewed a couple of the new Ghirardelli panned chocolate items, but up until now they’ve been pretty standard items. I was intrigued enough with the description of the new Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Spiced Almond to pick them up.
The perfect snack to satisfy your craving for crunchy nuts and smooth chocolate ... with a little spice.
I liked the package. It’s very easy to understand, the images on the front and back are appealing, clear and not too fussy. But mostly I appreciated that the nutrition label and ingredients are easy to read. The ingredients list the allergens in bold, as well as noting them at the end of the list and it was all in a typeface that was large enough for me to read without glasses.
The ingredients are pretty clean with no artificial flavors or colors. They even helpfully list out what the spices are: cinnamon, allspice and cayenne. Instead of just mixing the spices into the chocolate to create something slightly gritty, Ghirirdelli instead made a spiced toffee glaze for the almonds before panning them in chocolate.
These remind me of the Lindt Holiday Almonds that come out seasonally, but are also coated with powdered sugar.
The almonds are big and glossy. They don’t smell of spice, just a light sweet dairy note. They have a great crunch if you bite them. The glaze is crispy and the almond are tougher and have a substantial crunch. The chocolate is soft and combines readily with the elements. It’s all a bit sweet, even with the neutral almonds to balance it out. The glaze has a generous touch of the spices, with quite a bit of cayenne that builds up slowly until there’s a light burn after about five or six.
I didn’t care for the how sweet they were, maybe I just wanted a smidge of salt in them or a darker milk chocolate. But they are less sweet than the Lindt sister confection, so I’ll take that as progress. I have to say that if this trend of mixing the textures of a glazed nut with chocolate takes off, there are a lot of variations that could be quite delectable. The best that I’d tried to date would be the Sconza 70% Toffee Almonds.
Ghirardelli is owned by Lindt & Sprungli. They don’t have a lot on their website about the sourcing of their cacao except for a statement that they’re in compliance with the California transparency act and then point you to the Lindt policies. Now that Lindt owns Russell Stover, they’re the third largest chocolate company in the United States, and will probably have a lot more clout when it comes to insisting on transparency and certification within their supply chain for all ingredients.
Friday, November 7, 2014
House brands are often cheap knock-offs of well known brands. But every once in a while a house brand has some sort of wizard-visionary behind the scenes ... I think Walgreen’s found one and put them to work on their Good & deLISH line of candies and snacks.
Many of these new candies are on trend with flavors like Red Velvet and Caramel Apple but also do a better job than some of the major brands like Russell Stover and Ghirardelli at creating well-priced candies you’d prefer to not share.
One of the items I found on the shelves kind of hidden in with the nuts were these new snack containers of candy or chocolate covered nuts and fruits. This one is Good and deLISH Sea Salt and Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds, a name so long it’s a wonder they fit it on the little wrapper.
Those of you’ve been reading for a while or have a Trader Joe’s in your area may recognize these, they’re similar to the Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Almonds. They’re an almond, covered in dark chocolate that’s also studded with small sea salt and raw sugar nuggets.
The package is a squat plastic jar that holds 5 ounces. The wide black cap is to be used as a snack cup, perhaps in the car. The jar is wide mouthed, so you can get your fingers in there, if you’re not using the lid as a dish. The overall look of the packaging is utilitarian but not at all appetizing. It looks like something I’d be more likely to find in use to store bolts and fasteners than candy.
They’re kind of homely little nuggets. It’s a crunchy roasted almond covered in semi-sweet chocolate (I’d guess about 50% cacao) with a little dash of salt or sugar sometimes ... then there’s a slight dusting of cocoa on the outside. The chocolate is sweet, not exceptionally smooth and boosted a little bit by some extra butterfat (not a vegan product, sorry). The nuts are crunchy and well roasted, with skins on. This leads to a lingering fiber to the chew. The chocolate has a light bitter note towards the end as well, but the beginning and middle is quite sweet for a dark chocolate item.
The thing is, I didn’t love these the first time I had them at Trader Joe’s, I don’t love them now, though on paper they seem to have all the right qualities. I want to know more about the chocolate in them and I want a little more consistency with the sugar and salt on top. While I found the Trader Joe’s batch I had too salty, these were merely too sweet ... even before the sugar crystals kicked in. I’ll see what else this line has to offer when they’re on sale ... I do like the concept of the package and would probably find this great for car or plane trips. The Walgreen’s site also shows this in an 11 ounce size, which is likely to be a better value.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.