Monday, June 1, 2015
Mike and Ike come in a dozen flavor mixes, but every once in a while they put out a variety that is just a single flavor in a box. The new Mike and Ike Root Beer Float is a re-issue of an old flavor that comes back from time to time. Mike and Ike are simple, they’re cheap, they’re a reliable but probably underrated candy.
The box is quaint, though I’m not keen on the “pre-faded” look of packaging meant for food. I want my food to look fresh, at least by design. The other complaint about the box is that there’s a little perforated tab you can push to create a dispensing hole on the side of the box. That hole is on the bottom of the box, right under that Made in the USA logo you see in the lower left corner. There’s no way to close it once you open it. Not a big deal, because Mike and Ike don’t need to be sealed up, unless your environment is particularly humid. However, you can’t stand the box back up like it’s shown here without dumping the candy.
The first thing I noticed is that these are not mousy brown jelly rods. No, these are designed to look like the foamy head on an icy cold Root Beer Float. Well done, Just Born, well done.
The look made me think that these would be more vanilla than root beer, which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, but not quite as appealing. Rest assured, these are Root Beer.
There’s a little tangy note at the top, not quite sour but a little bite. The root beer flavor is pretty good, it has a nice nutmeg note with a little wintergreen and vanilla. The vanilla isn’t strong enough to give me an ice cream vibe, but a mix of both vanilla bean and root beer Mike and Ike might have been a fun idea to play with too.
I liked that the colorings were minimal and didn’t influence the flavors in the slightest. The medicinal note of the root beer did get a little odd after eating what was probably more than a single portion ... it does tend to taste pretty much like wintergreen after a while.
I enjoyed them fully. I like root beer, often soda flavored candies are mixed together and I have to pick through the cherry cola and Dr. Pepper flavors to get to the root beer. So it’s nice to have a box that is exactly the flavor I wanted. Since they make Hot Tamales as a single flavor, I don’t see why they can’t just keep these as a permanent item.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Trader Joe’s makes little fanfare with their new products, they just quietly appear on the shelf and perhaps get a mention in the Fearless Flyer. There are rarely announcements of upcoming products, they just show up. However, the same day that the email announced the new Trader Joe’s Ts & Js Sour Gummies, I wanted some for myself. (Sadly, the first location I tried didn’t have them yet, just a blank space.)
The new sour candy pieces are shaped like the letter T or J and come in four flavors: Key Lime, Tangerine, Meyer Lemon and Grapefruit.
As I mentioned last month in a long profile about the difference between gummis and jellies, this is another case of jelly candies called gummies. It’s kind of sad that Trader Joe’s did that, because their ingredients are quite clean and vegetarians would probably be more likely to pick them up if they weren’t called gummies.
So, if there’s an analogue to this candy in the big brand world, these are all natural, citrus-flavored Sour Patch Letters. Sorry, I think Trader Joe’s buried the lede ... because this is an incredible concept. It’s everything I already like in Sour Patch Kids, with flavors I prefer and ingredients that shouldn’t interfere with the intensity of the flavors.
The colors are muted, with the lime and grapefruit a little hard to tell apart ... except for the fact that I liked both and didn’t care after a while. All are similar to the structure of Sour Patch candies, a sweet jelly center with a mild flavor and an intense sour sanded exterior. Each piece is a mere bite, not too big and pretty clean to eat with minimal mess.
The red ones are Tangerine: the sour coating is tangy and textured, but melts away easily or provides a bit of crunch if you can’t wait. The center is less flavorful, more zesty. The orange notes definitely veer off into authentic tangerine with quite a bit of orange peel flavor.
The light orange are Lemon: the combination of the sour sanding and lemon peel notes of the center give a good approximation of Meyer lemon, which is more mild than the common Eureka lemons.
Clear is Grapefruit: such a great tangy coating with a very strong bitter zest component. Definitely a winner.
Light green is Key Lime: These have a bright lime flavor that’s pretty generic but really refreshing in a too green apple world. It’s pretty good Key lime notes, which have a little creamy component to them instead of the straight acid of Persian limes.
They’re vegan, there are no artificial colors or flavors ... Kosher and priced pretty well. Really, my only complaint is the fact that they call them gummis.
Monday, May 11, 2015
Like most Brach’s products, the package is vague about the product once you get past the name. There’s a list of ingredients, but other than that, I was kind of left to guess what was in my mix.
So, what do we have? Pretty much what the name says. There’s an assortment of two different shapes of chocolate covered nuts ... peanuts and almonds. Then there are some gumdrop looking things that are caramels and some oblong bits that are chocolate covered brittle.
The whole mix smells sweet, a little like peanuts and cocoa. The sweetness has a fake vanilla note to it that isn’t very encouraging, though the appearance of the mix is pretty attractive. The panning is good, everything is shiny and smooth.
Milk Chocolate Peanuts are satisfying. There’s not a lot of chocolate, but far better than Nestle’s Goobers. There’s a little hint of salt to make these much more of a snack than a sweet.
Dark Chocolate Peanuts also have a hint of salt and a noticeable bitterness to the chocolate which again keeps the whole mix from getting to sticky sweet.
Milk Chocolate Caramels were lackluster. The texture was excellent, the caramel was chewy but not too stiff and it had a smooth consistency. However, it lacked actual caramel flavor and didn’t offset the milk chocolate coating much.
Dark Chocolate Covered Peanut Brittle are easy to spot. They’re large and have a thick coating of chocolate. The brittle center may be big, but it crunches easily. The nutty flavor is not front and center, this piece is more about the textures of the crushed nuts, the dark chocolate and the sugary brittle. The nut bits are quite small, so it’s almost like the sesame brittle found in Kosher delis.
Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds are one of the larger pieces, though some are small enough to be mistaken for peanuts. The almonds have a light blanching, they’re not overly roasted. They’re crunchy and hold up well to the rather sweet dark chocolate.
This mix takes a lot of guess work out of what can be candy roulette. I liked all the pieces and didn’t really long for anything else that wasn’t in here. I thought the peanuts were great, and it all looked good in a little bowl. I certainly preferred it to the actual Bridge Mix that Brach’s sells.
The product contains milk, peanuts, almonds and soy and is made on shared equipment with other tree nuts, eggs and wheat.
Monday, May 4, 2015
Years ago, at my first visit to the All Candy Expo (now known as the Sweets & Snacks Expo), I was excited to see a candy called Gazillions. They were little boxes, probably sold for a quarter, that had tiny chewy candies in them, like mini Skittles but single flavors. They came in pineapple. And then I never saw them in stores.
Here it is, 8 years later and I finally found a package at Economy Candy. Except they’re called Cajillions. They’re billed as The Tiny Tasty Candies.
Ingredients: sugar, glucose syrup, hydrogenated palm oil, apple juice, citric acid, artificial flavor, gum arabic, malic acid, carnauba wax, artificial color (cochineal extract)
They’re rather like teensy, rustic bits of deep fried Starburst chews. They’re about the size of lentils.
I hesitate to say that they have an actual shell, but they’re definitely coated and sealed, so they don’t get sticky.
The strawberry flavor is rather clean. The outside is sweet and a little like cotton candy at first, but upon chewing the bits, it’s tangy and pretty smooth. They’re a lot like Skittles, except there’s something that’s not quite right about them. It might be the fact that they use apple juice, so there’s a little note to it that’s just a bit like apple peels to me. But perhaps a little metallic as well.
The shape is pretty good, they’re appealing to look at, though there was a bit of a yellow cast to mine, which made me wonder about whether they were fresh. They don’t roll around, but because they’re so small, they’re not easy to pick up with my fumbly fingers. About five makes a small taste, a dozen is a decent mouthful for a flavorful chew. I could see them working well in candy buffets, especially if they’re available in a wide array of colors and flavors.
I don’t have much interest in the other flavors, which are Blue Raspberry, Green Apple and Watermelon in addition to the Strawberry. No mixes, no Pineapple. I’ll pass for now.
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Just Born, which makes the class Peeps marshmallows and Hot Tamales also make Mike and Ike. Since these are classic candies, recently they’ve been marketing them in nostalgic packaging, sold especially at places like Cracker Barrel and in decade themed gift baskets. Every once in a while they revive a classic flavor mix, as well.
This year Just Born announced the return of their Mike and Ike Cotton Candy, which was discontinued in 2002, and Mike and Ike Root Beer Float.
I’ve been looking for these since they were announced and finally found them at a Dollar Tree in Pennsylvania (but not at two I checked in California). I’m always curious how Mike and Ike does these limited mixes, especially since I know that cotton candy isn’t much of a flavor.
There are two colors in the mix, pink and blue, but it’s unclear if they’re intended to be different flavors of cotton candy.
The box smells like the box, no fruity or floral aromas, nothing that reminded me of the county fair. Cotton Candy isn’t much of a flavor to begin with. Originally cotton candy was just spun sugar, so the flavor is toasted but otherwise just sweet. But somewhere along the way cotton candy was colored (a great choice, in my opinion) and given different flavors. The flavoring of cotton candy is usually subtle, often strawberry or blueberry.
The blue and pink jelly rods tasted the same to me. They’re sweet, with that burnt sugar note and a the lightest hint of strawberries. There’s no tartness, no zest, not much else ... these could be sold without any color at all as minimalist Mike and Ike.
I found the flavor pleasant and clean. The texture as good, they felt fresh, kind of like that feeling I have about 10 minutes after a nice cup of jasmine tea.
I don’t know if I would buy these specifically for the flavor, but because of the extra mild flavor and the pastel colors, they’d be great for a party favor or decorating baked goods.
Thursday, April 23, 2015
There’s a strange new genre of candy, which I can only call the” nuggets of dark berry flavored jelly candy covered in dark chocolate.” It started with Brookside Chocolate, which made several versions with combinations like Blueberry & Acai or Goji & Raspberry and the trendy Pomegranate. The candy went over so well that Hershey’s bought the company, even though they never bothered to name the candy. Trader Joe’s at least called its version Powerberries, which is probably the best name they’ve had so far. Since then other companies have come along with their versions, like Brach’s and Target’s house brand Simply Balanced.
I found this new Aldi version in the earlier this month. They at least have a real name: Choceur Dark Chocolate Covered Superberries Pomegranate. There was also a blueberry acai version on the shelves, in a blue package. At $2.99 for a 7 ounce package, they were certainly better priced that most other candies of this kind.
The style of the candy is an intensely flavored jelly center is covered with chocolate. The early marketing for these candies capitalized on the idea that berries and chocolate were have lots of antioxidants in them. Though certainly not healthy, the idea was that there was at least some value to eating this indulgence.
These particular candies diverge quite a bit from that original mission. The chocolate isn’t particularly dark (though there’s no mention of the percentages) and the “pomegranate juice drop” centers are actually made from corn syrup, sugar, corn starch and then a concentrated blend of pear and pomegranate juice, malic acid and some natural flavors.
The pieces are big and quite attractive. They’re about 3/4 of an inch across and the rounded dome pieces are about 1/2 inch high.
The curious thing about them is that they’re definitely gumdrop style, except that the center is intensely flavored. They’re floral and tangy and do actually have a little note of honey and pear to them. The texture is very smooth, though a little tough. The dissolve of the centers, though, was wonderfully smooth with the bright flavor consistent throughout as the chocolate disappeared faster than the jelly.
The chocolate was okay, it was a little sweet for this type of candy, but smooth and had a well rounded flavor that was mostly overshadowed by the tartness of the fruit.
The centers are uncolored, and actually quite translucent if you take all the chocolate off. So, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that there’s not much in the way of antioxidants here. It’s just good tasting candy.
As long as we admit we’ve left the world of health food, there’s no reason the flavors can’t be expanded to include citrus or raspberry.
Superberries are made in the USA. They contain soy and milk and may have traces of peanuts, tree nuts, wheat and eggs.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
On an episode of Candyology 101 last year we talked about this new product called PEZ Hedz. The come in two varieties currently, Bearz and Hello Kitty. I picked up the PEZ Hedz Hello Kitty variety because they were strawberry and raspberry flavored ... two winning flavors from the start.
The whole PEZ branding on them was kind of odd, I wouldn’t expect good candy out of them, because PEZ is really a toy company, not a candy company. Their toys just happen to have candy in them. However, PEZ Heds are made by Katjes in Germany. If it didn’t say that on the package, I would have guessed from its origin and the fact that they’re just the cutest little deposit molded faces. Katjes also makes other face-shaped candies like Tappsy and Percy Pig. So, that was a good sign, because Katjes does a great job with their candies.
I wanted to post this review after detailing what is and isn’t a gummi candy, just to clear up any confusion. Pez rightfully calls these soft candy chews, as they’re not quite gummis. The ingredients are interesting as they use a base of glucose (wheat syrup that’s gluten free) and sugar that’s thickened with pectin and potato protein. Though the colorings are from all natural sources, the flavors are a mix of natural and artificial.
When I first looked at them through the clear window in the package, they looked a lot like the Katjes Tappsy, which is a foamy gummi. (They’re not quite marshmallows, but a little fluffier than gummis.) There are two colors, the striking white face with the pink bow is the traditional Hello Kitty and is strawberry. The light pink color with the purple bow is raspberry.
The faces are big, about 1.5 inches wide and 1 inch high. They’re smooth to the touch, kind of like a cross between the soft texture of a river pebble and the flexibility of an eraser. Until I ate one, I wasn’t quite sure what the texture was going to be.
The texture is very smooth with a really vibrant flavor.The strawberry has a mostly tangy note at first with good floral and cotton candy scents that waft around when eating it. The pieces are big, kind of two bite portions. The raspberry was much more floral, a little on the soapy side but with a creamy vanilla note towards the end. The bows were actually more dense and sweet versions of the face.
The texture was a little tooth-sticky, like Swedish fish, but ultimately a little cleaner feeling in the end. There were no weird aftertastes (probably because there’s no Red 40 in there), so I found them to be exceptionally pleasant. I found they went really well with some strong black tea in afternoon.
They’re in no way like a vegetarian gummi, they don’t pretend to be. They’re more like Swedish Fish, with a bit of personality.
The package says they’re 99% fat free, gluten free, vegetarian and gelatin free. There’s a bit of beeswax in there, for vegans who were wondering and the package says they may contain traces of milk.
Friday, April 17, 2015
Though the name of the new flavor is a little trendy, the idea is pretty solid. Maple is a great, distinctive but mild flavor. It’s an ideal addition to Jelly Belly’s line because it can be combined with other flavor beans. Though I didn’t have any on hand to try out, I would think that Banana and Strawberry would go well.
The packaging is fun, an aqua gingham motif on the bag gives it a homespun feel. The image on the front, though is not of Vermont maple trees with running sap and buckets, like I might have imagined, instead it’s more in line with what I see any neighborhood diner, a plate of pancakes with butter and a little pitcher of syrup. (Now, I love my little diner I go to, but I highly doubt they use actual maple syrup because their menu just says syrup.)
The beans are uniform looking, a medium caramel color, kind of like Sugar Babies. The bag does smell a lot like maple syrup, which is a sweet smell with notes of bourbon and vanilla with a little molasses or pipe tobacco.
The interesting things is that these are not just maple flavor but also pancake, so there are other flavor notes to the actual beans. Though the primary flavor is definitely, and perhaps over-the-top maple syrup, I also caught sort of buttery notes. It’s not the overwhelming buttered popcorn flavor, just a sort of salty and creamy flavor to it. (There are 25mg of salt per serving.)
So, there’s lots of maple-y flavor and buttery notes, but no actual pancake, which is fine, because just a jelly bean that tastes like pancake topping is good enough.
The fun part for many candy fans is that Jelly Belly are gluten free and peanut free. So if you can’t have actual pancakes because you’re gluten intolerant, you can have these.
I think the trendiness of these makes them appealing in the short term for buzz, but maple should stand the test of time. Of course the Honey jelly beans introduced a five years ago didn’t do so well and I think those did better in combination with other flavors than Maple.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.