Friday, April 20, 2007
Let me just start by saying that Starburst has some of the oddest commercials. Not “Freshmaker” odd, really really odd on purpose. The older Starburst commercials were rather traditional - selling Starburst on its description and merits. It’s fruity! It’s a chew! There’s real fruit juice in there! Now they focus on the experience and the kind of hip person (or tragically unhip) eats them.
I don’t read much into commercials. I eat Take 5 bars even though they had a wretched ad campaign last year that definitely wasn’t speaking to me.
Starburst started expanding its flavors many years ago and now has a rather large family. Today I’ll tackle the “Cremes.”
Starburst Berries & Creme - as with all the Starburst packages, this contains four flavors. While many companies are going with “smoothie” flavors (Skittles & Necco Wafers) for some reason Starburst decided we needed creme flavors in our Starburst.
Strawberries & Creme - reminds me of strawberry yoplait.
On the whole the new flavors actually tasted new to me. The strawberries and creme didn’t taste like a regular strawberry, so kudos for originality. But I like the clean taste of the original fruits.
I was kind of confused when I was buying my array of Starbursts for this series. I didn’t understand the difference between Fruit & Creme and Berries and Creme. Turns out there’s only a fifty percent difference. Two of the flavors are the same, I’m guessing they’re what Starburst thinks are the two best flavors, or perhaps the ones that make the colors of the package look good.
I don’t know if Berries & Creme and Fruit & Creme are meant to exist side-by-side, perhaps they’re battling it out right now for your affection and only one will remain on the regular Starburst repertoire.
Starburst Fruit & Creme - I’ve got to say that if nothing else the colors of the wrappers are enchanting. I’m always pleased when there isn’t a blue in the package though. Something weird about blue food.
Strawberries & Creme - yup, still strawberry yogurt.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Starbursts were one of those candies that simply appeared from nowhere and filled an aching void in my being that I never knew existed. They were chews, like Now & Laters, only they were actually chewy.
I didn’t know that they were road tested in Europe as Opal Fruits since 1960. They were introduced in the US in 1976, just as I was getting a regular allowance and permission to walk down to the convenience store with my sister. Though vaguely similar in format to Now & Laters, the soft chew and salivary-gland tingling tartness set them apart.
Starbursts are great for kids, I can say this authoritatively because that’s what I thought when I was one. They’re individually wrapped, have an array of flavors and the long narrow package looks like it has a lot of candy in it. It promotes sharing and portion control. And they’re brightly colored. The bright wax wrappers can also be folded into chains. (I never went this far though.)
The original flavors were orange, lemon, lime and strawberry but at some point lime was out and cherry was in. I wasn’t that fond of lime, but my dislike for cherry is well-known. The packages contain 12 chews.
Orange - super tangy and then mellows into a pleasant zesty chew.
As I was preparing this review and photographing the candies I was surprised that there were three of each flavor. I could have sworn that they were random and sometimes I was getting far too many cherries.
Starburst actually have real fruit juice in them as well as 50% of your RDA of Vitamin C. They also (in the States) have gelatin in them, so they’re not suitable for vegetarians and not certified Kosher. I’ve heard that the European versions of Starburst don’t have gelatin, so I’m curious if the texture is any different.
Other Starburst varieties:
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
I buy the vast majority of the candy I review here right in Los Angeles. Nearly all of it is from the normal places where most people buy their candy: Drug Stores, Grocery Stores and Convenience Stores and a few other specialty spots.
I frequent the following in no particular order:
Walgreen’s: this chain started popping up in Southern California more than six years ago, but didn’t appear in my neighborhood until the Pioneer Market in Echo Park on Sunset Blvd. closed and they took over the spot. They have a nicely organized candy section with a good variety, regular sales and the store is frequented enough that the inventory turns over quickly. I like it after the various candy holidays as their goods go on deeper sale much quicker. (I got Valentine’s candy for 75% off on the 18th and Easter candy the following Saturday.)
CVS: This chain just bought out our old chain called Sav-On. Sav-Ons were on and off of my poop list. I’ve bought expired candy there (before I learned how to read the expiration codes), even bloomed chocolate that was supposed to still be fresh and have found their selection a little lacking. CVS hasn’t been around long enough for me to develop an opinion of them yet, but I like how they don’t treat you like a criminal when you try to enter or exit the store, so points there. (They used to have these gates you had to go through with turnstiles to get in and the only way to get out of the store if you weren’t buying anything was to scoot past people in the checkout line.)
Target: there are several in the area now, each with slightly different layouts and selection. Some of the prices are very good, especially when you find it on sale. They carry their own line of Choxie and can have some incredible after holiday clearances. My favorite one to shop at for candy was in Harbor City and torn down to make way for a newer double-decker model later this year. Holiday clearances can be hit or miss because people make this one of their first stops.
Von’s: this is not my favorite grocery store, but they do have a rather good candy selection, especially when it comes to mid-range candies and gourmet bars (Ritter Sport, for one). The layout of the store that I frequent on Sunset Blvd. in Los Feliz happens to have a season candy display right at the entry of the store, so it’s an easy stop for me to make on my way home from work. They also seem to carry a lot of limited edition candies.
Trader Joe’s: this store chain has lots of fans for good reason. Good quality food at great prices. They make you work for it though, with narrow, crowded aisles, difficult parking and long lines. They carry house-brand candies as well as great imported and domestic items at unheard of prices.
Ralph’s: there are a few locations near to me, but I usually go a bit further afield to a location in Glendale (near the Petco and Cost Plus World Market). They usually have a huge selection of holiday candies (and companion clearance) as well as one of the few bulk candy selections I’ve found in SoCal. I don’t use the bulk bins, only the dump feeder bins (that way I know no one else has been putting their greasy paws on the goodies).
7-11: the largest convenience store chain in the US, they’re known not only for a location for a quick drink fix, but also their inventory of single-serving candies but also as one of the best sources for limited edition candies. When choosing a regular store, I look for one that has a candy aisle that does not face the large plate glass windows, which can cause chocolate candies to bloom. Prices are steep but if the store has good foot-traffic they candy is always fresh.
Cost Plus World Market: an import market that features furniture, housewares and food. Their candy selection is excellent, though the freshness is sometimes questionable for the niche candies. Prices can range from reasonable to strangely high. At Christmas they have a wide selection of imported sweeties from all over the world and an equally fun post-holiday sale.
Munchies: In West Los Angeles in an orthodox Jewish neighborhood, they have an amazing selection of bulk goods but also a lot of Israeli stuff. Pretty low key place with decent prices. Skip the ordinary stuff here and take a risk on the imported goodies.
Mel & Rose’s Wine & Spirits: If you’re in the mood for seeing a great selection of high-end chocolate bars & boxed chocolates, check out Mel & Rose’s Wine & Spirits on Melrose Blvd. They also have a huge selection of imported consumer candies from Australia and Europe at decent prices. They’re not far from the Beverly Center and Pacific Design Center just on the border of Beverly Hills.
The Candy Baron: This is a small chain in California, I found them to be pretty good, they carry a lot of regional favorites and of course bulk goods. They’re in Santa Monica. I don’t recommend a special trip for them, but if you’re down by the Promenade/Third Street/The Pier it might be worth it:
The Grove and the Farmers Market is a great option for “one stop shopping” in LA. The Grove is an upscale mall attached to the original LA Farmers Market.
In the Farmers Market there’s a stand called Ultimate Nut & Candy. No great shakes (but they do have good toffee popcorn) but an admirable selection of bulk candies behind the counter along with dipped dried fruits and nostaligic fare.
There’s also a Fudge & Toffee shop called Littlejohns. I’ve had their fudge, which I think is decent, but their pecan pralines & caramel marshmallow kisses are my favorites. (I haven’t tried their toffee yet.)
Tucked inside the south east corner is a place called Mr. Marcels - it’s the upscale grocer for the market and they carry quite a few imported candies. Prices are a bit inflated for imported mass-produced goodies, but a good selection and they seem to have a good turnover of product to keep it fresh.
Also in the compound is Cost Plus World Market (see above) Around the corner from that is a place called Duck Soup that carries regional candy bars and retro favorites.
India Sweets & Spices: this is a small chain of vegetarian India food served cafeteria-style along with a grocery store. I’ve visited the location in Los Feliz and found a decent selection of European (mostly UK) candy bars. For some reason they keep them in the refrigerator case all year round.
Little Tokyo is the ultimate location for candy in Los Angeles not just for Japanese goodies (though that’s the best reason to go there).
Mitsuwa: a grocery chain, found mostly in California but also a New Jersey location. They have all the standard Japanese fare (Pocky, HI-Chew, KitKat, etc.) plus Hawaiian goodies and some Chinese. Excellent prices, especially given that these are imported. (Most times I get regular Pocky for 99 cents a box.) I go to the one on Alameda and 3rd Street.
Nijiya Market: a small grocer in the Japanese Village Plaza with an excellent selection of take-away meals, snacks and candies. Good prices, fresh inventory and great location in the heart of the pedestrian area.
Marukai: clean and bright, excellent selection and location in Weller Court. They also carry a large selection of American consumer candies.
Fugetsu-Do: Los Angeles’ oldest purveyor of fresh-made Wagashi and Mochi. Red bean, white bean, soy and even peanut butter. They also have a moderate selection of Japanese candy standards.
Chinatown is also an excellent source of sweets, I’ve not fully explored it though I’ve made plenty of visits.
Okay, if you live in Los Angeles or have visited, where is a good place to get candy? (I’m still looking for a good store to get bulk candies at a decent price.)
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
The standard of Easter themed “regular” candies has been the Reese’s egg for quite a while in my mind. It’s not really that different from a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup, yet it is.
The Reese’s egg has naked sides. Instead of sitting all snuggled in a cup with fluted sides to keep it protected, the Reese’s egg sits there on a little flimsy tray. And when you pull it out of its wrapper, you can see the whole thing, with no little bits and flecks lost during the unwrapping.
One of the things that’s different about the Egg is that it’s slightly skewed in the proportion of chocolate to peanut butter that we’re used to in the regular cup. Just look at how much of that is peanut butter. Reese’s peanut butter is interesting too. It’s slightly cool on the tongue and a little dry. It crumbles in the mouth and dissolves as well as melts. It has a good hit of salt, which makes the milk chocolate coating seem all the sweeter and smoother.
I’ll admit that there are some people who prefer a smoother peanut butter in their cups, but I like the crumbly texture that includes the bitty bits of nuts in it.
The Reese’s Eggs are nothing like the Hershey’s Eggs, except that they’re egg-shaped. These are little foil wrapped chocolate eggs filled with the Reese’s peanut butter found in the Peanut Butter cups. Honestly, I was worried that I’d end up with the stuff that’s inside Reese’s Pieces.
I’m not sure how they make these, but it appears that they create a half-shell of an egg and fill it with the peanut butter and then join it with another half-shell. There’s a bit of a void in the center of most of the ones I ate (and I ate quite a few just to see).
The proportions on this variety of Reese’s egg are probably one to one on the chocolate and peanut butter. The shell is very thick and with the void there’s not that much peanut butter in there. The combination in the mouth is nice, again, the salty hit and crumbly texture of the peanut butter blends well with the sweet and creamy milk chocolate. The chocolate shell feels just slightly oily to the touch, I’m not sure if it’s because some of the eggs seeped a bit of their peanut oil or they make them that way so they’ll come out of their molds ... or maybe it’s because I’m used to eating things sealed with carnauba wax.
I like both versions. Aesthetically I think I prefer the little foil wrapped ones, they’re easier to share and of course save some for later. I haven’t tried freezing them (I like my Reese’s Miniatures frozen) but I imagine they’ll do very well. These are definitely on my list of items to pick up on sale after the holiday. I think what’s interesting is that these plus the original Peanut Butter cup and the miniatures demonstrate what a difference proportion makes, even when you have, basically, two ingredients.
UPDATE 4/7/2009: Hershey’s has changed the formula on this classic egg. Not only that, there are several versions lurking in stores. There are packages like that reviewed above that say Milk Chocolate Reese’s Egg and then there are others that just say Reese’s Egg that may or may not have a real chocolate shell.
The new ingredients indicated that they’re really not chocolate (I know, the photo looks like all the other photos, but trust me, this is what the reverse says):
Peanuts, sugar, dextrose, vegetable oil (cocoa butter, palm, shea, sunflower and/or safflower oil), chocolate, nonfat milk, contains 2% or less of milk fat, lactose, salt, whey, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, corn syrup, soy lecithin, cornstarch, glycerin, TBHQ & PGPR, vanillin.
They look a little flatter than the milk chocolate eggs (labeled or not). As for the taste, well, this one seemed really salty to me, but maybe that’s what happens when I have peanut butter eggs for breakfast. (Hey, eggs are a breakfast food!)
The mockolate coating wasn’t bad, it wasn’t any worse looking than the current eggs. It has a similar melt and cool feeling on the tongue, it’s sweet but I didn’t taste any milky component to it.
I still don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know why they’ve have both on the market at the same time, why they’d make two versions and ruin something that was perfectly good and perfect. As for the ruining part, well, they’re not that bad but I’m not fond of eating palm oil when I could be eating cocoa butter. Read more about it here.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.