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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Limited Edition Ritter Sport Winter Kreation + Factory Store

P1060141You may notice a lot more about German candies on the blog in the coming weeks. I went there for a week of candy factory tours earlier this month and have lots of fascinating adventures to share. (I’ll try to focus on candies you can either get in the United States or are worth seeking out.)

Ritter-Sport is a large German chocolate brand with a unique selling proposition, its chocolate bars are square. Their standard 100 gram (3.5 ounce) bar comes in 23 varieties with another 3-9 promotional and seasonal variations throughout the year. In the United States there are about six core varieties on shelves, but some stores like Target will sell about eight. Even in Germany, I still only found about 14-16 of the versions at the stores (which included the Bio and Winter Kreation varieties). The best place in Germany to find everything Ritter Sport sells, naturally, is at their factory store.

The Ritter family started making chocolate in 1912, but didn’t introduce the Ritter Sport square bars until 1930. They’re becoming better known around the world as 35% of their total sales (over 20,000 tons of the 60,000 they produce) are now for export. (Russia is their number one customer, then Italy, then the United States.) The quality for a consumer bar (sold for less than one Euro) is excellent and the company prides itself on its innovation, ethical sourcing of their raw materials and quality of their products.

Ritter Sport Minis - Winter Kreations

For the past two seasons in the United States I’ve actually been able to find the Ritter Sport Winter Kreations in stores. (Mel and Rose Wine and Liquors and a really good 76 gas station in Glendale on Glendale Blvd & Glen Oaks.) Last year the Winter Kreations limited edition set was Orangen-Marzipan (orange marzipan), Nuss in Nougatcreme (hazelnuts in gianduia) and Vanillekipferl (vanilla cookie cream). This year the Nougatcreme did not return but was replaced by Gebrannte Mandel (burnt sugar almonds).

Ritter Sport Orange Marzipan

The Ritter Sport Orangen-Marzipan bar is pretty special. When I got to Germany back in February of this year, this was one of the first bars I sought out and bought. After eating some of it, I bought the little assortment above plus an additional full size bar. Then when I was there earlier this month, I again bought a full size bar, since I think it’s the right proportion of chocolate and marzipan.

The bar is a little different from the classic Ritter Sport Marzipan bar in that it has a milk chocolate shell (sorry, it’s not vegan). It smells like fresh orange juice, almost like an orangesicle, actually, because of the sweet and milky chocolate. The chocolate is quite sweet and so is the marzipan center, but it all works swimmingly together. The orange flavors are both juicy and zesty, without being bitter. The marzipan is moist and sticks together like a cookie dough instead of being dry and crumbly. There’s a light hint of amaretto to it as well.

It’s terribly sweet, which is usually a turn off for me, but I enjoyed the decadent sticky quality, probably because it’s cold out and I usually want more sugar when I’m chilly.

I do wish that it was the dark chocolate shell though, but since this is the only other marzipan bar that they make regularly, I can understand wanting to hit the milk/marzipan market at least seasonally.

Ritter Sport Gebrannte MandelI don’t think I would have appreciated this flavor in the same way without my visits to the Christmas Markets in various cities. The Gebrannte Mandel stalls were ubiquitous (photo), sealing this confection as a definite seasonal fixture. It only makes sense that Ritter Sport would create a Winter Kreation that includes some toasted almonds with a caramelized sugar coating.

The base of the Ritter Sport Gebrannte Mandel is milk chocolate. Ritter Sport makes eleven different chocolate bases for its different bars, including several varieties of milk chocolate. This version has a cacao content of 30%, so a richer milk chocolate than most American consumer brands.

Ritter Sport Gebrannte Mandel

The bar is light in color, silky and smells much like the stalls at the Christmas Market, like toasted nuts and sugar. The nuts in this case are crushed (I’m not sure they’d fit well in the bar otherwise and might end up a little too crunchy). It’s sweet and the sugar coating on the nuts gives it more of a grainy crunch, but also adds more toasted flavor. There might be a hint of cinnamon in there as well.

Ritter Sport Vanilla

Ritter Sport Vanillekipferl is based on the classic Austrian cookie called the Vanillekipferl or vanilla crescent. They’re rather like a Russian Teacake or shortbread cookie with nutmeal in it. (There are no eggs in the traditional recipe.)

The bar is like many of Ritter Sport’s, a milk chocolate shell with a cream filling. In this case the cream filling was slightly sandy with a very sweet vanilla flavor. I can’t say that I got much of the shortbread or nutty qualities out of it. It was decent, but not really different enough from Ritter Sport’s non-seasonal offerings.

Ritter Sport Nougatcreme

The Ritter Sport Nuss in Nougatcreme was a 2010 flavor and was nicely done. It was a milk chocolate bar with a milky hazelnut paste center with a bit of a crunchy, crushed nuts. I didn’t think much of it one way or the other. Again, like the Vanillekipferl, it wasn’t that different from the regular nougatcreme bar.

P1060120

All of the above bars, oddly enough, I bought at the grocery stores (Rewe and Aldi for the bars in February and Kaufhof for the most recent marzipan and candied almonds). Our tour group visited the Ritter Sport factory campus on our last full day in Germany on our way to Stuttgart. The factory is in the small town of Waldenbuch, which has less than 10,000. But it’s about a half an hour outside of Stuttgart (which has about 600,000 people and over 5 million in the metro area) which is the center of Germany’s auto industry.

The Ritter family created a museum on the factory campus. Not just a chocolate museum that shows how cocoa is grown, harvested and processed into chocolate, there’s actually an art museum there. The building houses four areas: an interactive chocolate museum (upstairs to the right), a cafe (in the back left), a factory store for chocolate (on the lower right) and the front half to the left is the art museum.

P1060181

The exhibit while I was there fits well with the aesthetic of the square chocolate bars. They were selections from the Marli Hoppe-Ritter Collection in a variety of media. Most were paintings but a few sculptures as well.

All of the pieces had geometric elements and either bold use of color (in primary and secondary palettes) and rarely representational.

The space isn’t large, but is well laid out in four areas with tall ceilings and awash in light.

P1060193  P1060196  P1060187 P1060170  P1060166

P1060155

The Ritter Sport Factory Store is exactly what I want from a factory store. First, the prices are excellent. They are below the standard price for the bars (except for what you may find on sale) and they carry everything. There were no varieties or shapes that they make that I could not find on the shelves. The standard price for all 100 gram bars was .69 Euro (about 90 cents US). They were all fresh and in pristine condition and a pleasure to browse.

P1060146

In the back corner was the spot that I love factory stores for. It was where the seconds and over-runs were for sale. If I lived in the area, I’d be sure to visit often to see what turned up. There were plenty of bulk items, such as the Schokowurfel in bags. Far off there in the corner were piles on the shelves of plain white wrapped bars. They were test bars of new flavors, so I picked up a few of those for later investigation and indulgence. They were only a half a Euro each.

P1060157

The branded merchandise was nice. I liked the continuity of the themes, the colors and use of either the cross sections of the bars or the square shapes. However, the prices on these items were definitely premium retail. A little back backpack was 85 Euro. There were also large tins with the chocolate cross-section design - quite large and useful for only 7.50 Euro, but that largeness thing would have been an issue for getting them home. (But what a great gift idea to buy one of those tins, then one of the bulk bags of the minis and fill it up- the whole gag would be less than 20 Euro.) I picked up the coffee mug for my husband and filled it with minis for Christmas.

P1060135  P1060136  P1060154  P1060122 P1060123

So, if you’re in Stuttgart and tired of looking around at the cars or just swinging through the area, it’s a worthy diversion to Waldenbuch. There’s also a Ritter Sport shop in Berlin (which I doubt carries the factory over-runs) that has its own merits for it’s interior design.

P1060113Maybe you’ll also catch sight of their company cars in the area: these were parked in front of one of the factory buildings. When we first arrived in our tour bus, there was a third. It was canary and said Knusperflakes on it.

Full Disclosure: My trip to Germany was sponsored by German Sweets, a government funded trade organization. While this provided me with excellent access to people in positions at the candy companies, in this case all of the products featured here were bought and paid for by me. Of course being at the factory store with its excellent prices which were a fraction of what I pay for the products in the United States probably prompted me to buy things I might not ordinarily. The Ritter Sport factory was not actually on the tour set up by German Sweets (though they’re members), but since it only took our tour bus 15 km out of our way on the last day of our travels, they agreed to stop at my request.

Related Candies

  1. Ritter Sport Fruhlingsspezialitaten 2010
  2. Choceur Nougat Bites & Marzipan Bites
  3. Sconza 70% Dark Chocolate Toffee Almonds
  4. Niederegger Marzipan Orange
  5. Caffarel Gianduia 1865
  6. Treat Trip: Jelly Belly Factory
  7. Ritter Sport Assortment


Name: Orangen-Marzipan, Vanillekipferl, Gebrannte Mandel & Nuss in Nougatcreme
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Ritter Sport
Place Purchased: Rewe, Aldi & Kaufhof
Price: $.90 (price varies depending on size)
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce:
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Christmas, Ritter Sport, Chocolate, Nuts, 7-Worth It, Germany

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:06 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewChristmasRitter SportChocolateNuts7-Worth ItGermanyShoppingComments (4)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Trader Joe’s 2011 Holiday Candy

Did you notice the theme this week was all Trader Joe’s candy for the holidays? Here’s a roundup of what’s at Trader Joe’s this season.

New for 2011

:

Trader Joe's Classic Holiday Candy MixTrader Joe’s Classic Holiday Candy Mix - classic hard candy straws & pillows made with all natural ingredients. $1.99 (read review - 7 out of 10)

Trader Joe’s Eggnog Almonds - $3.99 (read review - 9 out of 10)

Trader Joe’s Minty Melts - it’s peppermint bark for people who don’t like the crushed candy canes in it - $4.99 (read review - 7 out of 10)

Trader Joe’s Mosaic of Chocolates - squares of different kinds of bar - $3.99

Trader Joe’s English Toffee with Nuts (Tall Can) $7.99 (previously in a box like this? It’d call it a step above Almond Roca)

Trader Joe’s Chocolate Liqueur Cherries - the name says it all - $4.99

Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Coal - dark chocolate covered candy cane bits - $1.99

Trader Joe’s Merry Mingle - caramel with pecans and cranberries dipped in dark chocolate -$7.99 (read review - 8 out of 10)

Trader Joe's Fleur de Sel Caramels

Returning for 2011

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Minty MallowsTrader Joe’s Peppermint Bark $9.99 a tin - an great bargain for a very well made product.

Trader Joe’s Peanut Brittle - $2.99 - I haven’t tried this yet, mostly because Los Angeles tends to be very humid in the winter and brittles just don’t do well when they get sticky.

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Minty Mallows $2.99 (2010 review - they’re quite moist and dense 7 out of 10)

DSC04140rTrader Joe’s Chocolate Palette (a beautiful stack of single origin bars - they’re only okay, but a beautiful introduction to the idea of single origin at an excellent price) $9.99

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate After Dinner Mint Thins $2.99 (made in England)

Trader Joe’s Brandy Beans - these have been coming back on and off for years, they tend to sell out really early - $2.99

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels $4.99 (2007 review - more of a flowing caramel than the chewy style of the Fleur de Sel - 6 out of 10)

Trader Joe’s Cocoa Truffles - inexcusable fat bombs - (Imported from France) $2.99 (see my review - I gave them a 3 out of 10, though I think the ingredients have changed a little bit, they’re still quite thin tasting yet stupidly fatty)

Rabitos RoyaleTrader Joe’s 9 Rabitos Royale $6.99 (2010 review - quite decadent and elegant but doesn’t use all real chocolate - 7 out of 10)

Trader Joe’s Assorted Chocolates - I have no idea about these, the boxed items from Trader Joe’s are hit or miss with me, at this price I might stick to See’s - $9.99

Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramels (wood box) $6.99 (2006 review, still the same packaging. Classic, nicely done but a little pricey for boiled sugar. 7 out of 10)

Trader Joe’s Old Fashioned Sweet Sticks - barber pole candy sticks in classic and new-agey flavors - $2.99

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate OrangeTrader Joe’s Milk Chocolate & Dark Chocolate Oranges $2.49 (Reviewed in 2009 as Florida Tropic Oranges. Good quality & price plus always charming package and dark is vegan 7 out of 10 & 8 out of 10)

Trader Joe’s Chocolate Rings with Sprinkle - they’re just little disks of dark chocolate with sprinkles, like giant SnoCaps - $1.99

Also returning are the chocolate covered Peppermint JoJos and a variety box of other chocolate covered flavors. Though I reviewed the JoeJoe’s before, I can’t really call them candy.

What have you picked up that you liked this year? What do you miss from years gone by? I miss the Trader Giotto’s Soft Almond Nougat and the Dark Chocolate Covered Gingersnaps.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:56 am     CandyNew Product AnnouncementTrader Joe'sHighlightShoppingComments (6)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Amsterdam on Foot: Three Chocolate Shops

In January of this year I visited Amsterdam for the first time. I was fascinated and delighted by the sweets culture of the Dutch. My visit to the city was almost completely on foot. I arrived in a plane and left on a train, but the rest was just walking around within the area of the city known as the Canal Loop. Here’s my reference map.

Canal

I stayed right around the corner from the grand flower market, which wasn’t quite in its full glory as it was late January and many of the items they were selling were just bulbs. My goal when I visit most places is to experience candy as the locals do. Sure, I go to the touristy shops, but I love to see how candy is merchandised in grocery stores, convenience shops, vending machines and drug stores. What I found while in Europe is that candy is thriving and it’s for adults and children.

Bakery on VizjelstraatAmsterdam is a great city to visit any time of year, it’s easy to walk (or take public transportation) and really explore. As I’ve mentioned before, I like to balance my visits with tourist things (canal walks to historical locations & museums) along with living like the locals (grocery shopping, local markets and restaurants). Most of the people I encountered spoke English and I learned most of the common phrases in Dutch very quickly; reading signage (if it wasn’t in English) was also pretty simple with a smartphone dictionary app.

As with most European metropolitan areas, they’re not shy about sweets. Bakeries and access to chocolate and candy abounds. I’ll have more on my candy spotting in future posts. But here are three chocolate shops I visited in Amsterdam:

Pompadour Chocolates in Amsterdam on KerkstraatPompadour Chocolates

This is a little tea room style shop, the front is a chocolate counter, but up a few stairs past this and the shop widens out to a little cafe for tea, coffee and pastries.

The style of the chocolates is pure classic. Creams, truffles, candied fruits, caramels and chocolate covered nuts.

Pompadour Chocolates in Amsterdam on Kerkstraat

They had a good selection of gift chocolate in little stand up bags (chocolate covered nuts dusted in cocoa and powdered sugar, orangettes and boxes of Valrhona chocolate) appropriate as a hostess gift or to take home and enjoy. But mostly the shop seemed to be small baked goods (dipped Florentine) and chocolates.

I picked out a small selection of chocolates by the piece. They did have gift boxes, but I had mine in a little paper bag and took them back to the office to taste with my cappuccino.

Chocolates & Coffee from Chocolaterie Pompadour in Amsterdam

My favorite by far was the Honey Caramel with Hazelnuts & Dark Chocolate pictured there a little bit in the back. It was a caramel with a light touch of honey filled with whole hazelnuts. It was sliced and then dipped 3/4 into dark chocolate. A soft chew with lots of dark notes.

I also got a cappuccino & cognac (the twisty thing with a coffee bean on top) which was fluffier than most of my truffles and had a good leathery tang to the coffee notes and the The which was a little “dry” because it was on the intense side. In the back, the flat topped one is a nutmeg and wafer ganache: a bit of feulletine and some rich spice in a milky ganache. (I don’t remember what the other one in the front was - my guess is a dark chocolate, since I usually try to get a plain chocolate). I would definitely stop at this shop again. There are two locations.

Chocolaterie Pompadour
Kerkstraat 148, Amsterdam

P1010417The shop that I most wanted to visit was called Puccini Bomboni which also has several locations. My hotel was equidistant from both shops yet I had a bit of trouble getting there. For some reason the morning I decided to make that my coffee stop I chose to go to the Singel location only to realize that they didn’t open until 11 AM. The next day I tried going to the other location on Staalstraat but didn’t make it before they closed at 6 PM. On my third try I did get back to Staalstraat and because of my difficulties, I felt the need to buy nine chocolates.

The shop on Staalstraat is quaint and well situated on a quiet corner. They had lots of impulse items, prepackaged chocolate straws, nougats, chocolate covered nuts and house-made chocolate bars. The shop is lit in amber and had a warmer feel than Pompadour. Still, it was an overwhelming shop, mostly because the chocolates are huge. Seriously, they’re enormous chocolates.

P1010420

The counter is arranged with what seemed like two dozen varieties. I pondered (and took a few photos) while the woman in the shop fetched an appropriate box.

P1010422

I was attracted to the less common flavors and of course the liquor infused ones. I can’t remember exactly what I picked up but it went something like this:

Puccini Bomboni Collection

Aniseseed, Cognac, Cointreau, Lemongrass, Drambuie, Coffee, Mint, Nutmeg and Hazelnut Marzipan.

Each piece is substantial, some were over two inches long. They were lighter than I expected, the ganache center, made with all natural ingredients were lightly frothed into something that was more like a mousse than a dense truffle.

P1010421It was too much chocolate for me, even eating two a day, I found myself overwhelmed with them, because each piece was so huge. The liquor flavors weren’t intense in the way that some alcohol infused kinds can burn. Instead they go more of the flavor in there, so the cognac was leathery and smoky while the cointreau was just a touch orange. The nutmeg was a dreamy, creamy comfort with just a touch of the woodsy and aromatic spice.

I want to eat more of these, but I know that if I ever go back there again I’m going to end up in the same boat - too much chocolate all at once. So my tip to travelers is to make this your stop on your first day, not the last day. I would have gladly traded one of my dinners made of black bread and yogurt for Hazelnut Marzipan.

Puccini Bomboni
Singel 184, Amsterdam
Staalstraat 17, Amsterdam

Vanderdonk Fine ChocolatesVanderdonk Fine Chocolates

Vanderdonk is a little different from the other two I visited, they carried a lot of other chocolates from all over the world: Pacari, Taza, Bonnat, Pralus, Valrhona, Venchi and even some Dean & Deluca items. Their website has a good listing of the brands that they carry, the shop is nicely designed and well curated with only a few items from each of the brands.

They also had a selection of house made chocolates. I picked out three as a dessert for my soup lunch before I visited Rijksmuseum.

Vanderdonk Fine Chocolates

It was rather cold on that day and for some bizarre reason I decided to eat al fresco. It was probably less than 50 degrees and I huddled on a wind whipped bench by a duck-graced canal around the corner from the museum and sipped my quickly chilling squash soup before diving into my chocolates. The pieces were dense and had very mild flavors. They weren’t my favorite chocolates from the trip but they were a wonderful appetizer before strolling the museum and seeing Johannes Vermeer’s The Milkmaid in person. (It’s much smaller than I expected, and even much bluer.)

If I’m in the city again, I do plan on visiting again to sample the other chocolate that they carry.

Vanderdonk Fine Chocolates
Nieuwe Spiegelstraat 72

My visit was much more than chocolate, but I’ll have some thoughts about candy and licorice at a later date.

Related Candies

  1. 12 European Licorices
  2. Papabubble Amsterdam & Pillow Fight
  3. Candy Blog at ISM in Cologne Day 3 Update
  4. Candy Blog at ISM in Cologne Day 2 Update
  5. Candy Blog at ISM in Cologne Day 1 Update
  6. Candy Blog goes to Europe: ISM Cologne

POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:15 pm     CandyCANDY BLOGChocolateNetherlandsHighlightShoppingComments (3)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mehlenbacher’s Taffy

While on vacation last week, I made a point of tracking down some locally made candies along the Central Coast of California. First up is Mehlenbacher’s Taffy which is made in Paso Robles, California.

Mehlenbachers Taffy

The taffies are sold in long pieces, about the size of a cigar, quite different from the normal nugget or little twist. Each is 1.25 ounces, so I consider it a full serving of candy. The pieces are about 5 inches long and wrapped in a tough, thick cellophane and twisted at the ends.

The ingredients are very simple: corn syrup, cane sugar, butter and then flavorings and coloring (though not all are colored). They’re had pulled in the traditional fashion on a hook and then hand portioned and wrapped. They make 51 different flavor varieties, though none of the stores I found carries more than a dozen.

Here’s a little video from a local TV station about the company:

I first saw Mehlenbacher’s mentioned in a Martha Stewart spread (I think as a suggestion for wedding favors). So when I was in Paso Robles last year, I picked up the assortment you see pictured in this review. Then I ate them and didn’t review them. (Or maybe I lost a few.) So when I returned to the area again, I made a point of finding some more. However, I didn’t match the flavors, one for one. So the photos differ a little bit.

Mehlenbachers Taffy - Root Beer

Root Beer is one of my favorite flavors of all time and one that goes really well with taffy. The root beer is good, I liked its blend of earthy flavors like ginger and pine along with a little menthol and wintergreen kick.

Root Beer Float is a twist of caramel and cream colored taffies. The root beer flavor is snappy, with a good wintergreen freshness to it along with a creamy butter and vanilla note to it.

Mehlenbachers Taffy - Root Beer

Iced Coffee smells pretty rich, like a sweet, sugary coffee. The flavor isn’t quite that intense and has a creamier flavor than I anticipated (I figured it would taste like black coffee). It’s very much on the bitter and strong side of the coffee flavors, but really watered down with the sugary sweetness.

Peanut Butter was a mild looking, almost vanilla taffy. The flavor was sweet and had a great peanut butter note to it and was very smooth. I could have used just a little hint of salt, or maybe they should make a flavor called Sea Salt Peanut Butter for those who crave that.

Peanut Butter Cup is a twist of both the chocolate flavor taffy and the peanut butter. The scent was like peanut butter and cocoa. The chocolate part of the taffy wasn’t very chocolate (not like a chocolate caramel or anything that intense). It was all very mellow and woodsy, with a slightly chalkier chew from the cocoa and real peanut butter. Like the peanut butter, I think it would benefit from just a dash of salt.

Neapolitan is a twist of the classic strawberry, vanilla and chocolate flavors. The scent of the strawberry dominated, with its soft floral and toasted sugar notes. But the flavor of the twist as a whole was just sweet and pleasant. The chocolate and vanilla didn’t do much and the strawberry was little more than the smell. The chew was soft and lasted a long time with no grainy finish.

Mehlenbachers Taffy - Wintergreen

Wintergreen was rather medicinal, cooling on the tongue but just didn’t feel like candy. This was a flavor I tried in my original assortment and didn’t pick one up on my re-do.

Hot Cinnamon is a twist of white and red. It was weird. The ingredients said it was only flavored with cinnamon oil, but it had a huge clove note to it, so much that my mouth was literally numb at one point, like clove oil often does. It wasn’t a hot, sizzling cinnamon. I liked the intense flavor and soft chew of it, but I did actually want more of the woodsy cinnamon notes.

Banana is bright yellow and completely artificial tasting, though the label said “banana extract” not artificial banana flavoring. It’s sweet and a little toasty, like a marshmallow. I enjoyed it quite a bit and think it would pair well as a twist for many of the other flavors. (Banana-Peanut Butter-Chocolate might be fun.)

The prices varied quite a bit. The first time I bought them at the farmers market on the square in Paso Robles (Spring 2010), this time I picked them up at Jack Creek Farms in Paso Robles for $1.50 each and some other flavors at Candy Counter in Cayucos for $1.75 each. The Mehlenbacher’s Taffy website (warning, it autoplays music) has them for $1.85 a stick.

On the whole, I’m not a big taffy fan. I appreciate the simplicity of the product, but once the flavor goes beyond a good malty molasses, I lose interest pretty quickly. So many taffies that I’ve tried taste about as interesting as the wax paper they’re wrapped in. This was different, Mehlenbacher’s is definitely doing something different here. It could be the use of real butter or the attention to the pulling of the boiled sugars. I’m still not inclined to keep buying it for an every day treat, but there are a few other flavors I’d like to try and I’m always up for some root beer.

I’d love to see an all natural line from them too, something with natural flavorings (though many are actually naturally flavored with extracts or peanut butter/cocoa) and natural colors - that would really set them apart.

Related Candies

  1. Bonomo & Doscher Banana Taffy
  2. Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy - Chocolate, Vanilla & Strawberry
  3. Chuao Chocolate Blocks from LEGOLAND
  4. Molasses Pops
  5. Kenny’s Licorice Pastels & Root Beer Twists
  6. Doscher’s French Chew Taffy
  7. Mary Jane Peanut Butter Kisses


Name: Mehlenbacher’s Taffy
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Mehlenbacher’s Candies
Place Purchased: Jack Creek Farms (Paso Robles, CA) & Candy Counter (Cayucos, CA)
Price: $1.75
Size: 1.25 ounces
Calories per ounce:
Categories: Candy, Chews, 7-Worth It, United States, Shopping

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:43 pm     CandyReviewChews7-Worth ItUnited StatesShoppingComments (2)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Papabubble Amsterdam & Pillow Fight

papabubble windowPapabubble is an artisan candy shop that first opened in Barcelona, Spain in 2004. There are now shops in eleven cities around the world including Tokyo, New York, Hong Kong and Moscow. I visited the one in Amsterdam while I was in Europe earlier this year.

One of the conceits of the shops is that all candy sold there is made there. And all the candy they make is just plain old hard candy ... I say plain because the recipe and basic steps are quite simple. But the technique and craft is extraordinary. The centerpiece of the store is the candy kitchen, where the boiled sugar and glucose mixture is poured out onto heated tables to be flavored, colored and crafted.

papabubble storefront

The Amsterdam shop is tucked away on a narrow street (aren’t they all?) called Haarlemmerdijk a little to the northwest of Amsterdam’s Centraal Station. I took a tram over there then walked back to the station on my last morning in town.

This video features they New York store, but is still a great representation of how the candy is made at all the shops.

papabubbleThe shop, like many in Amsterdam, was narrow. (At one time property in the city was taxed on its width.) It’s quite deep and I was surprised to see at the back of the store area was a series of steep stairs, about five of them, that led down to the kitchen area. Like the video shown above, the work area for the candy makers is a long table with a clear glass backsplash so that customers can watch them do their work. There’s also the added advantage of looking down into the area from above as well.

The store is well stocked with previously made merchandise. All the items are hard candies, some are single flavors in a package, some are cut rock and others are pillow shaped confections.

papabubble pops

When I visited at the end of January, the pair of candy makers was just finishing up their latest batch of heart shaped lollipops. Not much to photograph there, just bagging the glossy candies. They did look great though.

What I really wanted though was to taste the diversity of the candy flavors that they used, and hopefully find an assortment that showcased what was unique about the Amsterdam Papabubble, as each shop does things customized to their own culture. I found a mix called Pillow Fight.

Papabubble Pillow FightThe bags are a tough matte silver back with a clear pocket on the front. They held 160 grams and cost 4.95 Euros - about $7.00 at the time. I thought that was a lot for about 5.6 ounces. But then again, it was made by real people, right there, and probably recently.

Pillow Fight is a mix of classic herbal and spice flavors, all in the pillow shape, which is made by taking a long rope of the hard candy and crimping it to make the mouth-friendly shapes. The other style of candy they make is what most folks know as Cut Rock. This is the same basic rope but usually has a design on the inner core that’s revealed when the rope is cross sectioned (one variety in my mix was this cut rock, as you’ll see below).

The package didn’t look like it was going to do a great job of protecting its valuable contents. The little pillows already looked like they had a light sanding of pulverized brethren on them already. But my concerns were unfounded. The way they mix up the candy, the ends get a little worn and there is a bit of sugary dust at the bottom of the bag. But everything was quite dry (which keeps it from becoming sticky and losing its shine). All I needed to do when I got them home was pour them out on a paper towel and lightly roll around to shine them up.

The other style of packaging they have are little plastic jars. They’re great to look at and of course hold more candy and are probably easier to serve yourself from.

Papabubble Lavender Pillows

Lavendel (Lavender) - purple stripes - these were by far the prettiest little pillows. The lavender flavor is a lot like rosemary, a strong oily and mentholated flavor.

Papabubble "Pillow Fight"

Anijs (Anise) - black & white stripes - this was a mild and flavorful anise drop. Sweet and with a great crunch ... I like to crunch my candies. The pillows seem to have a lightly aerated center. Basically, the warm candy mixture is pulled on a hook like taffy to add a little air into it which gives it a little bit lighter texture and smooth melt.

Bergamot - light orange with orange stripes - this was similar to the lavender, it’s aromatic and sweet but has a balsam note to it. I didn’t feel like it was quite bergamot, but it still had a citrus zest quality to it.

Beterschap! (Cough Drop) - This was the only cut rock in the bunch - round cream color with red cross in center - the word beterschap means “get well”. It tastes rather like a cough drop - part cola, part cinnamon and part menthol. It was one of the most strongly flavored candies in the bunch.

Cola - yellow & orange stripes - is rather bold. It’s tangy and has a strong lime and nutmeg note to it. I liked it, but that’s likely because I appreciate cola candy because it’s not that common in the States.

Mojito (Lime & Mint) - light green and yellow stripes on a clear background - this one was tangy and minty. Kind of like a cough drop. Mojitos aren’t a favorite drink of mine, but are more successful for me because fresh spearmint tastes so different from spearmint candy. This version had a lot of lime oils in it, which made it much more medicinal for me.

Papabubble

Scherpe Kaneel (Sharp Cinnamon) - magenta and green - the color didn’t say cinnamon, but it was most definitely sizzling cinnamon.

Lemongrass Gember (Lemongrass Ginger) - yellow & green - this was very bold, the ginger notes were strong and a little more on the side of extract than the earthy, fibery root is fresh. The lemongrass did feel authentic though, not too sweet and no hint of tartness.

Eucalyptus (aqua with white stripes) - wasn’t as strong as I’d hoped, but still smooth and soothing with a light freshness. It was so mild, for a while I wasn’t sure what it even was until I looked at the little flavor guide.

 

I would love to spend more time at the shop and to have seen them making candy from start to finish, unfortunately my schedule didn’t allow it. (They open at 11 AM and my train was departing at 12:20 PM and I just didn’t hit it right when I arrived a little after eleven and they said they wouldn’t be ready for more crafting for another 30 minutes.) Of course my dream would be to learn how to make candy like this from start to finish. It looks like a lot of work and care goes into it, along with a bit of personality - each shop has a slightly different offerings based on the artisans themselves and the culture of the clientele.

The candy is expensive, but it really is to notch, far and away better than the similar Christmas mixes I sometimes pick up at the drug store. Besides, candy that you saw being made always tastes better, just like kettle corn and cotton candy. I plan to visit the New York store for sure next time I’m in the city and if you’re traveling the world, check to see if there will be one near you.

Papabubble
Haarlemmerdijk 70
1013 JE Amsterdam
Netherlands
+31 20 626 2662

I give the shop a 9 out of 10 and the candy itself an 8 out of 10.

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POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:58 pm     All NaturalCandyCinnamonGingerHard Candy & Lollipops8-TastyNetherlandsHighlightFeatured NewsShoppingComments (4)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Valentine’s Day Candy Spotting 2011

There appeared to be fewer new Valentine’s candy introductions in 2011, but many of the tried and true favorites are back on store shelves. Here’s a look at what I’ve been able to find:

Necco Sweethearts - Real Heart
The biggest news in Valentine’s Candy this year continues to be about Necco Sweethearts and Conversation Hearts.

In 2010 Necco introduced their new packaging, flavors and colors for the classic Sweethearts. (See the comparison of the two here.) This year the classic version was to return, though sold only at discount stores. The only confirmed sighting of the candy is at Family Dollar. Frustrated lovers of the classic version are turning to eBay and message boards to purchase the limited supplies.

3 Musketeers Cherry

Mars/Wrigley’s

Dove Promises are available in several different variety packages in both Valentine’s themes and the standard colors.
Dove Dark Chocolate Cherry Swirl Promises (also available in bar form) are brand new for 2011. They feature, as the name sames, a swirl of dark chocolate with a cherry flavored white chocolate.
3 Musketeers Cherry (original review) returns again as a seasonal edition. Available only in minis, the bright mylar packaging features little love sayings on them.
Life Savers Valentine’s Mix - individually wrapped pieces in the oh, so romantic flavors: Fruit Punch, Cherry & Pineapple

Heart Shaped Junior Mints

Tootsie

Heart Shaped Junior Mints (original review)
Valentines Tootsie Rolls
Cherry Tootsie Pops - just one flavor in a bag
Dark Chocolate Covered Raspberry Cremes (like Junior Mints but with a pink raspberry fondant center)
Valentine Dots (cherry and vanilla and passion fruit and vanilla Dots)

SweeTart Hearts

Nestle & Wonka

SweeTart Hearts (original review)
Gobstoppers Heart Breakers (very hard to find, usually in bulk online)
Nestle Butterfinger Heart (milk chocolate with chips of Butterfinger center mixed in)
Nestle Crunch Hearts

Hershey's Heart's Desire

Hershey’s

Reese’s Hearts (foil wrapped molded hearts filled with Reese’s peanut butter - original review)
Reese’s Valentine’s Hearts - like the Reese’s Egg only vaguely heart shaped
Cherry Cordial Kisses
Hugs & Kisses - a mix of regular chocolate Kisses, Almond Kisses and Hugs (swirl of white confection & milk chocolate)
3 Lb Solid Milk Chocolate Heart (it doesn’t say “I Love You” on it, just Hershey’s)
Marshmallow Hearts (review of Halloween version)

Trader Joe's Truffle Hearts

Trader Joe’s

Dark Chocolate Truffle Hearts (original review)
Gummy Tummy Hearts (like the Gummy Tummy Penguins but only in the Cherry flavor - review of those)
Rabitos Royale (original review) - chocolate covered brandied figs
Belgian Chocolate Mix Box (I haven’t purchased this particular assortment of Belgian chocolates, but nearly all of Trader Joe’s picks have been good ones)

Cinnamon Hearts

Brach’s

Cherry JuJu Hearts
Cinnamon Jelly Hearts  (original review)
Cherry Cordial Nougats
Peppermint Valentine’s Nougats (review of Christmas version)
Conversation Hearts (large & small)

Chocolate Mousse Marshmallow Bears

Just Born

PEEPS Chocolate Covered Raspberry Flavored Hearts - I have not actually seen these in any store.
PEEPS Chocolate Mousse Bears (original review)
PEEPS Pink Marshmallow Hearts and PEEPS I (heart) U
PEEPS Vanilla Creme Hearts
PEEPS Strawberry Creme Hearts

Jelly Belly Love Potion

Jelly Belly

Conversation Beans (original review)
Deluxe Valentine’s Mix - a combination of pink, red & white jelly beans and mellocreams and gummy hearts
Jelly Belly Valentine’s Jelly Bean Mix (original review) featuring Bubble Gum, Coconut, Cotton Candy, Strawberry Cheesecake and Very Cherry

Russell Stover Heart

Russell Stover

Heart Shaped Boxes (original review)
Truffle Heart (some egg reviews)
Marshmallow Heart (review of the rabbit versions)
Strawberry Cream Heart
Caramel Heart
Peanut Butter filled Heart
Coconut Cream Heart

Ferrara Chocolate Strawberry

Other Items of Interest

See’s has Cinnamon Hearts and Cinnamon Pops again. (original review)

Elmer’s Chocolate  boxes (original review) are back on store shelves

Lindt Lindor Truffles Limited Edition - Milk Chocolate with a Smooth White Filling

Ghiradelli Luxe Milk squares selection in Valentine’s packaging (original review)

Ferrara Milk Chocolate Strawberry Ball (original review) the twist here is that the segments have little love messages on them.

Gimbal’s Honey Lovers and Cherry Lovers jelly bean heart mixes - not strictly Valentine’s day, but certainly appropriate (Cherry & Honey reviews)

Heather from Candy Addict also has a candy shopping roundup for 2011.

So what are you seeing on store shelves, or maybe not seeing this year? What are your tried & true favorites?

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:17 pm     CandyValentinesHighlightShoppingComments (10)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Candy Spotting 2010

Whack and UnwrapIt’s hard to keep track of what’s new and what’s returning on store shelves for Christmas. I’ve found there aren’t that many new introductions, but there are plenty of tried-and-true favorites back again this year.

I think a lot of candy companies introduced limited editions as a sort of test marketing and found that bringing back fringe favorites on a regular schedule satisfies those who crave the special items but doesn’t detract from their regular product lines.

Here are a few candies that I’ve reviewed in the past and a few new ones I’ve spotted on shelves again this year. Just because something is not on this list doesn’t mean it’s not made this year, just that I haven’t been able to track it down.

Candy Cane Kisses

Hershey’s

Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses (old review when they were made with real white chocolate)
Hershey’s Mint Truffle Kisses
Hershey’s Bliss - Creme de Menthe Meltaway (review)
Hershey’s Mint Miniatures (white creme with nonpareils, Special Dark with mint and Milk Chocolate with mint - here’s an old review when the white chocolate was made with cocoa butter)
Reese’s Trees (just like the Eggs)
Reese’s Bells (foil wrapped bell shaped candies about the size of the regular miniatures)
Reese’s Snow Board Santa (kind of like the big Reester Bunny around Easter)
HersheyEts (review)
Giant Hershey Bars (1 Pound)
World’s Largest Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (1 Pound - review)

Mike and Ike Holiday Medley

Just Born

Peeps Chocolate Covered Peppermint Trees (Milk & Dark Chocolate)
Peeps White Snowmen (I like the snowmen because they’re one of the few varieties that doesn’t have artificial colors)
Peeps Green Trees
Mike and Ike Holiday Medley

Nestle Crunch (Paul Frank 2010) Nestle Crunch (Paul Frank 2010)

Nestle

Paul Frank Nestle Crunch Bar (can be a greeting card - see above photos)
Wonka Exceptionals Peppermint Shortbread (review)
Wonka Gobstoppers Snowballs
Wonka Frosty Nerds (watermelon, wild cherry & punch)
Wonka Nerds Holiday Rope (photo)
Wonka Holiday SweeTart Gummis (red & green and I think they’re shaped like Oompa Loompa faces - photo)
Nestle Butterfinger Jingles (review)

Life Savers Butter Rum tin filled with 7 Rolls

Mars & Wrigley’s

Life Savers Tin - holds 7 rolls of three different varieties - comes in Butter Rum, Cherry or 5 Flavor package design
Life Savers Sweet Story (the box that looks like a book and has a collection of Life Saver Rolls in it)
Live Savers Sweet Story - Gummies
Life Savers Hard Candy Holiday Mix (cherry, apple & candy cane)
M&Ms Mint (revew)
M&Ms Cherry Cordial
Dove Peppermint Bark (in foil wrapped Promises & boxed bark review)
Dove Promises Snowflake Assortment (round pieces in milk, dark & caramel with snowflakes molded in them)
Snickers Nutcrackers (review)
Snickers Peanut Butter Santas (review)
Mars Heritage Tins - pencil box sized tins filled with miniatures - designed like classic candy bar wrappers - come in Snickers, M&Ms, Twix and Milky Way)

Brach's Holiday Nougats

Farley’s & Sathers + Brach’s

Brach’s Christmas Nougats (Peppermint & Wintergreen - no one has seen Cinnamon on shelves - review)
Brach’s Gloria Mix (classic straw & filled candies)
Brach’s Holiday Mix (classic filled candies)
Brach’s Holiday Mints (pillow mints with a green minty jelly filling)
Brach’s Spicettes (gumdrops in green & red)

Candy Cane Tootsie Pop Drops

Tootsie

Tootsie Roll Candy Cane Pop Drops (review)
Tootsie Roll Candy Cane Pops (review)
Tootsie Roll Banks (Tootsie & Midgees)
Tootsie Roll Holiday Midgees (I have no idea what these are - the package doesn’t say)
Christmas Dots (review)
Andes Peppermint Crunch (white chocolate with crunchy peppermint candies)
Andes Cherry Jubilee Thins
Andes Toffee Creme Thins
Junior Mints Peppermint Crunch (review)

Russell Stover Santas

Russell Stover

Ribbon Candy (I suspect this is just a repackage of Sevigny’s, as so few companies make this now)
Marshmallow Snow Man (large ones - come in regular milk chocolate covered and chocolate covered in milk chocolate)
Peppermint Bark Snowman - new this year, I picked some up, they’re made with real white chocolate
Marshmallow Santas review
Coconut Wreath review
Strawberry Cream Santa- review
Milk Chocolate Coconut Santa - review
Maple Cream Santa - review
Peanut Butter Santa - review


Cadbury Ornament Creme Egg

Cadbury/Adams

Swedish Fish (red & green) in bags or theater boxes
Sour Patch Kids (red & green) in bags or theater boxes
Cadbury Solid Milk Chocolate Balls (like the mini-eggs)

Ghirardelli Squares - Peppermint Bark

Other Items of Interest

Giant Toblerone Bars
Terry’s Chocolate Oranges (Milk with Mint, Dark with Orange and Milk with Orange)
Maxfield’s Assorted Chocolates (I haven’t tried these boxed chocolates yet, they’re less expensive than Russell Stover and probably on par with Elmer’s - photo)
Godiva Gems Peppermint Truffles (photo)
Fannie May Mint Meltaway & Pixies (individually wrapped - pixie review & meltaway review)
Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark (review)
Ritter Sport Peppermint (review)
Florida Tropic Oranges in a variety of flavors - review
Zachary Confections Egg Nog Candy Corn
Zachary Confections Candy Cane Corn
Zachary Confections Christmas Mellocremes
Ferrara Chocolate Oranges (review)

What are you looking forward to most? And what are you having trouble finding this year? What did I leave out?

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:15 pm     CandyChristmasHighlightShoppingComments (14)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Halloween 2010 Product Run Down

Since this is the sixth Halloween I’ve covered on Candy Blog, it’s hard to find Halloween candies to feature that I haven’t reviewed before. So I thought I’d do a run down of what I’ve been seeing in stores again this year for the Halloween Season. These are just candies that are special to Halloween, not regular candy in large bags or with special wrappers.

Candy Corn Kisses

HERSHEY’S

  • Caramel Apple Kisses (review)
  • Candy Corn Kisses (review)
  • Pumpkin Spice Kisses (review)
  • Orange colored KitKats
  • Reese’s Pumpkins
  • York Peppermint Patties shaped like Pumpkins with Orange colored filling
  • Sky Bar - Eclipse - Caramel Filled  Milk Chocolate

    NECCO

  • Twilight Eclipse Candies (review)
  • Mary Jane Peanut Butter Kisses (review)
  • Clark Wicked Mix (review)
  • Mary Jane Wicked Mix (review)
  • Mellocreme Zombies (I still haven’t found these)
  • Candy Corn

    FARLEY’S & SATHERS (BRACH’S)

  • Brach’s Milk Maid Caramel Candy Corn (review)
  • Brach’s Autumn Mix (review)
  • Brach’s Halloween Mix (flavored mellocreams in holiday shapes) (review)
  • Brach’s Indian Corn
  • Brach’s Mellocreme Pumpkins
  • Brach’s Gummy Candy Corn (review)
  • Bat Dots

    TOOTSIE

  • Blood Orange Dots (Bats) (review)
  • Ghost Dots (Clear)  (review)
  • Candy Corn Dots (Vanilla)  (review)
  • Orchard Mix Caramel Apple Pops (review)
  • Vanilla Tootsie Rolls
  • Caramel Apple Sugar Babies
  • JUST BORN

  • Peeps Cocoa Cats (review)
  • Peeps Chocolate Pumpkins (review)
  • Peeps Ghosts & Pumpkins
  • NESTLE & WONKA

  • Butterfinger Pumpkins
  • Spooky Nerds
  • Whitman's Candy Corn Marshmallow

    RUSSELL STOVER & WHITMANS

  • Russell Stover Peanut Butter Candy Pumpkins
  • Whitman’s Candy Corn Marshmallows (review)
  • Russell Stover Coconut Dream Pumpkin
  • Russell Stover Chocolate Marshmallow Pumpkin
  • Russell Stover Dark Chocolate covered Marshmallow Pumpkin (review)
  • Russell Stover Strawberry Cream Pumpkin
  • Russell Stover Marshmallow Pumpkin (milk chocolate) (review)
  • Jelly Belly Mellocremes

    JELLY BELLY

  • Jelly Belly Deluxe Halloween Mix (review)
  • Jelly Belly Giant Candy Corn
  • Jelly Belly Sour Gummi Pumpkins
  • Jelly Belly Fall Festival Mix
  • Other

  • Riegelein Confiserie Foil Wrapped Halloween Chocolate (review)
  • What have you seen in stores ... or what have you had trouble finding this year?

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:43 pm     CandyHalloweenHighlightFeatured NewsShoppingComments (10)

    Page 3 of 13 pages  < 1 2 3 4 5 >  Last ›

    Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.

     

     

     

     

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    Which seasonal candy selection do you prefer?

    Choose one or more:

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    ON DECK

    These candies will be reviewed shortly:

    • Smarties Lollies and Mega Lollies

    • Candy Cliches

    • Seattle Chocolates Devil’s Delight Bar

    • SweetWorks Celebration Candies - Bears

    • Halloween Candy Spotting 2014

     

     

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