Monday, March 3, 2014
I’m traveling this week, picking up new colourful and flavourful things to review in the coming weeks.
Do you have a British favorite that I haven’t reviewed yet?
Monday, December 16, 2013
A few weeks ago I went to the preview opening of the brick & mortar store for Sugarfina. (More photos here on la.eater.) The evening included tastings of a half a dozen of their favorite candies and of course I got to meet one of the co-owners, Rosie, whom I’ve been corresponding with via email for about a year.
Sugarfina opened earlier this year as a webstore, selling a carefully curated selection of candies from around the world. Many of the gummis are made with all natural flavors & colors and come in extraordinary flavor combinations and shapes. The chocolates are a mix of whimsy and sophistication, with an array of malted milk balls, caramels and cordials.
Sugarfina displays morsels, everything in the shop is morselized, easy for hand-to-mouth sampling and when you’re not eating it, it’s fun to look at. While browsing the store, if you didn’t know it was candy, everything could easily be mistaken for beads or buttons.
Guest were treated to a $10 gift certificate, which I put to good use right away. I even had a shopping list before I got there so I wouldn’t be distracted. I chose to create my own bento box. It’s a sleeve with three slots. It’s exceptionally well designed. The robin’s egg blue and white design is carried through the store and packaging. The inside of the box has blue scalloped concentric circles on white, as does the tissue in the bag it was placed in. The box itself is $4, which isn’t bad when you consider it doesn’t need wrapping and is durable & reusable. The cubes that fit in there were either $7 or $8.
The other change from my previous Sugarfina sampling is that the boxes for the candy have changed. They were a polyester soft plastic, which were not really that secure (hard to keep closed once you took the clear plastic stickers off). The new boxes are acrylic and after you take the labels off, they’re also reusable. They’re airtight, so any leftover candy keeps far longer.
One of the things that got me to actually go over to Beverly Hills after work was the fact that one of the new products is an Italian fruit gumdrop mix called Citrus and Berry Fruttini. They’re little pâte de fruit, coated in crunchy sugar.
The berry is a Wild Blueberry. They’re mild and sweet with a dark raspberry jam flavor and then that hint of black tea that I often taste in blueberries.
The yellow is Italian Lemon made from femminello lemons. I’ve never had a fresh femminello lemon before, but I’ve had limoncello, which is a sweet lemon liqueur that uses the peels. These are quite zesty and reminded me of Meyer lemons. It’s tart, it has a great balance between the sweetness and the oily flavors of the lemon oils.
The orange is Blood Orange. This one was definitely orange, but lacking the zesty notes that the lemon had. If I were to pick these up again, I’d go with the all Lemon selection, which they sell separately. There’s also a Wild Strawberry which I didn’t get to try.
Rating: 8 out of 10
I am quite fond of candies citrus zest, but the Aphrodite Kumquat goes far above and beyond that humble confection.
At the heart (sorry it’s not better depicted) there is a whole kumquat. It’s about the size of a small olive and completely candied. Unlike regular orange peels, the rind of a kumquat is pretty thin but when you eat the whole thing, you’re also getting the pulp inside. So there’s a juicy, tangy orange syrup at the center, along with the very strong clementine-like peel around it. Then it’s covered in a thin layer of chocolate. That chocolate is infused with the orangey oils and then the whole thing is encased in a beautifully treated apricot-colored sugar shell.
One is more than enough. They’re quite intense, the strength of the citrus oils are enough to leave my tongue burning for several hours. Sure, there are only eight of them in the box, but how could anyone eat more than two in a day?
Rating: 8 out of 10
The Chocolate Sparkles are also Greek and another special find. They’re like the smooth and flat little rocks you might pick up on the beach: except they’re an exceptionally unnatural shimmery blue.
The candy shell is thick, like a Jordan almond so there’s a lot of crunch. The dark chocolate center is smooth and creamy with an excellent silky melt and deep cocoa flavors. Unlike many dark chocolate lentils, these truly are made with dark chocolate that has no additional milk or dairy fat in it. (Though there may be traces of milk, wheat or nuts as they’re processed on shared equipment.)
Rating: 8 out of 10
These also came in yellow and pink, also with the shimmery finish. I don’t see them on the website, but they were definitely for sale in the store.
The prices are, well, Beverly Hills. However, unlike someplace like Dylan’s Candy Bar, where you portion out your generic candy into generic bags for $12.99 a pound, many of those products can be purchased at the drug store for a fraction of the price. Sugarfina’s per pound price point is more, about $25.00 per pound, but about 40% of Sugarfina’s candy can’t be purchased anywhere else in the United States and is far better quality than the drug store fare at most pick a mix candy stores. $25.00 per pound isn’t out of range for the chocolate items, but it is steep for sugar candy, even if it’s all natural.
Even though they don’t scoop by the pound, if you stop in the store, they do have little 1 ounce packets you can buy of many of the items to sample or just have a little treat. In true SoCal fashion they also offer a candy concierge.
It’s hard to rationalize it as an everyday candy shop (like I seem to treat See’s now that they’re walking distance from me), but the decadent packaging and precious treatment of the candy elevates it all to a different level. It’s not snacking, it’s sampling. It’s for grown ups.
Friday, December 6, 2013
I’ve been pretty excited so see so many old favorites returning plus a few new additions. The flavor combinations of pumpkin spice, peppermint bark and gingerbread continue strong showings with a few egg nog and chili pepper items out there, too.
This is by no means a definitive list, but I’ve tried to actually find the announced products in stores before adding them to my list.
• Twizzlers Tree Shaped Cherry Candy (new)
• Peeps Chocolate Covered Peppermint Trees (Milk & Dark Chocolate)
• Wonka Gobstoppers Snowballs
Mars & Wrigley’s
• Life Savers Tin - holds 7 rolls of three different varieties - comes in Butter Rum, Cherry or 5 Flavor package design
Ferrara Candy (Ferrara Pan, Farley’s & Sathers + Brach’s)
• Brach’s Christmas Nougats in Peppermint & Wintergreen and Cinnamon (review)
• Tootsie Roll Candy Cane Pop Drops (review)
• Ribbon Candy (I suspect this is just a repackage of Sevigny’s)
• Swedish Fish (red & green) in bags or theater boxes
• Ghirardelli Hollow Chocolate Nutcracker
Other Items of Interest
• Giant Toblerone Bars
What are you looking forward to most? And what are you having trouble finding this year? What did I leave out?
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
It’s not a particularly new development to see giant versions of classic candies on shelves, but I have seen more than usual lately. Here’s a rundown of what’s available these days:
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (review)
Giant York Peppermint Patties (review)
Hershey’s 1 Pound Bar
World’s Largest Hershey Bar
Snickers Slice n Share (review)
Toblerone 14 ounces
Mike and Ike and Hot Tamales Giant Box
A better value when it comes to these is really the vending packages, which are 5 pounds, about the size of an airplane pillow and cost less, they’re usually available at places like Smart & Final or on the web. (Amazon link.)
Nestle Crunch 1 Pound Bar
Russell Stover 2 Giant Bars S’Mores (review of regular size)
Russell Stover 2 Giant Bars Pecan Delight (review of regular size)
RM Palmer Giant 1/4 Peanut Butter Cup (review)
Giant Tootsie Pop
Giant versions of standard candies are rarely better than the originals. They’re a novelty and play off the notion that more is better. But mostly more is fun, more is sharing and more is delightful. If someone doesn’t like the standard version, they’re unlikely to enjoy the giant, so choose carefully. But the good news is that these are rather inexpensive and make a fun item for a child to give to an adult in their life.
Have you seen any other giant versions of candies for the holidays?
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
When a candy season comes around, I take special interest in what’s new, what’s returning and trends on the store shelves with holiday candy. Here’s the 2013 Halloween shopping roundup.
Last week I was invited to participate in the Nosh Show podcast, we’re talking about candy and a bit about Halloween candy. You can listen to the Nosh Show:
FERRARA CANDY (Includes FARLEY’S & SATHERS and BRACH’S)
That aside, Brach’s seems to be their only brand with seasonal candies, though Lemonheads and Trolli Gummis are available in treating packaging.
(review) Available in snack packs for Trick or Treat
NESTLE & WONKA
Have you seen anything new & exciting in stores this year? What are you planning to give out to kids, if they come to your house?
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Based in Southern California, Sugarfina brings a chic aesthetic to all their candy with their minimalist packaging in robin’s egg blue and square formats. The candy is sold in “bulk” that is, it’s repackaged by them and sold in an array of different weights. They have created a superb curated list of candies. Some you’ll recognize, but their biggest selling point is an array of exquisite European candies that I’ve never seen sold anywhere else.
Candy is sold in little boxes of different weights or in mixed boxes (they call Bentos) that make excellent gifts. Their team truly understand that candy should appeal first to the eye and then to the rest of the senses.
I still get plenty of offers for free candy samples, but lately it has to be something pretty special to get me to bite. But when you see this list of candies, you’ll see what got me interested. Today I’m presenting the assortment of gummis (and one jelly candy). All of the gummis are from Germany and most feature natural colors.
Bitty Berries is a mix of three different gummis. There’s a large raspberry looking gummi that has a rather raspberry flavor. Then there are three smaller berries, kind of like petite blueberries that are different colors and flavors. The light amber ones are like a white grape juice flavor, lightly tangy but with a black currant note to them. The pink version is and the purple is like a jammy raspberry. Blueberry, Raspberry, Blackberry, Cranberry and Bilberry.
They’re just exquisitely beautiful. Even when I wasn’t interested in eating them, they were just too cute to look at.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Champagne Bears come in two colors: a soft peachy pink and a lightly yellow clear. The clear is like a clean apple juice flavor with a light peppery note. The peachy one is, well, much the same. I couldn’t really tell them apart except that sometimes the pink one seemed to be a little more raspberry flavored. They’re firm and intense. They’re well formed and held their shape well, even though they were jammed into their little cube.
I liked them, but didn’t think that they were anything better than the new juicy Haribo. But I do like the colors and think that for a special occasion, they’d be a nice favor.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Sugar Peach Sweethearts - I was pretty scared of these. They smelled strongly of peach, not in a bad way but in a strong way. They were so strong that I had to take them out of the bento box and sequester them by themselves so as not to contaminate the chocolate pieces they were co-mingling with. So I was afraid that they’d be overwhelmingly chemical tasting.
Quite the opposite is true. They’re little miracle pieces, on the tongue they actual feel for a moment like a real peach. The texture of the sugar sanding is velvety like the fuzz of the peach. The flavor is at once tangy and fruity and honey-sweet and floral and woodsy, like actual peaches. There’s no weird artificial coloring in there to give it a metallic aftertaste. They’re a bit more tart that I’d probably like if I were to eat them by the handful, but as a little refresher on a hot day when I have a dry mouth, these are unbeatable.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Queen of Hearts were billed on the website as three different flavors: pineapple, grapefruit and black currant. They’re also three different sizes of hearts. So it’s a lovely looking combination, although the largest heard gets folded over a bit inside the little cube.
Pink was indistinct, but reminded me enough of pineapple to make me think that’s what it was. Slightly floral with a tart bite and a crisp flavor to it. It was more like canned pineapple though not as syrupy.
Clear tastes like peach. I’m not sure what flavor it was supposed to be, I was hoping it was the promised grapefruit, but it was tangy and a little peppery. (I did notice that the peach mentioned earlier were very strong, I was wondering if the flavor migrated from the more delicate grapefruit.)
The dark one was definitely black currant. It was strong and had notes of wine and deep boiled cherry.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Cuba Libre is simply amazing. It’s a cola gummi, so far so good, with a little softer bubble of rum within. It’s stunning. The cola flavor is spicy and tart, a mix of nutmeg, cinnamon and perhaps a little warm kick of ginger but nothing overt and then the acidic bite of lemon. The rum is sweet and a little on the caramel side. I’ve never seen these anywhere else, and I can’t believe they aren’t being imported and sold in the US by the cargo container as it is. If there’s a reason to order from Sugarfina, it’s the Cuba Libre gummi.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Minty Polar Bears are downright weird and I’ll go ahead and warn you that they’re not mint. They’re like a bubble gum flavored mentholated chewy cough drop. The first note on the tongue is a little tartness then a huge whiff of what I can only describe as acetone (which I sometimes get confused with banana flavoring). Then there’s a menthol hit, a little more of a sort of mild lime flavor and the bitterness of that zest. It all ends with a slight queasy feeling.
I’ve had eucalyptus gummis before and liked them quite a bit, so I was hoping for something like that. I find them curious enough that I continue to sample them from time to time. But I never feel like I want to eat another one, just that I should.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Heavenly Sours are little stars, comets and crescent moons in fruity flavors. They’re sour sanded and come in lovely naturally tinted colors. They’re not actually gummis, they’re jellies. They’re made in the US, not in Germany like most of the other gummis from Sugarfina. They’re tart and have nicely distinguished flavors. Orange is a zesty and tart orange. Lemon is wonderfully sour. Blue is raspberry and a little overdone. Red is cherry and is, well, cherry.
Rating: 7 out of 10
As a thank you gift or something for someone who has everything, this is a great option. It’s not cheap, so it’s not something I’m likely to treat myself to very often. They also have lots of themed boxes and kits, so it’s easy to pick for Coffee Lovers, Licorice Aficionados, or Caramel Fiends. The large bento boxes with 8 x 4 ounce boxes of treats are $50. By the pound, the candy is $17.50.
They do a good job of labeling for allergies as well, even if they won’t tell me who make those Cuba Libre gummis.They’re currently only available via the web, but there’s talk of a store in the future here on the west side of Los Angeles.
Friday, March 8, 2013
I’ve been visiting the stores to look at what’s returned on stores shelves and of course seeking out new items.
Here’s a rundown of what I’ve spotted or heard that other readers have seen again at stores this year. Let me know if there’s something I missed, or something you’re looking for.
Wonka (part of Nestle)
Wrigley’s (part of Mars)
Cadbury Adams (part of Kraft)
Ferrara Candy (now includes Brach’s, Trolli & Ferrara Pan)
Individually Wrapped in Bags: Caramel Eggs, Marshmallow Eggs, Coconut Cream Eggs
You can prowl back into the review archive of Easter candy by viewing all the candies tagged for Easter.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Every year I look forward to the post-Halloween emergence of holiday sweets at Trader Joe’s. There’s always a bit of a European flair to their selections, with an eye toward traditional confections with the occasional new age/artisanal candy. This year I perused three different stores in two counties to see what the offerings are this year. Here’s my roundup of what you might be able to find at Trader Joe’s to satisfy your (or a gift recipient’s) sweet tooth. (I may have missed something, so please chime in with your observations or reviews.)
New for 2012:
Trader Joe’s Sea Salt Butterscotch Caramels $3.49 - little nuggets of caramel covered in rich chocolate and more than a hint of sea salt. Gourmet Milk Duds. I picked these up (I’m not sure if they’re seasonal or not) and plan to review them, so you’ll probably be seeing that photo again.
Fruit and Nut Log $3.99 - a nougat center, covered in pistachios and pecans along with dried cranberries and apricots.
Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Caramallows $2.99 - a layer of marshmallow on top of caramel, covered in dark chocolate. It’s no See’s Scotchmallow, but I suppose it will do in a pinch.
Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Salted Caramel Truffles $3.99 - I reviewed these already, and though they’re fun, they’re not quite as good as some other seasonal items. (See review - 7 out of 10)
Trader Joe’s Organic Peppermint Starlights $1.99 - yup, organic hard candies. Great if you’re looking for something corn syrup-free.
Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Candy Cane Truffles $3.99 - kind of like individually wrapped Frangoes, as far as I can tell.
Returning Favorites for 2012
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 Cranberry Caramel Delights $7.99 - these were called Trader Joe’s Merry Mingle last year - caramel with pecans and cranberries dipped in dark chocolate (read review - 8 out of 10)
Trader Joe’s Brandy Beans $2.99 - these have been coming back on and off for years, they tend to sell out really early.
Trader Joe’s Milk Chocolate & Dark Chocolate Oranges $2.99 - the price went up 50 cents (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 Belgian Chocolate Shoppe $9.99 - I don’t have great luck with these, but they’re a nice hostess gift if you can’t get to See’s.
Trader Joe’s Cocoa Truffles $2.99 - inexcusable fat bombs imported from France. (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)
Trader Joe’s Chocolate Liqueur Cherries $5.99 - the price is up on this one, I recall they were $4.99 last year. But dried cherries are insanely expensive, so perhaps their ingredient cost went up.
Trader Joe’s Peppermint Bark $9.99 a tin - a great bargain for a very well made product.
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 Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups $.99 - I have a serious problem with these (review from last year). When they’re not sold individually wrapped, they’re in tubs.
Trader Joe’s Chocolate Rings with Sprinkle - they’re just little disks of dark chocolate with sprinkles, like giant SnoCaps - $1.99
Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Cashew Brittle with Sea Salt $2.99
Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Coal - dark chocolate covered candy cane bits - $1.99
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 Dark Chocolate Minty Mallows $2.99 (2010 review - they’re quite moist and dense 7 out of 10)
Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate After Dinner Mint Thins $2.99 (made in England) - they’re better than After Eight mints.
Also returning are the chocolate covered Peppermint JoJos and a variety box of other chocolate covered flavored Jo Jos. Though I reviewed the JoJo’s before, I can’t really call them candy.
Not Returning (unless you’ve sighted them):
Trader 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) These are made by Marich and I did see them at Sprouts in the bulk aisle labeled as Nutmeg White Chocolate Almonds.
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)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.