Tuesday, June 9, 2009
There’s this berry called the Miracle Fruit because it makes sour things taste sweet. A few years ago a candy finally took advantage of this little chemical reaction and Sour Extinguisher was born. (Though I don’t think it actually has any “Miracle Fruit” in it.)
I tried the original version and found it fun, though not really a candy I’d eat on a regular basis ... and the sourest of the sour wasn’t quite as powerful as I’d hoped (I really wanted to need the extinguisher).
Since then Big BOING, the candy company that invented this little candy kit, sold it to American Licorice Company (Red Vines). They’ve relaunched the product now with two flavor sets: Sour Fruit (with Berry Sweet Relief) and Sour Citrus (with Berry Sweet Relief).
Instead of being mixed into a bag, the flavors are now divided up. There’s a tray inside a cardboard sleeve that holds to sections, the largest 2/3 holds the mixed sour flavors and the little 1/3 side cubby holds the blue sour extinguisher.
Chewy Extinguisher Sour Fruit comes in a vibrant acidic green box with purple & blue accents. The flavors are: tangy watermelon (light red), sour strawberry (deep red) and super sour green apple (green).
The original candy was a little pillow shaped piece, the new version is a bit more like the old fashioned Good n’ Fruity. It’s a little wheat-based chew (like a red licorice) covered with a thick panned candy coating with a sour & flavor layer.
The shell isn’t crunchy, it’s shiny and hard at first, the pieces look like the present day Gobstoppers only a little more rustic in their shape. The candy coating is a bit grainy & easy to bite ... rather like the outside of a jelly bean.
Watermelon was very mild, it tastes more like bubble gum than melon, but still it was pleasant. Certainly it didn’t necessitate a berry sweet relief.
Strawberry was more vivid, extremely artificial tasting but still quite tart. I liked that the center, though not strongly flavored wasn’t just a bland wad, it did have a little tangy kick to it.
Green apple had an intense fake apple taste to it, and though it was sour, it wasn’t even enough to get my glands all a-tingly.
Still, I followed a couple of the green apples up with a blue berry piece. It does negate the tartness pretty quickly. On its own the flavor is a fake raspberry with a kind of bitter note to it that I can only think is the food coloring.
Chewy Extinguisher Sour Citrus has three sour flavors: tangy tangerine, sour lemon and super sour lime plus the berry sweet relief. What I liked about this assortment was that it followed the natural qualities of these fruits. They really do progress in that fashion as far as tartness goes.
The quality control on these candies wasn’t quite as nice as the Sour Fruit variety. The green ones were pock marked and had little pink marks on them.
Tangerine was really tasty. It has the pleasant juicy flavors mixed with a little zest. It was tangy, but not much more than a glass of OJ would be.
Lemon was also similarly accurate. It reminded me of Lemonheads, but chewy on the inside (but no quite like the newer Chewy Lemonheads, which have a jelly center instead of a thicker center).
Lime is quite sour, probably the most sour of of all six flavors I tried.
The extinguisher never quite really eliminated the sourness (which, granted, wasn’t all that sour) which would have been the really cool part.
The candy was conceived as a fun interactive candy for kids to “play with” so in that sense, I think it succeeds. Naturally I love the fact that there’s an actual citrus mix and found those flavors really good ... they might warrant a package of just those and dump the whole extinguisher part.
The packaging change, though it seems like a bit much, does aid in the actual picking of the pieces and of course makes sharing a little more sanitary (no dumping the bag into your hand, picking what you want and putting the rest back for later).
Not Kosher and possibly not vegan (depending on how the glycerol monostearate is sourced).
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Way back in 2006 I first tried Wonka SweeTarts Rope. It was a cherry licorice rope filled with a tangy, grainy paste dotted with Nerds. It was definitely unique.
And then they seemed to disappear from shelves.
Then earlier this year I found Twizzlers Sweet & Sour Filled Twists, which seemed like a pretty good replacement, except perhaps a better deal since there were four ropes in each pack (and I preferred them because they had a pure lemon version).
Well it wasn’t really that SweeTarts Rope were discontinued, they were just retooled and are being relaunched as a new line called Kazoozles. They’ve dropped the Nerds and come in two different varieties now.
Cherry Punch Kazoozles are heralded as Delickoricious on the package. (Which makes me glad I only have to write this, instead of my reviews being delivered as a podcast - I’m not sure I can pronounce that.)
The ropes look a heck of a lot like their prequel, perhaps slightly less red.
They smell like a vat of black cherry flavoring.
The bite of the licorice tube is quite soft, less “wheat” flavored and more like a chew. The filling in the center is just slightly grainy, like a frosting made out of Pixy Stix. The punch flavor comes out loud and clear. It’s all rather artificial tasting and leaves an odd taste in my mouth later on.
The packages are color coded, so it’s pretty easy to tell them apart. The wrappers are thin, metallic mylar.
Each rope is nicely sized and weigh a little less than an ounce each (.9 ounces to be exact).
Here the lemon rope tube is textured with the ribbing that we usually see in licorice twists. But it’s also covered in a grainy sour powder. It’s sparkly! On top of that, it’s bigger around (but slightly shorter) than the Cherry Punch variety.
While the Cherry version smelled quite strongly, I barely got anything from this, just slight sweet fruity whiff.
The chew of the Lemon licorice rope is soft, softer than the Cherry, the sour grains give it a bit flavor punch right off the bat, instead of waiting to release after a few chews. The flavor is sour and stays that way for most of the experience. The lemony citrus really isn’t much of a contributor but later on when I got into the filling I caught some cherry notes.
Since I just had some of the Twizzlers version recently, I can say that I preferred the, but that’s mostly because I love lemon and the lemon was much more pronounced. As far as a reinvigoration of the SweeTarts Rope line, it’s nice to see a new flavor variation, even if it does have cherry in it just like the other flavor.
Like most licorice products, they’re made with wheat so are not gluten-free. They also contain a confectioners glaze and are not suitable for vegetarians.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Seems like sticking goo inside classic candy categories is the confectionery trend for the late aughts.
Mars introduced the Starburst Gummibursts in early 2008, which were pretty much just a Starburst branded version of Fruit Gushers (which isn’t called a candy because it’s not sold in the candy aisle, it’s a “fruit snack” but has virtually identical ingredients).
Starburst has now expanded the new product line to include Starburst Sour Gummibursts.
The original tart but not sour came in strawberry, lemon, orange and cherry. This new assortment comes in Strawberry, Watermelon, Green Apple and Orange Tangerine.
Unlike the originals these are covered in a granulated sour powder. They also seem a bit softer. Unlike packs of Starburst chews which have a regular proportion of each flavor, Gummiburst are random. And by random I mean that the luck of the universe means that whatever flavor is your favorite will be shorted in your packages. I’ve opened four packages and only one had Orange Tangerine in them. The one for this review broke down like this: 4 Strawberry, 5 Green Apple and 1 Watermelon.
Pink = Watermelon: I don’t like eating unripe melon and usually shy away from the stuff that’s really close to the rind. So sour watermelon isn’t exactly one of my top sour flavors. This had a wonderful sweet aroma, like summer picnics & lip balm. The chew on it was nice but it was absolutely sour which overpowered most of the watermelon-ness at that point. (Though this depended on how much goo was in the centers - the center goo is flavored but all sweetness.)
Red = Strawberry : this also had a nice floral scent, so I had no trouble telling it from the rather similar looking watermelon. The flavor is stronger than the watermelon but still just as tangy. Very sweet center.
Green = Green Apple: this is definitely a winner on the sour apple front. The flavor is artificial but with a nice dash of real apple juice notes. The juicy center provides a bit of relief from the tartness.
Orange = Orange Tangerine: I didn’t get to eat many of these, but they smelled divine, had a great mix of tartness, super-sour and zest. Juicy & lip smacking good. The center was especially deep in its variety of flavor notes.
Some liquid filled candy can go wrong inside the package. There are plenty that I’ve had recently that have at least one leaky or exploded candy, which gets the rest of them moist & sticky. These all seemed in great condition.
Unlike the regular Starburst Chews, these have no additional Vitamin C. They are pretty low in calories though (as are all gummi products). The little 1.5 ounce package only has 130 calories. Since they’re packed with so much flavor and the pieces are pretty meaty, they might be a good candy option for someone watching calories. (They’re also gluten free but not vegetarian because of the presence of gelatin.)
Thursday, May 7, 2009
It feels like I’m reviewing a lot of Hershey’s products lately: Thingamajig, Good n Fiery, Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Peanuts, Dark Chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Reese’s Select Cremes. But they’re putting them out and I’ve gotta try everything at least once.
I passed this by more than once (Candy For Dinner always seems to find new products first) mostly because I wasn’t in the mood: Twizzlers Sweet & Sour Filled Twists. But when the weather gets warmer, I seem to crave tangy.
I bought them in a long “bar” format that has four twists, two of each flavor: Cherry Kick! and Citrus Punch!
The twists are clean & shiny, like they’re made of vinyl. They’re similar to the Twizzlers Rainbow Twists, but I think these are just a little larger in diameter or at least not dried and stiff.
Of course, I gravitated towards the Citrus Punch! first. The yellow and red twists reminded me more of mustard and ketchup than lemon and cherry, but I still admit that they were glossy and appealing.
The bite is much softer than the regular Twizzlers, less like biting into some sort of extruded & dried acrylic paint. The gooey filling is soft and has a texture of buttercream frosting. It has an immediate tangy pop and a good mix of flavors, both citrus zest and the tartness. It reminded me of a fresh lemon tart.
Next up was the Cherry Kick! which I resisted. It’s lighter in color from the deep red & berry flavored Twizzlers. The texture is identical to the citrus package mate. The licorice twist is soft and chewy and has a mild sweet flavor. Then the soft center popped in with a very strong note of woodsy black cherry, cough syrup and artificial flavorings. As far as I was concerned, there are a lot of folks who are going to like the play of the mild chewy outside and the intense flavor of the inside.
I really just want to buy the Citrus by itself, perhaps I can pick them out if they package them in individual ropes for Halloween or something.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Hard candy has a bad reputation as being cheap and a candy of last resort. Oh sure, a little starlight mint after a garlicky meal is usually gratefully accepted when offered. But really good hard candy is out there.
As a kid I often got them around holidays, just a small handful included in my stocking candy. As I grew up I learned to find them on my own ... and was pretty shocked at the sticker price, especially compared to the more affordable Zotz.
I don’t know when or where I got this tin. I think it was sometime in the late eighties, I’m pretty sure I bought it in Philadelphia or New York and I was probably mortified to pay something like three dollars for a little tin of lemon drops.
They’re made in Belgium and the packaging features the image of Napoleon Bonaparte. I have no idea when the candies originated or their history. The tin simply says: Le Bon Bonbon Napoleon Sour Lemon. The more recent bag that I acquired through a photo shoot for Candy Warehouse says Made by Napoleon-Breskens-Holland.
So even though I can’t tell you much about their background, I can review what I’ve got:
Though I most often see the Lemon, they also come in Cherry, Tangerine, Lime and Pineapple.
The candies are devilishly simple. Hard candy outside, and then a strip of super sour powder in the center. The powder center is often mistaken for a liquid, it’s rather cool on the tongue and so fine that it melts away instantly. It’s only before putting then in the mouth that I could really tell. (Yes, as a kid I sometimes broke them apart to create a big pile of super sour powder.)
These are insanely expensive. The ones in the top photo I bought at Miette in San Francisco last year for 25 cents each. They’re spherical and a little less yellow, but still the same flavor profile as the disk shaped lemon. The bags that Candy Warehouse sells are $7.10 a pound, and come in 7 pound bags. (Yes, at one time I had 14 pounds of Napoleon Bonbons - one of just lemon and one of the mix. I’ve eaten about three pounds so far.)
I’ve really vacillated between giving these a nine or a ten. The price is a formidable obstacle to perfection, but then again, I know I bought that tin when I was in college and had staggeringly little money so they must be worth it. So there you are, another 10 out of 10.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Skittles Sour have shifted their flavor array. Originally Sour Skittles were just a sour dusted version of the Fruit Skittles in Strawberry, Orange, Lemon, Grape and Lime.
Somewhere along the way they dumped the Lime in favor of Blue Raspberry (which is a bit odd, considering that limes are the only other naturally super sour fruit besides lemon). I reviewed this version back in 2007.
So the new version is: Lemon, Strawberry, Blue Raspberry, Watermelon and Green Apple.
I think the addition of Green Apple is a natural evolution. It’s not one of my ideal flavors but really lends itself to a super-tangy version like this. The flavor was completely artificial, like some sort of off-gassing of some fresh plastic product, but that’s not necessarily a turnoff when it comes to ultra-artificial candies like Skittles.
The Watermelon is one of those bees in my bonnet. Unripe watermelon isn’t even sour, it’s just a different texture and lacking in sweetness ... it’s not like an unripe apple or strawberry. In this instance is a fake watermelon with a super burning blast of sour powder. It reminded me, though, of salty watermelon because of the sharp shock to the tongue.
Sour Skittles have their fanatical following, so I think it’s important for Skittles to cater to them. In my ideal candy world, the Sour Skittles would be more like the Crazy Cores, with a non-powdery shell that has the super tart blast and then the nicely flavored chew center. They’re really messy and even sealed packages are dusty and leave a sour residue on my fingers before I’ve even opened it. For me, I really only love the lemon one, so it’s not worth it for me to buy them.
Rating: 6 out of 10
The other new tweak on the market is Wonka Runts which seems to change their flavors about every 18 months lately. (Here’s my last review from March 2008.)
When originally introduced in 1982 Runts were Banana, Orange, Lime, Cherry and Strawberry. Each candy was shaped in some way like the fruit they were flavored for. Bananas are banana shaped, Oranges were little spheres, Strawberries were hearts, Limes were footballs and so on.
Then in the 90s instead of just a single substitution, Lime was removed and two new flavors were added, Watermelon and Blue Raspberry. Sometime in late 2007 there was a shift again and Watermelon, Cherry and Blue Raspberry left in favor of the more tropical Mango (a large football) and Pineapple (actually pineapple shaped!). I really liked the pineapple but many folks complained not only about the loss of their favorite flavors over the years, but also that the color variation was very citrusy.
So early this year I spotted the newest change.
Runts are now: Green Apple, Grape, Strawberry, Orange and Banana.
I was pretty excited about the Grape. They’re a big ovoid, I think the same mold as the Mango was. They’re extremely purple, but have that great fake grape flavor of SweeTarts or Spree.
The Green Apple is okay, but the addition of this flavor to the mix along with Grape makes this very similar to SweeTarts (though Banana still keeps these closer to the long-gone Wacky Wafers).
After munching on these for several days (it was a big 7 ounce box) I’m left with only the Green Apple ones, which aren’t bad so much as they were just more prevalent in my mix. (I really could have used more Orange and Grape.)
Of the two candies, simply because I bought this theater box at the Dollar Tree, it’s a really good deal - 7 ounces of candy for a buck, versus the 80 cents or so for the Skittles.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Thursday, February 12, 2009
The newest item on the shelves is this Starburst Sour & Sweet mix. (It’s a little unclear if this replaces the Starburst Sour or not, but the actual words on the package are New flavors - Starburst Sour - Sour (6 chews) Sweet (6 chews).
The two sour flavors are Sour Watermelon & Sour Green Apple and two sweet flavors are Sweet Strawberry & Sweet Blue Raspberry.
Sour Watermelon - hot pink - this has an immediate sour bite that’s almost salty. The flavor other than that is the typical fake watermelon. It’s quite intense all the way to the end.
Sour Green Apple - acid green - quite tangy and juicy, there’s the plastic flavor of chemical green apple and just a little dash of apple juice flavor in there.
Sweet Strawberry - maroon - This was weird. I thought it was just a regular strawberry Starburst, but the flavor, maybe from being near the green apple, is much more artificial and less floral.
Sweet Blue Raspberry - cerulean blue - at first this seemed much too tangy to be called a “sweet” flavor, but then I ate a few more sours and it seemed a bit tamer after that. The raspberry flavor is mellow, a little jammy but not much in the floral notes.
The balance of sweet and sour was fun, especially since I don’t think I could eat a whole package at once. The sours seemed much more sour than the previous Starburst Sours I’ve had. I enjoy Starburst’s smooth chew and intense flavors. I think they could probably lighten up on the food coloring, seeing how they’re individually wrapped. But the flavor assortment was kind of boring, I’d love to see them really reach for some exotic, powerful flavors instead of these same retreads.
Starburst’s website is insanely annoying. It takes two minutes to load ... and then another two minutes once I clicked on “products” ... then clicking on nutritional info takes me to a Mars list of products (okay, no biggie, central databases are good) but I have to navigate that list AGAIN. It also doesn’t list this product specifically, it still has the old flavor array for the Starburst Sour on the Starburst site and not at all on the Mars site.
Starburst Sour still contain gelatin but are listed as Gluten Free on the package.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Jelly Belly has had their own take on the ubiquitous Valentine’s Conversation Hearts for several years (introduced, I believe, in 2003). They’re called Conversation Beans.
They include the Sour assortment: Sour Apple, Sour Blueberry, Sour Cherry, Sour Grape, Sour Lemon, Sour Orange, Sour Peach, Sour Raspberry, Sour Strawberry & Sour Watermelon.
The sour family of flavors come in rather vivid, opaque hues, without any speckling. So they’re easy to tell apart as long as you can remember that raspberries are darker than cherries and apple is lighter than watermelon.
What’s special about these is that they’re sporting teensy printing on them.
I’d hazard the visibility of this printing is similar to that noise that only children & teenagers can hear. It’s quite small and rather faint on the lighter color beans (and nonexistent on others).
The words range from mildly flirty to downright benign. Think of it like a very limited version of magnetic poetry. Here are some three bean masterpieces:
Hi, like joy?
Overall, they’re fun. If you like Sour Jelly Belly or more importantly, if you can’t stand Necco Conversation Hearts but want to spend three times as much to make a sweet connection, this is the candy for you.
I liked most of the flavors. I picked out the Sour Peach ones, which tasted like they had Dr. Pepper added to them, and the Sour Cherry and was pleased with the rest of them. (Eventually I forgot I was supposed to be reading the words ... which I do with Conversation Hearts, too.) The highlight flavors for me were orange, lemon and grape (which was completely fun and artificial) while the blueberry and raspberry were much better than expected. As far as sour goes, well, they’re zappy compared to most regular Jelly Belly.
If puckering isn’t quite your speed for Valentine’s Day, a new item that Jelly Belly sent me to sample a few weeks ago is their Jelly Belly Love Potion. It’s a little re-closeable plastic bottle that holds an assortment of five flavors of Jelly Belly. (They use this same package for their Soda Pop Shoppe assortment.)
There’s no special printing on the beans besides the Jelly Belly logo.
The pink, red and white mix is rather attractive and might make a nice little offering in a gift basket. (Though if you really love someone with a sweet tooth, back up this little package with a big bag! Then they can refill it.)
The flavors are Strawberry Cheesecake, Bubble Gum, Coconut, Cotton Candy and Very Cherry. All the flavors went together pretty well (though I could have used a pink grapefruit instead of cherry) and the color combination is pleasing if a little feminine.
I don’t know the retail price on these, but the Soda Pop Shoppe bottles sell for about $1.50 to $2.00 retail.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.