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.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Each year around this time there are lists of the best and worst Halloween candies. At the top folks always seem to have Candy Corn, but right in there is another misunderstood and underappreciated candy, Smarties.
There’s not much too them, they’re a simple tangy compressed dextrose candy stacked into a tight roll and wrapped in cellophane. For almost 60 years CeDe Candy has been churning out the chalky, barely flavored tablets. It’d be a rare Halloween Trick-or-Treat bag that didn’t have at least one roll. More recently CeDe’s product line has expanded to include Bubble Gum Smarties, Mega Smarties and now Xtreme Sour and Tropical Smarties.
The Tropical Smarties roll is attractive, orange and yellow accents give it a sunny, citrus look. The tablets themselves don’t look or smell any different from the original though. Original come in green, yellow, purple, pink, orange and white, Tropical seem to come in green, yellow, orange, pink and white.
In the case of the Tropical array, when eating mindlessly the rolls had a soft sweetness to them with some notes of pina colada and banana/strawberry. In the particular the yellow ones are banana (in the regular array I think they’re lemon) and the white ones seem to be the pina colada.
All of this causes too much thinking for something like Smarties though. Though the different colors are different flavors they’re one of the few candies I won’t separate before I eat.
Tropical Smarties are pleasant, a little milder (if that’s even possible) than the Original.
Rating: 7 out of 10.
The first thing I noticed about the X-Treme Sour Smarties is that they’re more vivid. Not quite SweeTarts colors, but pretty close.
The colors are green, yellow, purple, orange and pink (maybe red). They seem a bit denser and less powdery than the Original.
The flavors are actually perceivable, though not terribly notable. The tanginess is very high pitched. Where SweeTarts are a mid-range tartness (malic acid) these seem more citric acidy.
I like the balance of flavor to tartness with SweeTarts, but I can see this different kind of tartness and the back seat the actual flavors take having its appeal.
Rating: 5 out of 10.
On the whole, I’ve always loved Smarties in the sense that I will eat them, all of them, than later I will feel sick, curse them and vow never to eat them again because of my stupid lack of self control. The ubiquity of Smarties around Halloween is also accompanied by some sort of mind-warping amnesia ray ... and I again repeat my demonstration of how much power these little tablets have over me.
(Note: Smarties are called Rockets in Canada. Smarties made by Nestle are little chocolate lentils and are sold everywhere except for the USA.)
Friday, October 24, 2008
A few months ago I picked up some Kosher Haribo Pink Grapefruit Gummis.
I love grapefruit and I love Haribo’s take on them. They’re gummy and chewy and have a nice crisp bite to them. I was curious though what the difference would be like with the Kosher version. It uses a fish gelatin instead of a non-Kosher gelatin that I can only guess is porcine in origin. (Gelatin is the thing that keeps me from being a true vegetarian - I just love gummis more than I love animals right now.)
Anyway, I’ve digressed. The Kosher version seemed gummier, seemed more gelatinous, seemed firmer and chewier. Happily it was also very intensely flavored, stellarly attractive and of course in my belly.
Haribo makes a bunch of other products that they don’t sell in the United States. I found this imported Haribo Saure Dinosaurier. The majority of the packages is in French with some German and a third version of the ingredients is in Spanish. The only thing in English is their tagline “kids and grown ups love it so.”
I’m no French major, but I know that this package contains sour dinosaur gummis.
The front of the package shows a bunch of different colored dinosaurs, but I only found four inside. Each shape came in all colors. The different dinos appeared to be Stegosaurus, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Apatosaurus and Triceratops.
The sugar sanding is rather thin and has small grains to it. It’s not sour either, it’s pure sweet sugar.
Green is green apple (in the Haribo gummi bear world green is strawberry, so I had to close my eyes a couple of times to be sure). This was great with some really authentic apple flavors.
Red is definitely cherry. Like a Blow Pop and Kool-Aid.
Clear is peach. I have no idea why. But I liked it! It was kind of like a nectarine, none of that weird fuzzy taste, it was tangy and sweet.
Yellow is an eye popping lemon. Like eating a concentrated batch of lemonade mix. It doesn’t have a lot of zest to it, but it’s unmistakably lemon.
The sanded gummis don’t have a lot of detail and they all smell rather similar, kind of like a big bag of mixed Jolly Ranchers.
I found the overall level of the sourness to be rather adult, not shocking or blistering but certainly tingly and it got my salivary glands going.
The chew is not like the soft and lingering durability of a gummi bear. Instead these are more like Sour Patch Kids, an easy bite and quick chew. They were on the expensive side, but I’m sure I could find them cheaper if I were in Europe. I’ve noticed that even Haribo’s own Gold Bears taste different depending on which factory they were made in. I don’t know if it’s even possible to get a hold of the German Gold Bears in the United States, but these were made in Germany.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.