Tuesday, October 23, 2007
I like Sugar Babies, in fact, I love them. They’re just fine the way they are. They don’t need to be improved ... but I suppose if they want to expand the line, that’s fine with me.
Okay, I’ll open my mind a little and at least try them.
The candies are regular Sugar Babies covered in a green, sour apple coating. As you can see from the photo, they’re kind of freaky. The green coating is really green, but it’s also kind of matte, not shiny like Sugar Babies.
They reminded me of Shrek. Like Shrek’s skin ... probably not an appealing association.
The flavor coating is tart and a little crumbly, kind of like the SweeTart Jelly Beans. The green apple flavor isn’t really intense, but a good counterpoint to the sweet, creamy and grainy caramel.
I don’t think they’re an improvement on Sugar Babies, just something different. It’s an interesting take on the caramel application on apples, but doesn’t really capture that experience at all (for one, it’s inside out!). So even though I wasn’t that keen on them, I did end up eating the whole box, so they must be pretty tasty!
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
I have a deep attraction to pretty candy. I’ve always enjoyed arrays of colorful candies spilled out on my desk. I like to arrange them in patterns, rainbows, color combos. I put them in glass jars, layered by color or shape. Mix them up, repeat and eat.
Most candies are pretty limited in what they can do with shapes and variety. Compressed Dextrose - the plain old chalky sweet and tart candies however, are extremely flexible when it comes to design (I call them chalk candies). With the loss of Tart ‘n Tinys, the time has come to find a replacement.
Oak Leaf (part of SweetWorks) is one of the few sugar-candy companies that really pays attention to the possibilities of pretty candy. At the All Candy Expo I got to see in person the huge variety that they make. I also got to bring home a good selection of those that attracted me most.
Holy moly, the green Baby Tears is actually lime! Who knew anyone made anything lime any longer? It’s all green apple these days. I think blue is Blue Raspberry, which was okay but certainly not sour.
There are a few versions of baby tears out there, (ZOMG has a review here).
Most of the candy is the same, the only differences are the colors and shapes. Some have different flavors depending on the mix. I was tickled by this Bonz variety. They sell it a couple of different ways, with just the skulls, just the bones and a mix of the two. (The plain bones are fun for a dog theme, the mix is great for Halloween or pirate themes.)
The bones themselves were super tart and kind of chalky on the inside instead of being dense. Pink (cherry), Red (also cherry), Yellow (lemon), Blue (sweet raspberry), Green (lime) and White (pineapple?). The candy shell was thin and easy to chomp through or dissolve off.
The skulls didn’t have an identical color line, there was a Purple (grape) and Orange (orange) and the Green was darker (watermelon).
These were dreadful. As cute as they are, they’re just as tasteless. The scale, for one, is just horrible. The Watermelon is the same size as the Strawberry and that’s bigger than the Lime! The Orange has a cute bumbly coating, but it’s so thick and flavorless I was worried it was actually a piece of plastic display. The grape had a similarly hard shell filled with a flavorless sweet powder. The Banana was the only standout, though I’m still not sure how I feel about it. Some days when I chomp on them I find the fake banana flavor comforting. Other days it feels rather cool on my tongue and slightly bitter I’m wondering if I’m eating fingernail polish remover. I had another small assortment of little fish in my mix and found the banana-yellow one in there even more alarmingly chemical-tasting. (I’m wondering if there’ll come a day when someone diagnoses Banana Candy Workers Lung.)
All of the candies are fun and at most places where I see them in bulk (at those pick-a-mix places at the mall) they’re way overpriced. You can buy them for about $2.50 a pound on Amazon (different brand) ... if you’re willing to buy 24 pounds of Bonz at a time. I wouldn’t pay more than $4 a pound for these unless I was depressed and nothing but bright food coloring and sugar could shake the doldrums.
They make Super Sours (different sizes, coated and uncoated), Smiles, Snaps, Lil’ Jewels (perhaps like the old Tart ‘n Tinys?) and Fishes along with all sorts yellow Bananas and multicolored Crazy Bananas.
The best way to buy these, as far as I can tell, is from those candy machines in kiosks at malls and arcades. At only a quarter for a little handful, it’s a pretty good pick-me-up.
If I wanted a fun and casual candy buffet (especially one that could stand the heat in summer), these could definitely be at the top of my list. Though some flavors are hit & miss, I still give them an 8 out 10 ... because they’re still pretty to look at if I don’t eat them.
EDITED 11/28/2007: I updated this to correct an earlier error. I attributed this candy to Concord Confections in error. These candies were made by Oak Leaf.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
A couple of years ago I tried a Ferrara Pan product called Narbles. I didn’t care much for it, mostly because it didn’t capitalize on the unique properties of a Lemonhead (though it didn’t actually promise any Lemonhead properties).
I don’t know if Ferrara Pan has been reading my blog (they might have, because I was suddenly able to get mixed bags called the Fruit Headline) but they have a couple of new products: Chewy Lemonheads (and Friends) and Chewy Atomic Fireballs which were introduced at the All Candy Expo last week.
Lemonheads have been one of my favorite candies since I was a kid. They were staggeringly affordable (the larger boxes used to be 10 cents), came in a shareable portion, looked really cool, packed lots of flavor and of course the box turned into a noisemaker. (Sadly they don’t use that kind of box any longer).
The candy balls are beautiful. Slightly translucent (if you like to put your candy on your new LED flashlight on your keychain), they feel as dense as the original hard-candy-centered version, but will yield to pressure when squeezed (just like real lemons!).
It took me a while to get used to them. When I eat a Lemonhead I usually “peel” off the candy shell with my teeth to get to the layer or super sour. Since these are soft on the inside, it took me a while to develop a technique ... but it only took one box.
The outside flavor is just the same as the old Heads, the inside is a rather flavorless jelly ball ... pretty much like actual jelly bean. Come to think of it, these are simply round jelly beans with a sour layer in there. I took a few of them apart to examine the innards (sorry, no gory photos of that). Each was color coded very lightly. I was surprised to find that they were actually lightly flavored. Not super zippy, just mildly fragrant to continue the experience all the way to the core.
Of the five flavors the Orange and Lemon remained my favorites, but the Grape was actually more pleasing than I expected. Cherry and Green Apple just weren’t floating my candy boat, but with 3/5 of the mix as standout winners, I can eat a few cherries. I give them a 7 out of 10.
The Chewy Atomic Fireballs were the big surprise for me. First of all, there was no announcement from Ferrara Pan before the show that they were introducing them (press releases? we don’t need no stinkin’ press releases!). So when I went by their booth I though they were just showing off one of their most successful brands in huge bins at the corner. But looking closely ... chewy!
I took three boxes and opened one. They’re dark red and not easily confused with the Cherryheads.
This is quite a different experience because the traditional Atomic Fireball is a panned cinnamon jawbreaker with alternating sweet and spicy layers. The chewy Lemonhead was an easy shift for my brain, simply a chewy center instead of a hard one. This new Atomic Fireball is more Firehead than Atomic Fireball ... or perhaps Chewy Red Hot.
The outer shell is lightly cinnamon and sweet. If you keep sucking on it gets hotter (but not unbearably) until the candy shell dissipates to reveal the spicy mantle over the chewy jelly core. The core is soft and chewy (perhaps a little sticky) and has it’s own level of background cinnamon-ness. So while it’s not quite the same as the jawbreaker’s layered experience, it’s still layered with a sort of alternating strong and mild spice to it.
They’re far stronger than Hot Tamales (though may be similar to the Hot Tamales Fire). I give them an 8 out of 10.
As a smaller portion, I really like the 25 cent, one ounce box (hey, it’s 100 calories folks!). The Chewy Atomic Fireball is a real winner, but be prepared as it does have a real burn and you can’t take it out of your mouth like a Fireball. The Chewy Lemonheads don’t quite thrill me, but part of that is that it’s so hard to top the lemony singularity that is the Lemonhead. I’ll probably give them a few more tries. I think I want a box of just the lemon ones for a pure experience. I hope they’ll sell them that way.
No word on when they’ll make an appearance in stores. Please post if you’ve seen them.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Since I’m traveling right now, I thought I’d just leave you this weekend with a little tasty nugget. Last year I tried the Mentos Sour and thought they were pretty good, not the best Mentos I’d ever had, but a nice change of pace from the regular rather under-flavored fruity Mentos available here in the States.
It’s hard to believe that two packages that look so similar have such different contents. While at the All Candy Expo I cornered one of the Mentos people at the Perfetti Ven Melle booth and chatted with her about Mentos. (Okay, chatted is hardly the word, I think I overwhelmed her with questions and comments.) There are several things I wanted to know about, the major one is about the differences in flavors between the United States and everywhere else in the world (why do the Australians get the Citrus Mix? Why do the Japanese get Pineapple?). The other thing is whether or not their switch from gelatin (an animal derived product) to gellan gum (safe for vegans).
The Sour Mix Mentos from China (but available all over Asia) are a pretty good representation of all of the questions I have about the global brand.
Santos brought me some more Mentos a month or so ago and I was puzzled at first by the Mentos Sour Mix, but she quickly pointed to the reason she included it ... pineapple. The other two flavors in the roll are grape and green apple. In fact, green apple is the only flavor that’s in the American mix (which also has watermelon and lemon).
I liked the pineapple so much that I decided to order the “Pine Fresh” Mentos from JList in Japan. I’m hoping they’ll be at the house when I get home. Hopefully I’ll get some answers on the above questions soon too!
Friday, September 7, 2007
I never reviewed them here even though I tried them because it only came in two flavors: Cherry and Green Apple. Since they’re not really my favorite flavors, I didn’t think it was a good idea to evaluate them based on those, I kept thinking that they’d come out with the classic Grape, but no such luck.
However, last week I saw an announcement that Wonka was bringing out a Shockers version of the Squeez line and one of their first flavors was going to be lemon. I enjoy the SweeTart Shockers ... they’re blisteringly sour (I’m salivating just thinking about them!) and the citrus flavors are undoubtably the best.
When I was a kid I used to make a version of this Squeez stuff. It involved taking Pixy Stix (or the cheaper and less flavorful Filled Plastic Fruit) and a little water and making a paste. This could then be spread (or glopped) onto lips as a special tangy lipgloss (and facial peel) or slathered onto a green apple Jolly Rancher Stix. As a special treat, sometimes I made something else: take a little single-serve pack of saltines (like you get with your soup at a diner), smash the crackers completely into a fine power while still in the wrapper. Then carefully open the package at the top and pour in as many Pixy Stix as you have. Jello-O powder will also do in a pinch. Add a small amount of water, enough to form a dough. Mash completely together. Spread on other crackers or eat by squeezing bits onto the tongue. )If the dough is particular firm, small balls can be created, lined up on the windowsill to dry for later.) The combination of salt, light crunch from the crackers that weren’t completely soggy yet and the sour of the Pixy Stix was, well, an interesting way to pass a half hour in front of the TV watching old episodes of the Monkees.
But enough of about that!
Shockers Squeez comes in a little tube, larger than a travel size of toothpaste. Flip the top and squeeze some out onto your finger. The texture is rather like toothpaste, except that the “grit” actually dissolves.
Tongue Trippin’ Lemon smells pretty good, but not much like lemons. It smells like that cloud of powder the comes out of a can of Country Time Lemonade Drink Mix. It’s immediately sour and then has a metallic lemon note that tastes like, well, lemonade drink mix, but a bit more intense.
The sugary part feels slightly cool on the tongue, like Pixy Stix do.
The thick paste isn’t quite as tart as the lemon, but still similarly sour like a SweeTart. Unlike Shockers, which start tangy and then become rather sweet, these are tart all the way.
There are probably many ways to eat these, I found that just squeezing a dot out of the tube and wiping it up with my finger and into my mouth was the cleanest and most satisfying. Amy, from next door, just put it directly onto her tongue in much larger proportions that I did. The blue does make the tongue, well, bluish.
I could see experimenting with other candies, like putting it on Red Vines or maybe throwing a dollop on a lollipop every once in a while. I can say that it doesn’t go very well with coffee, but you probably already knew that. I haven’t tried it on Saltines ... I could only find some Rye Crisps left over from the last time I got soup ... that’s not so hot. They might make a good icing accent on some cupcakes. I’m eager to try them on my Peeps! But the price is kind of prohibitive. Regular SweeTarts are far cheaper.
These are available in stores now. I saw them at the checkout at Von’s last week (the same day that these samples from Wonka arrived).
The first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup. The last two ingredients are yellow #5 and sodium benzoate. Kosher.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
These Zip Bomb candies showed up recently in one of the 99 Cent Only stores that I visit. I thought maybe they were a knock-off of Zotz available in little pouches.
Warning: this is another story about how I am pretty much willing to try anything, no matter how much evidence is presented that it’s a bad idea.
All wasn’t sitting well with me long before I opened the package. Part of that was the name Zip Bomb ... that’s a malicious file that’s delivered as a .zip file with a gajillion files inside that will occupy scanning software while worse things go on. Perhaps these candies came along before that, right?
Of course this made me wonder what was going to happen when I put it in my mouth. Would it occupy my taste buds while it stole my wallet? Would it swell to the size of a 63 terabyte file with tart foaming sherbet and tasty hard candy and then delete all my photos?
The other thing that struck me as odd is that the website listed on the back of the package, http://www.zipkidz.com, doesn’t exist. Oh, it might have or might someday, but as I type this, there is no website to visit for fun and games. A search on Archive.org reveals that there was a website at that address back in 2004-05. Hmm, could this code on the wrapper that says 021902 mean that they were made back in 2002?
Yes, these are the things that suddenly fill me with dread when looking at a package of candy.
But you know, I’ve already taken their photo ... what fun would this be if I didn’t go all the way and eat some?
The little individual candies were cute in their wrappers. Sure, the design wasn’t the most sophisticated in the world, but they were bright and colorful and said which flavor was which.
The candies themselves were bigger than Zotz, round instead of oval.
After putting one in my mouth I can tell you that they’re not like Zotz! The hard candy has an intense sour layer on top. Seriously sour ... but it fades away pretty quickly to reveal a simple tart and flavorful hard candy.
At the center of the candy (whether you’re a sucker or a cruncher) is a small reservior of sour powder. I was expecting it to foam, but it didn’t. It was just sour.
The hard candies were nicely flavored, each one distinct. Blue Raspberry was my favorite followed by Strawberry and then Green Apple. Watermelon was odd, probably because I just have a stubborn part of me that thinks that sour watermelon is wrong.
I wanted more of the sour center than I got in the candies, there seemed to be more hard candy than I wanted. They’re fun and something I probably would have enjoyed more as a kid than I do now, but I have to say, that first blast of throat-tingling sour is pretty fun at any age. They were probably much better when they were fresh.
Note: the candies were made in Thailand.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Way back in the day there was a cute little candy called Tart n Tinys. They were tiny little pellets of tart candy, kind of like SweeTart, only sold in a small cigarette-pack-sized box that dispensed the candies from a little slip-tab at the top. (Nerds are still sold in this format.) They were made by Willy Wonka Candy Company, which was founded by Breaker Confections in 1971 just in advance of the feature film, Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. The book (called Charlie & the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl was published in 1964 and already wildly popular as was James and the Giant Peach which came out in ‘61.)
The Wonka line of candies were largely a marketing invention, the only candy in the original line up of confections that was actually mentioned in the book were Everlasting Gobstoppers.
However loosely tied Tart n Tinys were to Wonka’s imagination, I loved them. The little chalky pellets were fun to sort and stack, simple to share and easy to portion. The original flavors were Cherry, Lemon, Lime, Grape and Orange. The texture always seemed a bit smoother than SweeTart, which had a chunky and gritty texture (which I also appreciate).
In 1988 Breaker Confections sold the brand to Nestle. Nestle eventually made some changes to the candies, mostly because they had also recently acquired the Sunline brand of SweeTart confections in their takeover of Rowntree (who bought Sunline in 1986). Sunline products (SweeTart, Sprees and Bottle Caps) were then branded under the Wonka label as well. In the early 1990s Tart n Tinys were reintroduced with a new colorful candy shell (more like mini Spree than mini SweeTart now). The most interesting part of the candy shell addition is that the grape ones were no longer purple, they’re now blue (but thank goodness they’re not the blue punch flavor of SweeTart).
The new candy coated variety were also a little rounded, so they roll. No more stacking. But I have to admit they were fun to look at, and probably a little easier to sort even in dim lighting conditions.
So, you may have noticed that I started this post with, “Goodbye.” This is because Nestle has decided to discontinue both Tart n Tinys and Chewy Tart n Tinys.
It makes sense that Nestle thinks that the line is redundant (as I found with the head to head comparison between the Chewy Mini SweeTart and the Chewy Tart n Tiny) to products they already produce. The marketing on them was never particular strong, they don’t do seasonal editions (no pastel Tart n Tinys for Easter, no red & green for Christmas) so it’s easy to see why people have not responded to them as much as other products like SweeTart, Sprees and Runts.
I’ve enjoyed Tart n Tinys since their introduction but rarely buy them simply because I never find them in stores. Runts have been more available, even in the movie style box. I don’t think I’ve actually bought Tart n Tinys in five years for this reason. How successful can a candy be if you can’t find it in the first place? There are still a few online vendors who still have inventory left, so if you’re a fan, get ‘em now!
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Months ago YumSugar urged me to try the Sour Gummi Bears from Bristol Farms, and I didn’t. Most of the time when I go into Bristol Farms (which may be five or six times a year) I opt for the Licorice Pastilles or some imported chocolate bar. But this time I not only remembered, I found a bag that was mostly clear ones (that means Pineapple, my friends!). This didn’t stop me from picking up that Italian torrone as well.
YumSugar wasn’t wrong, these are tasty gummi bears. They’re rather like the Sour Patch Kids - a sour sand covers a traditional fruity gummi bear. I suspect that these are made by Farley’s & Sathers. I’m actually concerned that these are not labeled correctly, the ingredients said: Corn Syrup, Sugar, Modified Corn Starch, Fumaric Acid, Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Artificial Colors. What’s missing on this list is some sort of jelling agent, like Gelatin. I actually sent Bristol Farms an email, but it’s been over a week and there hasn’t been even an automated response (so much for trusting them with my top dollars).
The gummis are soft and chewy (and most definitely gummis with some gelatin in them, you can’t get this texture with corn starch). The flavors aren’t deep, the sour sand keeps everything on a tangy + sweet level. The orange one reminds me a lot of orange jell-o with a hit of orange pixy stix. They’re not quite as tart as Sour Patch Kids, but of course they’re also a different flavor set, so it’s not an apples to apples comparison.
I was especially thrilled at the high ratio of Pineapple ones, which is a flavor that goes so well with the sour sand it’s ridiculous. The least favorite flavor out of the bunch, oddly enough, was the green apple, which I would have thought would do well. The red was strawberry instead of cherry, so the assortment scored points there.
I’m sure there are cheaper places to get these, especially if they are made by Farley’s & Sathers, which are a really well priced, good quality brand.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.