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, 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!
UPDATE JUNE 2015: Leaf has revived Tart n Tinys in their original format of the uncoated cylinder shape.
The flavors are a little different: blue raspberry, grape, orange, lime, lemon and cherry. They’re still making their way around stores, I found mine at Dylan’s Candy Bar for $3.49 a bag, which is too steep for what is cheap candy, but they should get wider distribution eventually.
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.
Thursday, July 5, 2007
Sour Patch Kids were developed in 1970s by a candy sales manager named Frank Galatolie who was chasing the sour fad. They were first Martians, to take advantage with the consumer fascination with all things space related. They were later changed to little children and called Sour Patch Kids (to capitalize on the Cabbage Patch Kids fad) and introduced in the US in 1985. A lot of the super sour items from that time period are long gone, so who could have expected that some sour sanded Swedish Fish would be so enduring? Sour Patch Kids are now made by Cadbury Adams in Canada.
Sour Patch Kids are a soft jelly candy sanded with a sweet & sour coating. The candies are supposedly in the shape of little frizzy haired kids. They look rather like little feet to me or maybe rabbits with very puffy tails.
Sour Patch Kids come in the traditional four flavors they always have: Raspberry (red), Lime (green), Orange (orange) and Lemon (yellow). Yes, these are also the same flavors as the Swedish fish array that Cadbury Adams makes.
They’re billed as “Sour then Sweet” and it’s true. Some folks like to suck the sour coating off, which makes them bitingly sour (with an odd salty tang to it as well) but I prefer to chew mine, to combine the sour and sweet and get a little flavor at the same time.
Though the flavors aren’t really that strong, as is the same with Swedish Fish, Sour Patch Kids are good whether they’re soft and fresh or hard and tacky.
I don’t buy them often, but they’re a good “keep me interested” candy, which is great for movies, traveling or a little munching while at work. I see adults eating them as often as kids, which is nice that there’s a sour candy that generations can share.
Note: there’s a little fad going on YouTube where kids collect the sour sand from candies like Sour Patch Kids, Sour Skittles or Pixy Stix and then snort it. Please, don’t do this. It really hurts ... you’re not gonna get high, but you’ll probably make some silly faces and your friends will laugh at you. There’s a reason our tastebuds are on our tongues and not in our sinuses. Sour Patch Kids are meant to be ingested orally ... not nasally. PSA over.
Sour Patch Kids contain no gelatin (they’re a jelly candy that uses corn starch as a jelling agent) and use all artificial colorings so they’re suitable for vegetarians. There’s no word in the label about gluten status.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:45 am
Friday, June 15, 2007
One of the things I like so much about some of the Japanese candies is that they’re incredibly flavorful. I couple of months ago I got an email from the fine folks at JBox telling me about a new UHA Shigekix product called Aha! Brain. It comes in a few different flavors, including “Energy Drink Flavor”, which puzzled me and scared me enough to prompt me to stick to the comfortably familiar flavor called Citrus Flavor.
I tried Shigekix a couple of years ago in the Cola flavor and found them kind of fun. This package doesn’t have the familiar schmoo character on the front, instead a PacMan type character with some sort of electrified brain.
The little gumdrop shaped candies are covered in a light and uneven candy shell. The shell is merely sweet and carries no flavor as far as I can tell. The gummi center, however, is jam packed with flavor. The gummi is much softer than the regular Shigekix, rather like a slightly stale Haribo Bear.
The citrus flavor is just bursting with complexity. It has the zesty notes of grapefruit and perhaps yuzu and lemon then the tart bite and a bit of sweet juiciness. I have no idea if my brain is more awake than before, but my salivary glands are working overtime here.
I probably wouldn’t go popping this to solve problems, but I could see it being a good treat for long car trips where I need to stay alert.
Shigegix Aha! Brain also comes in Muscat flavor.
Check out the JBox site where they feature four different ads from Japan for the product. I have no idea what’s going on (I believe the dancing woman in the yellow helmet is caused by eating Aha! Brain). Now I want that helmet (I rode my bike to work today and my plain white helmet just isn’t doing it for me ... well, except for protecting my now super-Aha’ed brain).
Friday, June 1, 2007
Following up on yesterday’s Starburst Sour, I thought I’d tackle some real sour stuff. I found Sour Extinguisher at the 7-11 a few weeks ago and thought it was a cute idea. There are three different flavors with different levels of sour along with an “extinguisher” that puts out the sour burn.
The first thing I noticed was that the “randomness” of my bag meant that I had an overwhelming number of yellow candies. (The bag makes mention that the assortment may vary, it also makes mention of the chance of mouth irritation.)
The candies break down this way:
Tangy Tangerine - a mild sour ... (6 candies)
The little candies look more like pieces of lumpy gum. They’re matte in color and don’t smell like anything.
The Tangerine is nice. A little firm to chew, not quite a Chewy SweeTart or Skittles, it’s more like a Razzle that never turns into gum. Lemon is quite tart, but actually has some really good authentic lemon flavors in there, even a little bitterness that makes it taste like a freshly shaken lemonade. Lime is very sour, so much so that it takes a while to get to the actual flavor. Again, it actually tastes like lime eventually.
None of them was so sour that I had to reach for the Extinguisher but I pretended with some Lime anyway. The Raspberry was definitely sweet and it definitely smote the sour. The flavor was pretty bland, kind of like cotton candy.
The texture of the candies as a whole isn’t really my idea of great. They’re crumbly but never really chewy and then they disappear. I’d give them higher marks if I didn’t feel like the texture was due to being in the sofa cushions for several years. As an interactive candy that you really need to look at what you’re eating, it’s a fun idea, especially for kids who crave these sorts of things. I found, if nothing else, they really got my mouth watering.
UPDATE 6/9/2009: Big BOING, the company that developed Sour Extinguisher, sold it to American Licorice. It was relaunched in January 2009 with two flavor sets. Full review here of the new Chewy Extinguisher Sour Citrus & Chewy Extinguisher Sour Fruit.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.