Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Skittles are insanely tasty little morsels. Rather like little bits of Starburst covered in a candy shell. Skittles were first introduced in 1974 in the UK and parts of Europe. They spread to the States as an import for a while and then in 1981 Mars began making them in the States.
Obsessive folks (perhaps I’m one of them and speaking from experience) like to divide up the colors and eat them. I usually eat mine in pairs of same flavors, but when it comes down to the end of the pack, there are certain acceptable combos (all the citruses can be paired and grape and strawberry can go together ... strawberry and lemon are also acceptable but never ever put orange and grape together).
Original Fruit Skittles
While the Skittles website asserts that the flavor distribution is random, I’ve always felt that there were fewer green and purple ones in most bags. But as you can see from the photo, it’s just the green ones that seemed slighted in this mix (and I’m not going to complain). I took copious photos of all of the bags as well, so if you’re curious they’re here.
You might want to partake of some of my favorite Skittles commercials: Man with Beard, Skittles Leak, this one is from the previous campaign (one that I think captures a bit of the wonder of candy and magic better) and the original with great costumes ... oh, wait, those aren’t costumes, that’s what we used to wear back in the day.
Wild Berry Skittles
These have been around for a long time, but I never really noticed them. I never saw a reason to get anything other than the regular Skittles. All of the flavors were great. Sure I ate the grape ones last, if at all (always share!), but they were one of those candies you can eat in a dark movie theater without having to spit out mistakes.
Wild Berry Skittles come in a super purple pack, so there’s no mistaking them at the store (not like the M&M Pirate Pearls and M&M Almond). The colors look vaguely familiar, but without the vibrant orange and yellow. Instead they have a mousy pink in the mix which just makes them feel bland.
Not enough of these flavors are actually berries and berries as a mix aren’t that interesting to me.
Rating: 6 out of 10
As I was looking through a bunch of old commercials for Skittles online I realized that this was another flavor mix that I completely ignored. However, part of that may be that the flavors were different back then. The original mix of Tropical Skittles included two different flavors: Passion Punch (Blue), Mango Peach (Orange), Strawberry Watermelon (Pink), the new flavors are noted with an *.
I loved the look of these spread out on the table but again the proportion of “tasty” ones was too small to warrant buying the whole bag. (How long before Skittles goes the way of M&Ms and you can special order flavor mixes?)
Rating: 6 out of 10
Smoothie Mix Skittles
I’m not sure if a consumer wrote to Skittles and said, “I love your chewy little morsels, but could you make them with less flavor? I just can’t take it.” And of course being capitalists wishing to capitalize on all corners of the untapped Skittles market, they did.
Smoothies in real life are great. They’re like shakes only made with lots and lots of fruit. At least when I make them that’s how they taste. Some folks put yogurt or ice cream or sherbet in there, so I guess that’s where the watering-down of the flavor comes from.
These are just too bland. Maybe if I’d just come out of a coma these would be good for easing me back into the world ... or might put me back into a vegetative state.
Rating: 5 out of 10
UPDATE: Smoothies are discontinued.
While all the other bags were virtually identical in format (same size and weight and materials) this bag is different. It’s a little shorter than the others and made with a much thicker plastic (that’s annoyingly hard to open). I’m guessing it’s because these are rather different Skittles. Instead of all the sour being locked up under that candy shell, here it’s on the outside of the shell in a sparkly sanded coating.
The chew towards the end on all of these seemed grainier than usual. I don’t mind that as a feature though. I don’t like how messy these are. I like to line up my Skittles on my desk in little lines of each color as I dump small amounts out. These leave a dusting of sour on the desk. A word of caution as well, don’t ever get the sour powder in your eyes. It’s also very easy to just suck the sour off the outside, though it tastes the same on all of them, it also seems to lead to more tongue damage.
Rating: 7 out of 10
POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:04 am
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
This is another one of those products that I’ve only seen at the 99 Cent Only Store. These Sour Bloops are billed as “Intense Chewy Fruit Candies” and are made by Lance. Yes, Lance, that company that you makes those bright orange Cheese & Peanut Butter crackers that come in mini-bricks in vending machines.
As something you would find in a vending machine, these fill an important niche. They’re like mega-Skittles or fruity Mentos. The flavor assortment is definitely unique.
Each candy is a rustic looking Mentos, same size, same basic shape.
The name Sour Bloops may be a little pedestrian and unimaginative but the candy certainly lives up to it. Basically they were okay.
Green Apple - tangy, with a pretty good combination of apple juice notes and that fake green apple flavor of Jolly Ranchers. Pretty soft and pleasant. The flavor stays with the chew to the end.
Wild Cherry - tastes like a red cherry Lifesaver, but much more tart. Flavorful and a smidge medicinal, especially towards the end where I get a little burning feeling in my throat.
Peach Lemonade - I haven’t the foggiest what this tastes like, since there were none in my mix.
Stick with Mentos or Skittles unless you really need a peach lemonade fix ... which I can’t comment on, as they’re so rare as to not make an appearance in my bag. If you’re stuck with what your vending machine offers, well, this is a far better choice than Garfield’s Chocobites. These candies may also appear in rolls called Chewz.
Friday, April 6, 2007
Pure Fun sent me some Fair Trade and Organic Cotton Candy last year (who knew such a thing existed?). It’s really not that they created a more socially responsible treat that got me, it was that they made it in Root Beer and Maple flavors! This year I got to visit them at their booth at Expo West. Let me say that they’re the best kind of candy people - friendly, inviting and eager to share. I see the whole ample samples as a sign of confidence in their product.
And I’m not let down. Their candies don’t look like a compromise when it comes to all the best things about hard candies: they look tasty. Glossy, luminous, brightly colored and with a wide assortment to please most folks.
The Citrus Slices are drop dead gorgeous. And the taste does not disappoint. They’re tart, flavorful and just the right size (a little smaller than a regular starlight mint). Lime, Orange & Lemon. (Everyone knows I would also like to see a grapefruit in this mix.)
Barrels of Fun - root beer float with vanilla. I would have preferred a straight root beer barrel, but this was nice. More on the smooth and creamy side of things than the zesty tingle of a root beer.
Chocolate Meltdowns - tangerine, raspberry & pepsin with chocolatey centers. These were the ones I liked the least of all of them. The flavorful outsides were great, but the lack of chocolate punch on the inside made me wish they were just plain old solid candies.
Fruit Rocks - goji berry, pomegranate, honey lemon & sour green apple. Really sassy and flavorful. I can’t say that Goji Berry is really my favorite flavor in the world, but the honey lemon was great and a less artificial tasting green apple rocks.
I tried Yummy Earth last year at the All Candy Expo when they introduced their all natural Organic Lollipops. Not just the plain old flavors like lemon and orange but also pomegranate, raspberry and watermelon.
They have a line of hard candies to go with their lollies in both fruity flavors and peppermint. These are a little different, a little smaller than regular hard candies.
Larger than Altoids but smaller than regular hard candy disks.
I covered Wet Faced Watermelon, Cheeky Lemon & Pomegranate Pucker over here. The new flavors for me were:
Mango Tango - this pretty little swirled candy. I’m not sure what the mango was tango-ing with, but it was definitely tropical. Kind of like a Bonne Bell lipsmacker with a REAL kick of flavor.
Peppermint (not shown) - this was very strong, much like an Altoid only smoother. I took these on Whale Watching trips all winter.
Either one of these brands has the right attitude ... don’t make your candy look all mousy and plain ... jazz it up with vibrant colors to match their vibrant flavors.
Of course they’re a little more expensive, but my guess is that the economies of scale will kick in as more people demand organic and all natural stuff and the prices will drop.
I’ve seen some of the Yummy Earth in Whole Foods but you can also buy direct from them on their website and Pure Fun is available at Whole Foods.
Both products are organic, gmo-free, no artificials flavors, no synthetics, no gluten, no casein, kosher, vegetarian ... and vegan ... whew!
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Folks are obsessed with Peeps around this time of the year. As I’ve stated before, I love the idea of Peeps, I just don’t really enjoy eating them. So I thought I’d try to improve my experience by creating some Peeps Mash-Ups. These aren’t full-blown recipes but more of a “dry fondue” with some items I had lying around:
Peeps Rocks - here I’ve mashed my Peep into some Strawberry Pop Rocks.
First, when mashing a Peep, it helps to pull it apart. This way you have two sticky halves for picking up other candy goodness as well as alleviating the issue of “double dipping” if you’re mashing with a buddy.
When I mashed the Pop Rocks into this fresh Peep, the rocks started snapping immediately. (You can’t see the noise in the photo, but it’s cracklin’ away, trust me.)
The cotton-candy-like flavor of the strawberry goes really well with the flavorless Peep. Light and refreshing. The pops give it a little sizzle.
Peeps Nerds - when you look at it, a Peep is really just a giant spongy Nerd with a pointy nose. Oh, and eyes. Nerds may have eyes in their little cartoon versions on the packaging, but not on the real candies like Peeps do.
I wasn’t really fond of this flavor combination, or the colors. The red and green (cherry & watermelon) looked too Christmasy. The taste combo was pretty good though. The crunch of the Nerds gave the spongy marshmallow a good texture and the zap of tartness also balanced out the sweetness of the Peep.
Peeps & Mini M&Ms - this is a natural combo and the colors couldn’t look better together if I tried. The little M&Ms adhere really well to the Peep’s exposed marshmallow. The sweet chocolate has a good crunch though it might be a little too sweet.
You could probably try mini dark chocolate baking chips for a less sweet experience (though you’d lose the crunch). The little tube they come in is especially easy for mashing on the go, just press the stickiness to the opening and tip the M&Ms Minis into it.
Peep Tarts - I have to admit that I was especially proud of the name for this one. Originally I wanted to use Pixy Stix for the powder, but I couldn’t find any (I try not to keep them in the house, for sanity’s sake). So I took the powder from an extra Topps Baby Bottle Pop. The Citrus Craze powder is already less sweet because it’s also intended to be “mashed up” with the lollipop top, so it adds flavor and tartness without more throat-burning sugar.
I’m not really sold on the combo, but after eating everything pictured here within about 15 minutes I had a stomach ache. Gah, I’m getting another one just typing this up!
So, what are your ideas for Peeps Mash-ups - either theoretical ones, or ones that you actually do?
Friday, March 30, 2007
After the review of Lifesavers Jelly Beans, I kept hearing that the SweeTart Jelly Beans were also very good. (Actually, readers have been telling me this for a year, but I was hoping to catch them on sale after Easter last year, but wasn’t so lucky.)
So I went out last night looking for them. Luckily they were on sale ($1.50 a bag instead of $2.29) at RiteAid. I carefully chose a bag that looked like it had lots of yellow ones in it (the others looked very pink).
Unlike the Lifesavers Jelly Beans that made up flavors to include in the bag, the SweeTart Jelly Beans stick to the regular SweeTart flavors: Grape, Cherry, Orange, Lemon, Green Apple and Blue Punch.
The colors are typical of an assortment of highlighter pens (well, the purple one just wasn’t photographing well, it’s much more lilac that the photo makes it appear). They’re matte and opaque. They’re also not terribly regular in size and shape, with the colors sometimes looking a little faded in spots and other little bloops of other colors in them.
These beans are different. They candy shell on them isn’t like any other jelly bean I’ve had. Instead of just being a flavored sugar shell, these feel different. They’re a little crumbly and a little cool on the tongue. The ingredients lists dextrose as one of the main ingredients. Dextrose is the same sugar used to make SweeTart and other compressed sugar candies.
It takes a little getting used to, because at first it feels like the bean is past its prime or something. But then I really started to enjoy cleaving off parts of the shell in my mouth before chewing the rest up. They’re kind of like Lemonheads in that respect, except not as sour. The jelly center isn’t really flavored, but does have a slight tang to it (yes, I managed to just nibble off the shell on a few of them). The jelly center is the same for all of them as far as I can tell (Jelly Belly uses specific flavored centers for their beans, which is one of the reasons they’re so flavorful).
I really liked the orange and lemon, but found the grape to be a huge disappointment. It was completely missing that “malic acid” flavor of the grape SweeTart. The green apple also seemed a little weird, just not quite complete. The blue punch was much better than I expected and of course the cherry was just bitter to me. Though all of them are a bit tart, they’re not really sour like a SweeTart is. I can say from experience here that there’s no tongue damage from eating a third of a bag for breakfast (which there definitely would be with the regular chalky SweeTart).
I’m not as fond of these as I’d hoped, so they’re not going to knock the Lifesavers Jelly Beans off the current favored spot for the special Easter jelly beans. Part of it is the lack of visual appeal, they just look old. I also wanted them to be more tart. But I have to give them props for making me eat my jelly beans in a different way. I still have another bag of the SweeTart Ducks, Chicks & Bunnies (I finally found them at Walgreen’s) ... it’s gonna take a big candy innovation for something else from SweeTart to knock them off the top spot.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
So I’m reading Technology Marketing magazine last month (okay, not really, I just found the article because it was about candy and it came up on a Google News Alert) and there was an article about Topps and their new products. But what shocked me, seriously shocked me, was the first part of the opening paragraph:
Say what? The Baby Bottle Pop is that popular (I have no idea what holds the number 1 spot in the adults non-chocolate segment ... I’m guessing something from Jelly Belly)?
So why haven’t I had them? It appears that they were introduced in the late 90s, a bit after my candy experimentation stage. But I have a duty to Candy Blog to keep up with the kids, you know. First, I had to find them. This involved stooping down and looking at the bottom racks in the candy aisle at the drug stores and finally at 7-11 where I was able to find the “classic” version in a flavor combo that seemed good to me. I picked up Citrus Craze and Strawberry.
You may be wondering what a Baby Bottle is. It’s a little bottle, about the size of a small baby food jar, filled with a powdered candy topped with a hard candy nipple top. The top unscrews and has a “stem” that allows you to hold onto the top as you lick it to get it sticky and then dip it into the bottle to coat it with the sour, flavorful powder. The nipple pop has a plastic dome to keep it clean when you’re not eating.
I was expecting a grainy powder like Pixy Stix. Instead it’s much finer and more flavorful.
The Citrus Craze powder is quite tart and actually has a lot more flavor than I expected. Instead of just sour, it had some orangey flavors. It still tasted pretty much like Tang. It looks like Tang, too. The pop itself is rather bland and sweet, with a swirl of yellow and orange. The combo of the two is really good! The tangy powder seems more zesty because of the bland background of the sweet pop. Having the dipping pop made of hard candy makes far more sense than the Lik-a-Maid which had a compressed dextrose stick that got soggy pretty quickly.
As you eat the pop and there’s less powder, it gets harder and harder to coat the pop with it. I eventually just dumped the powder onto my tongue. Here’s a tip ... don’t inhale at the same time. Seriously, this is weapons-grade powder and the sour crust in your lungs is not a happy thing. Is there a disease called Pixe Stix Lung?
The Strawberry wasn’t quite as interesting to me, except that I have to say that the clear red nipple pop on top was pretty alluring. (Read into that whatever you like.)
In this version the pop is actually the flavorful sour part and the powder is just sweet and fruity. Not bad, but I preferred the tangy zap of the Citrus Craze. As a grown up I find eating this a little cumbersome but I’m pretty sure this would have been my favorite candy as a tween. As a treat for kids, yeah, it’s a mixed message, but it’s also rather labor intensive to eat and only 120 calories.
For the record, as a kid I didn’t buy Pixy Stix or Lik-a-Maid. I would buy cans of lemonade mix or boxes of Jell-O and just eat that by licking my finger and dipping it in there. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to use a lollipop.
Note: this product was made in Thailand.
Friday, February 9, 2007
SweeTarts are made in special shapes for just about all the holidays. You can get them for Halloween, Christmas and Easter (maybe they even do all green packages for St. Patrick’s Day) and of course they have a version for Valentines Day: SweeTarts Hearts.
The packaging and candy is pretty much a rip off of the Necco Conversation Hearts. It’s a little box that’s ready to be addressed to your Valentine with little heart shaped candies inside with sayings on them.
The mottos aren’t earthshatteringly cool, just classic little lovey-doveyness. “Hug Me” “Love Ya” “Yes” “I’m Yours” and “Kiss Me”. Unlike the other conversation hearts out there, these are not printed, the lettering is engraved (or pressed) right into the compressed dextrose tablets. The candies meet the highest quality standards too, they’re always heart shaped and perfectly formed with readable lettering (I know I’ve gotten some pretty mangled hearts before from Necco).
Besides the shape, these are just plain old SweeTarts. They are an abbreviated flavor set: Orange, Cherry and Grape. As I don’t care for the Cherry, about one third of this box was “for sharing.” Now, I’m not sure if this is the way it’s supposed to be, the package shows green and blue hearts in the design (but no yellow).
I paid $.79 cents for this box, which is a bit high. I didn’t see any larger packages of them where you could get a ten pack and have your kid give them out as Valentines or anything. But if I saw these in the 75% off bin after Valentines I might pick them up. But I miss my yellow SweeTarts.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
For the most part I thought they were toys. That they were some sort of technically edible wafer with a toy or prize inside. (Shows how much I was paying attention.)
I’m certain I’m not alone in my confusion about what they are, so I’ll try to demystify them.
The wafers are made up of two disks of slightly foamed corn starch (kind of like communion wafers or that stuff that they put on the tops of Torrones). They’re dome shaped to hold a little reservoir of powdered candy. You can shake them and they make a light rattling noise. The powder is a slightly foaming white dextrose candy kind of like a Pixy Stix.
The brand on these is Astra and they’re made in Belgium. I get the impression that there are a couple of other brands out there, including Gerrit’s Satellite Wafers, which are also made in Belgium ... so maybe there’s just one factory out there in the Belgian countryside cranking away on these traditional European novelty sweets.
The wafer itself is rather delicate and can crack if it’s fresh (and just get soggy and bendy if it’s not). This would explain why there was some candy powder in my bag of 35 pieces. Only two, as far as I could tell, had let loose their contents. The wafer is ever so slightly sweet but basically unflavored. If there’s an acceptable style to eating these, I missed that indoctrination as a child and can only say that I take a bite out of the Saucer, eat the little wafer and then dump the contents onto my tongue.
The powder is uncolored and tastes a bit like green apple (again, there could be different flavors ... or not). Sometimes I tossed the other half of the wafer, sometimes I ate it. The powder inside has a slight fizz to it, not quite as strong as Zotz. In fact, sometimes it wasn’t fizzy at all, sometimes it was absurdly fizzy.
Now that I’ve had these I’m sorry I didn’t seek them out as a child. They’re basically disk shaped Pixy Stix only you can eat the container they come in. I’m guessing the wafer also somehow offsets the huge sugar rush you would ordinarily get from straight dextrose.
You can read more about Astra Sweets who made these here, but it appears that Astra Sweets took over Belgica TOP, the originator of the Flying Saucer some years ago.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.