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.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
I dunno why I bought these, but I’ve seen then online a few times and when I was at Munchies a few weeks ago, I just had to give them a try.
They’re a compressed dextrose candy (what I call chalk candy) shaped like Lego building blocks. They’re about the same size and work the same, only without the firm snap to keep things together. Some of my little candies were actually missing their nubs, but they had enough to build little walls and stuff.
They were actually different flavors:
White - Pineapple - tart and a little bitter, but really tasty.
They were very hard and very dense, so crunching on them wasn’t really that easy. They were more for sucking, but of course they’re kind of pointy.
I know I don’t sound excited by them, but I actually liked them quite a bit. I would buy them again, but probably only for a project. Or maybe just because I want something to play with on my desk. If I got them from a bulk bin I’d probably pull out just the yellow, white and orange ones. I think by the pound they’re cheaper than Lego.
How cool would it be if they made candy Lego-ish mini-figures?
Friday, January 12, 2007
I’m a big lollipop fan. (No, not that I like big lollipops.) My favorite cheapo lollipop is the Orange Tootsie Pop (though I enjoyed the Limited Edition Tropical flavors last year, too). Blow Pops aren’t quite as good, mostly because the gum isn’t candy and they don’t come in orange.
While wasting time at the Pittsburgh Airport, I found these Blow Pop Minis. They herald, “It’s a Blow Pop with NO Stick!” Hallelujah! Now adults can eat their Blow Pops without being branded Rejuveniles.
While they say they’re Blow Pops without sticks, they’re also without mass. They’re wee little candies, about the size of a smooshed garbanzo bean. And they’re mostly candy. They come in four flavors: Watermelon, Blue Razz, Cherry and Sour Apple. (No, no grape, which is a classic Blow Pop flavor.)
I talk a lot about proportions when it comes to candy. Sometimes something can be coated in too much chocolate or not have enough of a particular element. Let me just say that the blow part of the Blow Pop Minis is sadly lacking.
First, the gum is hard and tacky. Some of the time it wouldn’t even chew, just sit in the crevasses of my molars until I picked it out or ate something to dislodge it. Second, if I got the gum to chew, it was a wee amount. We’re talking the size of a BB. It would probably take six candies to make the amount of gum in one Chicklet.
These are stupid. Why not make one large enough to hold a responsible amount of gum? These little candies are probably a third of the size of a Root Beer Barrel. And you’re wondering, why not just sell them has plain old unfilled hard candies? Well, then they’d just be Charms.
The gum ends up being tough and flavorless ... rather like chewing a stamp or a piece of paper.
The candy part isn’t bad but, of course, none of the flavors are favorites of mine.
This is just a bad idea.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
We had a Secret Santa exchange at the office, and of course my Secret Santa knew my fondness for candy (who doesn’t?) and bestowed upon me a box of retro items. Inside was a string of Zotz in Apple.
I don’t know much about Zotz. They’re made in Italy and are composed of a fizzy sour powder center inside a hard candy shell. They currently come in three flavors: Cherry, Watermelon & Apple. They come in a string of four packages (though as a child I’m quite sure the strings were longer, like you could get a yard of lollipops). I also recall they came in Lemon, but I can’t find much chatter online about them.
They’re awful cute little candies. They’re pretty big as well. I have two methods for eating them. The first is to suck on them really hard. There’s a little hole or seam in one end and if you suck hard enough you can get the fizzy powder to come out. The other method is to skip that patience thing and just crunch into it, which is usually what I do.
There is a serious amount of fizzy powder inside, a lot more than I remember. The fizz is pleasant and froths up into a rather creamy fluff inside the mouth. They’re not quite as fun as I remember, the fizz was certainly plentiful, but the flavor (perhaps because it was apple) wasn’t really that compelling.
The grown up version of these are the Napoleon Lemon Sours (from Belgium), which I’ve been eating for years and have always cleaved open the candy hoping to find a huge reservoir of the fizziness (and have always been disappointed and then put another one in my mouth). There are also Japanese versions of Zotz that I’ve seen at the stores but haven’t tried yet, maybe that’s something to put on my New Year’s list.
What flavors do you remember Zotz coming in?
Monday, October 30, 2006
I have only one gum that I consume regularly. It’s plain old Chiclets (peppermint). They’re not that easy to find (and I think made in Colombia now) so when I see the multipack at the 99 Cent Only store I usually grab one.
I then empty out the box on my desk and divide the pieces up into groups of three. I chew three pieces at a time and then spit it out when the sugar is gone. Rinse, repeat. A whole box of 12 pieces might last an hour.
Sugarless gum is great for freshening breath and calming a queasy stomach, but Chicklets are like candy to me. But let’s face it, they’re just white tiles ... sometimes I want something pretty to chew on.
So the 99 Cent Only store didn’t have the Chiclets last time I was in there ... so I bought these gumballs (hey, at 4 for 99 cents, how could I resist?). Made by Wonka, they’re plain old large gumballs with Nerds inside.
They’re big gumballs and have a pleasant rattle when you shake them close to your ear. The Nerds inside are confetti colored and have no relation to the outside color/flavor of the gumball itself. Some gumballs had lots of Nerds in them, with 12 being about average. However, there were two gumballs (I consumed two packages) that had four or less.
The gum itself was ordinary with a light fruity flavor.
Orange: orange - mild and pleasant. The tart bump of the Nerds was nice and combined well with the sugary graininess of the gum.
Purple: grape - it had that bitter initial taste to it, which I suspect is the food coloring. The flavor was floral and fruity though it faded quickly but went well with the Nerds.
Red: cherry - a light cherry flavor and a slight bitter tinge but sweet and pleasant after the flavor was halfway gone.
Green: apple - I’m not sure what flavor this was, it was sweet and fruity and had a slight sour bite which goes nicely with the grainy tartness of the Nerds.
Yellow: lemon - sweet and tangy and probably the most flavorful of all of them, not that it lasted very long.
I’m not going to switch to these. The flavor wasn’t very intense, though the gum was nice and soft and had a good sugar charge to it that was supplemented by the Nerds. If you’re one of those people who likes to eat saltines with your gum for a nice crunch, these might be perfect for you.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Ah, the last chapter in the Green Halloween series! More lollies.
Yummy Earth introduced their new organic candies at All Candy Expo back in June and I was immediately entranced. They’re not just organic, they’re also vegan and gluten free, so even the most sensitive folks can have a treat.
The lollipops come in four different flavors which gives you some variety but the one that intrigued me most was the Pomegranate Pucker. They’re just getting into stores, so you may be seeing them at Whole Foods or other health food stores soon. I got some samples back in Chicago and promptly ate them, but I didn’t want to do a review from memory so I popped the Yummy folks a note and they sent me this super-cute “Personal Bin” that holds 5.6 ounces & 30 assorted pops (and some other new candies that I’ll share a review of in a few weeks).
Cheeky Lemon - very lemony, like someone threw a whole lemon in a blender and poured it over a stick. The whole lemon taste is here, from the juice to the rind. It’s more of a grown-up lemon flavor than a kids one. The zest part of it gets really intense though never technically bitter, it gives me a kind of buzzy feeling on the inside of my lips after a while.
Pomegranate Pucker - dark and mysterious. It doesn’t taste quite like pomegranate to me but has a complex berry flavor to it with some elements that reminded me of red wine. Smooth and tangy, it’s quite different from other candy flavors and of course isn’t as messy as eating a real pomegranate (oh, how many shirts have I ruined with pomegranate squirts).
Wet-Face Watermelon - sweet, tangy and with a nice floral melon scent that really tastes like watermelon without that bitter chemical aftertaste that I’ve been getting lately from artificially flavored candies. The color is like a watermelon sorbet.
Orange Squeeze - wonderful mix of zesty and tart, like eating a spoonful of concentrated orange juice.
Razzmatazz Berry (not pictured) - it’s like a fruit punch, kind of raspberry, nicely tart and flavorful.
If you’ve got kids and want to give them little treats or are looking for something for your Halloween basket, this might be the thing. My only recommendation for children is to pick out the Lemon ones, They’re great, I just think that kids aren’t going to like them as much as the other flavors. You still might be able to order online before Halloween!
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Last night I watched The Secret Life Of ... on Food Newtork. The topic was Sweet and Sour and part of the episode featured the All Candy Expo in Chicago. Jim O’Connor covered Lemonheads (a special fave of mine), traced the development of America’s Sour Tooth and of course toured the Expo floor.
Then part of the episode took a turn towards a product line called Too Tarts, made by Innovative Candy Concepts. This post is not a product review, because I absolutely refuse to eat the products on purpose. They’re shamefully misrepresented.
The package I picked up at All Candy Expo was purely by accident. I was sitting in a seminar and they were in a bowl and both me and the other folks at my table idly grabbed a bag and dug in. I spit mine out and so did the fellow next to me. It was seriously foul - the chew was rubbery and the taste was instantly fake and had a strong aftertaste. The package says they’re Real Fruit & Honey with NO REFINED SUGAR ... “up to 5 times more natural ingredients than any other fruit candy snack” ...blah, blah, blah. What they don’t holler at you on the front is that there are TWO different artificial sweeteners in there ... Acesulfame Potassium and Sucralose.
Acesulfame Potassium is also known as AceK. It’s 180 times sweeter than sugar and is not retained by the body. It’s known for a bitter aftertaste so it’s often used in conjunction with other sweeteners. In this case it’s Sucralose (found in Splenda), which more than 500 times as sweet as sugar and is also not retained by the body. If you’re curious about artificial sweeteners and their possible cancer causing/nerve damage potential, cruise around the ‘net.
Now, you might wonder why I rage against artificial sweeteners. Yes, I have a bad reaction to aspartame, but I actually believe they have their place. However, their place is not in candies marketed for otherwise healthy children. Childhood is time of training our bodies to understand what we put into them and learning our satiety levels with different foods. Part of how our bodies and brains judge how many calories we’re consuming has to do with how sweet they are. They’ve done studies and have shown that there may be some connection between diet sodas and obesity because the body is no longer able to judge properly how many calories it’s taking in. If adults are messed up with this stuff, what will it do to kids who consume it from a young age? What’s worse is these candies are making it look like they’re sweetened with either honey or fruit juice. Sure, the package says “No Refined Sugar!” But it doesn’t once mention the complex chemical compounds called ‘sweeteners’ they’re putting in there except in the fine print of the ingredients.
There’s no reason to give kids fake candy ... there are other options for sweet treats out there. Please read the packages carefully. I’m irritated that this candy exists and further irritated that Food Network gave them such a huge feature without ever mentioning the presence of artificial sweeteners in the candy.
Monday, October 16, 2006
About a month ago I went off to visit another candy factory. This one is out in Covina, CA and is run by David Klein, inventor of the Jelly Belly jelly bean, so I know he’s got an inventive mind. His current candy life involved a product called Sandy Candy.
Sandy Candy is like sand art, but it’s made from candy powder (ala Pixy Stix). You can buy
kits and then pour the different candy powders into tubes and bottles, creating tasty, colorful layers.
While there on site he showed me some new products he’s working on, which involved using large panning machines (they look like cement mixers). But of course the bulk of his operation is devoted to the Sandy Candy which is HUGELY popular with clubs and groups.
The kit comes with the candy powder in little bottles (like travel-sized shampoo). Just flip the top and tip them over to fill up the little tube. You can make your candy tube according to the flavors (which are marked on the bottoms) or by color (the bottles are milky-translucent, so the actual product is brighter in the tube). The powder itself is far smoother and finer than Pixy Stix which have always been a bit grainy.
Tangerine (light orange)- come to mamma! Tart and citrusy with a little more zazz than a normal orange flavor. Goes well with most other flavors, which is a bonus.
Blue Raspberry (medium blue) - really nice. Tangy and floral and not as artificial tasting as it looked. And it’s seriously, deeply blue.
Watermelon (pink) - a sweet flavor, it’s fruity but has a very odd and very distinctive bitter aftertaste.
Banana (light yellow) - a sour banana, not just sweet. Good flavor but a little odd to have the tangy bite to it.
Root Beer (light brown) - I am in LOVE with this flavor. It’s soft on the tongue but has a nice spicy mellow feeling to it. It doesn’t mix well with most of the flavors.
Black Cherry (gray) - nice and tart with less medicine flavor and more of the lighter cherry notes. The color is not really black, but kind of a sparkly charcoal gray.
Pear (medium green) - tangier than I expected with only a slight hint of pear.
Green Apple (light green) - good and tart and with a strong artificial taste that I come to expect from green apple. A winner.
Wild Berry - (purply gray) - smells like cotton candy and tastes like strawberry and raspberry. Fruity and with a little tart zing.
Cotton Candy (light blue) - sweet and slightly tangy but with no other flavor. Not really cotton candy in my book.
Grape (medium purple) - very sweet and with a good fake grape flavor that one expects. Not tangy though.
Lemonade (medium yellow) - super tart but not much flavor. A winner.
Wild Cherry (medium red) - nice and tart with a good blast of cherry flavor. Not at all different from black cherry except for the color.
Fruit Punch (medium blue) - sour and floral with a very ordinary punch flavor going on.
Bubble Gum (blue/purple) - sour ... why is it sour? I should be sweet with a hint of cotton candy or strawberry or wintergreen in there.
Tart Apple (white) - pretty much green apple, but not green.
Cherry Cola (medium red) - definitely cola and definitely cherry. Blech. (Just not my thing)
Wild Berry (medium purple) - yes, berry! Sweet and tart and floral and really tasty. A winner.
Key Lime (light green) - lime with a slight soft flavor to it but still some tang.
Lemon Lime (light green) - lemon and lime, reminds me of Koolaid (and not in a bad way). A little tangy but with good flavor.
When you combine all of the above you’ll find your tongue becomes and dark green/black color.
Phew! You might think that’s all, but it’s not. That’s just what was in my two tower assortments. Other sweet flavors include: Sweet Cherry, Orange Creme, Sweet Vanilla Cola, Chery Creme, Sweet Fruit Punch, Sweet Lemonade, Cola Blue, Lime Creme & Strawberry. Personally I think the Banana and Cotton Candy flavors should be sweet, not tart, but who am I to argue?
Then there’s more! Another line includes Candy Pebbles, which are kind of like Wonka Nerds, but a little smaller. They’re about the size of sesame seeds with a good light crunch and zap of flavor. What’s really cool about these isn’t just that they can be used in the Sandy Candy Art, but that you can use them for other things. I think they’d be great as an actual flavored cupcake topper instead of lame plastic tasting jimmies.
Kits can be ordered with the mini bottles for home use or with big ketchup-sized bottles for large events. They look like a great fundraiser for a school fair or just an activity to do with kids where they get to eat what they create. The little 6 inch tubes that came with mine are a good amount of candy, about the size of five single Pixy Stix, so they’re not going to get too amped up.
If you’re someone who always wanted to order Pixy Stix by the pint, your search is over. I ate the whole Lemonade bottle while typing up this review. And part of the Root Beer ... hey, they’re both drinks, aren’t they?
If anyone out there has ever used these, please let me know how it went. It looks super-simple and now that I have this huge kit, I wish I had some kids around to play with it.
There are two ways to order. For retail orders go to SandyCandy.com. For wholesale orders go to NiftyCandy.com. The extra large kit shown here is $50 and has 50 candy straws and includes 20 bottles of different flavors. Smaller kits are also available.
I give the whole kit a 7 out of 10. I really love the concept and think that it’s great fun for kids, especially if you spring for the fun shaped bottles. The variety of flavors is great, especially the fact that there’s Root Beer in there! The only drawback is the difficulty of ordering and the packaging isn’t really that all that exciting. (If I could just order single bottles of my favorite flavors, well, I’d be in trouble.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.