Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Maria Sharapova, one of the top tennis players in the world, launched a line of candy last year, called Sugarpova. (She even briefly tried to change her name to Maria Sugarpova for the 2013 US Open, but ended up not participating due to a shoulder injury.) The new candy line is made in Spain by the confectionery company Fini. There are over a dozen different candies in her line, all sugar candies like gummis and chews, with fun names like Flirty, Sassy and Chic.
The logo on the front of each package is a pair of lips. The packaging and candy shapes have little to do with tennis, except for the gumballs. I’ve actually tried these gumballs before in a larger size, but only in the traditional yellow color. (See the original review here.)
I ordered the candy online from an eBay sports equipment store, the bags are priced rather steep at $5.95 for only 5 ounces. That calculates to over $19 per pound, which is pretty absurd for sugar candy that’s not made from special ingredients like all natural flavorings, non-GMO corn syrup or organic sugar.
Sugarpova Sporty Mix Bubble Gum come in five color/flavor combinations: orange, pink, yellow, blue and green. The pieces are about .75 inches across (about half the diameter of the jawbreaker version I tried previously). They’re also available separately, in Pink and standard Tennis Yellow. I chose the mix so that I could try as many flavors as possible.
The gumballs are made with sugar, no artificial sweeteners. One of the colorings is carmine, so they’re not appropriate for vegetarians.
Yellow is lemon-lime and is rather bland for the most part but with an oddly strong zest note to it. There’s a grainy filling inside the ball, but that just seemed sweet to me.
Orange is quite mild, it’s sweet with the only burst of real flavor coming from the sandy filling, in this case, it was tart.
Blue is raspberry and quite nice for a berry flavored gum. The floral notes are a bit perfumey, but it also has a lot longer lasting flavor than some of the others.
Pink was difficult to discern completely, I felt it was a pink lemonade flavor, it was different from the lemon-lime, it was more like a standard lemonade drink mix, a little tangy and less zesty.
Green was watermelon. I didn’t care for this at all, it had the requisite melon and cucumber notes, but was far too sweet overall.
The chew was good, the sugar melts away pretty quickly and the chew is pretty soft and easy to blow bubbles. Eventually, though, after about twenty minutes of chewing, there really is nothing left of the flavor or sweetness and it becomes too stiff for chewing or bubbles.
There are three different styles of gummis in the package. One is the standard fruity gummi, one is what I’d call the yogurt style gummi, which is usually opaque and pastel, and the third is the foamy base gummi, which has a bit of marshmallow in it.
The gummi octopus was fun because they were multicolored and each color was a different flavor. So they’re similar to gummi worms. Each piece had three flavors or so, something in a range of lemon, grape, strawberry, raspberry and cherry. It’s all soft with a good texture though the flavor was far more mild than I’m accustomed to with Haribo or Albanese.
The flat swirly fish are what I’d call the yogurt style. There’s a creamy component to the flavor. The pink version was like a strawberry cheesecake flavor. It was sweet and had a creamy note along with a tartness. The floral flavors of the berry were less jammy than some other clear gummis. The green version was similar, milder than a transparent version, with a vague green apple flavor.
The foamy base gummis looked like sharks. This is a popular candy, a lot of different gummi companies make a version of these. This is a very flavorful version, soft and chewy, the marshmallow has a strong vanilla flavor and the blue shark top is strawberry. The other red and blue whale looking gummi was similar, except that the domed center had a softer goo inside - not a full syrup, just a softer jelly center.
The sea turtles were about the best of the bunch, vanilla base and flavored gummi tops. The orange was like a creamsicle and blue was a nicely rendered raspberry.
Fini is a nice, mid-range brand of sugar candy sold rarely in the United States under their own brand. You can find them in bulk bins, mostly as sour sanded, fruity licorice ropes and tape. But there’s nothing to merit the price of these though the packaging is decent enough. As far as Sugarpova goes, they’ve done a good job curating a specific set of candies and packaging them in a way that makes them appealing. But aside from the gumballs, there’s very little unique in the candy line otherwise.
The gummis and gum are gluten free. For those people who are sensitive be careful to read the labels on all the packages, as some varieties do contain wheat and soy.
Friday, July 12, 2013
I went through my list of candies that I haven’t reviewed and wanted to do a little roundup with at least some basic impressions. Today I have a little theme of Figs, since I had four products with fig as an element still sitting in the review queue.
I have a black fig tree in my back yard, this photo shows what was the best harvest of my 15 years in this home way back in 2006. This year I got one delicious fig off the tree, then returned two days later in hopes that the others were ripe only to find that the critters got them all. So I must turn to candy for my fig fix. (Well, that’s not entirely true, I buy fresh figs from time to time and dried ones as well.)
The packaging is mostly utilitarian but did an excellent job of protecting the chocolates inside. They’re not as decadent as some others I’ve had that might be soaked in liquor or filled with ganache. Instead this is the simple pleasure of dark chocolate and a sugary and crunchy whole, dried fig.
They were tasty, I enjoy the leathery and smoky notes of dried figs and chocolate. The chocolate was a little on the sweet side, I like a rather bitter chocolate with my very-sweet dried fruits. The figs were also a bit tough, but I suppose all that chewing just made them last longer.
For some reason I never documented the wrapper on this one, which is too bad. It’s the Dick Taylor Fig bar. It’s made in Arcata, CA, a place I used to live. It’s another bean-to-bar artisan chocolate company.
In this case the bar was beautifully molded and had all the things I liked about the fig/dark chocolate combo. There were lots of fruit and tannic notes, a bit of wood, tobacco and smoke. It was expensive though (I picked up the bar in NYC at The Meadow), I think about $9.00.
I finally found Liddabit in NYC when I was there last year, then a few months later there were places in Los Angeles selling them and a friend gave me this box of Liddabit Sweets Fig Ricotta Caramels.
The pieces are wrapped in wax paper. I wanted to love them, but there was something that wasn’t quite caramelly enough and not quite cheesy enough and lacking in the oomph and power of figs It could be the balsamic vinegar was too much tangy for a sweet. I love Liddabit’s bars, but I find that I’m very picky about caramels, especially when they have so many elements going on.
Little did I realize the extraordinary packaging within. First, the three ounce package has three one ounce bars. Each is individually wrapped in foil, then has a sleeve with a black and white fashion photos (each is different). They’re all tucked into the envelope style paperboard box. (All using recycled packaging.)
Dove and Seeds of Change (both run by Mars) tried this style of packaging a few years ago, but reverted back to the single bar. Personally, I prefer the inner wrapped portions, because I don’t eat a 3 ounce bar in one sitting and don’t have enough friends who can share one ounce portions at the same time. It’s easy to pull one out and toss it in a lunch bar or purse as well.
The chocolate itself is good, it’s quite dark and Seattle Chocolates definitely did well in their sourcing for this assortment of bars. In the line of bars there are a few quirky hipster sort of versions like Agave Quinoa Sesame but others are classic like Veracruz Orange.
I didn’t think there were enough bits of fig and pistachio in there, or maybe they weren’t distributed well. There’s a bit of salt, I think from the pistachios, that again wasn’t distributed well. On the whole it was good, but I only ate one of the three bars. It’s all Kosher and all natural.
On the whole, I want to give this line another try but they’re not a bean to bar company. So I find myself drawn to other bars that are truly unique and am probably missing out on products like the JCoCo line which is more of what I’d call a curated product - where the chocolatier sources finished chocolate and formulates inclusions and flavor combinations themselves.
Though I don’t think I found a new favorite in this series of explorations, all were good. (I think if I were to go buy a fig and chocolate item right now, it would be the Compartes chocolate covered figs.)
Monday, December 31, 2012
The gummis are a tropical flavor mix, as you’d expect. The shapes are that of pineapples, toucans, bananas and palm trees. In addition, the texture is a little softer and less chewy than the more rubbery gummis.
I picked up my bag at Cost Plus World Market. It was $1.89, but sometimes they have sales for $1.25 a bag or so if you’re a bit Haribo fan it’s worth waiting for. This particular gummi candy is made in Spain, unlike most other Haribo gummis available in the US, which are made in Turkey.
What’s most interesting about these gummis is not the flavor variety but the style of the gummi itself. It’s very different from the tough and clear version of the Gold Bears. These are muted in color and have a sort of chalky exterior. They not shiny or terribly translucent. The coating is a little like a jelly bean, it has a small crunch to it, but not the same graininess. The interior is also not as chewy as a regular gummi, it’s a cross between a jelly and a gummi. It’s soft, pliable, sticky and juicy.
Banana (Yellow) - this is an exceptionally uncommon flavor for a gummi, so I relished trying it. It’s a good flavor, it’s a little like a slight unripe banana, in that there’s a light tartness to it. But what’s missing is that overly fake banana note that comes with the too sweet artificial banana candies.
Currant (Darker Red) - has an interesting balsam note to it, it’s less about the florals and more about the woodsy seed flavors. It’s definitely not what I would consider a tropical fruit.
Watermelon (Green) - It’s lightly tart with a well rounded juice flavor and a little dash of artificial Jolly Rancher to it.
Pineapple (Clear) - this is one of my favorite flavors, especially in Haribo gummis. This did not disappoint. It’s sweet, had a strong floral note and a distinct tartness.
Orange Mango (Peach) - tastes a bit bland, like a punch drink. It’s more citrusy than mango, but barely either.
Strawberry (Pink) - smells like cotton candy, it’s light and barely flavored, but so are many strawberries.
I like the change in texture and thought the Pineapple and Banana were really good, but the vibrant flavor profile I’m accustomed to with many other gummis was missing. So maybe this is for people who don’t like a lot of flavor ... like the Haribo equivalent of jelly beans.
Friday, August 10, 2012
Most bars are the standard tablet of 100 grams (or 3.5 ounces) but several years ago Valor came out with this handier single serving version. It’s thicker and easier control portions with only 1.59 ounces in the bar.
The bar is pretty and one of my favorite formats. For bars with nuts, I enjoy a thicker bar that’s not too wide so it’s easy to snap off a piece or bite it without mess.
The Valor bars, being from Spain, use Marcona Almonds. Marconas are a cultivar of almonds that are not as common in the United States. Here in California we grow about 80% of the world’s almonds, and nearly all are the nonpareil variety. Marconas are more rounded, rather flat and usually quite smooth. They’re also quite crunchy and less fibery than nonpareils.
The nut distribution was a little off. The first section had one almond (shown). The middle two sections had six almonds. The last section had none at all.
The milk chocolate is rather high in cacao, at 34%. There’s a little whey in the ingredients list way down at the end, which is forbidden in US chocolate by labeling standards (it’s really just a harmless filler). The chocolate is barely sweet, has a deep rich and malty flavor to it and has an almost salty note to it. It’s missing complex vanilla notes, which is probably because they don’t use real vanilla in the bar. It’s a very firm bar, even in this heat (I kept it in an air conditioned room though it’s still often 80 degrees in there) but I still found that it took longer in my mouth to melt than the standard Hershey’s, Cadbury or Dove.
The nuts go really well, they’re a more delicate flavor and that superb crunch is satisfying. The milk flavors are less sticky and more fresh tasting than the Swiss or British style, but almost goaty.
It’s a great bar when you want a less sweet chocolate that’s not too overpowering and difficult like a dark bar. The almonds make it much more filling, but I wanted a few more in there. This is something I’d definitely chose over a Cadbury Fruit & Nut or Hershey’s with Almond. I don’t know what the source of the cacao for Valor is, their website is vague (“all over the world”) so I can’t comment on the ethical policies of the company.
Friday, August 26, 2011
I picked up a couple of these little licorice ropes at Cost Plus World Market simply because I loved the package.
These little Gatos Licorice (Gatos Extracto de Regaliz) were pretty cheap for imported candies (these are from Spain), only 50 cents for a little .39 ounce bar. There’s slimmer and lighter than a Panda Licorice (Finnish) bar and perhaps a little drier.
The little bars are about 4.25 inches long and are actually thick tubes. They have a light anise and licorice scent with a few hints of charcoal and molasses. Each package has only 35 calories.
The texture is stiff, it’s a wheat base so I expected it to be like a Twizzler Nib. Instead it was dry though not completely crumbly. The flavor took a bit of chewing or dissolving to release but then I really enjoyed the strong licorice notes, which are soft and sweet, woodsy and herbal and a little acidic twang to it all. The molasses wasn’t strong, the toasted caramel flavors were mellow. It’s not a sweet candy at all, there’s even a bit of a bitter burnt note. There was a bit of a stale cereal vibe to the whole thing that I didn’t care for, but it was mostly at the start of the chew and dissipated as the licorice grew, sometimes wheat based products can be like that.
These are fun to pick up and keep tucked away in a pocket, since they’re so small. Of course the bold and distinctive wrapper with the yellow, red and grey tones were what attracted me (logo & more photos here), so it’s a bit of a conversation piece. I don’t think I’d buy them on a regular basis, but I’m curious to try some more of their products.
Friday, June 3, 2011
Mike and Ike are jelly bean rods sold in different fruity flavor combinations. The classic version, introduced in 1940, contains cherry, orange, lime, lemon and strawberry. They’re sold in boxes or little single serve bags. They’re, well, ordinary candies but comforting and dependable. Over the years there have been different flavor varieties introduced.
The twist today, is an actual twist. They’re called Mike and Ike Fruit Twists and instead of being a jelly candy, these are a wheat-based chew. That’s right, this is red licorice. The twist on the classic strawberry licorice twist is that these are filled.
Just Born has been making candy in Pennsylvania since 1923 but sometimes they outsource licensed products like this. So this one is made by a company called CandyRific in Spain. So its relationship with Mike and Ikes is pretty distant.
The Mike and Ike Strawberry Fruit Twists come in a green package with a bold Mike and Ike logo across the top. The branding is nicely done to fit with the existing Mike and Ike product line.
The king size package contains six twists. They’re formatted into two bars - each with three conjoined sets of twists that pull apart easily.
The twists are soft and pliable and rather shiny. The scent is a good imitation of strawberry, it reminds me of that strawberry glaze stuff you can get to make pie. The bite is good, not too chewy but still firm. The center of the red tubes is not quite creamy, but soft, like a paste made of Pixy Stix. It’s a little tart and has a mild strawberry punch flavor.
The combination of the two is a satisfying candy. I didn’t care for the artificial coloring aftertaste, which is kind of metallic and bitter.
Mike and Ike jelly candies come in at least eight different varieties and each is color coded. The orange package is my favorite version, Tangy Twister, so I was hoping that the Fruit Twists orange package would be similar.
The orange package is Mike and Ike Green Apple and Watermelon Fruit Twists. Like the Strawberry variety, the package heralds that they’re made with real fruit juice, are low in fat, contain 0 grams of trans fats and are a good source of vitamin C (that’d be 5% of your RDA per twist).
This package contains no conjoined triplets, instead it has six rectangulated twists neatly lined up inside. The red ones are Watermelon, and aside from not having any seams on the side from where they were joined to their brethren, they look exactly like the Strawberry. They smell like, well, ice cream. Not like any flavor of ice cream, just more like the muddled sweet smell of an ice cream shop. The flavor is mild and does actually taste like watermelon flavor. The tangy paste center is a little chalky but passable. The whole thing tasted a bit like modeling clay, there was something rather doughy about it, which could be the wheat flour.
The green ones were Green Apple which had the light scent of apple juice. The flavor was much more like actual apple juice than the Jolly Rancher fake apple flavor most candies go for. The tartness of the center helped out with juicing up the flavor profile. But again, the chew was a bit doughy and pasta like at times.
Overall, I found these lackluster. If you want a less-sour filled red licorice twist, well, this is probably what you’ve been looking for. They do fit well with the Mike and Ike brand, which is basically a mild jelly bean anyway. This product is coming to market kind of late. Twizzlers/Jolly Ranchers already has a version (and has had several iterations over the years) and Wonka has their Kazoozles.
I feel like they’re missing some real Mike and Ike-ness - maybe if they were little bullet shapes and sold in a box and actually came in an array of five flavors.
They’re not listed on the Mike and Ike website under the licensed products. I found these late last year at a wholesale store and then finally found them at retail at Walgreen’s. But I still can’t find much mention of them online, and Mark of Sugar Pressure noticed the same lack of marketing.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
For years I’ve seen references to La Higuera Rabitos Royale. They’re a decadent creation, a whole fig is dried and then stuffed with a brandy infused chocolate ganache, then the whole thing is dipped in another layer of chocolate.
The box is big though weighs very little. It’s an elegant 7 inch square with an appealing photo of the freshly dipped figs against a black background and then a sparely designed front that describes the product.
We select the best mediterranean [sic] figs, we stuff them with our truffle cream, we cover then with a thin layer of chocolate and then ... you get the most delightful experience..
I’ve seen them in cheese shops from time to time, but I’m hesitant to buy fresh chocolate products there as I’ve had a few bad experiences in the past and these are often very expensive (about $10 for a box of 9 figs). So when I saw them at Trader Joe’s for only $7, I figured this was the time to try them.
Inside the sleeve of the box is a tray that holds each individually wrapped bonbon. It’s a lot of packaging, but I understand the impulse to seal each one up, as the alcohol in infused chocolates can easily evaporate on store shelves. The package also warns that the nature of the real fig means that there might be some bloom on the product but that it would still be tasty and edible.
The little matte silver mylar protects the candies well, all were uncracked, though all had a few little moisture bloom speckles. (It looks more like sugary moisture is migrating from the filling instead of the cocoa butter moving out of the chocolate itself.) One of the things I noticed on the ingredients list is that the chocolate coating has a little fractionated vegetable oil in it, so it’s not a true chocolate shell. I didn’t notice that it affected the flavor profile or the texture. They smell sweet and woodsy with a definite brandy note to them. The pieces are firm but give way to a bite very easily. If they’re cold then the shell can crack a little, but at warmer room temperatures (in the 70s) they’re soft and the chocolate coating sticks. I like to bite mine in half.
The ganache center is strongly alcoholic - brandy liquor is the third ingredient in the filling after cream and glucose syrup. The brandy mixes well with the deep leathery and raisin flavors of the fig. The ganache is smooth and melts easily in the mouth. The chocolate shell is a thin veneer, so all it’s really doing is holding it all together, so I mostly forgive the splash of oil in there.
These are quite good and I found one or two to be more than satisfying. But it helps that the packaging is a little daunting, so I didn’t find myself eating the whole box at once like I might if they were just in fluted cups.
I don’t think you have to like figs to enjoy these, but it certainly helps. The seedy part of the figs aren’t a textural element, just the deep berry flavors of the dried fruit, which is pretty soft after being stuffed with liquor & cream. I liked that it wasn’t honey-sweet like some glace fig products can be. The chocolate is good quality and the rest of the ingredients are top notch - the chocolate flavors are well matched with good berry, woodsy and a little smoky note to them.
They’re a nice hostess gift though may present an etiquette problem as she may not want to share them with everyone. I don’t see myself picking these up often, but for an intimate cheese course or small treat after a meal with coffee they’re just the thing to replace a heavy dessert. I don’t begrudge the price, I imagine there’s a lot of labor involved in stuffing actual real figs, but they’re still expensive and hard to rationalize for more than the most special occasion or recipient.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
I hear there’s this bunch of football (soccer) games going on halfway around the world. When I say hear, I mean, hear. Literally, there are people in my neighborhood of have been watching it live and I can hear it in my house.
Fini is a Spanish confectionery company who makes mostly sugar candies like gummis, jellies and novelty gumballs. These World Cup themed gumballs are shaped like a football and feature a flavored liquid filling. They’re just called Bubble Gum Football - Liquid Filled.
The package has just four pieces in it, but each is a good mouthful for chewing, not quite enough for adequate bubble blowing (which is probably preferable to vuvuzela blowing even if it means people will step in gum, they’ll still have their hearing).
Each piece is .75 inches in diameter. I’m accustomed to soccer balls that are black and white with a hexagonal pattern. These are white (well, pink) with a red (well, darker pink) concentric circle pattern.
The flavor, I believe, is strawberry. The gum part has a light sugar coating, but it’s only barely crunchy. The grainy sugar of the gum itself is overshadowed by the tangy berry goo in the center. It’s a nice combination and the chew is soft and pliable for quite a while. When all that fades the bubble blowing can begin, but by then I’ve lost interest and have to toss that piece in favor of a new one.
Since Wimbledon is around the corner I thought I’d include another more convincing faux sports ball gum that I got. This was a little Tennis Ball Bubble Gum. The gumball is the one on the left, the one on the right is an actual tennis ball. Even though it doesn’t have a coating of fluffy fuzz, the surface at first glance has that texture and a dead on match for the color. The Fini website shows that these are sold in tubs that look like something a Tennis Club would buy to feed the ball machine. I’m sure they’re also in bulk and seen in vending machines for a quarter.
Because the piece is so large at 1.25 inches in diameter, I couldn’t just pop it in my mouth and chew. It was more of a bite/gnaw in half and then chew item. The innards are not a goo (though that’s what their website shows), it’s a little pile of sour crystals. At first when I opened it, it was like a little confectionery geode.
The flavor is a mild lemon-lime, almost like a Mountain Dew but sometimes I thought it had a green apple note. The chew was fresh and soft, and it got even softer as I chewed it before the sugar dissipated and it became stiffer. The bubble blowing capabilities were okay, not the best I’ve ever had in a gumball, but passable. The flavor didn’t stick around very long, but my style of gum chewing is to discard it after the sugar is gone anyway.
These are adequate as gum, but probably more attractive as a novelty item. For less than a dollar I’d probably pick up the World Cup themed ones, just because they did seem like descent quality and a little special for the event. The tennis ones are just amazing to look at, and for decorative purposes alone they will get many customers.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.