Monday, August 18, 2014
It seems odd that I picked up Jelly Belly jelly beans while I was in London, but this particular box isn’t available here. I bought this cute little pocket-sized flip-top box of Jelly Belly Beanaturals: 14 Flavors at Selfridges.
These beans are made in Thailand. In fact, if you see Jelly Belly candy in a store outside of North America, it’s probably going to be the Thai-made version. Many European countries have strict rules about genetically modified ingredients, the factory there uses non-GMO sugar and non-GMO glucose syrup (from tapioca instead of corn. (You can read more about that here.)
So, in addition to being free of any GMO ingredients, the beans are also made with all natural flavorings and colorings. They’re kosher, made in a nut free facility and gluten free. This is actually not that different from many of the jelly beans and other candies that Jelly Belly offers ... except for that GMO thing. Jelly Belly has plenty of beans mixes that are all natural ... so what I’m really trying out here is the European version.
The box is not large and only holds 1.59 ounces, so there were not even that many beans in there considering there were going to be 14 different flavors. In my assortment I had six Lime. Only one Barbecue Banana, but six Lime beans. These are the hazards of random distribution.
The first thing I noticed was how quickly the beans lose their freshness. The box was shrinkwrapped, and when I photographed them over the weekend, the beans I ate were soft and normal. But later in the week, oh, about Wednesday, when I worked on this post in earnest, they were suddenly hard. They were kept in the flip top box, closed, out of the sun and within a reasonable temperature span. Yet they were stiff and, well, stale.
Lime (light green) is nicely rounded, a little bitter towards the end and missing more of the juicy tartness.
Plum (dark maroon) is sweet and sort of like actual plum ...maybe just the plum skin but not much of the fruity, juicy notes.
Barbecue Banana (speckled yellow) is quite nice. Very sweet but the banana does have more of a baked sweetness to it, instead of the artificial vanilla note. I actually thought I only had one of these until I realized later that I had a bunch of opaque yellow ones that weren’t lemon leftover that were banana. Yum.
Orange (orange) is sweet but with a zesty note towards the end. It reminded me more of an orange jelly slice than a jelly bean as it lacked that tart bite.
Tangerine (orange) was really similar to the orange, so much so, I wasn’t sure they were different except that there were several of those and they were definitely a lighter orange. I wanted something intensely orange with that hint of lemon that real tangerines have. They were fine, but I really had my hopes up.
Lemon (yellow) was in the citrus zone that I hoped Tangerine would be. It was both sweet and tart and had a strong lemon peel bitterness at the top.
Cherry (red) was good. It was fruity without any hint of the bitterness that artificial colors can bring. The flavor also lasted a while, with a sort of jasmine floral finish.
Strawberry Jam (light pink) was actually more like jam than fresh strawberries. This left it more on the sweet side, without that delightful cotton candy floral note, but still good and nice in combination with my many Lime beans.
Juicy Pear (medium green) was weird and grassy and maybe even a little garlicky ... to the point where I was wondering if I got a Bernie Bott’s bean by mistake. But I only had one of these beans, so there was no way for me to get someone else’s opinion.
Pineapple (uncolored) was bland overall, like canned pineapple instead of the fresh stuff. Too much syrup and not enough acid.
Passion Fruit (speckled orange) is okay, it actually didn’t taste like much except for that generic “tropical candle” flavor.
Coconut (white with small speckles) tastes undeniably like coconut. It just does. Sometimes I thought there were actually coconut bits in it. You’d think it would go well with Pineapple ... and you’d be right.
Yup, there’s one missing here ... I didn’t get any Fruit Punch in my box. I’m okay with that.
I don’t think I’ve had this issue with the beans getting really hard so quickly before. Jelly Beans are one of those candies that is intended to be put in an open container for serving ... a bowl of jelly beans. If they can’t take being in a closed but not sealed box for several days without losing their freshness, I’m not sure I can commit to eating the full box (I know, it’s less than 2 ounces) within a day.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
One of the items I previewed at the Fancy Food Show back in January was something that might not even be candy. It’s called Hot Chocolate Mochi Krunch and it’s made by Impressions Fine Foods.
The product is a dark chocolate covered spicy tamari brown rice cracker. The crackers are made in Thailand, but they’re covered in chocolate right here in the US.
I finally found them at Marukai Forum in Gardena this weekend (while on an epic attempt to find Japanese KitKats for sale in Los Angeles). There are two varieties, the other is a non-spiced cracker covered in chocolate.
I’ve had other chocolate covered rice cracker candies before - usually the little banana shaped ones. This version is different in that the cracker is, well, cracker sized.
They look rather like giant snowflakes or stars. Each piece is about one inch across - kind of like a chocolate covered Honeycomb cereal piece.
They smell really intense. The scent is a cross between dark Dutched cocoa and soy sauce which is a woodsy caramelized grain smell.
The chocolate outside is a bit sweet immediately, but crunching into the cracker immediately releases the hot. The spice is a blend of chili and perhaps a little toasted sesame with a dash of salt. The sweetness of the chocolate dissipates quickly though the smoky flavors linger. The cereal flavors of the rice cracker kind of pull it all together at the end and quench the fire of the chili.
The whole effect is more savory than sweet, more snack than decadence.
I found myself munching on them and eating half the package in one day. They’re rather sizable & airy pieces so it feels like I ate a lot.
Yeah, I expect I’ll get them again. I might even try the plain version.
For those of you in the Los Angeles area, if you’re a fan of Japanese cooking, definitely stop by the Marukai Forum, it’s a membership store but it’s only a dollar for the day pass. I picked up HiCHEW on sale for 3 packages for 98 cents and Meiji Lucky (like Pocky) for only 49 cents a box. Great prices - especially for items on special, huge selection and not too far from the freeways. If you’re making an afternoon out of it, the Mitsuwa Marketplace is also just a couple of miles away down Western Ave in Torrance. They have a similarly large selection and good food court.
But if you’re also on the prowl for Japanese cuisine, I love spending time in Little Tokyo downtown which also has a Marukai Market plus another small grocery called Nijiya. (The Mitsuwa at 3rd and Alameda closed earlier this year.)
Monday, February 2, 2009
I could talk about the fact that this candy bar is unlike any other that I’ve ever tried.
I could talk about how it is the antithesis of most new candy bar launches: it has no extra fortification of vitamins or caffeine or omega3 fatty acids. There are no marketing tie ins, it’s barely even branded with the name of the company that puts it out. It’s not low in calories, it’s not made from 100% recycled plastic it’s not biodegradable.
I could talk about what I think a wazoo is (and dictionaries agree).
I could talk about the cultural references it brought to mind. Like Woody Allen’s Sleeper, in which his character finds out when he wakes up 200 years in the future that all the organic rice, wheat germ and tiger’s milk are inferior to steak, hot fudge and cream pies.
Mostly it made me think about the late George Carlin had a bit in his stand-up back in the 70s about blue food:
Instead of all that, I’ll try to stay clinical.
The Blue Razz Wazoo is similar in format to a bar like 3 Musketeers, though a bit smaller. It clocks in at only 1.6 ounces and is about 4.5 inches long.
The structure is pretty easy to understand. Two layers of flavored chewy filling covered in a blue version of a white confectionery coating and then sprinkled with festive colored crunchies.
The bar smells like raspberry. It smells a lot. If you are looking for a way to freshen up your house and don’t want to splurge for an air freshener, pop down to 7-11 and pick up one of these. Put slices of the bar on saucers in every room in the house. The scent is actually rather nice, it has booth the floral perfume and the woodsy seed notes down pretty well.
The assortment of crunchies are fun, and they’re actually flavored too, a little tangy berry flavor to them. (The package says they’re made in Thailand, the rest of the bar is made in the USA.)
Biting into the bar, it’s a soft nougat texture with a tangy raspberry flavor to it. One layer is sweet and the other has the tart bite to it. It’s a little grainy towards the end of the chew, kind of like a fluffy AirHead. The blue confectionery coating is also flavored (or if it wasn’t when it was put on there, but the time it gets to the consumer, it’s been infiltrated by the plethora of raspberry).
Frankly, it’s not a bad bar. It’s funky looking and I can see that being a huge appeal to kids. The package design does portray the bar accurately. It’s certainly different, so I didn’t feel like it was a retread of other bars that have been around for ages.
So kudos for Topps for coming up with something original. I think the name is unfortunate. (Do they not have an internet connection at the Topps research and development facility? Or participate in English-speaking culture?) But then again, I never would have thought the Baby Bottle Pops would be such a huge sensation. I can’t see myself buying this again ... though I’ll be curious to see if other flavor variations come out.
Topps finally included the Wazoo on the website. They’ve also launched an advertising campaign. Here’s a commercial:
If you enjoyed that, or were freaked out by it, you might really like these outtakes from the commercial shoot.
For those having difficulty getting a hold of the candy, they may be a little hard to come by. According to one of my industry insiders, there have been some manufacturing difficulties that may interrupt shipping.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:24 am
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.
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.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Aji Ichiban is a chain of stores that sells dried and cured fruits as well as candy by the pound.
I went to the location in Chinatown in New York City while I was there. The store was kind of small and the woman behind the counter barked at me when I took some photos. This one was taken from the street. I actually think they’re doing their customers a disservice when they can’t take photos, because that’s the only reason I know what some of the candy is. It’s marked in the bins, but not on the wrappers.
They have a large selection of bins that contains individually wrapped candies or salted fruits or nuts and rice snacks. There are even samples of the fruits by the bins, but I made the mistake of taking what I thought was dried ginger and it turned out to be a salted plum. Quite a shock and made me parched instantly.
It’s not a huge store, but then again, they don’t have large tubs of everything. A third of the display space is for snacks and dried fruit, the rest is candy. Most of the candy is a mix & match by the pound, but some of it you could buy prepacked.
I liked just about everything in this mix. I chose carefully, so this is a good sign about the way that the packages are marked. Some have English on them, most are just pictures and sometimes the bin they were in at the store had some clues about the contents. Items came from all over Asia, some marked from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Japan.
I got some super fizzy sours, something called Zour Bomb, which was a cross between a cola flavored hard candy and a Zotz. However, partway through it got a minty flavor to it that kind of turned me off. The outside was dusty looking and super sour, then a hard candy and then the inside had another reservoir of sour. It also came in Lemon which was excellent.
Another was a little orange packet called Sour + from Lot100. It had little orange faces on it making sour impressions. It was a gummi, soft and about the size of a gumdrop with a sugar sand on it. Whoo, it was sour to start, then the soft gummi had a nice orange flavor to it. I would definitely buy these again. I wonder if they come in pineapple. That’d be cool.
Lot100 also had a nice Cola hard candy. It looked a little odd in that it was a plain red hard candy. It tasted like cola but had a slight hint of cinnamon.
Not everything from Lot100 was a hit - I had a rather promising Mango gummi that just didn’t quite hit the right balance. The texture was fantastic, plump and moist with a nice tart note but the mango “flavor” was less “pine meets melon” and more “burnt rubber.” Too bad.
Kasugai had a good assortment of fruit gummis, which I’ve reviewed before. I picked up Litchi and Muscat this time. They’re called super juicy on the label and they are plenty soft, but the litchi was a little flavorless and almost like a Turkish Delight. Muscat smelled wonderful and had a bit more complex flavor, something like white grape and orange blossom.
There was also a line of Milk candies that had calcium in them that came in interesting flavors like chocolate, vanilla and also red bean. They had an odd, firm, fluffed latexy quality to them, kind of like Hi-CHEW. I have no idea how much calcium is actually in it, but they were super soft and very satisfying. The vanilla was a little bland and the chocolate was kind of like a bouncy Tootsie roll, but I really liked the red bean. I mean, I really liked it. I’m sorry they’re gone now.
I picked up a few tea flavored candies, one from Thailand called Didi Honey Lemon Tea Candy was particularly nice. Only slightly tart, there was a nice play between tea and honey in there. The other brand was Cister from Malaysia wasn’t as pleasant looking (brown) but had a much stronger tea flavor and some mint thrown in (which made it taste more like a Ricola drop).
Another assortment were called S’Creams and were just hard candies with a milky swirl to them, kind of like Lifesaver’s Creamsavers. They were pleasant enough, with a Werther’s-like crunch if you bit them but a good tangy hit too to keep them interesting and satisfying. I picked up Orange, Strawberry and Melon.
There were a few flavors of these, I picked up Pudding Marshmallow, Grape Marshmallow, Mango Marshmallow and then two that have no English text on them - one has purple on its wrapper and the other has pink.
Mango Marshmallow - shown above - sucked royally. I had two of them, I at that bite of one and I gave the other to Amy, who promptly spit it out in my trash can. Why is it bad? It just is ... don’t make me think about it.
Pudding Marshmallow - it looks suspiciously like Mango, but thankfully is quite nice. It’s a marshmallow with a little lump of creamy, dulce de leche tasting filling in the middle. Not quite fudge, not quite creme, but pleasant and a little artificially vanilla tasting but with a tasty hit of salt.
Chocolate Marshmallow - there was no indication what this was, just a pink wrapper. The chocolate was a cross between frosting and a Tootsie roll. Not as good as the pudding one, but I liked it.
Grape Marshmallow - hmm, it was okay, but the grape filling was like cheap jelly and it just didn’t appeal much to me.
Basically, Aji Ichiban is as much of an adventure as you want it to be. You can grab a pound of simple mixed candies that you know and love or you can push the boundaries of your taste experiences and just shovel them into your bag blindly and see what happens.
I think the candy is horribly expensive for pure sugar stuff - $10 a pound is way up there even for the fancy fruit candies from Italy that I see at Zabars or something. But the variety is pretty special and with no minimums and the ability to mix and match is a huge plus. You can also order online, but there’s a half-pound minimum with most candies and of course the selection is limited. They have stores in several large cities across the edges of the United States, but they don’t have the addresses on their site.
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Name: United Coffee Candy
Two different kinds of coffee hard candy. United Coffee Candy is from Thailand and the candies are little, flat rectangles and the Bali’s Best are from Indonesia (Bali) and are circular. Both have similar ingredients - leading with Sugar, then Glucose Syrup with Bali’s Best adding a little dried milk and then both round it out with coffee powder and oil. Pretty simple, and both get it absolutey right.
Each of them are crisp and densely rich. Sweet but with a robust and full sweet coffee flavor. Bali’s is just a little creamier because of the milk powder, but it also has a little more of a bitter twang to it.
Though the shapes are different, each are individually wrapped in sealed pouches.
Both are definitely keepers, something I’ll keep in the car or my purse or even the desk drawer. Easy to share and since I’m the type who likes to crunch her hard candies, these are very satisfying with a toffee consistency.
Rating: 8 out of 10.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.