Friday, July 18, 2008
After my stellar experience with the Look! bar last month, Christine suggested in the comments that it was like Charleston Chews.
Honestly, I’ve avoided Charleston Chews, mostly because they have the dreaded mockolate coating. I bought a bar once before and upon opening, it was apparent that it wasn’t fresh or maybe that’s the way they were supposed to look, so I opted not to review it.
However, at the Walgreen’s the other day they were having a sale on theater box candy. I really wanted some Good & Plenty, but the sale was 3 for $3.00 instead of $1.50 each, so I obviously bought three boxes of candy. (The other was Crows.)
Charleston Chews are named after the dance craze of the 20s. Introduced in 1922 by the Fox-Cross Candy Company they’ve changed hands a few times, manufactured by Warner-Lambert and then Nabisco before being picked up by the Tootsie company in the 90s. Tootsie understands a good taffy chew. The design of the box is classic, as are many Tootsie items. It conveys what to expect, some sort of small white bar of chew covered in a delicious chocolatey coating.
Though the box tells me that these are Vanilla, I know that the long bars come in other flavors including Chocolate and Strawberry. I’ve never seen those in the mini chew size. (Which is too bad, because I think it’d be fun to be able to buy a mixed box.)
This box was so much better than the first bar I had, so things were encouraging. First, it has a cellophane overwrap. Second, the Walgreen’s where I usually shop has pretty good control over their temperature. I’ve never been in there and found it to be sweltering (and there are plenty of other drug stores in Southern California that have that problem and I won’t buy chocolate candy there ... or even chocolatey candy.)
The mockolate coating is kind of chalky looking but I figured that was because of the friction of rattling around in the box. The coating is thin, but enough to usually contain the fluffed chew in the center.
They smell sweet, like vanilla candles. It’s soft enough to bite in half or simply chew up. It’s a smooth chew to the very end (not like Starbursts or Sugar Babies which both disintegrate into a grainy mess).
The flavor is pleasant, the fake chocolate contributes next to nothing here, not even a little cocoa pop. But the chew is enjoyable enough that I ate most of the box (but didn’t have access to much other candy as I’m traveling). As a movie treat, they’re easy to eat mindlessly.
However, having had the Look! bar, which is a chew covered in real chocolate, this is a silly waste of my time. But I still think I’ll try the Strawberry & Chocolate varieties at some point.
These contain egg whites (and oodles of milk products) so are not suitable for vegans. Kosher.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Earlier this year I teased a new line of Dots from Tootsie. The single flavor boxes of the [Aristotelian] Elements line are based on the four elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Each of these elements is assigned a flavor and a not-found-in-nature color. (There’s actually a fifth element in Aristotle’s list, Ether, which makes up the stars and celestial bodies.)
The idea behind these elements was that they were combinations of heat and moisture, or lack thereof. So Water is wet and cold, Fire is hot and dry, etc. We now have an exceptionally complex table of the elements which takes a completely different approach to what makes up the physical world.
The packages for Dots Elements are quite striking. Black and neon, they’re hard to miss at the store as they stand out from other theater-sized boxed candies. (This is the only size I know that these come in so far.)
I didn’t buy these, instead Sera who was visiting Los Angeles last week shared her bounty of huge boxes with me (so look for her perspective soon).
The color is hard to describe, it’s translucent and reminds me of the color that results when you mix water with absinthe. Milky green.
The scent is, well, like walking into a Bed, Bath & Beyond. A strange floral smell that I can’t quite put my finger on.
The nice thing was that these were exceptionally fresh. The smooth bite gives way to a rather delicate sweet flavor.
I tastes very little like green tea to me, which usually has a rather grassy flavor to it. They’re fresh but a little cloying. They remind me a lot of Turkish Delight.
This was the most predictable flavor of the new line. What’s more, there used to be Hot Dots (made from 2004-06, I stumbled across some very old boxes at the 99 Cent Store in Hollywood late last year).
The color is a bit light, but that’s okay with me, as I don’t need the bitter food coloring especially when there’s only one flavor in the box.
These don’t smell like much at all, but have a pleasant cinnamon bite to the. Not too sweet either, there are little pockets of sizzle now and then, they remind me of Spearmint Leaves.
I’d be pretty happy if these stuck around.
This color was freaky ocean blue ... unless you put them under florescent lights and then they were more green.
Like the cinnamon they don’t smell like much.
These seemed a bit firmer than the rest but still had a smooth chew to them.
The wintergreen flavor is pretty strong and brings to mind things like root beer (pleasant), teaberry gum (yum) and ben gay (ewww).
They feel fresh. But I’m always hesitant to eat wintergreen things because so many people have a visceral reaction to them. The good thing is that until you chew them up, no one knows what they are.
This is the only fruit flavor among the group and it makes sense that it represents the earth. The pomegranate was actually cultivated in Aristotle’s time and had great cultural significance.
As daring as I thought the green tea flavor was, I think pomegranate is pretty high up there. I love pomegranates though I don’t eat them as much as I used to. Real pomegranates are intense with a combination of tart berry flavors, a dark drying quality in the mouth and of course a deep syrupy sweetness. Oh, and they’re very pretty both on the tree (they look like huge rose hips) and taken apart in a bowl.
Instead of being a garnet-colored drop these are purple, which I guess is what color pomegranate juice is. This is the only Dot in this group that has a touch of tanginess to it. The flavor doesn’t really feel like pomegranate. If someone gave these to me I’d just say that they’re cherry-berry.
On the whole, I actually think they’re a good effort. They’re different, the hook of the elements had me more than interested and of course they’re dirt cheap. It’s a bit different for Dots to have just one flavor in a box, so you’d really better like it. I finished the cinnamon first, then the green tea, then the wintergreen and I still have some pomegranate left.
Dots are a starch-thickened candy, so there’s no gelatin in there. These are suitable for vegetarians and even vegans.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
This is what I remember about the original Tootsie Pop Drops: they were about the size of a quarter, they came in all the Tootsie Pop flavors and they were individually wrapped.
The new version differs in two ways from that: they are not individually wrapped and they are smaller (about the same diameter as a penny).
The do still come in the same flavors as the regular lollies.
Tootsie Pop Drops are marketed as Tootsie Pops without the Stick! I also like to think that they are Tootsie Pops without as much packaging (after all, they’re not individually wrapped and have no rolled-paper stick). Perhaps they’re the eco-sensitive Tootsie Pop!
The original version was sold (to the best of my recollection) either in bulk bins or in pre-pack bags of at least 10 ounces or so, just like Tootsie Rolls. There was no single serve package available.
Out of the little plasticized foil pouch they’re a bit dusty (I wiped them off for the photo, cuz I like my candy dead sexy), probably from the friction of rubbing together making candy dust. They’re pretty easy to tell apart, really only the chocolate and grape are a bit difficult to discern from time to time. There were about 16 drops to a bag.
They fit in the mouth nicely and the best thing about them is that they’re much smoother than the Tootsie Pops.
If there’s one thing that I can’t stand about Tootsie Pops it’s that they’re real mouth-abusers. There are little voids and air bubbles in the candy that get sharp and have a tendency to cause little tears on the roof of my mouth.
These fit easily in the roof of the mouth and for some reason have no bubbles or sharp bits.
I liked the old larger size, if only because the proportions more closely resembled a Tootsie Pop. These are more like the dreadful Blow Pop Minis, except they don’t suck. For some reason, I don’t mind a little nibble of Tootsie Roll at the center instead of nugget, probably because it’s a Tootsie Roll, which I prefer in combination, not as the main event.
That said, the amount of Tootsie Roll at the center seemed to vary. (And the sample in the photo above was something that I dissolved away in my mouth so some loss due to tastiness is to be expected). There were certainly instances where it seemed like much more Tootsie Roll than depicted in the photo.
The flavors are all decent. In fact, I even liked the Cherry.
My ranking of Tootsie Pop (& Drop) flavors goes like this:
In the bags that I got, the randomness was less than balanced. I opened four bags just to get three Blue Raspberry for the photos, and one bag was almost all Orange (not that I’m complaining, please see ranking above).
This sort of format would make Tootsie Pop Drops a good movie candy ... it’s made up of small pieces, easy to share and a good variety of taste and texture.
So, if you’d like to try these resurrected treats (far better than the Good & Fruity as Zombie candies go) here are the rules:
If you can’t wait to see if you’ve won, these should be appearing in convenience stores right now.
Also, for those who mentioned the old format where they sold Tootsie Pop Drops in a roll, I found a picture on Flickr. The old tagline was “We filled the hole with a Tootsie Roll” (because they were sold like Lifesavers).
Finally, I have to bump the rating up to a 9 out of 10 (from my original 8 out of 10 rating). I’ve eaten five bags since this review, that pretty much means they’re yummy.
UPDATE: 4/1/2008: I drew a winner over the weekend and it was Maggi! Congratulations. The box o’ TPDs is on its way (along with some other stuff like two bags of Tootsie Pops and some of the recent Snickers Limited Edition bars but I can’t guarantee how they’ll take the heat).
Comments are open again so you’re free to talk about anything now, but the drawing is closed. I really enjoyed hearing what everyone was eating, I hope you did too!
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
First, the description: Real Junior Mints (tm) made with a real candy crunch. Are there fake Junior Mints (tm) out there ... is this an issue? There are other dark chocolate peppermints out there, sure, but is there anything that’s trying to occupy the Junior Mints (tm) niche? What makes them Junior Mints anyway? Is it the dark chocolate and flowing fondant? Because the Junior Mints Deluxe had the Junior Mints name. So it’s not size or proportion.
The thing I have the real hangup on is the “CRUNCH!” that they advertise. The little image on the box shows what looks like a Starlight mint, which is basically a hard candy with peppermint flavoring ... they’re good crunched up and put in things (see my list o’ uses for Candy Canes). At first I though they were nonpareils, which are little spheres of sugar found on SnoCaps.
But on closer examination they weren’t. They’re too irregular. So I read the ingredients: Sugar, Semi Sweet Chocolate, Corn Syrup, Flaked Corn, Yellow Corn Flour, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Corn Starch, Confectioner’s Glaze, Modified Food Starch, Peppermint Oil, Invertase, Invert Sugar Syrup, Artificial Color (Red 40) and Corn Syrup Solids.
In an effort to figure out what these nibbles are, I’ve boldfaced those ingredients that are not found in regular Real Junior Mints (tm). Seems like we have some red polenta or something. Definitely not crushed Starlight Mints (like those little candy flakes on the Peeps Peppermint Stars). One thing I’m quite sure of, they’re not that tasty. They don’t dissolve like a bit of candy crunch should, but they do remain crunchy no matter how long you roll them around in your mouth!
They just don’t look that good. They look like they fell in something. I like traditional Junior Mints, they’re pretty! Usually so slick and dark, these are lumpy and malformed. The taste is pretty much the same but the crunch isn’t crunchy enough, doesn’t add any pep to the whole thing. If it was real candy (you know something that you’d actually buy and eat separately ... tell me you’d eat flaked corn, yellow corn flour, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and corn syrup solids!) then I think they’d have something. I haven’t been particular fond of the other versions of Junior Mints so far: Pastel, Inside Out or Heart Shaped (only because the red ones tasted weird). I think I’ll just stick with the Real Junior Mints from now on.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I’d buy them by the tray, which was usually about 99 cents at the IGA that I rode my bike past on my way home from my art class on weekends. They seemed a suitable treat for a budding artist. Wrapped in pretty foil ... named for a mountain range in Peru, but called by the French liquor flavor creme de menthe. At that time in my life I despised alcohol, except for a drizzle of Creme de Menthe on vanilla ice cream.
Over the years those tray package became more expensive and they started putting fewer candies in there. I recently bought a box for $1.00 and it had a scant 2 ounces in it ... but hey, it was back to the original price point! The candy is mockolate with a mint confection in the middle. They make a pretty cross section of dark looking chocolate flavored coating and the light green stuff in the middle. They have a cool feeling on the tongue and of course a pleasant mintiness that doesn’t overwhelm.
Restaurants that serve them with the bill may even be perceived as classy. (Well, it’s classier than getting nothing at all!) The Tootsie site even claims that Andes Mints are the number one selling after dinner mint. I wonder what the number one before dinner mint is? I give them a solid 6 out of 10 as an adult, but back when I was a kid they were probably an 8 out of 10.
Andes has come out with a few other versions over the years ... none that I’ve tried. But I saw a display of the new Andes Dessert Indulgence at the All Candy Expo and was fixed up with ample samples. The Limited Edition Dessert Indulgence array comes in an 8.5 ounce bag with an assortment of three flavors: Raspberry Cream, Lemon Meringue and Key Lime.
Each piece is individually sealed in a plastic wrapper instead of wrapped in foil. They’re substantially bigger than a standard Andes Mint as well. Why? I have no idea. But the base ingredients are still the same: sugar and partially hydrogenated oils.
Key Lime has only two layers, a base of light green and then a top level of a lighter green with little flavor crystals which is kind of like faux zest. The scent is fresh, like limes. However, as most folks who have had both key limes and more commonly used Persian lime there is a difference. Key Limes have a deeper flavor and a strange thick consistency to their juice. Persian limes have a high intensity and clear flavored tartness and a wonderfully bitter zesty flavor. This tastes like Persian lime ... or Lime Blossom candles.
Lemon Meringue flavor should be characterized by a nice tart custard with a balancing toasted meringue that is less that a sweet complement and more of a fluffy cooling bath for the mouth. The Lemon smelled, like the lime, a bit floral and pleasant enough for me to want to stick a wick in it. The texture evoked similar feelings, as it wasn’t nearly as creamy as I’d hoped. It did have a pleasant tartness to it, but not that toasted, almost marshmallow flavor to complement it.
Raspberry Cream was such a disappointment. It smelled really strong ... too strong. The ingredient list does boast “freeze dried raspberry puree” and I have no doubt about that. The waxy texture and overly sweet start is then met by a strong taste of chopsticks ... or dried grass clippings. I know what the taste is, it’s raspberry seeds. It’s that taste you get when you puree unstrained raspberries and the seeds get in there, but in this case they became a really noticeable flavor. Hey, maybe it added some fiber!
Sometimes I like “white confections” but in this case, I felt pretty sick after eating five of them while typing them up (I’ve had about 10 total since I took the photos over the weekend). They just didn’t sit well with me. I really wanted them to be something else, which is always a bad idea. I should just accept them unconditionally for what they are. But they don’t have cocoa butter in them and the flavors are just ... well, not satisfying to me, not enough to get me to eat any more of them. So into the Limited Edition Giveaway they go! They only get a 4 out of 10.
Each piece contains 50 calories (regular Andes Mints have only 25 each).
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
I like Sugar Babies, in fact, I love them. They’re just fine the way they are. They don’t need to be improved ... but I suppose if they want to expand the line, that’s fine with me.
Okay, I’ll open my mind a little and at least try them.
The candies are regular Sugar Babies covered in a green, sour apple coating. As you can see from the photo, they’re kind of freaky. The green coating is really green, but it’s also kind of matte, not shiny like Sugar Babies.
They reminded me of Shrek. Like Shrek’s skin ... probably not an appealing association.
The flavor coating is tart and a little crumbly, kind of like the SweeTart Jelly Beans. The green apple flavor isn’t really intense, but a good counterpoint to the sweet, creamy and grainy caramel.
I don’t think they’re an improvement on Sugar Babies, just something different. It’s an interesting take on the caramel application on apples, but doesn’t really capture that experience at all (for one, it’s inside out!). So even though I wasn’t that keen on them, I did end up eating the whole box, so they must be pretty tasty!
Thursday, September 27, 2007
I’m keen on the combination of dark chocolate and mint. I’d say that there’s nothing better, but then avid readers will probably find instances where I’ve said the same about the combination of chocolate and peanut butter and probably orange and chocolate and probably pretzels and chocolate.
There have been a few new versions of Junior Mints, including the Inside Out, Junior Mints Pastels and Heart Shaped Junior Mints over the past few years. They didn’t mess with the peppermint flavor or the proportions of the elements. Instead they messed with the chocolate element.
The new Junior Mints Deluxe are jumbo sized. They’re the same size as Cella’s Chocolate Covered Cherries, which are also made by Tootsie. At the top of the chocolate shell are the initials JM.
They’re two bites big (about a half an ounce each) and the soft fondant center flows quickly if you don’t tip it up quickly after biting it open. The chocolate shell is thick and dark but is pretty sweet. It doesn’t have that waxy shellac that Junior Mints usually have.
I really liked the flavor of the huge reservoir of the fondant center. It was intensely minty, so much that it cut through what would ordinarily be very sweet. The large two bite version can be messy and I haven’t quite gotten the hang of it. I suspect popping the whole thing in the mouth at once is the way to go, but I can’t resist looking at the innards.
Again, there is the issue of proportions here, I think this is a little off for my tastes with the gooey center, but if you’re a fan of the gooey center, this may be your new favorite. They should be available in stores after Halloween. This box comes with 12 in it and weighs 6 ounces. There are no dairy or egg products in this (though may be processed on equipment that comes in contact with milk) so it may be suitable for liberal vegans.
Monday, September 24, 2007
The funny thing about fall is that I always see the Tootsie Roll products around a lot more starting at Back to School. The amusing part is that Tootsie Rolls and the Tootsie Fruit Rolls are so well suited to the summer because of their durability.
The Tootsie Roll has been around for a long time, first manufactured in 1896, the chocolate taffy was named after Leo Hirshfield’s (the founder of the candy company) daughter. The chocolate taffy was a good alternative to regular chocolates which didn’t keep very well in the years before widespread refrigeration and air conditioning. Though the Tootsie Roll is associated with the Chicago area (which is known as a center of candy production in the United States), the factory was originally located in New York City and then Hoboken, not making the shift to the Midwest until 1966. (Read more on the history of the Tootsie Roll here.)
Tootsie Rolls come in many sizes, from a large log of a bar down to the Midgies, which I think is probably the best format. They’re still wrapped in the same waxed paper (though the larger logs have shifted to the fully sealed plastic wrap).
Tootsie Roll had one of the most identifiable jingles of its era.
The Tootsie Roll itself is simply a very dense and smooth taffy with a good boost of chocolate in it. The chew is long and smooth, though sometimes hard to get going. The flavor is not necessarily creamy or complex, just sweet and often tasting more of musty cardboard than hot cocoa (depending on how fresh it is). I don’t usually have high expectations for Tootsie Rolls, so I’m never disappointed.
The good thing about the chew is that it’s not sticky like some taffy can be, it’s also not fluffy and not overly sweet. It’s lower in fat than regular chocolate bars (but still has about 3 grams per serving.)
The Fruit Rolls are a little harder to find on a regular basis. They come with five flavors: Orange, Cherry, Lemon, Lime and Vanilla.
Yes, that last one is Vanilla. Last time I checked that’s not a fruit flavor. The Vanilla are also available in a single-flavor bag as well. I’ve always called these Midgees, which I think is the smallest Tootsie Roll in the line. (Well, except for the Chocolate Covered Tootsie Rolls that came out last year.) But these weren’t called Midgees on the bag, go figure.
Hey, it’s a flavorless Tootsie Roll! That’s always how I viewed them. Like they were for Boys in Plastic Bubbles or those allergic to chocolate taffy or perhaps just exceptionally bland. The child that picked out the Vanilla Midgee first over all other candies in a bowl was suspect in my world. It just screamed “I lack adventure and imagination” and while that’s fine for them, it didn’t make me want to spend time with them.
The good thing about encountering such as child is the prospect of trading ... so there’s something to be said for being the kind of kid with such diverse friends, it meant that everyone always got what they wanted.
The Vanilla Midgee is sweet and smells strongly of fake vanilla and a bit like an ice cream parlor. The chew is stiff at first but softens up quickly in the mouth. Not too sticky, not too sweet. Not terribly flavorful.
The Lemon Tootsie Roll is really quite pleasant. The chew is soft and tangy and has a nice smooth quality to it. It’s just the slightest bit milky, in a yogurt kind of way.
The Cherry Tootsie Roll is like a chewable cough drop. Not terribly strong, but a well rounded cherry flavor with a long-lasting flavor in the chew. A little bitter bite for me, but I think that’s the coloring.
The Orange Tootsie Roll used to be my favorite. Probably a sad substitute for a Starburst, these don’t have any gelatin in them, so certainly more suitable for those on animal restricted diets. It tastes like a decent orange sherbet. A little tart, but mostly orange.
The Lime Tootsie Roll was best saved for last or left sitting in the candy bowl after Halloween to show my mother that I had some self restraint ... though eventually it’d end up in my tummy.
On the whole, I think the only Tootsie Roll I like much is the regular chocolate one. The rest are probably not a very good replacement for Starbursts (but if you’ve never had them, I suppose I can tell you that they’re EXACTLY the same and you’d never know the difference ... except that I wouldn’t steer you wrong like that). They’re definitely inexpensive and great traveling candy. Middle of the road fare, I’m glad they’re around and rather fun to look at but best covered in hard candy with a stick in them. (Why don’t they make vanilla centered orange Tootsie Pops? That’d be just like a Creamsicle!)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.