Friday, June 30, 2006
I’ve been reading a lot of candy books lately, so it was nice to be approached to read something a little different: a virtual book tour.
Much of the book speaks to me for the sole reason that Ayun is a scant two years older than I am, so we have many of the same perspectives on pop culture and experiences with food (and candy). It traces her life from picky eater with a gourmet cook mother to ‘food adventurer’ to mother who has a picky eating daughter of her own.
(Though I was also a picky eater as a child, I chalk that up to bad, recurring throat infections that sapped the fun out of eating. But the book did capture the parental battles about eating very well, no matter the reason for why we wouldn’t even put the stuff in our mouth.)
Ayun has far more fun with her pickiness and, of course, uses those incidents to full effect in her book.
Here’s a bit of our discussion on the book and perspectives:
Candy Blog: Do you think that you were picky when it came to candy or just when it came to meals?
Ayun: candy? no. the only thing i didn’t like was black licorice and conversation hearts. they both made me feel like I was going to throw up in the car. I got over the conversation heart thing when we used them as props in a short NeoFuturist play called “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre”. I would eat so many of them backstage that we’d wind up with a shortage - they were to be smashed with a hammer at certain strategic points in the song, “My Funny Valentine” but somehow we always kept coming up short, the hearts giving out long before the final line.
Candy Blog: What are your daughter’s favorite candies now? Does she share some or your loves/hates?
Ayun: Watermelon gum balls from the laundromat, lollipops that the guy at the liquor store gives her, and m&ms. Anything she can get her hands on, basically. She loves it when there’s a pinata at a birthday party. She stashes her portion on this little shelf at the head of her top bunk, where I can’t effectively monitor it. On those rare occasions that I change the sheet, I find a goodie bag full of empty wrappers.
Here’s an excerpt from the book:
Candy Blog: I’ve often regarded candy for children as one of the first ways that we express our independence from our parents. We’re given allowance or sometimes free run in a store to pick out one thing ... you remarked in the section on camp that you didn’t really have that luxury before. Did you notice this among your peers, that they had more discretionary cash or greater abilities to procure the snackstuffs that they loved?
Ayun: Yes. I was a very late bloomer with regard to bicycles. I had this little green Schwinn from which I refused to let the training wheels be removed. One weekend, we went to visit my father’s longtime friends, the Ackermans in Columbus Ohio, whose youngest child Sally, was a year my junior. Mrs Ackerman gave each of the kids, including me, a dollar - a princely amount - so that we could ride bikes to the drugstore for candy. Well, I was sort of stricken, because none of their bikes had training wheels, but they did have this old red bike named Rosie, who had no rubber left on her wheels, just the metal rims. These were wide enough, and unyielding enough, to give me the confidence it required to ride to the store with the rest of the herd, where following Sally’s example, I bought my first Marathon Bar. And when we got back to Indianapolis, I had my father remove the training wheels from my green bike and immediately pedaled away.
Candy Blog: You write in several instances about your consumption of raw materials when in search of a sugar fix. I, too, discovered Jello-O powder (pineapple was my favorite) at an early age, and my frugality meant that I could find them on sale at 10 for a dollar and stock up on quite a bit of it with my paper route money. What sorts of pantry items would you eat dry?
Ayun: Tang. My grandmother always took a jar of it with us when we drove to Florida. I had to be extra sly when mainlining that stuff, what with my mother and both grandparents on the other side of the vinyl accordion curtain separating the vanity outside the bathroom from the rest of the motel room. The thing about dry Tang is it was so light, it looked like it was steaming. There was always a cloud of these micro-fine crystals hovering above the spoon.
When that sour Super Lemon candy started appearing in all the Asia markets, I thought, “Oh, no problem. I can handle that molehill.” I’d spent years training with Tang.
I also liked eating Nestles Quik straight from the can.
About a month ago, after reading the excerpt above I agreed to do this little featurette, so I send Ayun a little box of candies. It had some SweeTarts, Laffy Taffy, Chewy SweeTarts, Pixy Stix and other pure sugar concoctions.
Candy Blog: So, what did you eat from the package I sent? What did your daughter consume and what do you see in her tastes as with yours?
Ayun: I don’t think the kids got a single piece of it. It has been a pinata-heavy month. As for myself, I started out with the gummy insects, a Sweet Tart product apparently, and I felt guilty for gnashing them up so mindlessly, while watching Deadwood. I cleansed my palate with some Laffy Taffys (I slowed down long enough to see that there’s a joke printed on each wrapper. I’d always assumed that Laffy was the only thing marketing could come up with to rhyme with Taffy.) Then I started on the Chewy Sweet Tarts. We had the big ones at Gnawbone, but they were never Chewy. Chewy is new(y). Then I got kind of disgusted with myself and worried that my spleen would give out from all that sugar, so I boxed it back up and then we took it to Coney Island with us for the kids to throw at the crowd when we marched in the Mermaid Parade. Now THAT was a good use of cheap, artificially flavored candy.
Candy Blog: What do you think about candy today? There are certainly more “wholesome” candies available now that actually taste good, in addition to some really disgusting indulgences of course. Are there things you wish you could have had when you were a kid? Are there things you wish they still made or that you miss being able to have?
Ayun: Those little Gummi candys that resemble miniature versions of non-candy type foods are pretty cunning, the sushi and pizzas and such. Milo received a gummi Crabby Patty, and it was quite the hit until he tasted it.
You know what I miss? Zots. Their packaging was so imperfect, but it was so worth it when you sucked a hole through the hard candy and that citric acid stuff inside started to effervesce. A few years ago, I got it into my head to make homemade bath bombs and I went to every restaurant supply on the Bowery looking for citric acid to no avail. Found it at an herb store in the Village that leans rather heavily on whimsical ceramic teapots and fairy-related merchandise. When did citric acid go so out of style?
I’m really into the Aji Ichiban stores in Chinatown. though the dried, salted plums took some getting used to, even for someone like me, who is constitutionally bound to order things like salted plum soda in Vietnamese restaurant, because it’s a more vibrant part of the experience than say, Diet Coke. Every year, they have these compelling little capsules that you can fill with hard candy. One year it was pigs. This year it seems to be metallic pineapples…
This is what they call a novelty item.
I don’t have a real review for it, because I’m a stodgy old fart and I refuse to roll my candy syrup onto my tongue. But it also might be that it really looks like my incredibly unappetizing Ban unscented roll on antiperspirant/deodorant.
However, I did give my nephew this grape Rolly Pop for his opinion. Because he’s almost seven years old, there are a lot of things he’s more willing to try than I am.
First, what is it?
A Rolly Pop is a bottle, not unlike a small bottle of Ban Roll On, that contains a sweet and tangy syrup that you apply directly to your tongue.
We tried it out on my last visit two weeks ago and it went over pretty well. It seems that it might be easier to just suck on the roll top than roll it around on your tongue. He didn’t finish it all in one sitting, so he put the cap back on and when he came down for breakfast the next morning, the roller ball wouldn’t roll. A little time under the tap with some warm water did the trick.
Honestly, I’m worried about the sanitary aspects of this candy. You roll it on your tongue! (It’s kind of like backwash ... maybe it’s back rub ... no, that doesn’t sound right.)
Anyway, the syrup doesn’t change the color of your tongue, which is a big thing with kids these days. It’s probably better that it doesn’t though, since I’m sure that means that it’d stain things, too. At the end of my nephew’s evaluation of this I asked if he would buy it again and he kind of shrugged. He said he wished it was more sour (he’s a sour fan) but I read that they are coming out with a set of sour flavors for Halloween. He did finish it, so that’s a positive sign that means I’ll give this one a five out of ten on his behalf.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
I’ve been a fan of Sprees since they first came out. They’re the more attractive out-of-town cousin of the SweeTart (who is of course your mousy best friend). They’re tasty and drop dead gorgeous when spread out on your desk in neat rows of colors like some sort of stereo equalizer display.
Chewy Sprees happened onto the scene a while back, but I never paid much attention to them. But then I got a hold of these Mini Chewy Spree. They come in these cool little plastic packages that look kind of like popsicles and have a little flip top.
The color array is exactly the same as their larger, harder counterparts. Red is cherry, Yellow is lemon, Purple is grape, Orange is orange and Green is now apple (though it used to be lime back in the day).
Chewy Spree are, well, chewy. The outside of them is lightly flavored and completely sweet. But there’s no candy shell to it, just an inside that’s soft and chewy. They’re actually easily crushed with your fingers, like M&Ms are. But they’re lacking the “Kick in the Mouth” that the package heralds. (It says the same for the rolls of regular hard Spree.)
They’re just not as sour, not as flavorful. They’re not bad, they’re just ... I dunno, shallow.
As cool as the plastic tube they come in (that says “flip your lid!”), I feel a little bad about the overpackaging. But to allay my guilt about that, I looked around on the Nestle website and they have crafts that you can do with the empties (a Rain Gauge). At the moment I’ve got one filled with band-aids and alcohol wipes as a little first aid kit. You could store little things in there too, or refill with bulk candies. I think you also might be able to make your own popsicles with them, too.
But as the price difference goes, I think I’ll stick with the regular roll of Sprees and their minimal packaging and true “kick in the mouth” taste.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
I don’t think I’m a fudge fan. I know it sounds a little weird, but I find fudge a little too sweet and not chocolatey enough. Every once in a while I’ll come across a piece of fresh fudge that brings that additional fudge element to it - that crumbly melt in your mouth quality. I don’t know if that’s something that’s supposed to be in fudge or if it’s bad fudge, but that’s the way I like it.
That’s one of the reasons I avoid pre-packaged fudge, it just never has that fresh, light and rich feeling to it. But still, I was pretty interested in the Jim Beam Chocolate Bourbon Fudge from Country Fresh Food & Confections of Tennessee - I figured they knew what they were doing. Their booth at the All Candy Expo seemed constantly mobbed. I tried a few pieces of their liquor flavored fudges and found them a little dry and tasteless, but I figured that was because they were sitting out on plates all day.
But the place was packed in there was a bit of a buzz about the liquor fudge, so maybe I’ve got this whole thing wrong (but know that there’s not actually any alcohol in there, just some natural and artificial flavors). Maybe everyone but me loves the stuff.
Here’s the thing: I don’t know much about find Kentucky Bourbon. So when I tried this fudge, it tasted like bubble gum to me. Chocolate, fudgy bubble gum. That bubble gum flavor is hard to pin down, but now I’m pretty sure it’s bourbon or rum or some liquor flavor that kids aren’t sophisticated enough to like yet. The line of alcohol flavored fudges also come in Kahlua, Malibu, Sauza, Tia Maria & Courvoisier.
The texture is a little gummy as well, the melt in your mouth quality just isn’t there. It’s nicely chocolatey and ultra smooth, but it’s just not that wonderful new crystalline arrangement that fresh fudge usually has.
I’ve gotta give this a pass. However, I’m going to try some fresh fudge on Friday night and local folks are welcome to join me at the Farmers Market in Los Angeles (3rd & Fairfax) from 6PM to 9PM to try some Littlejohn fudge (and perhaps toffee while we’re at it).
Monday, June 26, 2006
“It’s the candy bar that makes Idaho famous,” whispers the barely visible black print on brown at the bottom of the wrapper. If you love those memory foam mattresses, you’ll love the Idaho Spud.
Well, maybe it’s not quite like that, the Idaho Spud has been around since 1918 ... so maybe tempurpedic was inspired by the candy bar!
So really, what is it? It’s a dense, chocolate-flavored marshmallow covered in fake chocolate and then dusted with coconut. Of course it all looks like a potato.
First, I have to say that I didn’t eat the whole bar ... because there are hydrogenated oils in there. Not just a trace like most candies, I’m talking 1.5 grams.
The center of the bar is rather odd, like a cross between a custardy jelly and marshmallow. The chocolately coating doesn’t seem to stick well to this firm foam, so when you bite into it, it kind of flakes off. The dominant flavor is coconut, which I always like.
The fake chocolate isn’t very pleasant - kind of greasy and crumbly. The whole bar has a rather maple flavor to it, which might be the coconut. The firm marshmallow center is actually really interesting and I enjoyed the firm texture and density of it with the light tough of chocolate. But the combo of high trans fats and the mockolate just turned me off. For the last third of the bar I peeled off the chocolate coating and just ate the center. I’m a big potato fan, so I’m not going to let this dissuade me from my actual favorite Idaho export, but I don’t think I’d ever give one of these to someone as a treat when I returned from a vacation in Idaho.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
So, I’m walking around the All Candy Expo, minding my own sweet business, and I walk past the Just Born booth (which is pretty close to the entrance) and there are some free samples for eating right there on both sides of the aisle. One side has the new Hot Tamales Fire and the other has the Mike and Ike Tangy Twisters. The first couple of days I made sure that I grabbed a couple of Hotter Tamales when I walked by because I love them so. But at some point I found myself on the other side and I picked up a Tangy Twister ... not being terribly fond of Mike and Ike, but you know, it’s free and it’s my job and all.
Well, zowie if that wasn’t good. Turns out it was a pineapple one and it was zazzy.
So I picked up two packages to bring home for a full review.
All of the colors, except for the raspberry red ones look like highlighters.
The Tangy Twister flavor set goes like this:
Dark Red/Raspberry - nicely floral with a good sour kick before it turns sweet and bland.
Yellow/Pineapple - shazaam, I want to buy a whole bag of these. The flavor is tart and sweet and very much like pineapple with some nice floral notes and a smidge of and herbal bitterness.
Red/Cherry - what can I say, it’s cherry? It’s got a nice tart bite and a full rounded flavor of woodsy notes.
Orange/Citrus Punch - I’m a big citrus fan, but this one just doesn’t float my boat. It’s too much punch and not enough orange or lemon or whatever it’s supposed to be. It reminds me of those “juice drinks” that I had at other kids’ houses when I was a child.
Green/Apple - intense green apple flavor and very tart at first, a little on the chemical side.
The Mike and Ikes live up to their name. They are tangy. Unfortunately the flavor set doesn’t wow me. I loved the pineapple and the raspberry runs a close second but the rest of them are just ones I’ll eat, not ones that I’d pick out of a mix to consume. I usually like to have over 40% of a mixed flavor set to be ones that I’m ga-ga for. However, if you’re the kind of person who loves green apple, punch flavors and of course cherry in addition to the fantastic pineapple, this might be a good fruity mix for you. They certainly get higher marks from me than a standard mix of Jelly Belly candies. With Jelly Belly I can’t just buy a mix, I have to do my own from the bulk bins because I find so many flavors unappealing a box of the mix is pretty much worthless to me.
The back of the package exhorts “Bursting with Fruit Juice Flavor!” and sure enough on the ingredient label the fourth ingredient is Pear Juice from Concentrate. What is it with pears and tangy fruit candy?
Friday, June 16, 2006
Okay, this product has a freakishly long name ... almost as long as the product itself. The Florida’s Natural Au’some Fruit Juice Sour String (henceforth called Sour Strings) is a long string about the same diameter as a thick clothesline and made from all natural ingredients and fortified with good stuff.
What I loved about this product is that they’re true to what they say. The first ingredient is fruit puree 64% is fruit ... then sugar. The puree comes from pears and oranges and the real fruitiness is quite evident. It tastes like a zazzed up fruit roll up, but in a little bit friendlier shape.
The roll of string is coiled up and allows you to unravel a little and then clamp the package shut to cut it off. It’s covered in a little granulated sugar to keep it from getting sticky.
It’s super sour. I mean, the outside really is sassy, back of the mouth tingling sour. Once that dissipates it’s a nice mellow orange flavor with both the sour and zest notes to it. As you eat it there’s a slight grain to it, which I suspect is the pear puree - you know those little crunchy bits you get in pears?
Overall, it’s a really nice fruit and candy product that I would buy again. It’s more wholesome than some other gummis/fruit chews and has no gelatin for vegetarians (and it’s Kosher, too). However, my husband, who usually likes gummis and sours was not wild about it at all, so go figure.
The whole pack has 100% of your vitamin C and 30% of your vitamins A, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin and Iron & Zinc. There’s even 10% of your Calcium. However, I can’t see eating this in one sitting. It’s a nice little pick me up because of the super-sourness, but the texture doesn’t quite engage me the way that a gummi bear does.
The pack is kinda cool, easy to share and easy to throw in a bag or stuff in a pocket. From their website it looks like they also come in bags instead of the hard pack coil and in other flavors (strawberry, apple and blueberry). I also picked up some of their Fruit Juice Nuggets, which I’ll also review shortly. The price is a little steep for so little candy, though the easy to share pack is nice. I recommend looking for them on sale, but you know, fruit is far more expensive than sugar.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
While on the show floor I came across this booth on the first morning, in one of the first aisles I went down:
Real Espresso! Liquid Center!
I was thinking it’d be the American version of Ferrero’s Pocket Coffee from Italy. And we really need those.
There they were, looking so lovely on the silver platter. I had gotten up at 5 AM, so maybe my judgement was a little clouded by 9:30.
I took one and bit into it. No liquid center! Only a shiny, soft and bitter tar. Like that stuff that’s left at the bottom of a coffee pot when you’ve left it on the heating element overnight.
But in order to be fair about them, I took another on the last day to bring home and trash with photographic evidence.
Well, lo and behold the one I brought home had the liquid center!
The texture might have been more satisfying, but the flavor was no better. Still bitter and acrid, syrupy sweet and without as many of the coffee notes that I would have liked. The chocolate was decent, but completely overshadowed by the center. And the production concerns me as well, if one of the samples I got was sub-par, I wouldn’t be terribly confident about a whole box of them being consistent.
I have no idea where they sell these, or much about the company at all. I hope that they can tweak though, because it’s obviously a good idea if Pocket Coffee has been doing so well. The big difference here is that there was no sugar granules in here like I found with the Pocket Coffee, so maybe it’s a completely different process. I’m wondering what their Espresso Secret is ...
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.