Tuesday, August 8, 2006
Here’s a candy that never entered into my field of candy vision: the Mint Julep. In fact, until about a year ago, I’m not sure I knew these existed. It’s not like I’m mint-blind. I guess what brought these into my realm was a new push by Necco to introduce them to new generations. That and there was a huge barrel of them at the All Candy Expo’s freebie room.
Frankly, I was afraid they were going to be like Mary Janes and pull out my teeth or something. Or maybe they were going to be like mint-flavored Starbursts.
But here’s what they are: they’re spearmint taffy.
They were nice. Not super strong tasting, very soft and chewy and pleasant. They didn’t rock my world, but I think they have a solid place in it now. They’re a really satisfying little candy - larger than a Starburst and in a flavor you’re not going to get anywhere else in this format. I can’t see myself buying a tub of these online or anything, but I would pick up one or two after brunch or something at the local diner to clear my palate.
Mint Juleps are also known as Southies and were made by the Squirrel company that also makes Nut Zippers. They are most often sold in little tubs by the register at convenience stores and diners. (This type of retailing is called “changemakers” as people will often spend the change from their bill on little items. The tubs are placed in places where it makes sense for such an impulse buy.) They were introduced in the 30s and then disappeared back in the nineties as the company was bought out and went through some changes. Necco brought them back about a year ago.
In case you were wondering what’s in the drink also called a Mint Julep, it’s simple syrup with some muddled spearmint sprigs in it, then combined with Bourbon and served over ice with more mint.
Mint Juleps are gluten free according to the Necco website (and the drink probably is too!).
Monday, August 7, 2006
Back in the eighties Nabisco had a candy called Bonkers, which were fruit chews similar to Starbursts ... except they were layered. It was a fruity chew with a fruitier chewier center. If you need a reminder of what they were, watch this commercial from the eighties I found on YouTube.
I didn’t know if they’d stopped making them but that’s what I thought I was buying when I picked these up.
First, these are made by Joyco. Second, there are no flavor layers. Third, the flavors are all wrong. Fourth, the label says they’re citrus fruits, but there’s a strawberry in there and last time I checked those don’t even grow on trees. Fifth, the package says there’s real honey in there. Real honey? And egg whites? What the heck are these, nougats? Sixth, well, none of that matters because these were positively awful.
Most of them were very hard, but some were only kind of hard. All were rather unpleasant in a way that I’m not quite able to put my finger on.
Strawberry: slightly floral and slightly putrid tasting. A little tangy but with sort of moldy/mossy note.
Lemon: tastes like a moist and ripe citrus burp.
Orange: tangy but with a rather uneven flavor that alternates between bile and tang.
I tried several times to taste these (waiting a couple of weeks in between, thinking it was me). It’s not me. They’re bad. I’ve debated long and hard about what to give these. I sat there with the wads of half chewed Bonkers in their wrappers in front of me and a foul feeling in my stomach and it’s clear I’m gonna have to give these a bad rating. (Believe me, I never set out to buy candy that I’m going to hate.) But I wanted to give them one last opportunity, so I offered them to the neighbors (and Amy always seems game for the worst of the worst but Robin conveniently reminds me when I try to get her to try things like this that she only likes chocolate). Amy spat it out on the sidewalk and then kicked it into the street. She described it as at first tasting like the plastic shelf it must have been sitting on in the store and then most decidedly vomit.
Yes, these get my first 1 out of 10. (Amy asked if there was a 0 rating.)
Friday, August 4, 2006
I don’t know if I would have noticed, except that the Sav-on had both the old version of the bar (sans peanuts) and the new one side by side and I was curious why the packaging was suddenly different and what made the new one “more satisfying.”
So I purchased both and went off to the Candy Blog labs to do some analyses. First, the bars say they weigh the same, but when placed on the trusty postal scale the More Satisfying with Peanuts version came in at exactly 2.0 ounces and the Less Satisfying with just Almonds clocked in at 1.9 ounces. What’s even more puzzling about this is that the label says that they weigh 1.76 ounces ... at least Mars is generous.
The original version shown above was easier to slice and seemed more “solid”. There weren’t copious amounts of almonds, but a fair amount. The bar was rather bland, as I mentioned in my review before. But there is something missing here, a toastiness, some sort of flavor.
So the big thing I noticed right away was how difficult it was to slice this bar easily. It was kind of mucky ... not melted or anything, just not as structural. I think there may be more caramel now. Instead of just going back to a better tasting nougat, the Mars folks created the hybrid Snickers/Mars Frankenbar. It’s a Mars bar that tastes like a Snickers. Really, why buy this? It doesn’t taste like almonds ... if anything, it’s just a Snickers bar that’s a little smaller.
As a touchstone I went out and bought/consumed a standard Snickers bar. It really tasted no different except the Snickers Almond was a little crunchier because almonds are bigger than peanuts.
This got me to thinking about the ingredients, so here’s a run down of the top contents of the Less Satisfying Snickers Almond, More Satisfying Snickers Almond and the Satisfying Snickers (Peanut):
LS Snickers Almond…...MS Snickers Almond…..Plain Old Snickers
But let’s go back to that statement on the new Snickers Almond bar ... what exactly makes satisfaction?
Less Satisfying Snickers Almond: 230 Calories & 1.76 ounces (that’s 131 calories per ounce)
Could satisfaction be another word for caloric density?
While I find the More Satisfying Snickers Almond a little more tasty than before, its resemblance to the classic Snickers Peanut makes it superfluous. There are so few almond choices out there, why take this one away? I’m giving the Now More Satisfying Snickers Almond bar the same rating I gave the original.
(I’m also a little miffed that I consumed about 750 calories for this one review! I just hope none of them contained mouse droppings.)
Note: I looked at the Snickers website and they still list the old ingredients for the Snickers Almond bar.
UPDATE 9/2/2008: Well, the old new Snickers Almond is back. Here’s a brief revisit with the bar:
I like the bar (though I prefer the dark chocolate version) and I’m glad they brought it back.
Thursday, August 3, 2006
There once was a company that made boiled sweets (hard candies) in Chicago. Founded in 1893, The Reed Candy Company used copper kettles to boil sugar and corn syrup and other things together to create flavorful treats. In 1931 they started making their most famous product, the Reeds’ Butterscotch candy roll. Later they added more flavors including Cinnamon, Root Beer and Butter Toffee.
At some point in their history The Reed Candy Company was bought out by another Chicago area based sweets company, Amurol Confections (known for their novelty gums like Big League Chew and Bubble Tape) ... and they in turn were bought by Wrigley’s (also based in Chicago). The larger distribution chain should have helped, but I still rarely saw them at drug stores or groceries. I usually saw them at newsstands. Reeds continued to be made with startling consistency from the taste and packaging I remember from my childhood.
For those who have never had them, Reed’s are kind of like Lifesavers, except there’s no hole in the middle, just a slight dent. They’re individually wrapped, which makes for extra-sanitary sharing as well as the ability to pop out the individual candies and put them in your pocket for later (try that with a Lifesaver!). They come with eight little pieces in a roll. But what was really extraordinary about them was the incredible amount of flavor packed into such a small candy. Part of this was the exceptional texture - these were high-quality boiled sugar sweets that had very few voids or holes so they were extra smooth on the tongue and dissolved well.
The Butterscotch ones used real butter and had a nice hit of salt to them. Though I’m sure the recipes changed over the years (going with artificial flavors and whatnot) they were still much more flavorful than many other candies.
Cinnamon was not for the faint of heart. The little dented red disk had a smooth and soft mouthfeel at first and then exploded with a very strong cinnamon flavor that could rival an Atomic Fireball. It was like the flavor popped and sparkled with itty-bitty reservoirs.
Other roll candies and mints came in cinnamon and butterscotch but no one else made a Root Beer candy. Soft and spicy with a complex flavor that just made you want to roll the little candy over and over in your mouth. Reed’s Root Beer were my go to roll candy - they had the satisfying freshness of a mint and the tingly “activate those salivary glands” stimulation of a fruit sour.
They were always a 10 in my book. But I guess I ignored them and now they’re gone. Back in April they told their distributors that they weren’t going to be making them anymore and the supply was cut off. There are still a few places you can find a reserves on the web (and happily these hard candies are pretty durable when stored correctly):
I got my last rolls at Powell’s in Windsor, CA but they said that they will not ship nor sell whole boxes at any discount.
UPDATE: Reed’s are coming back. Iconic Candy of New York is working on their final formulations and packaging design and hope to have Reed’s back on store shelves in a limited number of flavors by the end of the year.
You can see the preview of their new candy revivals here. They’re also working on Regal Crown Sours and Bar None.
Wednesday, August 2, 2006
Part of the reason for the stop in San Francisco on my recent vacation was to experience the Ferry Terminal Marketplace. It’s home to a bunch of artisan food companies, restaurants and other people associated with the food crafts. Plus, on Saturdays there’s a farmers market.
There are a couple of sweets locations in the Ferry Terminal including a Scharffen Berger store and Recchiuti Confections but for this trip (I’ll be going back again in September) I thought I’d look at Miette Patisserie.
The store is drop dead cute and reminds me of a forties/fifties-era cookbook. They had a huge selection of cakes and hand-held pastries. But I was interested in candies, of course. There was a large display of handmade lollipops which looked gorgeous and came in sassy flavors like cotton candy, grape and pink lemonade. None of the flavors were marked and the colors weren’t enough for me to discern the code so I passed them by for now.
Instead I was attracted to their Parisian Macaroons (which are not the coconut ones we’re most accustomed to in the States). These macaroons are a hazelnut or almond and egg white based cookie with a filling of some sort. Like a super decadent sandwich cookie. They were $1.50 each ... a little on the pricey side so I didn’t taste one of each flavor (I think there were six varieties).
I picked out:
Hazelnut: a vanilla cookie with a rich nutella-style filling. Sweet and rich but still light and flaky.
Rose Geranium: a delicately floral flavored cookie with a buttery light cream filling in the sandwich. My favorite.
Vanilla: a little sweeter because there was no strong flavor to balance it, but quite nice after a long walk and pleasant lunch.
By the register they also had three large jars of handmade caramels wrapped in wax paper. They were two for $1 so I had two of each.
Vanilla & Lemon - the wrappers were identical and I’m sorry to say that they all tasted the same. The caramels were nicely soft and sweet and of course had a wonderful slightly burnt sugar taste.
Fleur de Sel - a little darker tasting and with a nice warming sensation of instant salt. Instead of a regular caramel with a little series of grains of salt on the surface as I’ve had at other places, here the salt is completely integrated. The salt really brings out the caramelized notes, but it’s also a bit strong and made my throat sting.
UPDATE: A kind reader, Dan, has informed me that these are made by the Little Flower Candy Company, which makes sense based on the flavor array.
I’m sure their cakes are great and there’s the added bonus that they use organic ingredients whenever possible. Not that something like that makes a pastry more wholesome or anything! The macaroons can be ordered on their website, but not the caramels or lollies. The items are pricey, as is usually the case with labor intensive items. Overall I think I prefer the caramels and macaroons from Boule but since San Francisco doesn’t have a Boule, I can see myself stopping in here on my next trip for a little something to eat. I’m especially interested in trying their Lavender Shortbread (I know, I’ve totally diverged from candy all of a sudden ... I was on vacation!).
Tuesday, August 1, 2006
One of the problems with getting “preview” candy from a trade show like All Candy Expo is that I never know what it’s actually going to look like in stores. One of the new products that I thought was pretty cool in concept was a new flavor assortment from Jelly Belly called Soda Pop Shoppe.
The flavor assortment includes: 7 Up, Dr. Pepper, A&W Root Beer, Orange Crush, and Grape Crush. What I find a little odd about this soda pop assortment is that there’s no cola in it. But it seems that the variety is determined by some sort of flavor licensing from the Cadbury Schweppes people.
I got this little 3/4 of an ounce packet as a sample, but the fun part about these is that they’re going to be packaged in soda bottles (1.5 ounces in a bottle). Sounds like a good way to share and to reseal them.
7 Up: a nice lemon lime with a good zesty hit at the front that gives it a slight bitter bite. There’s no tangy component though.
Dr. Pepper: I’ve never been a fan of Dr. Pepper (or Mr. Pibb) but these seem to taste pretty faithful.
A&W Root Beer: these look almost like the Dr. Pepper, so be careful. Nice root beer flavor with a little creamy finish to it, like a foamy head.
Orange Crush: This one’s a real winner. Tangy with a slight effervescent quality and a nice fake orange flavor.
Grape Crush: a little too sweet and not tart enough for my tastes, but then again I outgrew my appreciation of grape soda when I was twelve.
I’m a little confused if the A&W Cream Soda flavor is supposed to be in this mix or not, but it would sure fit well, but I wouldn’t miss it if it doesn’t make it.
These should be available in stores next month and might make nice stocking stuffers for Christmas. I like all of the flavors in here except for the Dr. Pepper, which could easily be plucked out and set aside for someone else. I think the real surprise flavor here is the 7 UP which was far more complex than I’d figured it would be.
Friday, July 28, 2006
There was nothing else like a Jolly Rancher when they first came out. Back then green apple and watermelon were radical flavors ... actually, when I was a kid, the slang term “radical” wasn’t even in use yet.
I really wanted these to be good ... like a gummi bear version of a Jolly Rancher, only in Jolly Rancher flavors.
They come in four flavors - Watermelon, Apple, Orange and Cherry. They’re a little tart jelly candy with a sugar sand coating on them. They’re not gummis at all, there’s not even any gelatin or pectin in the ingredients list, it’s sugar, corn syrup and corn starch plus a little flavor, tartness and color. They’re kind of small morsels too, about the same size around as a nickel.
Cherry - not quite a black cherry flavor, this was like a sour cherry and definitely a chemical flavor. This one differed most from the hard candies I was used to.
Watermelon - oh, it’s like summer distilled into a strange pink chemical. Sweet, tart and floral all at once but not really much like the real stuff. But still good.
Apple - tart and appley with that distinct artificial taste, but completely faithful to the Jolly Rancher flavor.
Orange - as usual, my favorite. Tart and with a good citrus essence mixed with a completely middle-of-the-road Tang flavor. Satisfying.
The package warns that mouth irritation may result from the high “sour level” but I didn’t find them that sour at all. The flavors actually blended pretty well - you can pop an apple and watermelon in your mouth together or an orange and cherry and find a pleasant surprise. But they weren’t “Screamingly” sour in the slightest.
My biggest quarrel with these is that they go sticky very quickly. I don’t know if it was the insane heat of Los Angeles or that they just do that after the package has been opened. It doesn’t seem to have effected the flavor, except maybe they’ve bled together a smidge. But really, there’s nothing really compelling here. It’s not a true chew like a Starburst or a gummi or a jelly ... they’re just kind of soft and certainly not sour enough to warrant being called anything more than tangy jellies.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Everything’s better when it’s big!
These are big Smarties. Yeah, there are two rolls of Smarties there in the picture. One is a regular sized roll and the other are the new gigantor Smarties.
Each Mega Smartie is the same diameter as a quarter and tastes suspiciously like a regular Smartie. (Yes, those are Mega Smarties with regular Smarties on top to show scale ... Mega Smarties do not come with hats.)
Really, there’s very little difference except that for the first time I was able to taste the actual vague flavor of each of the Smarties colors. Not that there’s a lot of it. Not that I want a lot of flavor in my Smarties. They’re plesantly sweet and tart and dissolve quickly on the tongue. If I have any complaint with the Mega Smarties, it’s that they’re not quite as crumbly. There’s something so light and chalky about the demi-Smarties that allows them to enter the bloodstream instantly.
If there’s one thing to recommend Mega Smarties, it’s because they’re now in a single-serving package, you should be able to find them with other candy bars instead of in with the bulk and fun sized bags. I usually only pick up Smarties at Halloween, because that’s the easiest time to find them in the large bags ... see how clever they are!
(The weird thing is that I didn’t know what to call these. The label just refers to them as Smarties with no reference to the size. The Smarties.com website doesn’t say anything about Mega Smarties even existing.)
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