Thursday, August 18, 2005
Name: Violet & Scented Gum
I have a vague recollection of some dolls that were popular back in the late sixties/early seventies called Kiddles. They were little dolls with insanely huge heads and long, stylable hair that smelled of violets. To this day the scent of violet makes me think of those dolls. I never owned any (I think my friend down the street, Lisa did though) but I can recall wanting them badly.
Anyway, my stepmother sent these to me a couple of weeks ago and they went into my pile of chocolates, until I took out a candy bar and it tasted like violets. So I sequestered the invasive violets in three layers of paper bags (and promptly forgot about it because it was jammed in three paper bags and looked like trash). Then I came back to the office after the weekend and it smelled like violets, “Oh, I forgot all about them!” Well, now I’ve photographed them and chewed them up and can speak knowlegably about them. I did a little digging to find out more about Choward’s, you can read the history here.
First, I preface this review (actually, it looks like I’ve prefaced the review several times, would you like to just skip to the bottom for the rating?) with the fact that I love herbal/floral flavors. My favorite ice cream flavor at the moment is Orange Blossom and Pistachio. However, probably from the above association with those damn little dolls, I just can’t get behind the little violet mints.
The mints themselves really aren’t terribly flavorful. They’re sweet and very hard (like a piece of soft shale) are the color of the putty I used to caulk my shower and smell like something I might use in the shower while I’m there. They don’t really dissolve so much as just slowly deteriorate in your mouth. As a touchstone though, I found the peppermint version of Choward’s pretty good, like a dense pillow butter mint. I don’t know why the violet texture was so much more, um, sturdy, but it wasn’t really appealing.
The gum, however, is pretty cool. The color, let’s face it, is something you just wanna string up on a necklace or something. The flavor is not at all like the mint, it’s got a nice cinnamon/clove twang to it and a little touch of the flowery violet. The chew is a little sticky and not at all like a chicklet, lacking that burst of sugar and cooling mint. Even after spitting out the gum after chewing for about ten minutes, it scented my breath wonderfully for a two hour meeting.
Ratings: Violet Mints - 5 out of 10
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Name: Chocolate Truffles
I know, I’ve said it before but I truly believe that candy is for the masses. I’m not sure if this counts as candy - it might be edible art or perhaps just some sort of upscale “proof of exclusivity.” They’re just chocolates, so why are they so damn expensive?
I only bought four, because they were so dang expensive. They are, from left to right - Bronte: Raspberry & Earl Grey; Maya: Espresso; Veda: Ginger and Jade: Green Tea. (I think they all had chic names.)
The raspberry & earl grey was my first try - it was definitely the one that I was most interested in. We’d started our visit with some caramel ice cream and another scoop of their black tea ice cream. These folks know how to work with botanicals. The raspberry flavoring is in an ultra-soft and creamy bittersweet chocolate center. After that melts onto the tongue, a dryness is noticeable and then the bergamot of the Earl Grey really shines. I could have used more chocolate taste though.
The green tea was next and didn’t really thrill me. The texture at first was beautifully smooth. The center on this one is a creamy, well, cream, no chocolate there. The green tea gave it a woodsy flavor but also a bit of a chalkiness (I’m guessing they used matcha instead of an essence).
Espesso was definitely coffee-ish. Predictable - but dependable. Smooth, woodsy, strong and with a slight smokey quality and a caffeinated charge with bits of espresso beans on the top.
The only milk chocolate choice I made was the ginger one (which the woman at the counter said was her personal favorite). Upon biting into it, the ginger was wonderfully fragrant. It didn’t smell like powdered ginger, it was fresh and zesty. The milk chocolate is a great foundation for this.
All the centers were a bit too buttery for me - they needed a bit more of the cocoa solids or something for it to not feel like I was eating a stick of butter.
So there you have it, my two favorites are Veda and Bronte with Maya making a good showing. Will I buy them again? Unlikely. But if someone were to give them to me as a gift, well, I’d tsk, tsk and protest that you shouldn’t have and then probably give you a kiss.
Name: Fruit Pate
The other purchase, which was much more affordable were the slabs of fruit pate. Think fruit jellies and then jam twice as much flavor in them and you’ve got fruit pate. I picked up three of these flavors:
Raspberry, Blood Orange and something called Calamansi which is a Philippino citrus similar to a lime.
These are more flavorful and a bit fresher feeling that those Sunkist fruit gems (which I also enjoy). Of course no one’s going to mass produce uncommon flavors like calamansi so you have to go to one of these places to get that kind of stuff. In fact, the calamansi was divine. It was zesty, tart and sweet. It was like lime but also had some grapefruit notes to it. I’m definitely going to keep my eye out for this fruit in other forms. The raspberry was really flavorful, like distilled jam but the blood orange was a little bland after all that. I’d definitely buy these again and would look for some more exotic tea/botanical essences.
Ratings - Chocolate Truffles - 7 out of 10 (for $2.50 each, they should do the dishes or wash my car)
Monday, August 08, 2005
Name: Exotic Candy Bars (Red Fire, Black Pearl & Naga)
A kind reader, flickerfly, emailed me a few weeks ago to point me to Vosges, specifically their Red Fire Bar. Their website is sure sassy but the prices are pretty darn, well, pricey. If you have a moment, browse their website. It’s an odd combination of haute, indulgence, health and yoga. I’m not going to be in Chicago or New York for a while, so I figured I’d see what they had at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills (I’d actually never been to the Neiman Marcus there before).
The woman behind the counter was on the phone pretty much the whole time I was there and all I saw of interest were three of the bars that they offered, and even though they were $6.50 each, I picked up all three. The back of each tells me how to eat an exotic candy bar (which is apparently different than eating other bars). You can read that here.
The first is called Naga Bar and is milk chocolate with Sweet Indian curry powder and coconut flakes. Upon opening the mylar package inside the box, the curry is quite pronounced along with a sugary smell and a slight aroma of chocolate. The chocolate itself is very milky and sweet. After sitting on the tongue for a moment, if bursts with the curry. The milk and the muskyness of the curry is a good blend and the choice of milk chocolate over dark is the right impulse. The curry leaves a little burning feeling on the tongue and throat. The coconut added a nice little texture to it, but I never got the flavor of it.
Next was the bar that I was most looking forward to, Red Fire Bar. It’s Mexican ancho and chipotle chili and cinnamon in dark chocolate (55%). The cinnamon is the top note on this bar. I’ve always enjoyed the combination of cinnamon and chocolate and usually use it in my hot chocolate. The next thing I taste is that it’s a very sweet bar, though buttery smooth to melt there’s a slight grain to it, which I must assume are the spices. Then the chili hits. It’s not so much a flavor as a feeling. A burning on the insides of my lips and my throat. There’s a bit of a smoky note to the bar as well. It’s a really nice combination, though not one I could eat a lot of in one sitting because of the fire element. Of the three bars, this is the one I finished first.
Last was a bar I wasn’t quite sure of. Called Black Pearl Bar, it’s Japanese ginger, wasabi and black sesame seeds in dark chocolate (55%). There was little scent to this bar, a slight woodsy note which I figured was the ginger and of course the chocolate. Upon melting in the mouth, this bar had none of the grain that the fire bar had, just a few sesame seeds (which I could have done without, thank you). The ginger is nice and earthy with a slight burn to it - or was it the wasabi. The horseradish notes didn’t really stick out, but the combination of wasabi and ginger is spicy without a painful throat burn.
As with many of these gourmet bars, I found the price to be a bit prohibitive. As a treat, I certainly plan on going to one of their shops in Las Vegas, Chicago or New York (whichever city I get to first). The Aztec truffle collection would be the first thing I’d try. Of course this riot of flavors has inspired me to try some different things in my own candy next time I whip up a batch of truffles.
Ratings - Naga - 6 out of 10
Friday, August 05, 2005
Name: White Chocolate Take 5
I own a lot of clothes with chocolate stains on them. However, I don’t think that’s enough of a reason to drive me to convert to white chocolate. In another revamp of a current candy bar with white chocolate, here is the Take 5 White Chocolate (limited edition).
What I noticed most about this bar was the peanut butter taste to it. Let’s face it, white chocolate is not a flavor. Chocolate is a flavor, but white chocolate is like deodorized chocolate ... and deflavored while we’re at it. All the fat and sugar and none of the tasty/healthy cocoa solids.
The good news is that Hershey is using real white chocolate - you’re wondering what that means? Well, in order for chocolate to be chocolate it needs to contain cocoa solids (basically cocoa) and cocoa butter (that fat that is solid at room temp and melts at body temp). White chocolate really has no definition, but purists prefer white chocolate that’s actually made with cocoa butter because it’s such a neat fat. Hershey is using real cocoa butter for their white chocolate and it shows in this bar (if they’d only use real vanilla, we might really have a winner).
The bar has an overwhelming sweet peanut smell and taste. I’m guessing that the milk chocolate Take 5 has more of a balance between flavors, but because there is no chocolate flavor here, only texture, the peanut butter and peanuts dominate (that’s not a bad thing, if you like peanuts). The pretzels really stood out as a flavor (they’re a bit lost in the regular Take 5) and the crisp and salt was a great contrast to the sweet, sticky caramel and white chocolate.
I was surprised at how good this bar was. It’s still not my thing but if you’re a nut lover and want something satisfying like chocolate without the actual cocoa, then this might be for you. Again, if Hershey’s really wants to win me over (okay, it’s not like I’m boycotting them or anything after the Twosomes Whoppers) they should make a dark chocolate pecan version of this.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Thursday, August 04, 2005
I was going to save this review until the holidays were upon us and you were begging me for gift suggestions. But BoingBoing posted about it earlier this week, so I figured it was topical. I got this cutesy little sample from Chris at the Candy Warehouse. He gave me my pick of the variations on the theme, there are pooping pigs, pooping cows, pooping bulls and the fun new one is the wind up penguin that leaves little gifts all over the table. Of course, those who’ve known me for more than 30 years know that I have a special fondness for sheep (cuz they’re stupid).
The toy is basically a candy delivery device. You fill up her body cavity through her head (which is hinged) with jelly beans, then when you need a treat you push down on her backside and her tail flips up to expose a hole that delivers two or three. The jelly beans are actually pretty good - cola and I think dulce de leche or something like that because we all like two-tone poop for authenticity.
Would I buy this? Not for myself. But I’d probably be tickled if someone else bought it for me. And gave me an additional bag of poop. Pretty much anything jelly belly sized will work in there. I figure chocolate covered raisins, goobers, M&Ms, maybe even Altoids. I can also think of a few people I might buy this for.
Rating - 7 out of 10
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
CANDY MAKERS, WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?
Ahhh, my pursuit of the ideal malted chocolate candy may have come to an end. Hershey has introduced a series of limited edition candy bars under the heading of TwoSomes - basically Hershey’s extra creamy milk chocolate (read: dairy milk judging by the 6 grams of cholesterol in this bar that must come from milkfat) combined with another flavor from another popular Hershey product.
The line at the moment consists of Twosomes Heath Bar which is bits of toffee in milk chocolate (which sound suspiciously like the pre-existing Symphony bar), Twosomes Reese’s Pieces and this phenomenal Twosomes Whoppers.
What makes this a good bar? First, the chocolate is not the same as you’re used to. Those people who have problems with Hershey’s slightly yogurt taste to their milk chocolate will not find that here. This is their “extra creamy” milk chocolate which is the perfect tabula rasa for the strong flavor of the rice crispies that are imbued with malty goodness. The rice crispies give us some crunch (which was missing in that Maltimus Maximus bar I reviewed at the start of Candy Blog) and a little air which is needed for a good malt taste.
This bar is far superior to Hershey’s Whoppers, which are coated with a chocolate-like wax product (or at least it seems that way). There’s a great chocolate/malt aroma upon opening the package, the chocolate melts easily on the tongue where the sweetness and malt play well together.
Please, please Hershey’s give this bar a new name and add it to your repertoire. While you’re at it, create a Nuggets version of it. I’ll buy this by the pound. I had quite a bit of trouble finding this bar, having first seen it on The Impulsive Buy and then searching liquor stores, drug stores, grocers and convenience stores all over Los Angeles to find it (only some 7-11s seem to stock it).
Rating - 10 out of 10 (I will weep if this is not added to their regular production)
Monday, August 01, 2005
This is my first “taste off” for CandyBlog. I’ve chosen Haribo Gummi Bears to go head-to-head with Trolli Gummi Bears. They’re both the “original” gummi bears that most Americans remember hitting big on the candy scene in the early eighties. I spent quite a bit of my allowance on these. My in-school supplier was a German girl I hung around with, Tina, who must have had them imported by the case by family members. She always seemed to be able to sell me a little 2 ounce packet of them when I needed a fix. Later I found a place in Georgetown (yes, all the way down in DC - I grew up in Pennsylvania) or at the White Flint Mall where I could get them by the pound. Eventually, by the mid-eighties everyone carried them and of course there were more brands available. But the two that I had first contact with were Haribo and Trolli. There are plenty of other brands, like Heide, Black Forest, Brachs and of course a Disney cartoon franchise.
Personally, before this taste test, I would say that Haribo was my favorite. Let’s see how they do…
Name: Trolli Gummi Bears
Trolli Gummi Bears come in five flavors. From left to right they are (as far as I can tell): Cherry, Orange, Lemon, Pineapple and Lime. The shape of the bears is a rather stylelized bear shape, with a large head, narrow legs and little bumps for eyes and a nose.
Trolli are soft, soft bears. Squishy and aromatic, they yield their flavor instantly on the tongue. Inside the package they look a little greasy, but they don’t feel that way once you pop them in the mouth, they’re far softer than Haribos with a better burst of flavor when you put it in your mouth. The cherry is very strong, and overwhelms all the other flavors in the package, all of them smell like cherry.
Name: Haribo Gummi Bears
Haribo Gummi Bears are kind of freaky looking in these photos, they look a little evil. Trust me, in person they’re just cute as can be. Their heads are smaller than their body (as it should be) and they have softer curves and cute little dimpled ears. Their bellies have a little texturing that I think is supposed to be fur.
They’re far firmer than the Trolli Bears. What’s cool about them is that you can have them in your hand or pocket (yes, I sometimes stick candy in my jacket pockets not in any sort of wrapper so I can snack discretely when walking or in a meeting) without them sticking to anything. The Trolli bears have that oily coating that just makes lint stick to them. The flavors from left to right are: Berry (strawberry or raspberry, I can’t tell), Orange, Lemon, Pineapple and Lime.
Flavor for Flavor:
Red - this is the only color where the flavor is different in the brands:
Orange - the color and the flavor
Yellow - lemon, one of the most enduring flavors in the world
Clear - the puzzling flavor of the gummi bear world, I’m going with Pineapple here
(The funnest part of the clear ones is that they remind me of invisibility. You know, like Wonder Woman’s invisible plane on the Superfriends. See, you can cast the whole cartoon with gummi bears! The Red Bear is Superman, the Orange Bear is Aquaman, Yellow is Batman and Green is Robin. It’s a perfect match!)
Green - everyone’s least favorite flavor, Lime
Since I’m not a fan of cherry, the Haribo Bears are a more logical choice for me because I’ll eat all the flavors in there (and their Pineapple is so phenomenal).
In the end, this test only confirmed what I already knew, Haribo is the bear for me. The slightly waxy outer coating and firmer bite might be a negative for some folks, but I find it to enhance their durability. The flavors are all intense and distinct. Trolli’s softer chew is compelling but the overwhelming intrusion of the cherry flavor on its companions is a real turnoff for me.
UPDATE: I should have known that Haribo would win ... Google Fight told me so.
UPDATED UPDATE: Haribo’s green bear is Strawberry ... kind of strange, but if you close your eyes and don’t look at the color it’s a little more obvious. (Thanks to the readers who pointed that out.)
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Name: Junior Caramels
What took the Junior line so long to expand? Apparently they’ve been around for a while, but not everywhere (I guess they’re sold in Canada?).
Junior is currently owned by Tootsie Roll. Junior Mints have long been a favorite of mine. For the record, I like them equally as well as peppermint patties - their fillings are rather different with the only similarities being they’re both white and mint flavored.
Junior Caramels are just soft caramel balls about the size of a garbanzo bean in chocolate. What’s good about them is that the caramel is actually soft and chewy, unlike Milk Duds, which I think must be subsidized by the dental care industry because they’re probably designed for pulling out fillings. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Milk Duds ... especially since they started using real milk chocolate on them, but Milk Duds don’t love me.)
You can pop more than one in your mouth at a time. But they’re kind of fun to bite in half, too.
The caramel in the Junior Caramel doesn’t have that good burnt sugar/toffee taste that Milk Duds do, but they’re still a good chew. They’re sweet and need a little something to counter that. I’ve been eating this huge box with some raw almonds and pretzels, I’ve found it’s a good combo. I haven’t tried them yet at the movies, but I’d think that they’re the perfect movie candy because each one takes a while to chew and actually goes well with popcorn.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Other resources - find a rerun of this episode of Unwrapped to see them made!
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.