Thursday, February 5, 2015
Valentine’s Day candy is disappointing because it’s usually about the packaging. So, I was pleased at Whole Foods when I spotted two limited edition varieties from Theo Chocolate for Valentine’s Day ... and on sale at 2 bars for $3 (they’re usually $4 each). I’ve often said that a fine chocolate bar is better than a greeting card and in this case, far cheaper. There’s even a “To” and “From” spot on the back of the bar. (But the ideal touch would be to include at least a personalized post it note.)
It’s called Theo Red Hot Cinnamon Love Crunch. The description on the back said: The red-hot crunch of cinnamon brittle in smooth, rich, 70% dark chocolate - spicy and sweet.
Sounds amazing: for $1.50, I was getting a unique bar that combined cinnamon and chocolate, that was also fair trade certified, non-GMO, organic, vegan, soy-free, Kosher and made here in the USA. Goodbye, ordinary candy in a heart shaped package! (The other bar I picked up was the milk chocolate My Cherry Baby.)
On the tongue at first it’s a little tangy. The melt is a little grainy, I wasn’t sure if it was the crunchy bits or not at first, but it seems that some of it is spices. It became apparent very quickly that this was not just a cinnamon and chocolate bar. My bad for not reading the label fully.
Here’s the deal: the package is pink, the printing on the back is brown. In full light and my reading glasses, I can read it. But not in the dim light and glassesless state I was in at Whole Foods. (My usual trick when I don’t have my glasses and the print is tiny is to take a photo with my phone and then blow it up, but I read the description and thought that was the extent of the flavors.)
The ingredients of interest here are (after you get through the chocolate stuff): cayenne, cinnamon leaf essential oil, black pepper essential oil, nutmeg essential oil and clove essential oil.
I actually like spicy things (curry, cinnamon, black pepper and ginger), but the one I can’t do is red pepper. Capsascin is one of those compounds that people experience differently because of genetic differences. For me, cayenne isn’t fun, there’s a lot of heat that doesn’t seem to dissipate and in higher concentrations it just induces nausea. So, I avoid anything other than mild chili items. While there’s a proliferation of chili peppers in confection, and for the most part they’re tolerable, though not always enjoyable for me.
This was freakishly hot for me. I got the different sensations from the various spices, I could actually discern the difference between the black pepper and the cayenne and the cinnamon. (Clove actually has a bit of a numbing effect.) The cinnamon really only came in at the beginning as a scent. The tangy bite of the chocolate did help to mellow the pepper at first, but once it hit my throat, the one-two punch of black and red pepper was too much. The little brittle crunch pieces were supposed to be cinnamon, and maybe some of them were, but other larger bits seemed flavorless.
I tried this bar twice, eating only one of the large squares each time in small bits. The warming effect from the spices lasts a long time, well over a half an hour. Though it didn’t upset my stomach, it really didn’t please me either and I don’t plan on finishing the bar.
If your loved one is partial to the extremely spicy side of things, this might be a good option, especially if you’re looking for something without dairy or soy (the Lindt dark chocolate products contain milk and soy ingredients). The bar is made in a facility that also handles peanuts, wheat, milk, eggs and soy.
Friday, January 30, 2015
Think about that name for a minute when you consider the product. They’re jelly beans with words printed on them. They’re bean shaped. The words are gushy commands or endearments. There are no hearts. There really aren’t even any conversations.
There’s no key on the package for the flavors, there’s not even a description of what the candy is. I consider this lazy. As far as I’m concerned, what happens is the confectioners come up with a product and the marketing and packaging people agree to make the most enticing package they can without actually committing to anything. So there’s no list of flavors, just some pictures of the candy and a name ... plus those obligatory things our government demands like ingredients and a nutritional panel.
There are six colors: pink, purple, green, orange, yellow and white. They’re not exactly pastel, like the package shows them, but not quite royal. The little mottoes include: Yours 4 Ever, I [heart] You, Peace, ILY, SWAK, Miss U, Hug Me, and Love. The print was red and hard to read on the orange, pink and purple beans, so only half were conversational, the others were whispering behind my back.
White is probably Pineapple. It’s tangy and finishes with a tropical floral note.
All of the flavors were odd and evoked a strange association for me. The Watermelon, each time I ate one, left a sort of a hot iron flavor swirling around. Pineapple finished like a cream soda served in an anodized aluminum cup. Lemon reminded me of fresh roasted Hatch chili peppers. There were no actual flavors, just a weird note to each of them that was certainly atypical.
I didn’t like these much. I only liked half the flavors enough to pick them out: orange, lemon and pineapple ... if pressed, I would grab a grape. The printing wasn’t very good and the little lines weren’t interesting enough to warrant putting my glasses on to discern them. I will give them credit for adding in something like watermelon, which is pretty uncommon. I might like a little bit of warning next time.
Brach’s was part of the Farley’s & Sathers candy company for a few years, but now they’re rolled into Ferrara Candy Company. I actually like a lot of their jelly beans, especially the Lemonhead & Friends Jelly Beans. The unique take on conversation items might simply be something with more flavor than the traditional chalky heart. Instead, the Brach’s Conversation Heart Beans have only slightly bested the wafer based candies ...which was too low of a bar.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
The newest trend, though, is unwrapped mini items, so Nestle has obliged with their 2015 version called Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups Minis.
I picked up a stand-up bag that holds a half a pound, but they also come in a king-size sharing bag.
The bag is appealing and easy to spot on the shelf. There are a lot of options on the morszelization front these days, with M&Ms as well as all the new unwrapped mini versions of things.
The design of the little unwrapped cups is well done. They’re fluted and have a rounded square top and circular bottom. However, they suffer from the same problem all of these unwrapped items in a bag do ... they get scuffed up. So they come out looking a little shabby, the chocolate dust often gives the appearance of bloom.
The cups are 3/4 of an inch across and about 1/2 of an inch high and each weighs about 4.5 grams (.16 ounces). The smell is like fake butter, the whole bag was a bit like kettle corn.
A serving is 9 pieces and has 220 calories. I can’t say for sure, but it feels like there’s a larger proportion of chocolate to the filling compared to the regular cups, but the ingredients and nutritional panel are virtually the same.
The chocolate is sweet, has a fudgy melt and is generally smooth on the tongue. The filling is a mix of small crunchy shards of Butterfinger center and a creamed peanut butter filling. It’s a nice texture with a good balance between sweet and salty, crunchy and creamy. The chocolate boost from the coating is nonexistent, I got more milk flavors from it than anything.
Overall, this version of the cup relies too much on the chocolate, a problem I also recognized with the Reese’s Minis as well. , It’s a shame that Nestle makes such lackluster chocolate, but at least this product is supposed to be about the other flavors and textures. They’re probably great mixed in with pretzels, nuts and popcorn as a snack mix. But they’re still probably too big to use as an ice cream topping. I don’t plan on buying them again, as the proportions for this size are just off for me and the chocolate is so bad.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
They include the returning JuJu Hearts in cinnamon and cherry flavors, Peppermint Heart Nougats and at least three different kinds of wafer Conversation Hearts. The new items, which I’ll try to review this year, include today’s item, Brach’s Gummi Conversation Hearts.
They come in a 10 ounce stand up, resealable bag and cost $2.79. There’s no description on the package of what the candy actually is, just the name.
The hearts come in six colors: pink, orange, green, white, yellow and lavender. Each has lumpy motto molded into them, nearly all are in text-ese. I might have preferred emoticons.
The mottoes depicted were short, as I think the limit was 2 characters + 3 characters + 1 character stacked. So they went something like: 2 HOT or XO XO or QT PIE or BFF. Not exactly a conversation.
The gummis are opaque and look like latex paint. They smell a little off, a little too much like cherry and plastic. It didn’t matter which color they were, they all smelled like cherry.
Yellow is Lemon. The texture is quite bouncy. Each piece is really the right size for a gummi, not more than a bite, and easy enough to conceal if you like to let it dissolve or chew. It’s quite mild, not overly tart or zesty. Not even strong enough to classify as pleasant.
Green is Lime. This was floral and only has the smallest tangy bite. It’s so bland, I had a hard time figuring its flavor for a while.
Lavender is Grape. Grape is a rare flavor in gummis, so it ought to be savored ... this one has a little grape soda note to it, but not much else going for it.
Pink is Cherry. This is probably the best one, not that I like cherry, but it’s definitely cherry and a bit more vibrant than the others.
Orange is Orange. There weren’t a lot of these in my mix, which is fine. They had a lot of zest notes, which is good, but not much in the way of juice.
White is Pineapple. Probably. I don’t know what this is, there are not colorings (except for the titanium dioxide) so it’s definitely more of a blank slate. It’s a little tangy, kind of bright, but not citrusy, but then again, it kind of tasted like cherry.
I think Brach’s does some candies well, such as Candy Corn. Gummis are not something I would select Brach’s as my brand of choice. There are too many other companies making better gummis with better flavors and better shapes. Since they’re not appealing even as a decoration, I’d say these are not worth anyone’s time.
Monday, January 26, 2015
I wasn’t sure what a superfruit was, so I looked it up and apparently it’s just a marketing term. The general idea is that a superfruit is a fruit that has nutritional or health benefits beyond a normal fruit. Blueberries, goji berries and acai are included in this non-standardized list for their high antioxidant and flavanoid content. Many of these foods are sold with ORAC ratings on the package, which are meant to codify the antioxidant capabilities of the food.
Of course a candy that’s simply flavored for these “miraculous” foods is missing the point.
The new flavor assortment is: Raspberry Pomegranate, Strawberry Starfruit, Passionfruit Punch and Blueberry Acai. The ingredients are pretty much the same as the ingredients as all the other Starburst flavors, which are made from corn syrup, sugar, hydrogenated palm kernel oil and less than 2% apple juice concentrate. They add in a bit of vitamin C (20% of your RDA) and some artificial colors and flavors.
Strawberry Starfruit is much more tart than the usual Strawberry but with less of the floral and toasted sugar notes. The Starfruit might add that additional tangy zap, as the fruit is usually rather white grape-like with a note of green apple thrown in.
Raspberry Pomegranate is the darkest red of the batch and comes in a purple wrapper. The chew is actually very intensely pomegranate and berry, not too sweet, very floral and with an almost dry finish that you can get with pomegranates.
Passionfruit Punch comes in the magenta wrapper and does taste exactly like a fruit punch. It’s quite tart, which is refreshing and gets my salivary glands going. I’m not usually fond of fruit punch flavors, but this one had a sort of dry finish to it which kept it all from getting too fake or metallic at the end.
I thought this was a stupid idea when I read about these for the reasons I introduced earlier. However, Starburst has succeeded in making each of the flavors distinct and intense. I don’t care for the smoothies or the cream flavors for Starburst, I prefer the really dense fruit chew that Starburst usually delivers. So, on that front they’re quite successful. I don’t know if I would want this mix over the traditional fruits version which has the citrus flavors I love, but I have to say that I actually liked each and every flavor in this package and have no reason to even look at the wrapper before eating.
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Last year Mars released Red Velvet M&Ms as a Walmart exclusive for Valentine’s Day. This year they’ve created Dove Milk Chocolate & Red Velvet Swirl Promises which are found only at Target.
The description on the bag of the bag is vague about what a Red Velvet Swirl Heart is actually like, only saying that it’s “a delicious blend of luxuriously smooth chocolate and rich red velvet flavor.” But it never elaborates what constitutes red velvet’s flavor ... which might be the buttermilk touched with cocoa of the cake or the cream cheese frosting.
There are two different colors of foil, but the pieces inside are the same inside. The heart shapes and foil colors are elegant, I always appreciate how well Dove does the packaging of their Promises. I was surprised at how light colored the actual pieces are. I know it’s a milk chocolate Promise, but the combination of the lightness of the milk chocolate and the pink swirled white chocolate makes it a very pale candy.
The scent is odd, I’ve had a few red velvet flavored chocolates now, but this one is not quite the same. It’s not just vanilla or pound cake scented, there’s a note of strawberry in there. Now, I have nothing against vanilla, strawberry and chocolate as a combination, there’s actually a lot of history to the Neapolitan. The melt is nice, as always, it’s excpetionally sweet and there is an immediately “cake” flavor that I can’t quite figure out ... but then there are other flavors that just sit on top of the experience. There’s something that’s a little cheesy and something that’s a little metallic. It’s all dreadful, as far as I’m concerned.
I’m absolutely the wrong target demographic for this candy, as I’m not a fan of Red Velvet cake in the first place, but I haven’t seen anyone who I’ve offered this to (that will eat it) that actually liked it.
On a side note, there will be Red Velvet Oreos this year, which makes a bit more sense as a platform for the flavors.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
In the world of grouped things there are litters (kittens & puppies), packs (mules), troops (monkeys), prides (lions), passels (pigs), pods (whales & dolphins), scurries (squirrels), hives (bees) and orchards (fruit trees). So, Wrigley’s new variety mix is simply called Skittles Orchards since it contains Orange, Red Apple, Lime, Peach and Cherry flavors.
Right off the bat, I knew this wouldn’t have anything berry or pineapple ...
The package is a rich green color, so it was easy to spot on the shelf at the 7-11.
Red Apple is different from the new green apple that appears in the Original Fruits variety. It’s not as sour and has a more juice and peel type flavor that you might get from cider instead of a Jolly Rancher candy. The Red Apple flavor is the lighter of the two red colors in this mix ...why they couldn’t make it some other shade of red, I’m not certain because I kept getting it confused with the cherry at first glance.
Lime is, well, classic. It’s a little tart but mostly has the sweet and zesty notes of lime peel. I missed it.
Orange is rather sedate. There are a lot of juice flavors but it lacks a more powerful zest note that the lime has. This was an opportunity for Wrigley’s to put in something like Mandarin Orange or Tangerine ... instead they just threw in a flavor they already make.
Cherry is the darker red and I’m sure that lovers of the Starburst cherry are going to go nuts for this package of Skittles. I can’t tell if it’s actually different from the Wild Cherry that comes in the Wild Berry Skittles mix, but it is nice to see them putting Cherry into another mix.
Peach is disappointing, though I actually liked it. It’s a little tangy and has an immediate sort of balsam note to it, but it lacks that peachness. There more like a vague tropical punch flavor, which isn’t a bad thing.
As far as combining the flavors. Of course Orange and Lime went together, and Cherry and Lime went together. Peach and Orange were okay, but not stellar. And of course Red Apple was like the new Green Apple in the Fruits mix ... it just doesn’t combine well with anything but itself.
There’s nothing innovative about this packet of Skittles, but then again, that’s not what folks want. If that’s what they wanted, varieties like Chocolate Mix and Fizzl’d Fruits would have survived. Instead this mix delivers solid contenders for “I enjoy this flavor” though nothing that would scream, “I love this flavor.” That’s probably enough in the Skittles world where it’s about the variety, it’s all about the rainbow, it’s never about one color. I don’t think this version will survive long, Wrigley’s will move on to another mix up of other tried and true flavors that it’s done before within 18 months.
Just to clarify, there are at least 60 flavors that have been released in the US flavor mixes before. Here’s the list that I have (in alphabetical order): Banana Berry, Berry Punch, Blood Orange, Blue Raspberry-Lemon, Blueberry Tart, Brownie Batter, Bubble Gum, Candy Apple, Caramel Ripple, Cherry Tropicolada, Cherry-Lemonade, Chocolate, Chocolate Caramel, Chocolate Pudding, Cool Mint, Cotton Candy, Dark Berry, Forbidden Fruit, Grape, Green Apple, Green Slushy, Key Lime Pie, Kiwi Lime, Lemon, Lemon Berry, Lime, Mango Lemonade Freeze, Mango Tangelo, Mango-Peach, Melon Berry Burst, Midnight Lime, Mixed Berry, Orange, Orange Creme, Orange Mango, Peach Pear, Peppermint , Pineapple Passionfruit, Pomegranate, Punch, Raspberry, Raspberry Sorbet, Red Licorice, S’More, Sour Grape, Sour Green Apple, Sour Lemon, Sour Orange, Sour Strawberry, Spearmint, Strawberry, Strawberry Banana, Strawberry Lime Burst, Strawberry Milkshake, Strawberry Starfruit, Strawberry-Watermelon, Sweet Mint, Vanilla, Vanilla Swirl, Watermelon, Watermelon Green Apple Freeze, Wild Cherry, Wintergreen.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Jelly Belly announced their new Champagne Jelly Belly just before New Years. I haven’t seen them in stores, but I picked up this sample bag, that calls them Jelly Belly Bubbly. I suspect they’ll be in stores for Valentine’s Day, but I haven’t seen them at my regular haunts like Dylan’s Candy Bar and Cost Plus World Market.
Jelly Belly suggests a flavor pairings with the beans, such as combining them with orange to create a mimosa. I’d imagine strawberry and peach would also go well.
The beans are lovely, with a light sparkling sheen to them. They have a light honey scent, but not much else going on before you eat them beyond the good looks.
The flavor is mild, not like the Draft version they made as a beer flavor. There’s a hint of white grape, a little yeast note ... maybe a touch of honey sweetness. But that’s about it, there’s not tartness or dry bite. They’re appealing, but if you gave them to me without telling me the flavor, it’d be pretty far down on my list of guesses.
Out of curiosity, I went to Dylan’s Candy Bar and picked up just a handful of the Champagne Bubbles, which are white grape jelly drops covered with nonpareils to compare them. They’re similar, the grape and honey notes are on the same wavelength, but there’s a distinct juicy tartness to the Bubbles that isn’t in the Champagne beans. They’re both quite cute and would make a lovely pairing for a candy buffet or favors for a wedding or engagement party. The beans are certainly less messy (the Bubbles do leave little white spheres around from time to time) and can be combined with the other colorful iridescent that Jelly Bean now makes for their favorite flavors.
As a special flavor, I’ll pass on these. I don’t actually like champagne, so a bean flavored like it isn’t of much interest to me. I look forward to seeing folks use them in bean combinations and of course they’ll look nice for special occasions.
Jelly Belly are peanut free, dairy free, gluten free, and considered vegetarian. There is no actual alcohol listed in the ingredients. The beans contain confectioners glaze and beeswax so aren’t vegan.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.