Tuesday, April 12, 2016
They’re basically Swedish Fish.
The ingredients feature naturally derived flavorings and colorings. They come in four flavors and shapes.
The red flavor of the classic Swedish Fish is rather unique, though now duplicated by other candies and confections. It’s most like lingonberry, which is similar to a raspberry and pomegranate mix with a sprinkling of fruit punch.
In the case of the Red Lobster here, the berry flavors are very similar to the Swedish Fish, but has none of the bitter aftertaste of the artificial colors that the North American version have. (The actual Malaco Swedish Fish, if you can find them, use natural colorings.) The flavor here is good, well rounded, floral and lingering with a sort of fresh green note.
The Blue Dolphin is described as huckleberry flavored. I have to say that I’m at a loss to place huckleberry in my memory. In this case, the dolphin is rasbperry, with a light tangy note but much lighter than the lobster, more citrusy.
The Orange Rockfish is orange. It’s very plain. The zest notes are pretty pronounced after the chew is over, but it was not terribly interesting. There were very few of them in my bag.
The Yellow Seahorse is mango-peach. This was a really weak flavor. The peach and mango were less than nuanced and were more like a candle scent than a flavoring. The tart bite was the only thing that kept it from being something I’d stick in a drawer to make my towel smell sweet.
The texture of the pieces varied a bit as well. The lobster and rockfish were very soft and smooth. The dolphin and seahorse had a little bit drier and stiffer chew on the outside, which was more like the classic Swedish Fish.
These are not gummi candies, which usually contain gelatin, these are just jelly candies. (Nothin’ wrong with that, it just seems like so many jelly candies can’t be happy with who they are.)
I’m not sure if anyone needed a Swedish Fish knock-off of a full flavor variety. In this case, I’d say that Trader Joe’s could just stick with the Lobsters, or even make a bunch of different red shapes and throw them in a bag.
May contain traces of peanut, almond, cashew & pecan. Also made with sunflower and corn but are gluten free. Though they don’t have the vegan symbol on them, there are no animal derived ingredients and they are Kosher. It was interesting to see that these were made in the United States, as so many Trader Joe’s candies, especially the naturally flavored sugar candies, are not.
What’s Good at Trader Joe’s also has a review.
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Late last year I got these preview versions of the new Vote For Your Favorite Peanut varieties. The idea is that during the US Presidential Primary season, Mars would introduce a trio of flavors to choose from, and the public would vote. The three versions are Chili Nut, Honey Nut, Coffee Nut.
The Honey Nut M&Ms are a milk chocolate coating with a whole peanut in the center and a crisp shell. Somewhere in there is also a honey flavor ... in the shell, is it a honey roasted nut? I have no idea.
I pulled a few apart and didn’t find any evidence of honey roasting, but they do smell a little bit like maple syrup and vanilla. The shell on this variety also seems crisper. The whole effect is a rather clean, sweet flavor but basically a regular old Peanut M&M.
(Note that the packages I got were not final and the M&Ms were all the same color in each bag, in the final versions released to the public there are actually three colors for each variety.)
The Chili Nut M&Ms are probably the most daring of the bunch. Sure, spicy things are trendy, but the major candy companies have stayed far away from the chili heat, sticking to the pumpkin, ginger and cinnamon spices.
The combination of the peanuts, milky chocolate and mild cayenne pepper is very nice. The heat varies from time to time, but generally has a throat warming appeal that builds the more you eat. But it never gets too hot, which makes for a different experience without alienating folks who can’t tolerate a lot of pepper. (I’m afraid I’m one of those, I’m not great with capsaicin, the heat in red peppers, but I love all other spices like mustards, curries, black pepper and ginger).
Coffee Nut M&Ms is such a promising flavor. The roasted flavors of peanuts, coffee and chocolate should be an ideal combination. Added to that, I absolutely loved the winter 2015 Cafe Mocha M&Ms.
The shell is great, the peanuts are large and crunchy ... but the overwhelming flavor isn’t necessarily coffee, but it’s more of a buttery, woodsy flavor. I wanted to give the candy the benefit of doubt, so I bought a full 10.2 ounce bag at CVS just to be sure. Still, I’m getting this weird buttery coconut note.
I think it’s fantastic that Mars is paying a little more attention to the Peanut M&Ms, since most of the flavors we see are for the Milk Chocolate or white varieties. None of these varieties is something I plan to buy again before they disappear.
Thursday, March 24, 2016
Just Born continues with their Peeps limited edition flavors. This season they’ve released three new Delight versions which are fruity flavors dipped in a white confection tinted and flavored to match.
I found two varieties and picked them up: Raspberry Delight and Lemon Delight Peeps.
The Raspberry Delight Peeps package shows both red and blackberries, though the description isn’t any more specific than simply raspberry.
The face that the inside and the outside of the Peeps are color-coordinated is oddly unsettling. The sugar crust is sparkly and a rather vibrant purple, but the innards are oddly dead looking.
The texture is exactly what you expect with a Peep, a crusty sugar shell, a light flavor and bouncy marshmallow texture. I actually enjoy slightly stale Peeps, so I let these packages sit open for a week after taking the photos of them. (So I ate one in its fresh state and the others in their stale state.) The raspberry is very mild, floral and a little jammy. There are little sour crystals in the crust and maybe in the fudge. The fudge is sweet, but also lots more flavorful than the marshmallow. I can’t say that I liked it, but it did add a textural difference and a little creamy note to the whole thing.
In this instance I liked this better than the Candy Corn and Pumpkin Spice Peeps, but not by much.
The lemon flavor is mostly sweet and has a “cleaning product” sort of vibe, with the light citrus scent but very little nuance. The flavor also has a few hints of salt and sour, which does give a little respite from the sugary notes. Overall, they’re perfectly edible, but the fudge element is grainy and sweet and waxy.
The Lemon didn’t work as well as the Raspberry, but still came off as a decent piece of candy. I find these little dipped Peeps to be ridiculously expensive for the type of candy they are. I buy them because they’re novelties and there weren’t many other new Easter candies this year. In the future, I’d prefer to just find a good small confectioner that makes their marshmallow in house and uses high quality, high cacao chocolate.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
See’s is on trend this year with their new seasonal Lollypop variety, Strawberry Cream Lollypops.
The pop smells mostly of butter, but vaguely like strawberry as well.
The blocky shape isn’t the best for comfort, but it’s certainly a generous amount for a lollipop. For the most part the dissolve of the See’s pops is smooth. It’s more like a hard caramel consistency than a hard candy. The candy isn’t aerated, so there are fewer voids which makes for a creamy experience and a little slower melt.
The strawberry flavor here is very mild. I was expecting something similar to a strawberry ice cream flavor, mostly the sweetness mixed with milk and maybe a little jammy note. There’s no hint of either a fruity tartness or yogurt tang. It’s all sweetness, though not cloying or throat searing. The strawberry has a very slight boiled berry note but mostly it’s the floral scent.
The lollypop is merely pleasant. It didn’t think it’s vivid enough or, if that’s not its intent, creamy enough. I ate all three that I bought, but I’ll switch back to the standards or wait for the exceptional Root Beer to return.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Mars has a few seasonal varieties of M&Ms available this year, including the White Strawberry Shortcake and Easter Sundae M&Ms (which are Target and Walmart exclusives, respectively). For the masses who can’t shop at those stores or don’t want a which chocolate product, there’s one other Easter version that’s new this year: Malt M&Ms Mini Eggs.
I was very excited about these by the name, since Mars already has a great line of malt products available in Europe under the Malteser name. This is not that, in any way.
The new Malt M&Ms Mini Eggs are Crispy M&Ms in their format and ingredients. The only difference is not the addition of malt in the center, but butter flavor.
I picked up both the regular M&Ms Crispy in their Easter colors and the Malt M&Ms Mini Eggs for comparison, when a reader alerted me that they were no different.
There are some small format differences. As noted in the name, the Malts are mini, and they are slightly smaller than the regular Crispy M&Ms, but not something that you’d notice right away. But then again, the Malts aren’t really egg shaped at all, they’re just inconsistent so that some of them are kind of egg shaped and others are spherical.
The candies on the left are the Easter colors for the regular Crispy M&Ms and the handful on the right are the new Malt M&Ms Mini Eggs. Slightly different colors, but similar irregular shapes.
The difference isn’t inside, either. The ingredients and the structure are the same. The crispy rice center is light and airy, but basically flavorless, it’s a little like cereal, a little malty. Outside there’s a little hint of chocolate, not much but with a bit of a milky note. The candy shell is crisp. But as I mentioned earlier, this Malt version is not malty, the outside has a butter flavor to it, and I have to emphasize that it’s just a flavor.
I’ve had these two bags for almost a month, I’ve finished the regular Easter crispy M&Ms but I can’t bear to even have the Malt bag open near me. The smell is disgustingly artificial. It’s not malt at all. I don’t know what Mars was thinking with this product version, but they should definitely consult with other parts of the company that actually make malted items in the future.
Monday, February 22, 2016
Easter is a special time in the candy cycle, because it’s really the only time of year that white chocolate is embraced. Fortunately there are some products that are actually good, not just a white confection but actually made with real cocoa butter and lots of milk. (Many white confections are just sugar and tropical oils.)
The new White Strawberry Shortcake M&Ms are a Target exclusive this year, and if you’re a fan of the other white chocolate holiday versions like the Candy Corn M&Ms and the White Peppermint M&Ms, these may be just for you.
The pieces are larger than standard M&Ms, they’re puffier and a little less regular. They’re delicate pastel colors in pleasing creamy pink, eggshell and white, kind of like a strawberry shortcake with a whipped cream dollop. That’s about as far as the shortcake theme goes, which is fine with me. (The Dove Strawberry Shortcake Crisp things were weird.)
The package this year holds 8 ounces. Years ago the limited edition flavors came in a 9.9 ounce bag, they’re reliably shrinking over time.
The pieces are uncolored in the center and not layered like some. The white chocolate is creamy and sweet and has the floral flavor of fresh strawberries. There are no dried strawberry bits in there, like some previous products have included.
The shell is crunchy and the center is sweet but balanced with the more milky flavors. There’s a lot of fat in there, from the cocoa butter, but they didn’t have a greasy texture. (But that could be that it’s kind of chilly, the Candy Corn version they make in the fall comes along when things are still warm in my area, and the cocoa butter can migrate through the shell in the heat. The flavor in this case reminds me quite a bit of the old Nestle Qwik strawberry milk.
I’m keen on these, but they push all my buttons. They’re pretty and not overly colored, they have a good flavor that’s not too artificial and the ingredients (though there are artificial colors and flavors) are petty decent. I hope they return next year with a wider release.
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
This year Russell Stover jumped on the strawberry trend quite well. They already make a Strawberry Cream Heart for Valentine’s Day, but this year they’ve also added at least three new items with the strawberry theme. I picked up two. The first is the Russell Stover Strawberries & Cream Mix which the package says is strawberry and white pastelle hearts combine for a rich strawberry and cream taste.
The pink package sports lots and lots of hearts, including a few that show the size and shape of the candies. And it’s actually pretty accurate, they do look like little drawings of hearts colored in off white and palest pink. It’s a white confection version of the iddy biddy Santas and Bunnies they do in milk chocolate. (Though they mercifully sell those in little single-serve packages.)
The pieces do smell rather sweet, mild and with a decent strawberry note. They’re soft and matte and kind of strange because they’re very quiet. They’re light and have no candy shell, so pouring them from the package means more sound from the bag than the tumbling of the candy.
When Russell Stover says pastelle, they really mean a combination of sugar, fractionated palm kernel oil, partially hydrogenated palm oil, some milk solids & fats plus a few dabs of food coloring and flavor.
The effect is pretty much what you might think. Mostly waxy, rather sweet, a smidge milky and vaguely strawberry. The white pieces are supposed to be vanilla, but are really just less strawberry because of their proximity in the bag.
They’re not as sweet as I feared they would be. Mostly I’m disappointed that they’re so expensive when Mars was able to make actual white chocolate strawberry M&Ms for less for Easter this year. The one thing they have going for them is that they are pretty darn cute and would be great as a decorative element for a cake or cupcakes or just scattered on a dessert plate. Because they’re a mockolate product, not a coated candy, the colors won’t run and they’re not as likely to melt in most serving situations.
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
There’s not much of a description on the package, just that the squares are filled with strawberry filling. The filling appears to be made from sugar, high fructose corn syrup, palm oil and freeze dried strawberries and colored with fruit and vegetable juice (very vague). It also has some added TBHQ as a preservative. There’s no indication of the cacao content of the chocolate itself, but I’d guess it’s somewhere in the low 60% range. Each square is 70 calories.
The squares are elegant and simple. They’re 1.75 inches square and sport the Ghirardelli logo in a beveled field. In my experience the packaging protects the pieces well and they usually look stunningly gorgeous.
If there’s an issue with the filled squares from Ghirardelli is that they temper their chocolate to be very crisp and snappy ... so the filled pieces can be messy to eat when the chocolate breaks apart upon biting and the filling dribbles out. So, make an effort to bite on the diagonal, or pop the whole thing in your mouth at once.
The chocolate is sweet but with a nice dry woodsy note to it, which goes well with the strawberry flavors. The strawberry filling is quite like a finely pureed strawberry sauce. It’s not overly sweet, has a strong tangy note and just a touch of seed flavor to it (and some actual seeds).
Because the edges are so thick and the chocolate in the center is so thin, there’s a large variation in the proportion of filling to chocolate in any given bite.
I liked them quite a bit, it was the best imitation of a chocolate covered strawberry that doesn’t spoil that I think I’ve had. Ghirardelli Strawberry Squares contain soy and milk and may also contain traces of tree nuts. There’s no statement about gluten.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.