Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Meiji, one of Japan’s major candy & snack companies uses white and flavored white chocolates in many of their confections. The flavors range from berry and flower flavors (sakura) to green tea and caramel.
I found this Meiji Rich Strawberry Chocolate bar in Little Tokyo at Murukai Market, but every store seemed to carry them.
The bar is much deeper in color than the KitKats or even the limited edition Hershey’s flavored white chocolate bars that I’ve had. And the intensity of the color matches the flavor. It’s much more in the berry range than the “light touch of berries”. It’s both tangy and sweet, with that woodsy flavor of seeds in there as well.
I wasn’t as fond of it as a I’d hoped. Something about the tangy mixed with the sweetness and a bit of grain from the real berry in there made me miss the cocoa butter and milk base. But for $1.29, it was a great buy for a little more exotic taste than the ordinary.
Rating: 6 out of 10
I wasn’t sure what these would be, I thought something like the Skoolkrijt that I’ve come to love. I assumed it was a licorice center with a candy coating. I found a description online that said, “Salty Salmiak & Mint Flavor with a crunchy outer shell” which didn’t really capture it all (except that it included that it was salted licorice, not the straight sweet kind).
There are three shapes, a dark and a light jelly bean style and a larger, um, rock. I didn’t even know there was a third shape at first, as there were only two in the bag so I didn’t photograph it.
The beans are two different flavors. The light one is a peppermint, menthol and licorice mix of flavors. There’s a lot of crunch outside, it’s a bit grainy. The inside isn’t a molasses/wheat chewy licorice. Instead it’s a gelatin gummi flavored with licorice (and salt). The combo isn’t bad, a little metallic but the mint helps kind of smooth it all together.
The gray ones were similar but more on the straight licorice side. (They might not have been minted, but the proximity made them so.)
The lumps were a piece of the wheat based chew, again a little salted and covered with the minty crunch. That was my favorite.
They’re a little confusing for me. Not enough of one thing or another and the lack of the molasses punch to go with the licorice (my favorite combo) just didn’t make me want more and I never finished the bag.
Rating: 4 out of 10.
I was saddened several years ago to see that Wrigley’s altered their time-tested favorites: Wrigley’s Spearmint, Doublemint, Juicyfruit and Big Red gums to include those sorts of things. But then at Munchies in Los Angeles I stumbled across this little treasure - Juicy Fruit Gum, not only is it Kosher (which I don’t really need) but it’s also made with sugar and on top of that, they’re candy coated chicklets!
The box was cute and held 20 pellets. I usually chew three pieces at a time, so at 50 cents it’s no different in price than the regular pack.
I liked the crunch of the sugar shell and the indeterminate mellow fruity flavor of the chew. The flavor doesn’t last very long, but I don’t usually chew gum for a long time, just long enough to get most of the sugar out then I rinse and repeat.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Friday, August 1, 2008
Altoids has a pretty wide variety of flavors and their newest innovation (from late 2006) is offering their most popular mint flavors covered in dark chocolate. This summer Wrigley’s has not only brought out a new mint flavor, Creme de Menthe, they also offer it in the Altoids Dark Chocolate Dipped Mints format.
The dark brown tin with gold and green accents looks rich and inviting. It was easy to spot on the rack at the checkout at Safeway when I was up in the Bay Area and I was lucky enough to catch them on sale, too, at only $1.50 for the package.
The dark chocolate covered mints don’t look like much and look identical to the previous varieties. They smell, well, minty and chocolatey.
I prefer crunching mine. The chocolate cleaves off pretty easily and the mint inside has a satisfying crunch. But the chocolate is pretty good too, though tastes more of mint than chocolate, it’s creamy and has a buttery melt and dry finish.
I can’t quite peg what Creme de Menthe is in the first place, so all I can say is that this variety is for people who would like Altoids but find them too strong.
These are like eating a hardened Junior Mint. The dark chocolate complements the mellow mint well, the mint lingers and feels fresh and cool longer after it’s gone.
I ate the whole tin. While the curiously strong Peppermint variety keeps me from eating more than, say, eight or ten in one sitting, it took me only two sessions to eat this whole package. But of course the package only holds 1.76 ounces, so it wasn’t a huge binge. And my breath smells pretty good now. I think I might prefer the softer bite of something like Junior Mints, Dutch Mints or York Peppermint Patties, but I have to say that the crunch was different enough that these aren’t quite interchangeable. (But they are more expensive.)
As with all the traditional Altoids mints, these have gelatin in them and are unsuitable for vegetarians.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I went to the Bay Area last weekend and instead of going on a spree to all the most luxurious chocolatiers and confectionery shops I went to the Dollar Tree and Long’s. (Yes, we have Long’s & Dollar Tree in Los Angeles, but this plaza in Dublin had some really good shops.)
I was pleased to find the new LifeSavers Gummies Tangy Fruits which were announced at All Candy Expo a few months ago. I was drawn to them because they feature tangerine, which is my absolute favorite LifeSavers flavor (and will prompt me to by Tropical LifeSavers just for those).
I wasn’t sure when they were announced if they were going to be like the LifeSavers Sour Gummies, which are coated in a grainy sugar/sour sanding or if they’d be like the traditional smooth rings of the LifeSavers 5 Flavors. After purchasing and opening, I was pleased to see that they are the smooth variety. (Yes, I prefer my gummis without the grainy mess, because I like to play with them.)
While the LifeSavers 5 Flavors Gummies follow the flavor set of the 5 Flavors hard candies, the Tangy Fruits were free to be whatever tangy fruits they wanted to be without a parallel. In this case they’re Tangerine, Watermelon, Lemon, Sour Apple, Tangy Cherry & Wild Fruit Punch. Now, what I found most interesting about that list was that three of those flavors are kind of in the 5 Flavors (Green Apple, Watermelon & Cherry). So in order to fully compare, I also bought a pack of the 5 Flavor Gummies.
The new packaging that LifeSavers introduced last year has a helpful key on the front that details the color & flavor combinations.
Aqua = Wild Fruit Punch - I don’t think there’s a wild fruit flavor in here at all. It tastes like a chemistry set. Perfumy, a bit like Kool-Aid fruit punch but there are some citrus notes and even though it’s blue, it was kind of bitter.
Green = Sour Apple - yeah, it’s green apple, but I was really missing the tangy bite I felt I was promised. Granted it does taste different from the 5 Flavors Green Apple, but not any more sour. Just different.
Light Red = Watermelon - I’ve never understood the desire to make anything watermelon flavored sour. Watermelon flavor has nothing to do with tartness as far as I’m concerned, so it’s like making sour honey, it just doesn’t make any sense. In this case it’s not sour, it’s actually quite nice. It reminds me of the perfect Jolly Rancher.
Dark Red = Tangy Cherry - I was expecting the black cherry flavors of a regular LifeSaver and I got a lot of those really intense woodsy-floral notes here. It’s not that “tart cherry pie” flavor but it’s also not at all the same as the Cherry in the 5 Flavors (which after tasting again reminds me of lipstick).
Yellow = Lemon - I’ve been missing lemon in the 5 Flavors, so I was glad to see its return here. And it was lemon! Tangy, zesty (almost too zesty!), soft and fragrant. Much more potent than the old hard candy LifeSaver.
Orange = Tangerine - I saved the best for last. And I wasn’t disappointed. This is no drink mix flavor, it tastes like someone peeled a tangerine right in front of me. There’s even a slight bitterness, plus the juicy taste of the gummi is enhanced by the soft and rubbery chew. I think it could be tarter, but I think all of them need to be more sour if they’re going to call the product Tangy Fruits.
The texture of the gummis was nice. They felt less greasy than they used to, but a little tougher.
While Tangy Fruits has more flavors that I actually like, buying six flavors just to get two that I like (tangerine & lemon) is insane. So here’s my request: Citrus Mix. Orange, Lemon, Lime, Tangerine and Grapefruit. (And if they wanted to throw Pineapple in there, I wouldn’t argue with the violation of the definition of citrus.)
LifeSavers hard candies are made in Canada, but these are made in the USA. They contain gelatin so are not suitable for vegetarians and are not Kosher.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I know I don’t do many gum reviews, I don’t consider myself a great connoisseur of the stuff. I’m perfectly happy with good old Peppermint Chiklets. But the All Candy Expo box included about 25 packages of gum, here are three that caught my attention:
Glee Gum Bubblegum Flavor: The natural pink coloring here is from beets and I can’t think of a more lovely way for a beet to be displayed. The little chicklets in this case are made with actual chicle, a natural sap from Manilkara trees native to the Americas. Very few gums are made with this natural base these days. Harvesting the gum from the trees is rather like tapping Maple trees for sap or Rubber trees for latex - it doesn’t harm the trees and helps to preserve forest & their inhabitants. (Though they harvest it by making huge gashes in the bark that allow the gum to ooze out for collection unlike the little metal spiked taps that they use for maple harvests, the trees are essentially unharmed.)
I’ve tried Glee before, it’s sold at the checkout at Trader Joe’s and the infectiously cute box tempts me every time. I didn’t care for orange, which seemed grainier and stuck to my fillings, but have had the peppermint a few times since then.
The crunchy sugar shell is lightly flavored, bubblegum flavor is usually fresh tasting, a little like cotton candy with a little dash of root beer. The sugary sweetness doesn’t last that long, then it’s a very mild flavor and a good soft & smooth chew.
I have had some of my amalgam fillings replaced with composite, so I’m not having the sticking problem I used to. I don’t think the bubblegum flavor is for me, probably because it’s not actually bubble gum. (See more about this all natural gum at the Glee Gum website.)
Rating: 7 out of 10
WOWzers Strawberry from Maxim International describes itself on the package as Explosive and Sour Powder Bubble Gum. I wasn’t really sure what it was. At first I thought it was a tube of something like Pixy Stix that you chew until it becomes gum (like a powdered Razzle).
Instead, it’s a long tube of bubble gum (strawberry flavored, in this case) about as big around as a bubble gum cigar. Inside it’s hollow and filled with a white crumbly, crunchy & grainy sour powder (a la Pixy Stix).
It feels overpackaged. It’s inside a long mylar wrapper, which has a little waxed cardstock tray that wraps around three sides of the product. The version I have is 1.2 ounces but the one I teased yesterday are 3.6 ounces (and probably about three times the length). They also come in Fruit Punch, Apple & Grape.
First, the product looks, well, a little odd out of the package. Kind of like a 9 inch long extremely thin hot dog. It’s not made into individual portions, which I’d figure is about 2 inches.
The bite is soft and easy, immediately tangy and grainy. The candy sand dissolves and dissipates pretty quickly. It’s sour and certainly gets the salivary glands working, much in the way the old Quench Gum did. After that wears away with chewing it’s a rather sweet and plain strawberry bubble gum. It’s a very soft chew which takes a while before it’s appropriate for bubble blowing.
These are made in China. I don’t think they’re for me, but it’s a fun new blend of confections and might please some kids.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Okay, I was kind of liberal with the “pink” part of the title. Hubba Bubba Glop Strawberry Gush is actually red when it comes out of the package. It gets pink when you chew it. It also comes in watermelon flavor.
These are already available on stores, I saw them at CVS in Hollywood earlier this week. They come in a hard plastic tube with a flip top. It seems like a bit too much packaging, though I can see a few ways to reuse the tube, which is coded 05 (polypropylene) for recycling. The outer wrap comes off, so it’d just be a plain red tube good for holding extra batteries, more candy, a very small portion of carrot sticks, condiments or some headphones.
While most gumballs are hollow, the glop part of this gum fills that void. The gum has a hard crunchy shell, then the soft and sweet gum then a reservoir of sweet strawberry goo in the center. The goo is tangy and sticky, but pretty flavorful.
It’s a good chewing bubble gum. I don’t think I need the gooey center, but it’s interesting and as long as you know it’s going to be there, adds some more flavor. The bubbles were good, large without being too sticky. A single piece was a good portion for chewing.
(I’m really intrigued by this Cola version available in Australia - regular Hubba Bubba is also available in Cola flavor in other parts of the world.)
Rating: 7 out of 10
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
But more recently I was sick. A bad head cold and whatnot. You know how it is. Sometimes I don’t want a delicate chocolate that makes me pay careful attention to nuance. Sometimes I just want the texture burned off my tongue.
I’m a huge gummi fan, don’t get me wrong. But I’m very happy with the plain old traditional Haribo Bears. Sometimes I enjoy the Japanese gummis, especially when they’re covered in chocolate.
Opening the bag, it smelled like fruity shampoo.
The bag holds five flavors: Strawberry, Tangy Cherry, Watermelon, Black Raspberry & Tangerine.
Those who have been reading here for a while know which one puts me over the moon, Tangerine. (I used to love the single-flavor Tangerine Lifesavers that were once available and can now only be found in the Tropical Mix.)
They’re soft and pliable gummies, sanded with a tingly sour coating. They’re larger than the old hard Lifesavers, a little larger than a quarter.
The colors are a little hard to tell apart. The Orange, Red and Light Red all kinda look the same in incandescent lighting (years from now people won’t know what I’m talking about when incandescents are illegal and everyone has CF or LEDs).
Smelling them didn’t help, but believe me, it’s pretty easy to tell them apart by taste.
The Tangerine is wonderful. It’s tangy, it’s zesty, it’s fruity and just tastes like I should have some peels lying around when I’m done.
Tangy Cherry, is well, a light cherry. I don’t like it as much as the regular cherry Lifesavers Gummies, but it’s okay.
Strawberry is one of those odd flavors. I don’t want my strawberries to be sour. If you gave me sour strawberries I’d probably tell you to take them back to the grocery store and get your money back. These were also okay, but looked an awful lot like the tangerine, so I ate a few more than I wanted to by mistake.
Watermelon is rather like Strawberry, it should be sweet and fragrant. Sour is wrong. But here I am, and not only is it sour, but it’s also green. It tastes just horrible, but the good news is that my husband thought this was the best flavor and has no problems rummaging through the bag and getting rid of them.
Black Raspberry is also pretty intense. It has a nice jammy base, with some good tartness and then of course the wonderful floral raspberry flavor.
These aren’t so sour that they ruin your mouth. Pretty much like Sour Patch Kids, but with a gummi base instead of a jelly one.
By a strange coincidence I also tried the Lifesaver Gummies after another cold for similar reasons.
Unlike many other Lifesavers products these days, these are made in the USA.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Since I’m still down with this aggravating illness, I thought I’d do some short & sweet briefs on a few things that I’ve been eating. Mostly it’s stuff that I’ve reviewed but in different flavors & varieties ... so they don’t warrant a full write-up on their own.
I took a little jaunt to Little Tokyo three weeks ago because I was craving the Gummy Choco I had last year. Mitsuwa Marketplace (3rd & Alameda) has an awesome selection, including single flavor packs of Muscat and Strawberry. I opted for the Strawberry Gummy Choco. (Oh, and I got another tube of the mixed fruits.) However, the price seemed to be better at Nijiya Market in Little Tokyo Village at only $1.49 instead of $2.49 ... but of course parking is a little more difficult over there at times.
They have a milk chocolate coating with an innner coating of real white chocolate. The gummy center is a rich and jammy strawberry. Ultra-soft and combines well with the creamy chocolate.
They’re still a satisfying candy to eat when you have no sense of smell, the combination of textures and the zap of the tart berry center keeps me amused.
Rating: 9 out of 10
It’s as simple as can be, just puffed wheat (I think puffed barley, actually) that’s covered in a shiny & thin coat of milk chocolate.
It’s sweet and kind of earthy and freakishly addictive. I don’t know if it’s my imagination, but I think I prefer the Japan Confectionery brand, if only because each kernel was separate from the others. It seemed like more of these were stuck together. ($1.69 for 4 ounces ... which doesn’t sound like much, but there’s a lot of air in there.)
This stuff should be sold in movie theaters ... it’s an ideal movie candy.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Back in November I visited with Chuck Siegel at Charles Chocolates and saw all the new stuff, including a preview of one of his new bars that sounded right up my alley: Candied Hazelnut in Dark Chocolate.
What has me so excited (besides the prospect of creamy dark chocolate with perfectly roasted hazelnuts) was that it might be an easier to find version of that wonderful Spanish bar I had last summer: Avellana Caramelizada Chocolate by Mallorca.
Instead of whole hazelnuts encased in a crunchy sugar glaze, these were bits of hazelnuts. The bits were crunchy and fresh, but didn’t have quite the burnt sugary crust that I was aching for. (But how was Chuck to know that’s what my expectation was?)
It’s still a great bar, I love his 65% dark chocolate blend. It has an excellent soft and silky melt, it’s a little tangy with mostly mellow flavors that let the other inclusions shine. I would have liked slightly bigger crunchy bits.
The packaging has changed slightly with the Charles Chocolates bars as well. When I first tried them each bar was wrapped in a microthin piece of foil. Now they’re a metallic airtight pack inside the box. Probably a much better way to keep the chocolate fresh in the stores, but not as easy to reseal if you tear the bag when opening.
Rating: 8 out of 10
The last item is kind of a fun thing that I picked up last summer. I noticed that there were two different designs for the same roll of Cryst-O-Mint Lifesavers on the shelves at Walgreen’s, so I picked them up.
Over the years Lifesavers has changed more than their packaging. The only thing that has remained the same is the shape of their product. The familiar donut shape is here to stay, even if they’re made in Canada now.
The Cryst-O-Mint is unlike the other mint Lifesavers in that it’s a boiled sugar sweet, not a compressed dextrose candy.
It’s not an intense mint like an Altoid, just a soft and clean peppermint flavor. The production of the candy is good, the pieces were all intact and didn’t have any voids or sharp spots like some of those Brach’s Ice Blue mints.
Also a plus, there are no artificial colors in there, because they’re colorless. If they’d just left out the High Fructose Corn Sweetener, they’d actually be an all-natural candy.
You can read more about the Lifesavers redesign here.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
One of the exciting new products teased at the All Candy Expo is the new Chocolate Mix Skittles. This is a permanent flavor addition to the Skittles line which already includes: Original Fruit, Tropical, Smoothie Mix and Wild Berry.
The Chocolate Mix has five flavors: Vanilla, S’Mores, Chocolate Caramel, Chocolate Pudding and Brownie Batter.
I was pretty skeptical. First, Skittles are known for a lot of flavor being packed into that candy shell. Second, one of the best things about chocolate is the whole experience of both the meltiness (fat) and the cocoa solids (flavor), there’s no way they could get that in here. Third, two of the five flavors in this mix were introduced in the Ice Cream Skittles last year and they were (chocolate and vanilla). I detested the chocolate ones ... and here’s a whole bag designed around that?
S’More (pale caramel colored): slightly tangy candy coating, a good toasted flavor to it ... not a trace of chocolate, but a little graham/cereal taste to it. Pretty good. Very sweet.
Chocolate Caramel (caramel colored): the prettiest color in the bag. A nice sweet chew with a little burnt sugar note to it and maybe a trace of cotton candy, but I wasn’t catching any chocolate at all.
Chocolate Pudding (dark brown, almost purple colored): vaguely chocolatey, mostly sweet, kind of like cocoa towards the end of the chew.
Brownie Batter (darkest brown): fudgy and kind of like a cookie all at once, which I guess is why it’s called brownie batter. It doesn’t have the complete chocolate flavor, more on the cardboard side and not nearly as satisfying as a Tootsie Roll.
I know everyone’s really excited about these, but I don’t like them much. They’re watery, not vibrant or really engaging my tastebuds. I know that the Carnival Skittles were similar in that they diverged from the intense fruit-ness that Skittles are known for, but these just didn’t have that zing that even they were able to muster with their delicateness. Quite a few folks have stopped by my office to try the new stuff I brought back. They try them, but no one’s come back for more.
The good news is that they contain no dairy and no gelatin ... so as long as you’re okay with a dash of hydrogenated oils, these might be the Skittles for you! The package also states that they are “Gluten Free.”
These should be available in stores later this year, post here if you’ve spotted them in the wild!
Thursday, June 28, 2007
About six months ago I got to preview the new Chocolate Covered Altoids. They were tasty, but I never found myself gobbling them up.
At the RiteAid the other night I finally found the missing piece to the trio of flavors: Ginger. I don’t know why they were so hard to find, believe me, I looked just about everywhere locally. Now, I’ve heard that the ginger ones are bad. But I like Ginger ... I love Ginger ... do you think I will love Chocolate Dipped Ginger Altoids?
They’re woodsy, spicy and strong. The chocolate flavor only stands up to the ginger for a moment, then backs away and gives the normally chalky candy some texture.
I’ve had them on my desk for about 24 hours and they’re pretty much gone. I’ve gobbled them up. Sure they’re burning me up, but sometimes I just like that in a candy. They’re a little expensive, too expensive for me to have them more than sometimes.
I think I’d like them in Liquorice as well ... but I doubt that’s gonna happen any time soon.
As with other Altoids, these contain gelatin and are not suitable for vegetarians. The are also manufactured on equipment that processes milk, wheat & nuts (tree & pea).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.