Friday, November 2, 2007
In the Autumn a candy lover’s fancy turns to Licorice. (Well, if you like licorice.) The cooler air and shorter days seem to beg for the earthy flavors of a good molasses-based licorice. I get that not everyone likes licorice. It’s like mincemeat and cloves ... not everyone gets it.
There are lots of different versions of licorice, but one of my favorites are pastels, which are little nibbles covered in a candy shell. (Just like candy covered chocolate like M&Ms are a great way to eat chocolate!) I’ve had at least a dozen different varieties, from Good & Plenty to Koppers to Jelly Belly. They’re all good ... but after Good & Plenty, they get kind of expensive. (I’m not sure why.)
I was pretty happy to find Kenny’s Licorice Pastels at the All Candy Expo. They do great things with licorice, including using real licorice extract and making their products affordable (you’ve probably seen them repackage and sold under house brands or in bulk bins before).
They’re made from a very thin piece of licorice, think laces chopped into little segments. Nothing wrong with that. But the coatings are irregular. Some are chipped, which may have been me treating the package like a bean bag in my travels. Still, the coating wasn’t complete on some, with little bits of licorice sticking out or appearing just below the thin veneer of sugar shell.
The color choice is interesting. White, Green, Mustard Yellow, Black, Purple and Hot Pink.
They were soft and fresh. The sugar shell didn’t have a sharp and crisp crunch like the ones I get in the little bulk tubs at Cost Plus World Market. I like that kind of shell, but this was okay ... more like the Good & Plenty side of things. The licorice inside is nice and chewy and has a good note of roasted molasses and real licorice and anise extracts. (The anise is detectable in the shell.)
The thing that spoiled it for me (and this is just me) was that there was Red #40 in them. It was absolutely detectable in the pink and purple candies. (I even did several blind tests to see if I was just being dramatic.) It made them bitter. I had to separate them out from the rest of the bag ... and not eating a third of them doesn’t really make them cheaper. (4 out of 10)
I love root beer barrel hard candies and the root beer Bottle Caps, which are pretty much the only candies that incorporate root beer well into their pantheon of flavors.
Kenny’s also makes a huge line of flavored Juicy Twists (I’m loathe to use the term “red licorice” which is like saying “unsweetened sugar”.) They come in watermelon, green apple, chocolate and of course, Root Beer.
The twists aren’t really that twisted (only a half twist per length), but have pleasant ridges. They’re shiny and rather firm (but not stale). They don’t have the firmly pinched ends that other brands like Red Vines have. But they are hollow (if you’re a straw person).
The root beer flavor is sweet and has a nice balsam quality, not as intense as some other more spicy candies, but still a good match for the flour-based twist. I’d love it if they were more intense, but this is often my problem with root beer in general. I want lots of flavor. But, as I mentioned before, I take my root beer enjoyment where I can. These are a fun change from hard candies. (7 out of 10)
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Oh, man. It’s that time of year. Now that Halloween is in the bag and kids have brought home all this candy I’m getting a lot of queries about how many calories are in that Fun Sized 3 Musketeers or packet of Skittles. About 50% of the search traffic to candy blog includes the phrase “calories in.” (I’m not kidding!)
It’s great to be calorie conscious, especially when you’re being adventurous and trying some new candy from the Trick-or-Treat bag. You don’t want to over do it, and lets face it, some items are surprisingly “affordable” when it comes to calories (like gummis, marshmallows or SweeTarts).
But then there are the articles and pieces on the morning talk shows. “Healthy Choices” in Halloween candy. And they’ve all got it wrong. They keep talking about caloric density as if it’s low calories that makes a piece of candy healthier? I’m sorry, if there’s one thing worse than a chunk of sweetened partially hydrogenated oils it’s a hunk of pure sugar! (One show said that a 3 Musketeers is a healthier choice than a Snickers Bar ... I suppose if the goal is to have as many empty wrappers for the same caloric cost. The Snickers will be more satisfying as it has a blend of sugars, fat and protein. The 3 Musketeers is mostly sugar and as many folks know, that just leads to a later crash.)
So, yes, you can have a pile of SweeTarts, which have zero nutritional value (no vitamins, no minerals, no essential fatty acids) but hey, no fat! The caloric density (which I’ve added to all reviews here whenever possible) of SweeTarts is 98 calories per ounce. But what have you eaten? Absolutely nothing of value.
Then you sit aghast that the little packet of Peanut M&Ms has 80 calories ... that adds up to 142 calories per ounce. Whoa! That’s almost 50% more! But there’s stuff you actually want in Peanut M&Ms ... things like protein, calcium, traces of iron, even some fiber! And fat, yeah, there’s fat in there from the peanuts and the chocolate. Peanuts have omega 3 fatty acids in them. Stearic acid in chocolate has been shown to be cholesterol neutral and may be beneficial to other inflammatory markers. Is it health food? No ... but it’s not the demon that these morning talk show people make it out to be in moderation. And those little packets, they’re great for portion control!
If you’re going to eat something, if you’re going to set aside your calories, please, for the love of all that’s good and tasty, eat something you like.
Let’s drop the pretension that low calorie makes something healthy. Nutrition makes things healthy and your diet should be balanced. There’s nothing wrong with a pile of peanuts, raisins or some crisped rice with some chocolate thrown in. (Honestly, I think a box of Goobers is more nutritious than a cupcake, but I’m not a registered dietitian.) If I had to be stranded on an island with one candy as my only sustenance for the rest of my life it would not be any of the “healthier” choices devoid of nutrition. I’d probably pick chocolate covered almonds.
I wasn’t much for dolls as a kid. I never had a Barbie. Instead I played with things like microscopes, art supplies and Playmobile/Lego. Sure, I liked to dress up, but I never considered myself very feminine and wasn’t terribly interested in fashion, makeup or my appearance. (I admit that I liked to braid my hair though and collected rhinestone jewelry ... and often wore much of my collection at once.)
There were candy cosmetics when I was a kid, not that they did anything. You can still get the little lipsticks. Which weren’t actually meant to be applied to the lips, they’re just little cylinders of compressed dextrose in a lipstick container. (The most successful candy lipstick, as most kids know, would be Easter Malted Milk Eggs, which could be used to painting lips, faces and dog noses.)
So in two ways this candy is kind of lost on me. It’s based on the idea of cosmetics (I still rarely wear makeup) and the fashion dolls line called Bratz. But it’s candy ... and good candy should stand on its own!
All four of the candy products from Dracco in a licensing agreement with MGA Entertainment are related to lips. Or is that Lipz? Bratz are a group of girlz who love clothz. Their appearance is stylized, kind of like the Troll dolls from when I was a kid, except instead of being asexual, these are hypersexual.
It’s sweet. Not an overly sour bubble gum, just lightly tangy and fragrant. It has a nice soft chew, a little slick without much graininess, so bubbles were pretty much ready to go.
It really wasn’t that flavorful though. And it didn’t make my lips look any different.
(5 out of 10)
The only “makeup” I wear on a regular basis is tinted lip balm. But usually regular lip balm. When I was a pre-teen I did fall into the obsession with BonneBell Lip Smackers. But I was always disappointed that they had no real flavor, just scent.
This cute little Candy Lip Gloss Tube is much like a package of Blistex. It’s a gooey liquid in a clear plastic package. The applicator tip is angled and has a little hole. A gentle squeeze to eject a little drop and then press against the lips to apply.
I was expecting something sweet and sticky. And though it smelled like lipgloss often does, it tasted like a liquid strawberry hard candy. A little tangy and lacking in a deep flavor.
As for lip decor, it was a little runny at first, then when left on the lips it became dry and sticky. However, this did impart a glossy appearance. The light pink tone in the tube did nothing on my lips (well, they’re kind of that color anyway).
(4 out of 10)
It took has a light strawberry smell and light pink color.
I have less experience with bottles of gloss, but the ones that I’ve tried usually have some sort of spongy tip for precision application. This is just a plastic stick. (But probably slightly more sanitary. If licking a stick and putting it back in the bottle can ever be considered sanitary for candy or cosmetics.)
(3 out of 10)
This Candy Lipstick is the same as the others, only in solid form. A little smaller (more slender) than a real lipstick, but hard candy certainly doesn’t have the engineering problems that a semi-solid fat does.
This one was easy and satisfying to simply eat and not apply. The other goos just didn’t lend themselves to licking off the applicator. After numerous applications though my lips were actually a bit chapped ... hmmm. But they looked redder!
(4 out of 10)
I’m of two minds about candy lipsticks & glosses. First, lipstick is consumed. We think it’s for external application only when in reality it’s slowly eaten off the lips by the wearer. Some may be lost due to transfer to a cup or a kiss, but most of it is eaten. What’s in there? Here’s what’s in Lip Smackers. Try reading what’s in lipstick sometime. Definitely not something you’d slather on your toast every morning. So this is definitely safer for pretend play for kids than the real thing or even flavored lip balms. Second, imitative play is good, natural and healthy. Children have been “playing house” and aping their parents for thousands of years. But it may be training girls to eat the lip products! So, I simply don’t know.
Most of all, I’m not a parent.
This is a product that’s capitalizing on the licensing of the Bratz characters on the packages. If you’re already a fan of the Bratz brand, then these are probably a nice product, especially for the younger kids who want to experience cosmetics but really aren’t ready.
As a candy, these are marginal at best. But mostly harmless from the standpoint of a cosmetic item. (Well, they’re made in China, I can’t vouch for their safety.)
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Even though they stopped airing those commercials a long time ago, they’re still a cultural reference point for people around the world.
What are Mentos? They’re simply a small mint chew covered in a candy shell. I favor them in instances where I used to chew gum, especially on planes. A little fresh breath and ear poppin’ all in one. And based on their commercials they aid in creative problem solving. Peppermint is good ... fruit is merely okay in the United States. Of course in outher countries they have far more choices.
Enter the Asian Mentos once again! I’ve had these stashed away for months from Santos.
Mentos Xtrm: Peppermint are Mentos on Altoids (if Altoids were a form of steroids). They’re called “Strong Chewy Dragee” on the wrapper.
They come in a navy blue bag and are individually wrapped (a great feature, I think, why can’t we get them this way in the States?). Each little dragee is light blue and smells like absolutely nothing.
However, after biting into it, it’s minty. Whoo boy is it minty! In the same, “Goodness it’s so minty it’s almost bitter” way that Altoids are, there’s still a pleasant sweetness to it, and of course the chew.
Mentos Xtrm: Spearmint have a lot going for them. First, we don’t even get Spearmint Mentos here. I’ve heard you can get them in Europe (I’ve had my minions look for them in the past) and definitely in Australia.
So I can’t say how they compare to the regular ones, I can only say that I love them. Yes, they’re very strong, but the spearmint flavor is so distinctive and a little more woodsy than the Peppermint. The only problem I have with spearmint in general is it later leaves me with an odd low metallic taste in my mouth hours later. This, of course, is cured by eating another one. (Sneaky devils!)
These were made in India and have no gelatin in them, so they’re suitable for vegetarians (and vegans so long as you don’t have problems with glycerol mono stearate). Also certified Halal.
They’re good. I’ve enjoyed them and I’d definitely buy them again. I carry them around in my bag and think they’ll make wonderful noveling candy (and good for road trips when you need to keep alert). However, I’m going to throw the last dozen or so into the Limited Edition Giveaway box!
Kids get a handful of the following mix: 3 Musketeers Fun Size, Skittles, Peanut M&Ms, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Laffy Taffy, Nerds, SweeTarts, Peeps Spooky Friends, Frankford Marshmallow Pals & Twizzlers. (And anything else I might have lying around.)
If you’re not coming to my door tonight, your best bet is to enter my current giveaway for a Limited Edition Package. I just added some M&Ms Pirate Pearls (freshness not guaranteed) and Retro Flavor Starbursts to the box!
There are a lot of great articles out there today with folks listing the great hierarchy of candy. People extolling the virtues of this candy, that other candies are made by the devil himself and are being dispensed by his minions at otherwise nice looking houses around the country. My candy preference list may be vastly different from yours. It’s candy! There is no single candy that everyone loves. (But yeah, it’s fun to rant about the stuff that you don’t like.) Some people like full-sized bars, I actually prefer the smaller ones because of the assortment.
The truth is that most people give out what they like at Halloween. So if you’re getting Mary Janes or Popcorn Balls, it’s probably because the giver likes them. This is pretty much true with ALL gifting, but especially with blind gifting. Consider that anyone who gives you something you don’t like is following the Golden Rule. They’re doing unto others as they’d like done to them. They’re giving you Smarties or Starlight Mints because they would want to get them. Smile and say thank you.
If they candy is being made it means that someone likes it ... it has value somewhere in the great candy barter world. It may not have as much value as other candies, but that’s the risk you take when you beg from door to door.Stay safe and for heaven's sake, eat some healthy food and then brush your teeth when you're done with your candy binge. It's only once a year you get to carry around a sack full of candy.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.