Friday, July 20, 2007
There are a lot of marketing tie ins between movies and candy. Some of them work really well and some seem rather strange. I’m going to put these little Ratatouille Rat Racers Pocket Slider Lollipops in that category.
Ratatouille is a new movie from Pixar/Disney that stars a rat (named Remy) who wants to be a chef. But, you know, he’s a rat. And in this world he can’t talk to humans. He has a brother named Emile, who is less discriminating about his culinary tastes. These little candy pops are simply a hard candy cylinder housed in a little slider topped with a toy. In this case the toy is a little plastic model of one of the characters with a wide steel wheel on the bottom for racing.
As a little toy, the racers are kind of fun. They’re slippery and move easily. The detail on them is pretty good, though I can’t figure out why they’re racing around on cheese or petit fours. But that’s simply my lack of imagination.
The two flavors I picked up were Blue Raspberry and Green Apple.
They’re both rather tart and have a good chemical, manufactured artifical flavor (kind of like computer animation!).
As a candy, I’ve certainly had better hard candy in better flavors. The little toy roller cars are certainly better than a Happy Meal (TM) prize, but limited in their appeal. The retractable lolly is a nice idea, especially for kids who may want to space out their enjoyment of this marginal treat.
The same company who makes these also did the similarly branded Peeps Pops. (I reviewed the ring ones and Jeanna at Wisconsin Candy Dish reviewed the slider pops that are pretty much the same as these.) They’re made in China, which at this moment doesn’t make me feel very good ... expect for the fact that I didn’t finish these. I just ate enough of each to get the flavor.
Charms Blow Pops are a classic lollipop. Like their Tootsie Pop cousin, they’re a hard candy pop with another candy inside, in this case it’s bubble gum. However, Tootsie Pops and Charms Blow Pops are related only by marriage. Tootsie bought the Charms Company in 1988, making Tootsie the world’s largest lollipop producer.
I was especially fond of Charms pops as a kid and the little Charms hard candies in a roll. In the case of the Charms Blow Pop, it was always grape for me. The current flavor range is Cherry, Watermelon, Sour Apple, Strawberry and that Grape.
Blow Pops are pretty big, they’re not Dum Dums. Of course if you’re going to put a decent sized piece of bubble gum at the core, the lollipop has to be bigger (unless you’ve somehow invented the candy-equivalent of the TARDIS or bag of ultimate holding ... depending on what sort of geek you are).
The hard candy is passably good. It’s flavorful but usually has a lot of bubbles and voids in it and because of the size it means that there’s a very good chance I’m going to tear up the inside of my mouth at some point. That’s okay, bubble gum has soothing properties, right?
My preferred method for eating is to suck on the lolly until I’ve gotten down to a spot that’s close enough to the bubble gum center that I could start biting and crunching.
It’s okay to get some candy in your bubble gum.
The bubble gum center is usually soft enough to chew easily, though I’ve had bad ones that were rock hard. The gum has a lot of sugar in it, so it takes a while to get it to a consistency that supports bubble blowing. The cool thing about Blow Pops is that they’re usually available as individual items. Usually about 25 cents ... so you can buy a few of them or just add it to your impulse purchases at the check out.
As lollipops that I’d eat as a child the order of preference went something like this:
The Charms line at Tootsie also added the Zip-a-Dee Mini Pops assortment to their line of candies recently. They’re smaller round pops, kind of like miniature Blow Pops in format, except for the lack of a gum center.
I though the flavor assortment sounded good and I was actually really pleased by the packaging on these. If you’re a fan of the smaller format of Dum Dums, this might be a nice change. They’re slightly longer than Dum Dums and perhaps a little zazzier.
The little wrappers are pretty solids with a white printed design for each flavor. I thought they were so charming, I’d recommend these to folks who are looking for a nice, inexpensive candy to include in a Candy Buffet (they’re popular at weddings and showers these days). I got this half pound bag for $1, so filling up some pretty glass jars or vases with these would be a snap for those on a budget but still want to look elegant.
Lollipops are just a way to dress up hard candy, but it does solve the essential problem of wanting to take the candy out of your mouth and not touch it with your fingers. Genius!
There are a lot of silly official days declared out there and National Lollipop Day is really no different. The lollipop isn’t terribly significant as a confection. It’s just a hard candy on a stick. But we love them.
So today I’ll review a bunch of pops I have sitting around: Charms Zip-a-Dee, Charms Blow Pops, Bazooka Bubble Gum Filled Pops and even some little novelty push pops themed with Ratatouille characters.
Though the lore of manufactured lollipops says that they were only invented in 1908, I reckon that lollipops were one of the earliest improvised sweets as people boiled honey and scooped it out with sticks. More at CandyUSA on that subject. I’ve got lollipops to eat!
Thursday, July 19, 2007
These are from Japan and come in a few different varieties. They’re called Inside Out KitKats. I was calling them Naked KitKats for a while until I found out the real name.
They’re a KitKat without the coating. The bar is longer (about 5.5”) and generally larger. The center filling is lightly flavored. I think the one pictured is Chestnut.
A few KitKat variations out there seem to be breaking the rules of KitKats ... KitKats are supposed to be multi-bars that can be snapped into fingers to share or enjoy slowly. (I’ve never met anyone who just chomps on a whole KitKat.)
But this comes down to the discussion of what should be included under a particular candy “brand”. When I think of Reese’s, the essential element is peanut butter and the secondary element is cups ... the third element is chocolate. You can add things in there, but but taking away more than one of those essentials just mucks with it so much that it ceases to be a Reese’s.
The same goes with KitKat. It has to be fingers (even if the fingers are sold individually), it has to have crispy wafers and it has to have some sort of chocolate coating (be it white, milk or dark). Here we’ve lost the coating and the “fingers” have become as large as rods.
Okay, so maybe they’re not KitKats. What are they? They’re cookies. Cookie wafers with a cream filling and I dare say it, they’re no longer candy. They fall into the confectionery category, but out of my realm of specialization.
Naming and placement on the taxonomic chart of candy aside, these are okay. The wafers are certainly crispy, but they’re also dry. There’s not enough cream filling to give them much of a flavor, and subtle is fine, but there’s so little going on here. I’d say they’re the perfect summer candy bar because there’s no worries about melting, but there’s also so little moisture here I’m worried about dehydration and these sucking what little fluids I have left out of my system.
I tried two flavor sets: chestnut and mango. Chestnut is pleasant because the sweet nutty flavors go with the cream sweetness. The mango was just weird, the pine-type flavors of the cream just seemed to fight with the bar on the whole. Perhaps if it had a bit of a tang to it or recognized more of the juiciness of the fruit instead of just the flavor, it might have worked more. Of course that would be an even larger departure from the KitKat-ness.
I still have a few of these left (and I’ve had them since January - both Amy in Japan and Santos gave them to me) and even when I eat them and find them okay, I keep forgetting I have them and when I see them sitting there I have no impulse to eat them.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
One of my favorite chocolate treats since I was a teen are Koppers’ Cordials. They’re little dark chocolate spheres, about the size of a hazelnut that hold a crystal sugar shell inside filled with a “cordial” of some sort. They’re just flavored, not real alcohol. The easiest flavor to find is Rum, but I’ve picked up Cognac, Mandarin Orange, Mint and Sambucca (Anise). In fact, Koppers has at least 40 different varieties.
Most of the time I find them at the chain bulk candy stores like Candy Station or Sweets Factory. They’re usually rather expensive (being a chocolate item and also rather difficult to make), most of the time approaching $20 a pound. But I was happy to see them at the Jelly Bean Factory over the weekend. They’re a great movie candy because they’re easy to eat and easy to savor, so that’s what I did with them.
The bonus to buying them in a pre-packaged bag is that you’re pretty sure you’re getting the flavor your want. The problem I have getting them in bulk sometimes if they have a large assortment is that they all look the same and can get jumbled up by a careless employee or a devilish customer. There are a few flavors that I find really unpleasant (Amaretto), so it’s no fun to get one of those by accident.
I’m positively spellbound by everything Koppers makes. They’re all so beautiful to behold. They’re always so shiny and perfect. It’s one of the things I’m looking forward to about the All Candy Expo ... that huge wall they do of all of their products with little spoons so that you can taste each and every morsel.
The dark chocolate is sweet and mellow. Not too bitter or complex. It’s really just there to hold the cordial. The sugar shell is crunchy if you like to bite yours in half or just chew the whole thing. The cordial filling is like a hit of rum extract. I felt very sophisticated as a kid when I’d go to the candy counter at the department store and get a quarter pound of these (and a half a pound of gummi bears).
It’s also kind of fun to dissolve the chocolate slowly to get to the sugar sphere. It’s pretty durable, until of course enough of that to dissolve and out comes the little trickle of the cordial center.
Rum Cordials are the easiest to find, but I have to say that I prefer the darker flavors of Cognac and Whiskey or the real flavor zaps of Mandarin Orange or Sambucca.
If you want to feel really sophisticated, you can try real cordials from K Chocolatier in Bevery Hills (I know I was kind of harsh about the price, but they were $40!) for a real vodka martini inside of a chocolate sphere. Now that’s a sophisticated indulgence.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.