Friday, May 18, 2007
Back in January at the Fancy Food Show I picked up a few candies I like to put in the category of “comfort foods.” Asher’s is one of those companies, like See’s that I associate with traditional sweeties.
Asher’s is in Souderton, PA and though they’re pretty big, I don’t see their candies very often on the West Coast. Then one day I was at Loehmann’s and saw a stack of big boxes of Asher’s Chocolate Covered Pretzels and I decided I should finally review these items. Because I’d want to know whether or not something is good before I go buying it at Loehmann’s.
The Chocolate Smothered Pretzel, as far as I’m concerned, is the epitome of Pennsylvania Candy Cuisine. After all, they make lots of chocolate in Pennsylvania and they certainly are known for their pretzels. As a kid I would make my own chocolate frosting (equal parts butter, powdered sugar and cocoa) and then dip pretzel rods into it. Later as I began making my own candies I dipped pretzels when I ended up with leftover melted chocolate.
Asher’s milk chocolate is smooth and creamy. Very sweet, but the pretzel is salty and crunchy, so it goes well together. I prefer the tiny pretzels to the big ones, because you can fit the whole thing in your mouth at once instead of risking chocolate loss to flaking. (They make a variety of sizes.)
Milk Chocolate Smothered Graham Cracker - a chocolate covered graham cracker is kind of wholesome, right? This reminded me of a Twix bar without the caramel. The chocolate was creamy and the graham was crisp and fresh. It’s not my favorite of the three, but I’m sure folks who enjoy graham crackers will also like this.
I think a little bit saltier cracker would help, but then again maybe it’s the bland and slightly malty sweet cracker that’s the highlight here. Now, I see that Asher’s makes their own chocolate covered marshmallows and I’m wondering why a S’More isn’t an option on their site.
The Milk Chocolate Sandwich Cookie was fun. When I was in college I worked in a bakery/chocolate shop and one of my duties was to make chocolate dipped cookies. Back then Oreo made a HUGE version of their cookie, the size of my palm. They were a bear to dip, but the proportion of chocolate to cookie usually turned out well because the proportion of chocolate to cookie was just right.
The Asher sandwich cookie is covered in real milk chocolate (as are all of the above). Again, it’s sweet but the dark and slightly salty note of the cookie set it off nicely. One cookie is plenty, it’s very filling. (If you want a really good version of these, check out the Best Regards version as well, which is more expensive but come in other flavors.)
If you see these at the discount stores, they’re certainly worth picking up at less than $10.00 a pound, I’m not sure they’re worth more than that seeing how there’s a lot of filler in there and they’re not that labor intensive. The pretzels are certainly better than the bagged versions available in the candy aisle from Hershey’s and Nestle. I have to admit that the Chocolate Smothered Potato Chips also sound good and have to be better than those mockolate chips I had earlier this year.
Nope, no special text on these, they’re totally a regular product now.
So, go about your business. No need to hoard them or buy them on eBay. Just buy them whenever you want them.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
The story of how LifeSavers were created is one of those classic happy accidents. They came about in 1912 when Clarence Crane was looking for a candy to sell in the summer when chocolate was difficult to store. He concieved of a hard mint and engaged a pill manufacturer to make them for him. They found that the candies were easier to make if they were donut shaped and thus the candy and name Lifesavers was born.
The Five Flavor LifeSavers are not a compressed dextrose candy, instead they’re a boiled sugar candy. While the Pep-O-Mint was going strong, the fruit flavored versions were introduced in 1924 as simple hard candy disks. In 1929 technology caught up with demand and LifeSavers got their holes. The original fruit roll was all citrus - Lemon, Lime and Orange. In 1935 they became the Five Flavor Roll with Cherry and Pineapple joining the mix. And that’s how it was until 2003.
Then the internet mucked it all up. Wrigley’s, who now owns LifeSavers, decided to change up the flavors in the roll because they thought that the old flavors were hurting sales. So they let voters add their voice at their website. I think this was their first mistake. First, you could only vote for the flavors on their list. Second, they were only polling those people who visited their site ... I’m sure the great majority of LifeSavers consumers do not visit CandyStand.com, which appears to be designed for kids.
But I digress. Or ramble. And will continue to ... this is just one of those posts.
I had a yard sale over the weekend and my neighbor Robin brought some stuff over, which included a bunch of stuff from her desk that included a roll of LifeSavers. I, of course, wanted them. They looked like the original flavors (you can tell because it doesn’t have the purple stripe) but I wasn’t sure because it listed CandyStand.com.
I took them up to the Candy Blog labs for a look and found that they were in fact the original Five Flavor roll (the ones pictured above, not here to the left). They were not in great condition, as hard candies often get milky looking after about three years. But there they were, the original Five Flavors: Orange, Lemon, Cherry, Pineapple and Lime. They were stuck together and stood up easily for the photo. The package also spells out the word Five, and important distinction.
The new roll heralds that it has NEW FLAVORS! though it makes no mention of what they are. I understand not mentioning the flavors on the old roll, they’d been around since 1935 ... LifeSavers, a part of living.
The new roll also saves copoius amounts of ink by calling itself 5 Flavors, thus saving on those icky and expensive letters.
The flavors, in case you’re wondering are: Pineapple, Blackberry, Cherry, Watermelon & Orange. (This article points out that Orange was dropped in ‘03 in favor of Blackberry, but it appears it was quietly restored ... or maybe that’s the new flavor they’re talking about on the package.) It could also be because Nabisco sold LifeSavers to Wrigley’s in 2004.
Raspberry is good, nice and fruity with a good wine robustness. Watermelon is nice, fruity and floral. And of course the original pineapple is a glorious song that I hope will never end, orange is dependable and citrusy and cherry continues to be the epitome of medicinal-tasting candy. The old flavor set held one candy I would always give away ... the new one has three I don’t care for. I can’t just buy a LifeSavers 5 Flavor roll for orange and pineapple.
The saddest part of the whole LifeSavers story is that they stopped making the single flavor rolls that I loved so much. Tangerine was simply marvelous. More juicy, more zesty and more tangy that the simple orange, I could eat a whole roll in one sitting, no matter how long I was sitting down. While I might complain at the loss of flavors, I do have to applaud them for putting more in a roll. (I believe the old rolls used to hold 12 candies, the newer ones hold 14.) I might have to switch to Tropical Fruit as my go-to roll ... I wonder how much they’ve mucked that up lately.
Note: LifeSavers are now made in Canada. They also don’t have those little green strings that help you start a roll anymore.
UPDATE 2008: LifeSavers are now: Watermelon, Pineapple, Cherry, Raspberry, Orange ... so blackberry is now raspberry but pretty much looks the same.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:56 am
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
The dark trend continues. If it can be made dark, it will be made dark. So it is written in the marketing analysis ... so it is done.
Hershey’s brought out the Kissables with a huge marketing blitz in 2005. They’re tasty little hybrids of Hershey’s Kisses and M&Ms. There’s no way they’re ever going to shove a peanut in the center there, but they can easily make them with Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate so they have. For a while they were showing off Hershey’s Special Dark Kissables in large bags, they’ve finally made it to the single serve bags, so I thought it was time to give them a try.
The wrapper is a pleasing brick-maroon color that evokes the feel of rich chocolate. The little candies come in four colors: lavender, maroon, dark purple and brown. Not quite as sassy feeling as the Kissables ... not even as many colors. They feel morose, a little depressed.
They have the nice light crunch of the Kissables and a good creamy dark chocolate center. They’re a little chalky tasting, only a slight bitter hint towards the end, but generally very sweet.
I decided I was obligated to compare them to the Dark Chocolate M&Ms.
M&Ms come in more colors but the dark chocolate inside is just as sweet, but a little mellower overall. The Special Dark Kissables seem a bit crunchier, a bit more chocolatey. Neither wows me with their complex chocolate taste. They remind me of Sno-Caps, but with less mess and more color (not that it would matter in a dark theater).
Both dark chocolates contain milkfat and lactose, so are not appropriate for those who shun dairy. The M&Ms give you 1.69 ounces per package, Kissables only 1.5. The Kissables bag is plasticized, the M&Ms are only a glossy paper.
After sitting here with both in front of me, I found myself reaching for the Kissables more often. They just felt creamier, less chalky and a little richer, so they get one point higher than the Dark Chocolate M&Ms did.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Blogads is sponsoring a comprehensive poll of blog readers. I’d love it if some Candy Blog readers would participate. Of course I’d like to know more about my readers (like your flossing habits and your pet preferences) as I think this helps me and other bloggers to understand what you’re looking for.
It’s a pretty long survey and takes about 5-8 minutes to go through. You’re not obligated to answer all the questions, so feel free to skip any you don’t like.
I will happily share some of this info when the project is done. You can preview some of the data here:
As you’ve noticed, Candy Blog has had advertising in the right column and below the first post for over a year now. I don’t make much money off of it and I appreciate the folks who have supported the choice to monetize the blog. I’ve tried to encourage those advertisers that I believe in and that I think you’re interested in. That money goes towards the hosting, software and programming of the site as well as the candy I buy and review. What little is left over goes towards my travel expenses for All Candy Expo. So that’s my full disclosure on the matter. Sharing info about who you are and what sorts of things you might help me attract advertisers or help the current ones promote their products and services a little better. It will not mean that this site will suddenly be deluged with flashing and animated intrusions into your reading experience.
Nothing’s going to change what this blog is about: Candy.
UPDATE: Here’s what some of the data looks like. At the moment I’m rather disappointed that the flossing habits of Candy Blog readers are not as good as the general blog-reading public. (But perhaps this will attract dental care products as advertisers.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.