Friday, July 27, 2007
I got up early this morning to do an interview on NPR‘s “Here and Now” with David Boeri and his guest from The Grocery Manufacturers Association. You can listen online. (Read through all my other chocolate change and the FDA stuff here for background.)
Robert Earl, Senior Director of Nutrition Policy for the GMA was rather strong in his position that changing technology is a benefit to us both economically (cheaper food) and to the nutrition profile of foods (healthy!). It’s odd, I’ve never heard “technology” thrown around so much in conjunction with our food. It’s food ... I’d always thought it was low-tech. But I’m kidding myself.
My major beef, and of course I brought it up, was that Mr. Earl stated that the swapping of cocoa butter for vegetable fat was not covered in the petition (at about 1:50 in the timecode):
Seriously? Then why ask for the Chocolate Manufacturers Association’s endorsement? He does go on to make the point that consumers are demanding good quality chocolate, and I don’t argue that’s what we look for in our “chocolate bars”, but this will be very muddy with the lax permissions when you go to the ice cream shop and think you’re getting actual chocolate chips in your chocolate chip ice cream or actual chocolate in your chocolate croissant at the bakery. Anything that uses chocolate as an ingredient will become fair game for the cheaper vegetable fat substitutes.
If you haven’t listened to it (it’s only in RealPlayer, so I totally understand), I made the point that whether or not the GMA specifically laid out that the petition includes chocolate, it is in Appendix C (PDF) and statements from Hershey & the Chocolate Manufacturers Association have indicated that they think that they would be able to under the “safe and suitable vegetable fats.”
In my discussions with the producer before the interview I found out that no one else in the Chocolate Manufacturers Association or Hershey’s wanted to take part in the interview. The Chocolate Manufacturers Association has posted plenty of documents on their site giving their position (PDF) as well as the National Confectioners Association (link), and of course Guittard at Don’t Mess with Our Chocolate has posted a point by point analysis of that (PDF #1 & PDF#2).
In much funner news, I just got a big package of stuff I bought from ArtisanSweets.com. Full picture array here. I got: - Romanego Panned Sweets (cordials, jordan almonds, panned pistachios & pine nuts and coral cinnamon & orange peel), Fig & Almond Nougat from Montelimar, Nutpatch Nougat (already reviewed that!), Alemany egg yolk marzipan with a burn sugar crust, Alemany lavender honey, Hammond’s hand made candy sticks (cola, strawberry, and blackberry/apple). Some of it I’ll review, some of it’s just for eatin’!
The cool thing is that Artisan Sweets is running a sale right now, all Nougat is 10% until Wednesday, August 1st - just enter the coupon code NOUGAT at checkout. One thing I have to say, everything is so wonderfully packaged, it’s like it’s gift-wrapped. Each item is wrapped either in colored tissue and/or purple bubble wrap, all nested in recyclable kraft paper.
Here’s the Weekly Recap of Reviews:
Monday: Dots (5 out of 10)
Tuesday: Jujyfruits & Jujubes (5 out of 10)
Wednesday: Sour Gummi Bears (7 out of 10)
Thursday: The Simpsons Fruit Snacks (5 out of 10)
Friday: Cherry Almondine M&Ms (6 out of 10)
Weekly Average: 5.5 ... 0% chocolate content.
Last year M&Ms introduced a limited special tin of eight new gourmet flavors. They were sold only through their website. They were absurdly expensive (I think it was $49 for the set in a tin) and I never saw anyone review them.
Flash forward to a year later and I was reading on Chocolate Bytes that Heather found what I think are individual bags of some of those gourmet M&Ms. She picked up Cherry Almondine and Vanilla Crisp at the Las Vegas M&Ms World. Since my husband was off to NYC, I sent him to the M&Ms World in Times Square to see if he could find the Vanilla Crisp for me. Sadly, all they had were Cherry Almondine, which he picked up anyway.
The stand up bag announces these as a Special Edition (not limited edition, I’m not sure of the difference). The package also describes them, “freshly roasted almonds wrapped in cherry flavored white chocolate.” Sounds enticing (if you like white chocolate, cherries and almonds).
The M&Ms come in two colors, a dark marooon and a creamy beige. They smell an awful lot like cherry cough drops. The crispy shell is great and the almonds, though small, are truly fresh and tasty. The white chocolate with cherry? Well, it is strong. It’s not too sweet, but the cherry is quite a kick in the head. There’s no tangy bite to it, it’s just all sweet and nutty and of course cherry.
I do have to admit that I’m coming around on my dislike of cherry things and found these pleasant and they were certainly a hit on a long bike ride that I took on Sunday. (I got the empty package back from my bud and our ride organizer, Will, at the end of the trip.)
At $6 a bag, I don’t think these are special enough to warrant buying them again. Koppers does far better interesting flavor mixes and on the whole if I were looking for a quick almond treat, I’d pick up the Milk Chocolate Almond M&Ms which have never disappointed me.
There’s no word if M&Ms is making any of the other gourmet Special Edition flavors like Crunchy Cookie Mint. Keep your eye out if you’re in an M&Ms World store.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
There’s a movie coming out this week called The Simpsons Movie which is based on some long-running cartoon also called The Simpsons. (Yes, I know you know who The Simpsons are!) I live in Los Angeles and we’re blessed with two live-action promotions for the movie ... they’ve turned two 7-11 stores into Kwik-E-Marts. It’s kind of fun, you can go into the store and see dimensional cut outs of your favorite characters and partake of a few of their favorite fictional foods. This means Buzz Cola, Krusty-Os and those pink glazed & sprinkled donuts are actually available.
Sadly, there is no candy actually associate with the series, but I did pick up these Simpsons Fruit Snacks, which have been out for a few years. (If you want other candy content from The Simpsons, check out
Jamie’s awesome list with videos!)
The Simpsons Fruit Snack is about as lame as a product you’d expect to find if you really lived in Springfield. The package is nice and happy and says things that are totally true like “mixed fruit flavor”, “no preservatives” and “made with real fruit juice” and sports images of the Simpsons kids: Maggie, Lisa and Bart.
But once the package is open and not in view there is absolutely nothing “Simpsons” about these. They’re shaped like little fruits ... not little characters.
So I decided that I just wasn’t working hard enough at this ... that I wasn’t taxing my imagination and decided that they ARE Springfield characters ... if you really work at it. (The illustrations below may require a bit of squinting to make it work.)
Orange: Apu (on those formal occasions when he wears his turban)
The promise of the package and the Simpsons tie in aside, the flavor of the candies is pleasant. They’re a gummi (with gelatin), but extremely soft. I was happier once I let mine sit out for a couple of days. They do have a full days allowance of vitamin C and they do have fruit juice as the first ingredient (just as those Scooby and Hello Kitty snacks had real fruit juice). So for a friendly fruit gummi, they’re a pretty good deal for $1.59. Not really flavorful, just, well, pleasant.
Other irritated opinions about the lack of relationship between the Simpsons and the fruit snacks: Taquitos.net, Amazon.com & VeganCore (may be a different version of the snacks that didn’t have gelatin though).
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Months ago YumSugar urged me to try the Sour Gummi Bears from Bristol Farms, and I didn’t. Most of the time when I go into Bristol Farms (which may be five or six times a year) I opt for the Licorice Pastilles or some imported chocolate bar. But this time I not only remembered, I found a bag that was mostly clear ones (that means Pineapple, my friends!). This didn’t stop me from picking up that Italian torrone as well.
YumSugar wasn’t wrong, these are tasty gummi bears. They’re rather like the Sour Patch Kids - a sour sand covers a traditional fruity gummi bear. I suspect that these are made by Farley’s & Sathers. I’m actually concerned that these are not labeled correctly, the ingredients said: Corn Syrup, Sugar, Modified Corn Starch, Fumaric Acid, Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Artificial Colors. What’s missing on this list is some sort of jelling agent, like Gelatin. I actually sent Bristol Farms an email, but it’s been over a week and there hasn’t been even an automated response (so much for trusting them with my top dollars).
The gummis are soft and chewy (and most definitely gummis with some gelatin in them, you can’t get this texture with corn starch). The flavors aren’t deep, the sour sand keeps everything on a tangy + sweet level. The orange one reminds me a lot of orange jell-o with a hit of orange pixy stix. They’re not quite as tart as Sour Patch Kids, but of course they’re also a different flavor set, so it’s not an apples to apples comparison.
I was especially thrilled at the high ratio of Pineapple ones, which is a flavor that goes so well with the sour sand it’s ridiculous. The least favorite flavor out of the bunch, oddly enough, was the green apple, which I would have thought would do well. The red was strawberry instead of cherry, so the assortment scored points there.
I’m sure there are cheaper places to get these, especially if they are made by Farley’s & Sathers, which are a really well priced, good quality brand.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
I’ve always loved Jujyfruits, but probably for the wrong reasons. I never particularly enjoyed eating them, but they’re stunning to look at.
What’s particularly odd about Jujyfruits is that they’re less fruit flavored and more vegetable-oriented: asparagus (which I always thought was a little corncob), banana (the one that says Heide), grapes, pea pod, pineapple, raspberry and tomato (which I thought was the bottom of a bell pepper or just a flower). The shapes, further, have nothing to do with the flavors and are randomized so that all shapes come in all flavors.
And the flavors? Lemon, Lime, Cherry, Orange and Licorice. (Kind of like Chuckles which are also made by Farley’s & Sathers now.)
At the end of the last millennium, a customer survey revealed that the original spearmint green Jujyfruit was not popular enough and was replaced with lime. I rather miss that ... I liked being able to get a licorice and a spearmint candy in one package. Jujyfruits are rather soft when fresh, though not quite as soft as Dots in my experience. They’re chewy and pretty flavorful, though lacking in any tangy notes, it’s all sweet. They’re sticky and can leave big hunks congealed to the sides of molars. I really like the licorice one, which has very nice anise notes and a very clean flavor.
Candy Wrapper Museum has a nice image of an earlier version of the Jujyfruits box, which I much prefer. The current box is rather, I don’t know, primitive looking. (Keep clicking around at the other old Heide products there at the CWM, quite fun to see they had a Good & Plenty knock-off called Hi-D-Ho that were also pink and white.)
A little more history: The Heide company that invented the Juju candies was started by Henry Heidi, a German immigrant in 1869. The company introduced Jujyfruits and Jujubes in 1920. Heide continued as a family run company after Henry Heide died and was then run by his son Andrew and his grandson Philip. But in 1995 they sold out to Hershey’s. Hershey’s then sold Heide (along with their other famous candies Red Hot Dollars and line of gummis) to Farley’s & Sather.
While the Jujyfruits have remained relatively unchanged over the years, the Jujubes have gone through some substantial changes.
According to the Food Network show Unwrapped, the difference between Jujubes and Jujyfruits is really only that Jujubes use Potato Starch instead of Corn Starch as their primary thickener. Add to that, Jujubes are “cured” longer, so they’re firmer.
When I was a kid, Jujubes were always hard as rocks and only a fool would try to chew them. (We were all fools back then. Of course the cool part was to soften them up enough to chomp down and glue your teeth together ... what fun!)
The Jujube that both the Jujyfruits and Jujubes are named after is a little tropical berry that really has nothing to do with the candy, it was probably just a romantic sounding name and in the early part of the last century many candies tried to adopt such exotic names. Both candies actually used something called Ju-Ju Gum at one time as an ingredient (it’s similar to many of the other vegetable gums like Gum Arabic, Acacia, Agar or Guar).
Today Jujubes are a little softer, kind of like stale Jujyfruits. They also have a bit more range in their flavors which are: Lemon (yellow), Violet (purple), Lilac (orange), Lime (green) and Cherry (red). So they’re basically little floral pastilles that are slightly soft. (Think of them like the Grether or Doolittle pastilles.)
I haven’t had them in years and was actually rather pleased with them. I don’t think I really need a box of 6.5 ounces, a little tin filled with an ounce or two might do me for a week. All of the flavors, even the fruity ones, are rather delicate and floral. I wish they did still make the spearmint ones (but it’s okay if there’s no rose in there, I think two flowers is enough).
They’re just lovely to look at and because of their durable and inert nature, I feel fine leaving them sitting out on my desk without worrying about anyone eating them or them getting any staler. If you do find them inedible, a fun craft project is to stick an ordinary sewing pin through them and use them as push pins!
Overall, neither are candy I’m likely to buy or consume, but it was fun to revisit them and I’m glad they’re still around and have their ardent admirers.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.