Friday, February 17, 2006
There are some candy aficionados who turn up their noses at hard candy. Sure, they might think a candy cane is nice as decoration, but certainly not meant to be eaten and savored. I actually like hard candy a lot. I like Lifesavers (or did until they mucked around with the flavors in the standard five flavor roll), I like starlite mints, lemon drops and I love barley sugar candy. When I saw these at the Japanese market, I was hoping they were barley sugar, though it didn’t say that was part of the ingredients. In fact, I’m not sure what they are except for solidified, cello-wrapped heaven.
These little morsels look like drops of honey. There are two flavors, the golden ones and the darker ones. I have no idea what flavor they are, but the dark ones taste like sweet black iced tea. The lighter ones taste like sweet sugar with a hint of jasmine. The little bottom of them forms a pentagon and has a little hole in it. There are virtually no air bubbles or voids anywhere in the candy, which makes them exceptionally smooth.
The little cones (about one inch tall) fit nicely in the mouth and have no sharpness to them that can cut the roof of your mouth, which has always been the danger with cheap sour balls. These dissolve slowly and release a delicately sweet flavor across your mouth that will linger for hours after you eat them. They’re crunchable too, as I am prone to chewing up my hard candies. The black tea ones (which I’ve already eaten all of) have a strong tea flavor to them with not a hint of bitterness. The sweet aromatic jasmine in the light ones (or whatever flavor it might be) is clean and fresh.
For some reason these were strangely expensive. At $2.29 for a scant three and a half ounces, I’ve gone and gotten myself addicted to some pricey boiled sugar. The brand, Shirakiku, is known as a tea and snack brand in Japan and to many Americans who buy Japanese teas (like my favorite Genmaicha) and those seaweed rice crackers. I have not been able to find anything about this candy anywhere online, though it’s possible that the English word “juntsuyu” isn’t quite accurate (as is often the case with the American labels slapped on the back of these import packages). So if any of my sweet Japanese readers can help me figure out what these are, I’d be ever so grateful.
UPDATE 4/18/07: JBox is now carrying Juntsuyu (at my request, thankee-thankee). For the record, since I did this review I’ve eaten three more bags of these and also put them in the Christmas Stockings last year.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:40 am
Thursday, February 16, 2006
There are a few new red licorice products out lately. Both Twizzlers and Wonka are in on this new explosion, perhaps fueled by Airheads’ new products.
The SweeTarts rope is one of those new products. Kind of like the Twizzler Twerpz, these are a cherry red licorice tube filled with a blue, sour paste which is then dotted with little crunchy Nerd bits.
The texture mix is really interesting. You have the rather bland chew of the licorice, which is soft and clingy. Then you have the soft, frosting-like sour paste that doesn’t have much flavor in it’s own right, but has these little crunchy bits that are powerfully packed with more sour.
I tried eating this several ways. I tried the traditional bite and chew method, which mixed the flavors and textures and variations of sour and sweet very nicely. Then I tried squeezing the rope until the blue sour paste came out. That wasn’t as satisfying because I couldn’t get most of the paste out that way.
I was tempted to find a sharp knife and slit the straw open and scrape out the blue goo ... but then I thought that was a little too evil and I just ate the rest of it the normal way.
The photo on the package of the cross-section shows colored Nerds in there, but I think they kind of dissolve after a while.
I think this is a fun new candy and I’d probably eat it under the right conditions, but in order to get me to buy it again, it’s gotta come in a citrus flavor variation. Given the choice, the Twerpz are gonna win out. I like the filling in those a bit better (it’s more like a Starburst fruit chew).
If you’ve tried them and want to tell Wonka what you think, they have an online feedback survey. This product was manufactured in New Zealand. I don’t think I’ve picked up a Nestle product in a long time that was actually manufactured in the United States. On another strange note, the Rope was rather hard to photograph. Something about its matte texture just sucked the light in and gave it this weird velvety look in the photos. They’re not really that alien looking.
UPDATE 4/5/2009: It appears that the SweeTarts Rope has been discontinued. However, Nestle is introducing a new product called Kazoozles that looks an awful lot like these. Keep an eye out for them.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
I know that some readers must think that I’m a huge woman with little or no self control.
I’m a perfectly normal sized woman: I’m five feet, five inches and I wear a size eight.
How is this possible if I’m eating all this candy?
I have carefully chosen my poison. All discretionary calories in my diet are devoted to the consumption of candy. And how do I end up with enough extra calories?
I drink water. Really, that’s all I drink except for coffee (with 2% fat milk) and sometimes plain tea. No sodas, no fruit juices and very little alcohol. I might have three drinks each week outside of the water/coffee/tea style. I don’t actually enjoy sugary drinks, so it’s not like this is a hardship. I’ll have fruit juice, especially when I’m traveling. But sometimes I’ll go on a kick and want grapefruit juice or V8 juice for a while. But then it’s back to water. Think about it - you can have that 240 calorie candy bar if you give up the two sodas or fruit juices a day (300 calories).
I don’t eat much other junk food. I don’t eat red meat, it’s been 19 years since I’ve had a hamburger and I don’t even eat french fries that often (maybe three or four times a year). I don’t eat potato chips (but I love pretzels) or really much in the way of fried foods. I have ice cream about once a month. I don’t go to fast food restaurants very often, though I like McDonald’s Egg McMuffins without the meat (that’s probably not so bad anyway) about once every two months or so.
I don’t eat cake or pastries (except for a good chocolate croissant). The whole cupcake fad is rather lost on me. I do love cookies, but I don’t keep them around the house that much, and when I do have them, I prefer homestyle cookies over the mass produced ones (the exception is those ginger cookies with the lemon creme that I get at Trader Joe’s). When I’m greeted by a fancy breakfast buffet, I’ll head for the bowl full of fresh berries before I’ll ever consider eating a donut. It’s not that I’m making “healthy choices” so much - I just prefer fresh berries and cottage cheese.
The candy is put away. Most of the candy I have for review or just eating is usually put away or at least sealed up. This reduces the urge to shovel things into my mouth without even realizing it. Even at the office, unless it’s something I’m evaluating right that moment, it’s in the drawer or in my bag. Out of sight, out of mind. If I want it, I have to think about it first, then get it out. When I have candy while watching TV, I’ll often put the portion on a little plate or in a dish instead of setting the whole bag down next to me (because I will eat it all).
I don’t eat dessert. Candy is my dessert. Unless we’re going out to dinner, I rarely have “dessert” at home. Sometimes in the summer it’s sorbet, fruit pops or chocolate covered bananas, just to cut through the heat. Every once it a while my husband will make spiked fruit smoothies. Sometimes we’ll cut up a pineapple or have some strawberries and I’m a huge fan of mangoes. There are times that I really want something creamy and I’ll make some cooked chocolate pudding or tapioca. But for the most part, I don’t eat a programmed dessert.
I mix my candy with other snacks. I like to mix other foods in with my candy snacks. I like raw almonds a lot and pretzels. Almonds go with just about everything - licorice, chocolate, toffee, caramels. By diluting the candy with a protein like almonds, I’m satisfied quicker and I also don’t have that huge sugar rush and then crash.
I don’t like dressings or sauces. I love salads and sandwiches, but I can’t stand dressings or mayonaise. That saves a lot of calories. I also get to enjoy the taste of the veggies instead of the sauce.
It’s kind of odd, since I’ve been doing Candy Blog, I haven’t really noticed that I’ve eaten more candy, just a larger variety than I used to. Before this public service, I would eat the same treat, day in and day out for months at a time. Sometimes it was licorice pastilles, sometimes it was Hershey’s Kisses and then a few weeks later I’d switch to Heath Bars. Now I don’t have much room in my discretionary calories for just eating “my” candy.
My husband cooks most of our meals and we have an excellent diet of lean protein (fish, poultry and beans/rice) with lots of whole grains and fresh vegetables. It’s not that this is a chore or a problem for either of us, he’s a wonderful cook and I enjoy all of his meals. I never feel deprived. When we eat out, I enjoy interesting and healthy fare usually seafood as we don’t cook that at home as often. When we order in, it’s more often some won-ton soup and prik king (spicy stir-fried green beans) than a pizza. I love sushi, which is a really lean meal.
My big indulgence when it comes to regular food is cheese. I love cheese and often make it my primary protein for some meals. If I were to excise something that’s unhealthy from my diet, it would be the brie, not the chocolate. A favorite snack is cheese, crackers and an apple (sometimes that’s dinner, too).
Yes, you can have your candy and eat it too, but it’s really a matter of priorities. I generally believe that most of us can listen to our bodies and eat what it says it wants, within reason. If I’m craving something, I’ll usually have it but I try not to overeat. I listen to when my body says it’s hungry and I stop when I’m satisfied. I’ve also found that eating slowly helps with this, because it takes at least 20 minutes for your body to realize it’s hungry. Portion control is probably more important than anything else. “Calories in” must be at the level of “calories out” for a stable weight. I have an innate sense of my own intake and know when to stop. I know I eat about 1600-2000 calories a day (yes, it varies that widely) and I generally front-load my candy intake early in the day so I can make adjustments with my portions for the major meal of the day. I’ve never been on a diet, nor do I ever plan to diet to lose weight. If anything, I should increase my activity to maintain my weight (as that has more benefits for my bones and heart than fewer calories).
I also have to credit my natural fidgety nature and active life. Yes, I know that I am probably blessed genetically with a solid metabolism, but I have to credit my mother for instilling an appreciation for a huge variety of foods which provides me a good counterbalance to my love of candy.
What are your tricks for working candy into your life without it killing you?
I bought this tin of Java Bark on sale just after Christmas from Crate & Barrel. At only $4.50, marked down from $15.00, I couldn’t resist. Besides, I was buying some Mint Cookie Joys, so the shipping was a done deal.
I wasn’t quite sure what Java Bark was going to be, and it’s not quite what I was expecting. I didn’t know if was going to be chocolate or toffee or good. And it was none of those things.
Basically it’s a sweet coffee flavored “chocolate” with chocolate cookie chunks in it sprinkled with a coffee powder and then drizzled with some white chocolate. They’re cut into squares (about 2”) and individually wrapped. Then they’re tucked into a pretty oval tin.
Did I mention the tin is really pretty?
The little plastic wraps are incredibly hard to open for some reason, which leads me to believe that these are not made by Harry London, who made the Mint Cookie Joys, because those little cello sleeves were easy to open.
Once open the squares have a very sweet, coffee smell to them. The “chocolate” has a rather graham flavor to it, a bit grainy and after looking at the label, I see that it’s not really chocolate at all. The cookie bits are firm and crunchy and actually really good, mostly because they add a dash of salt to the sweet and chalky combination. The coffee powder (coffee grounds) gives the whole thing and unpleasant grain but a good boost of flavor.
The nicest thing about these is that I can bring them to work and set the tin out and no one will think I’ve pawning off Christmas candy on them. And that’s just what I’m going to do. I’ve gotta make room for the Valentine’s sale candy.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
We all have Valentines stories and I’ll wager that a good many of them involve candy of some sort. The holiday is inextricably tied to the motto “sweets for the sweet.”
There are lots of stories about Valentines on the news, whole TV specials on the Food Network and of course blog entries. You don’t need me telling you about the history of the heart-shaped box or give you a profile of a man who collects Victorian Valentines. This is the one day where you can get your sugar fix anywhere and everywhere. And I hope you do, because days like this are pretty few and far between.
In a way, CandyBlog.net isn’t about any of that. I’m about candy every day and everyday candy.
That said, this is a good time to talk about Candy Season.
I know I’ve mentioned Candy Season quite a bit. Basically there are four major Candy Holidays in the United States and it starts with Halloween. Then there’s Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter. Candy Season happens to also coincide with cooler weather, which is good for chocolate treats.
Candy Season is a time of great plenty for candy ... limited editions, special shapes and colors and of course sales. Indulgence in candies is perfectly acceptable and encouraged. But what’s best is the fact that candy is packaged for each holiday and quickly becomes dated. Which is great on November 1st, December 26th and of course, tomorrow, February 15th. Half off days.
The candy is just as good (if not better) when it’s cheap. Maybe you buy something you’d never tried or twice as much. Valentine’s candy is even better because it’s cute and often meant to be shared.
While this is supposed to be a day for Lovers, when I was growing up Valentine’s was celebrated in our household as a purely candy holiday, a holiday of giving, usually smaller gifts like mini-Christmas stockings.
Usually my mother gave each of us children a little box of candy. It was usually a heart shaped box of Russell Stovers from the drug store (and of course I’d promptly trade my chocolate covered cherry for a nut cluster or caramel with my brother or sister). But one year, for some reason, she went above and beyond. She went to real chocolate shop in the city and picked out a custom tin for each of us with a specific mix. Mine was full of caramels, chocolate covered nuts and coconut creams and not a single cherry in the mix. I kept the tin for years, putting my tips in there and usually spending the money on candy (my brother thought all the cash was in my Tootsie Roll bank ... hah!).
I’ve certainly gotten plenty of other candy gifts for Valentines since then. Even a goofy little box of Necco conversations hearts are always welcome. I know it sounds hokey, but it is the thought that counts and when someone thinks of buying me candy and they don’t present me with a box of chocolate covered walnuts, cherries and marzipan ... it’s all good. It’s all love.
And I’m gonna love stopping at the store(s) tomorrow. That’s when you can expect some special things on CandyBlog.net. Only one more Candy Holiday to go after this before the end of the season!
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.