Wednesday, April 12, 2006
My best wishes for a Happy Pesach for all my Jewish friends, family and readers. I hope you have a great seder and of course get all the yummy macaroons, jelly slices and chocolate covered matzohs your heart’s desire today and always!
Continuing with National Licorice Day, I have to admit that I’ve always been afraid of Licorice Allsorts. Let’s face it, they’re pretty, but there’s no real way of knowing what they are. Are those pink things the same flavor as Pepto Bismol? Are they cherry? Which would be better? Is blue ever a good idea? It’s one of those candies that’s been around so long, once I became an adult I was embarrassed to ask what they were.
The time had come to try them. All of them. This assortment came from CandyFavorites but is made by Bassett’s ... you know, the folks in England who are known for these. Aren’t they cute?
I started with the pieces that seemed the most familiar. The plain black licorice pieces were nice. Extra soft, with a good doughy consistency and strong molasses taste. They’re sweet, but not in a sugary way, more in that herbal way that licorice is.
Next I took on those sandwich looking things. They’re the ones that have scared me most over the years. The brown ones are chocolate flavored, but only in the lightest possible way. Mostly the molasses taste comes through but then as the chewing continues I realize that there’s COCONUT in here! How did that happen? The brown layer is more grainy and sugary than the licorice one and there are these flakes of coconut that give it a nice chewy texture and a good nutty pop. The white layered pieces are lemon and though I really liked the Lemon Lakritsi I had last year, these don’t quite rise to this level. Yes, the coconut gives it some extra dimension, but there are a lot of flavors going on here. Orange is orange and seems to be a little better on the balance than the white ones. I ate all of the orange and brown ones first. The pink ones were the scariest of all. I don’t know what flavor they are, we’ll just stick with “pink” because the color seems to give them a fruity flavor of some kind, perhaps cherry but also a bitter overtone. Blech. I needed to clear the taste of that! Luckily it was only a three decker instead of the five layer of the white one.
The little blue and pink buttons are so cute and I didn’t want to eat them at first. Inside is a firm jelly with a strong licorice/anise taste to it. Instead of being sickly sweet and grainy like a jelly bean, these were more like a gummi covered in nonpareils. I wish I could just buy these in bulk.
The little blue man was the only one of his kind in the mix, and I’m not sure what that kind of candy is called. He was like a licorice version of candy corn. Very sweet, a little grainy to start and then quite smooth.
The pink circles with the black dots scared me. After the bad experience with the pink layered thing, I was hesitant to try these. Luckily they weren’t flavored. They’re just colored pink but taste simply like coconut and licorice. After all that trepidation, the things I thought I’d hate, I actually liked and of the whole assortment, there’s really only one piece that I detested. Those are much better odds than most of the assorted candies I pick up.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:39 am
Happy Licorice Day! Did you know it’s National Licorice Day?
So, it’ll be all licorice all day here on Candy Blog ... if you don’t like the black stuff, just move along and come back tomorrow and it’ll be something chocolate or maybe something nutty or perhaps something sour. If you do like licorice, well, browse around through my archives by clicking on the Licorice category for all the licorice reviews.
I picked up an assortment of Dutch licorices when I was in Pittsburgh. Because this is real licorice which can have side effects when consumed in large quantities, I’ve been tasting it responsibly for the past six weeks or so.
Beehive Honey Licorice - these little black beehives boast 8% honey! They’re smooth and soft and instead of the strong charcoal flavor of molasses as a base, these boast a fine honey flavor with the nice woodsy and sweet qualities of licorice. They really don’t taste anything like a licorice vine that I’m accustomed to, reminding me more of an herbal tea.
Katjes (kittens) - these are dark looking and a little firmer with glossy black coats. The licorice flavor is strong and melts away to be rather watery on the tongue because it doesn’t have molasses or wheat flour in it like many of the vines do. Good flavor and good balance. Of all of them these went best with coffee because of the clarity of the flavor. I actually enjoy the mix of coffee and anise or licorice together, which I think is a pretty common Italian combination.
Zout (salt) - yes, this is the single salt version of the Dubbel Zout I tried after Christmas. These are lozenge shaped (diamond) and bear the Zout label on them, lest you get confused in a mixed bag! Wow, I’m so glad I gave these another try. They certainly have a zing to them, though it’s not the same electric thing that I had with the DZ. The salt really brings out the licorice flavor without tasting too sweet (which licorice often suffers from). This version also doesn’t have the strong ammonia quality that the others I’ve tried, though towards the end where I was finding little bits in my teeth I did get the strange sensation of basement or catbox. I’m still not sold on it, but I didn’t spit out ANY of the pieces I ate. (I know, faint praise.)
Klene Muntdrop - a little coin, mine came in denominations of 1, 5 & 10. Very mild, not too sweet. I let mine get stale (not on purpose, but it seems that a paper bag isn’t the proper way to store them), but they’re kind of pleasant that way too. They melt away into a kind of woodsy, sticky goo. Still, there’s an odd note to the flavor that’s slightly acidic and slightly musty. I’ve had a bit of a cold lately and these are kind of nice in a “keep your throat happy” way.
Wax Seals - I have no idea what these are called or who makes them, but they’re fantastic! They look like little stamps made in wax, like you’d seal a letter, but maybe they’re coins. They’re mellow and smooth and ultra soft (where the other ones go stiff and hard in the paper bag, these stayed soft and yielding). They have a good molasses bite without the wheat flour doughy quality that some other American and German vines can get.
If you’re feeling adventurous, just get a mix of things. The cool part is that each little licorice is quite unique in how it looks and it shouldn’t be hard to find them again and get just the ones you liked. I only gave these a 6 out of 10 as an average, but a mix of the beehives and wax seals would get an 8 out of 10 on their own.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
I’m candy trippin’ ... I’m in New York City, New York this week and I’m trying to hit all the best candy stores Manhattan has to offer. The amazing thing is that there are so many of them. What’s even more amazing is the ubiquity of candy here. It seems a bit harder to find candy in Los Angeles, sure, it’s at the grocery store, the drug store but the breadth and scope of candy in New York far surpasses any other city I visit. My guess is that New Yorkers need more energy. Folks walk everywhere or take public transportation and that takes a lot out of you. Well, it’s not like candy is the only choice they have, fresh fruit abounds, but I suspect there’s less guilt about it here.
Economy Candy has been in business for nearly 70 years and has an incredible selection. They feature both domestic candy by the bar: Hershey, Nestle/Wonka, Mars (including Colorworks M&Ms), Jelly Belly, Atkinson, Annabelle’s, Pearson’s, Tootsie and probably plenty of others. They also had an exceptional selection of consumer candy bars from Europe, like Cadbury’s Flake series, Aeros, Lion bars and even some Israeli bars from Elite. But there were also other high-end bars from Scharffen Berger (great prices), Cafe Tasse (review soon!), Cote d’Or, Droste, Feodora, Lindt, Niederegger, Ritter, Toblerone and even those Chick chocolate bars.
The place is literally packed to the rafters, the shelves go up at least ten feet and I had trouble remembering to look high and low to keep from missing things. They had Dutch and Finnish licorices by the pound, every possible gummi and jelly you might want (yes, I got a half pound of Swedish fish, all red)
Because this is the week of Easter and Passover they had special displays to meet both needs. After all, candy is inclusive, not exclusive. There’s no rule that says that a dark chocolate egg can’t come to a seder (Kosher of course) and wouldn’t some chocolate covered matzohs might be a fun inclusion in an Easter basket.
My favorite there was their selection of Halvah. They have all the Joyva versions, marbled, plain, nuts ... but they also had the little morsels of halvah dipped in dark chocolate and rolled in almonds. Heaven! The halvah is flaky, not too sweet and melts in your mouth. It’s terribly messy stuff and I was eating mine over the trash basket in my hotel room.
There were a few things they don’t carry, in case you were wondering. There’s not much of anything from Asia and nothing that crosses over into the cookie family. They do, however, have a large selection of dried fruits and nuts. But you’re not going to do much better on prices, especially in NYC. There are some other candy stores, sure, but they charge a premium just because of the name on the bag. Economy is true to its name. Plain old sugar candies (hard candies, Mary Janes, Tootsie Rolls, etc.) are less than $2 a pound. Jelly Belly - $5.99 a pound ... Jordan Almonds - $3.99 a pound ... Gummis - $2.49-$3.99 a pound. All prices are good on their website, too.
The places is overwhelming. Even though I immersed myself in their website before we went, just to make sure I was familiar with their products, I still didn’t know where to look. I was expecting a huge store, and in all fairness, it is. But it was packed with people (if you can, go earlier in the morning on weekends or try a weekday). I might have to go there again (yes, it’ll be my third visit) just because I know I missed some things (and I was with other people both times).
A kind reader pointed out that there was a limited edition chocolate covered Payday bar out there. It took me a couple of months to find it (at the Walgreen’s down the road from me, that I don’t usually go to and only in the King size). Of course now that I’ve found it, I’ve seen it everywhere here in New York City.
Honestly, it seems like the perfect candy bar for NYC - it’s all brown and lumpy, just like Eighth Avenue, which is all torn up now. And it has a slightly abrasive but essentially sweet center plus it’s packed with nuts! I keeeed! I keeed! This is not the first time Payday has had a chocolate covered version in their repertoire, it was part of the line years ago (I think in the 80s). I doubt it’ll be the last time they bring it back.
I love Payday bars. They’ve got far more nuts than most other candy bars, and that’s a plus for me. The nuts on the bar are slightly salted and the nougat center is kind of crumbly and even though it’s sweet, it has a little bit of a caramelized sugar note to it. The chocolate covered Payday features milk chocolate. It’s rather sweet and pretty much overpowers the salty snap of the peanuts.
Payday bars are a good warm weather candy bar. They’re exceptionally satisfying and because they don’t have chocolate in them (the regular ones) there’s little worry about melting (and re-solidifying). They also pack a huge whallop of protein in them, which I find creates a very filling and satisfying snack. For those of us with low blood sugar problems, a sweet that has some protein in it will keep you from having a blood sugar crash.
As chocolate peanut bars go, I think I’d rather have some Peanut M&Ms or a Snickers Bar instead of a chocolate Payday. It’s not a bad bar, just not the most satisfying version of this combination out there.
UPDATE: It seems that this version was shortlived, but you can still find a mockolate (fake chocolate) covered version called Payday Avalanche that looks to be a permanent addition to the line. (So be aware that some comments to this review are actually referencing the fake chocolate version.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.