Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

12 Feb

Fun that lasts for a Modest Amount of Time! 0

If your brain was still forming tens of thousands of synapses in the mercurial glow of the television screen during the Clinton Administration, you may be physically incapable of forgetting slogans such as the entirely too apropos “The fun just lasts and lasts!” While I can’t say I’m in love with having my upstairs cluttered with decades old marketing detritus like this, I can’t entirely contradict the sentiment. Indeed, whatever fun Fruit By The Foot claims to offer continues to last, even as I’ve grown to appreciate the taste of raw fish.

That’s not to suggest that the act of consumption will last and last, rather that the concept has staying power. Now, I’m no glutton, but it took me less than five minutes to finish my three foot roll! I’ve determined this is because: a) it was delicious, and b) there’s barely anything to it. The whole thing weighed less than an ounce! Do you realize that citizens in the Los Angeles metropolitan area inhale more substantial air-born particulate on their evening commute? On the other hand, good for Betty Crocker for creating a modestly portioned snack, high in Vitamin C (though really high in sugar as well) and Kosher Certified.

L.A. bears a surprising resemblance to Old Republic Galactic Capital, Coruscant.

The variety I sampled was tri-tone: yellow, green and red. I couldn’t taste much difference between the colors, but can say definitively that the “fruit flavor” was tart, sweet and vaguely creamy. Less sticky, chewy and tough than the similar Fruit Roll-Ups and Fruit Leathers, Fruit by the Foot is light snack, great for a quick dose of tart nostalgia. MMmm Nineties!

Performance pieces like this thrived in the era. We still puzzle over what they mean.

“And the time just passed and passed…”

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in Candy, Kosher, Reviews, Soft

10 Feb

How Walt Whitman Wooed 0

With proto versions manufactured in the early 1860’s, NECCO’s venerable Sweethearts Candies are practically as old as love itself. Their earliest ancestors were confections of pressed sugar and flour shaped like scallop shells with amorous messages printed on thin strips of colored paper rolled inside, much like the modern day fortune-cookie. Enterprising chaps that they were, the folks at NECCO (or what would become known as NECCO) kept experimenting with the confection throughout the latter half of the 19th century, eventually designing a process that allowed them to scrawl sweet-nothings directly onto the popular lozenges by way of vegetable dye and tiny felt-pad rollers. Slogans from this era included the ominous: “Married in satin, Love will not be lasting” and “Married in Pink, He will take to drink” as well as the encouraging “Married in white, You have chosen right,” and proved to be a big hoot at the weddin’s, hitchin’s, pledgin’s, sealin’s, and swearnin’s of undyin’ fealty-as-long-as-we-both-shall-have-yon scatter-gun-to-our-backs, so in vogue at the time. By 1902, the prosaic lozenges had evolved into the far more telegraphic Conversation Hearts known today, but included shapes such as baseballs, postcards, horseshoes and watches.

Valentines before Conversation Hearts

As of 2010, NECCO has replaced all its traditional slogans with customer suggestions, revamped the treats’ color and texture and even added some new flavors. How do the changes stack up?

Are they "revolutionary?"

As with the upgraded NECCO Wafers, I’d say pretty well. I was never a huge fan of the taste or texture of Conversation Hearts to begin with, and while I still doubt I would buy them at any other time of the year, I appreciate the positive difference NECCO’s efforts have made. *A short corollary, almost all of the 8 billion conversation hearts produced by Necco annually are sold in the month leading up to Valentines Day.*  The only flavors that remain from the original sextet are Lemon, Grape and Orange, with Wintergreen, Banana, and Cherry replaced by Strawberry, Green Apple and (dun-dun-duh!) Blue Raspberry. I can’t say I miss any of the old flavors too terribly much, and while Blue Raspberry shares the typical “wrung-from-a-scented-marker” taste affecting most confections victimized by the flavor, I was pleasantly surprised by the tartness of green apple (even though it actually tastes more like a golden delicious) and genuinely loved Strawberry for its similarity to the ever amazing pink Starburst. Elsewhere, Orange seemed in fine form with a surprisingly genuine flavor– especially when chewed— though I’m still convinced that Grape contains Dimetapp and Lemon (appropriately now yellow instead of green) a dash of pine-sol and or beefeaters gin. A definite improvement in the texture department meant none of the hearts crunched quite as unapologetically as raw chalk between my teeth, though I couldn’t entirely banish thoughts of Flintstone vitamins from my mind. Since I enjoyed my Conversation Hearts “En Español!” (another fairly recent innovation) I can’t comment on the results of the 100% consumer-chosen slogans in English, but can certainly say I enjoyed being literally romanced via such old-world posies as “Beunos Dias,” “Mi Joya,” “Paz,” “Dulce” and the apparently misprinted “llamo me.” It seems even the pros get nervous confessing their deepest feelings.

Sweets to the Sweet.”

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in Candy, Nostalgic/Retro, Reviews

8 Feb

A Little Talk About Henrys 0

Tom Henry, O. Henry, Henry the flirt, Henry “Hank” Aaron, Henry “H-Rod” Rodriguez. Many a fine Henry has been implicated in the forging of this historic bar, and though Juan Sánchez “Henry” Villa-Lobos Ramírez may claim in Highlander that, “There can be only one,” it’s my personal belief that a candy bar, like a litter of kittens, may have a whole lotta poppas.

Holding this to be true, Tom Henry of Arkansas City, Kansas (AKA “con sarn it!”) is certainly one, having sold the rights to his brilliantly titled signature bar “Tom Henry,” which he had launched in 1919, to Williamson Candy Company of Chicago in 1920. By all accounts, Williamson didn’t alter the bar’s formula but seemed to feel that the name “Tom” wasn’t swinging enough to spin the dough. Nestle (the bar’s current U.S. distributor) claims that the name “Oh Henry!” was inspired by a refrain often uttered in the Williamson factory in the early 20’s, by female employees enjoying the attentions of a local flirt named “Henry,” who used to hang around performing small favors. Others speculate that the name was chosen because of its similarity to the pen name of popular early 20th century American writer Sydney Porter, better known as “O. Henry.” It was precisely this sense of mystery that Williamson employee John Glossinger was able to cultivate and capitalize on when, of his own volition and despite the skepticism of Williamson, he waged an advertising campaign in support of “Oh Henry!,” which consisted of him placing bumper stickers on cars featuring the confection’s name and nothing else. As they’re wont when puzzled, Americans bought on and bought hard, “Oh Henry!” flourished and John Glossinger got a cookie and a pat on the head. The elaborate mythology of the bar only increased when it became associated, first with the great Hank Aaron and later with the pretty-good Henry Rodriguez. The practice of throwing “Oh Henry!” bars onto the field following one of “H-Rod’s” homeruns was famously adopted at his home stadiums, until an incident at Wrigley field in 2000– which resulted in left field being somewhat flooded by the bars– led to the arrest of four “Oh Henry!” wielding super-fans, largely discouraging the tradition.

History; so far I’ve written a long-winded and inept digest of the main points of interest for this unusually storied candy, and if you’re still reading you probably want to know how the thing tastes already. In an unusual bit of prescience and reflexivity, here goes. Firstly, if you’re purchasing the bar in the U.S., you’re actually getting two little bars. These are comprised of vanilla fudge, caramel and finely chopped peanuts coated in milk chocolate. Dense and compact, your jaw is going to get a workout chewing it into digestibility; better to savor the flavors. While the vanilla fudge falls victim to the plague of “I don’t taste vanilla in that vanilla-itis” affecting so many otherwise healthy candies, this can be forgiven due to the strength of the caramel and peanuts. Smooth and crunchy in all the right places and vibrantly flavored with a blend of sweet and smokey, I was (not unhappily) convinced that the fudge was peanut-flavored before my research again shamed my amateur palette. The milk chocolate coating then, doesn’t have to do much except look appetizing and melt in the mouth, and that’s exactly what it does, but I can’t help feeling the bar would be enriched immeasurably if it had ambitions to go above and beyond serving as window dressing. Some nice bars, overall. True to their heritage, the story of the “Oh Henry!” also has an optimistic twist ending. See, “Oh Henry” is manufactured by HERSHEY in Canada and boasts a different recipe, look, style and taste. Two bars, separated by the great Williamson buyout of ‘84 and living parallel lives across national lines. Surely someday the chance of their glad reformation will be retrieved from the realm of the great “what if.”

In the meantime…

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5 Feb

It should be paying me to eat it 0

Just kidding, I actually like the Sugar Daddy, though this flies in the face of my better judgment. As likely to leave you screaming in agony as cooing in delight, the pantheon of modern confectionery has only rarely witnessed such an unapologetic provocateur. Though suckers for punishment may warn that you can’t tiptoe on the wild-side, there are relatively safe ways to enjoy this slab of caramelized Marquis du Sade-on-a-stick. The first mistake people usually make when they meet “The Daddy” is underestimating him. You should expect to lose teeth if you plunge in unprepared with your gums flapping and your jaws gnashing. There is a reason why this “lollipop” has been given a creepy paternal epithet.

Those who’ve beaten the “Beige Baron” know that there are some tricks for going toe-to-toe with the old pudgy pugilist.

Step One: Apply the heat! Leaving a Sugar Daddy on the dashboard of an El Camino in the Mojave desert between 1 and 4 PM in late July is a great way to get the candy just soft enough so that your pearly whites won’t shatter immediately upon contact.

Step Two: Don’t get cocky! Just because you’ve sunk your teeth into it, doesn’t mean you’re going to get them out again. Under no circumstances should you yet bite off a chunk of the Sugar Daddy, as doing so would be a fool’s errand, eminently deserving of the inglorious failure that would unquestionably result. Instead, test the constitution of the candy by taking a series of small bites WITHOUT FULLY PENETRATING IT! The purpose of this step is to aerate the Daddy, undermining its structural integrity and hopefully preparing the way for the successful execution of the mission.

Step Three: Treat it like a sucker. A bath in your venomous saliva will begin to corrode not only the thick surficial layers of tempered caramel, but the cruel snack’s morale as well. The Daddy is sensitive about being called a lollipop and if you’re going to win this battle, you’ve got to be prepared to wage psychological war.

Like this

Step Four: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Now is the time to start Mr. Ed-ing that bad-boy, but take it easy as even a wounded Daddy is still a formidable opponent, and especially so when back into a corner.

Step Five: Finish up! Respect your opponent enough to complete the job. There’s nothing more ignoble than a bisected Sugar Daddy limping around your apartment for days, getting covered in cat hair. Accept his surrender magnanimously and deliver the coup de grace with the aplomb befitting one of your station, for you may now count yourself among a clan of few and proud.

Try the Whole Fearsome Family

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in Candy, Candy Tips, Nostalgic/Retro, Reviews