Surf Sweets – Part II

Today brings the anxiously awaited conclusion to my review of Surf Sweets‘ product line that I began on Wednesday. First up (or is it fourth up?), their Gummy Swirls.

The Gummy Swirls were little gumdrop shaped gummis about the size of the first joint of my pinky finger. They came in two versions, pink/white swirled and orange/white swirled. Pink/white was strawberry, I believe, and its flavor was of lightly muted “red” candy. I’m not sure if the muting came from the white swirl or from the all-natural ingredients. A bit of each, perhaps? My guess is that orange/white was orange-flavored, except I didn’t find it to taste very orangey. Instead, I got more of a pear profile. The gummy itself was fairly firm and sproingy, while the sugar coating added a bit of textural grain.

Surf Sweets’ Gummy Worms were absolutely gorgeous, proving that one doesn’t need artificial colorings to make something look tasty. They came in red and yellow and red and lighter yellow/clear. Cherry and pineapple, maybe? The flavors weren’t terribly distinct, but they were nice and fruity. Appearances aside, however, there wasn’t much to separate these gummy worms from their artificially-flavored (and much cheaper) counterparts.

While the Gummy Worms were fairly run of the mill, I found the Super Sour Worms to be truly exceptional. Like Wednesday’s Fruity Bears, these were more like a fruit pate or a fruit gem, which may be why their moniker leaves out the word “gummy”. The sour sugar coating on these is mostly sweet and only lightly tart, but it’s just right.

The red and yellow one tastes of cherry – as I’ve written many times, I have difficulty differentiating red-flavored candies, but this one had a bit of a bite to it, so I’m going with cherry – with a sour finish of lemon. The orange and white one tasted like a lovely sweet yet tart orange. Either the white part was also orange flavored, or it was too lightly flavored to compete against the brightness of the orange.

The Super Sour Worms were my favorite of the Surf Sweets bunch. I couldn’t stop eating them, so they get a ZOMG! The Gummy Swirls and Gummy Worms, while good, weren’t exceptional, and, as I said on Wednesday, I’m too poor to shell out extra for all natural and organic when artificial and full-of-pesticides tastes pretty much exactly the same, so they get Os. If you’re not poor like me and care about what you put into your body, or your kids’ bodies, then the whole Surf Sweet lineup is probably perfect for ya – they taste all-natural, but in a good way, and you or your kids won’t miss unnatural flavorings/colorings one whit.

Non-Candy Related Help?

Dear Readers,

I know y’all come from all over the country/world. Maybe y’all can help me out with a quandry?

I had been using Cheez-It Stix in my senior thesis research. They are of crucial size, shape, and composition for my research apparatus, and I really, really, really need them. Unfortunately, they are now nowhere to be found anywhere near New Haven, Boston, or New York City. I’ve called Kellogg (they assure me they’re still being made), I’ve looked online, and I’ve asked my local grocery stores to try to order them, all to no avail.

Do you have Cheez-It Stix in your area? And if so, would you be willing to buy several boxes and mail them to me, in exchange for full repayment, and then some, and candy, and my undying gratitude, and a thank you in my senior thesis, the thesis I need to write in order to graduate from college?

Leave me a comment or shoot me an email if you can help me out. And have a nice day!

Update: As I told my senior essay advisor, it looks like I’ll manage to get buy with the kindness of strangers. Thanks to everyone who offered help and to Chelsea for being the first to come through for me!

Surf Sweets – Part I

One of the biggest perks of my candy blogging hobby is getting free samples from candy retailers. When Surf Sweets offered to send me samples of their all-natural and organic candies, I eagerly agreed. They sent me a generous box of their complete line-up. We’ll cover half today, and the other half on Friday.

First up, a classic: Gummy Bears. Surf Sweets’ gummy bears are extra sproingy and firm. They come in pineapple, lemon, orange, and cherry, I think. Why only I think? Because Surf Sweets are made with all-natural ingredients, their flavors aren’t as artificially strong as other gummis. They’re more mild, so they’re harder to differentiate. The gummy bears were good and seemed quite genuinely fruity, but tastewise, there’s really nothing to distinguish them from normal gummy bears.

Their Fruity Bears were more distinctive and more fun. On the surface, they look like the gummy bears, just covered in sugar, but they’re quite different. They’re not even a gummy, which surprised me when I bit into my first one. Instead, the bears are more of a fruit pate, with a soft give to them. These come in five flavors: pineapple, lemon, orange, strawberry, and cherry. I’m more sure of these flavors because they were stronger. The strawberry and cherry barely differed in color, but their flavors were distinctive, with more of a bite to the cherry.

And last but not least for today, their Jelly Beans. These also come in the same color and flavor palate of the Fruity Bears: pineapple, lemon, orange, strawberry, and cherry. Texturally, these are different from most jelly beans. They have a softer (but still crunchy) shell with softly sproingy insides. Pineapple was my favorite flavor of the bunch – it really captures the essence of pineapple flavor with it’s core-y taste. The other four flavors are pretty standard and unexceptional.

Paradoxically, I found Surf Sweets to be at once muted and bright. They’re muted because they don’t use artificial flavors or colors, yet they’re bright because they taste so genuinely fruity. Think about the difference between a can of orange soda, a carton of orange juice, and a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice. Orange soda will be super bright but artificial, orange juice would be the most muted, and fresh-squeezed orange juice falls in between. Surf Sweets are the candy equivalent of fresh-squeezed juice.

The Gummy Bears get an O (because I’m too poor to really care about eating only organic and natural), the Fruity Bears get an OMG (I adore fruit pate), and the Jelly Beans get an OM. Tune in on Friday for the rest of their line-up!

No chocolate before bed?

From the NY Times Health section a couple weeks ago, a Really? piece questioning the claim that chocolate can disrupt your sleep. Their conclusion? Chocolate could contain enough caffeine to keep you up at night.

That probably goes extra for me, as I rarely consume caffeine that’s not in chocolate, so I’m super sensitive to its effects. White chocolate doesn’t have caffeine, though, so that’s safe!

Happy New Year!

Chinese New Year (well, Lunar New Year, to be perfectly pc. But I’m Chinese, so I’m calling it like I see it), that is!

May your next year, the Year of the Ox, be filled with prosperity and chocolate deities. And may your hong bao be filled with real money instead of chocolate coins.

No review today. I’m busy respecting my elders and eating dumplings, and you should be too! But if you really need your candy review fix, check out my archive of Asian candies!

Charles Chocolates – Part II

Here’s the review of the rest of the box of Charles Chocolates that was introduced on Wednesday. We did the top row then, so today we’re going over the bottom row.

First up, bottom right, the bittersweet chocolate fleur de sel caramel. It was goooood. You can buy a box of 10 or 20 of just these, and I can see why. It’s a “a fleur de sel caramel with bittersweet chocolate and enrobed in 65% bittersweet chocolate.” The caramel was chewy and just slightly sticky with wonderous burnt notes, making it dark and salty and delectable, with the whole thing mellowed a bit by the chocolate coating. I could eat a whole box of these.

Next are the two square ones, the blood orange Yankee (why Yankee? I have no idea), which contains a blood orange marmalade ganache in a dark shell, and the meyer lemon Yankee, with a Meyer lemon marmalade in a dark and milk shell. If it’s made with lemons, does it still count as marmalade?

Orange and chocolate are a pretty common combination, but lemon, and chocolate, not so much. The Meyer lemon Yankee was good – it had a slight citrus finish with just a hint of zest, so its lemon-y-ness was not at all overpowering. The blood orange was similarly lightly citrusy, but with a sweeter, rounder flavor profile. In both, the ganache was smooth, silky, and lightly greasy, but not unpleasantly so.

The scalloped oval one in the middle is the espresso caramel, “rich caramel with real espresso and Kahlua in a  65% bittersweet oval.” The filling inside was soft and creamy, which surprised me, as I expected a stickiness due to the caramel moniker. I got a slight hint of the Kahlua flavor but didn’t pick up any espresso notes in the filling.

And last, and in this case least, the bottom left lemon marzipan: “Marzipan made with fresh, organic Meyer lemons and organic California almonds are coated in our rich 65% bittersweet chocolate.” I think one should always become a bit suspicious when one is being sold to with so many enthusiastic adjectives. Why is the same chocolate enrobing “rich” here, and the Meyer lemons “fresh, organic”? I didn’t taste any lemon in my marzipan, and I was just not a fan of the taste or the texture. I didn’t even finish my first one, and the second one is still sitting alone in the box, the only one left (I didn’t eat the entire box myself, by the way; I did share some with friends).

The marzipan alone gets an O, the espresso caramel and the Yankees get an OM, and the bittersweet fleur de sel gets a ZOMG! At around $2 a truffle, these are not exactly cheap indulgences. I wouldn’t buy the assorted box for myself (though I would happily accept one), but I would buy them by weight if I got to pick and choose which ones I wanted. I think that’s an option at their store/cafe. And I would buy these for gift-giving for special occasions.

Chocolate as a slippery slope?

A new study reports that allowing one indulgence, such as a chocolate truffle, can lower one’s willpower and lead to a desire to eat more.

I think it’s an attitudinal thing – you can eat one truffle and think, “Well, I’ve already ruined my diet, so I may as well have more and eat well another day.” Or you can eat one truffle and think, “That was a delicious treat that, in moderation, can be included in any diet. Because chocolate should be special, I’ll stop at one and allow myself another tomorrow.”

Well, maybe not verbatim, but you get the idea.

Charles Chocolates – Part I

I’d wanted to try Charles Chocolates for ages, and I was sad to have missed the chance to go on a tour of their factory when I was in the area. When they had a free shipping sale for the holidays, I jumped at the chance to pick up a box of their classic collection (at the time, $30 for 20 pieces) without having to shell out an additional ten bucks for shipping.

I had sprung for the 20 piece box over the 10 piece one, thinking that I would get extra variety that way. Sadly, it was just two sets of the same 10 truffles, though that did mean I got two each of the ones I really liked. Today I shall review five (the top row of hearts and butterflies), and I’ll present the other five on Friday.

The butterflies are both chocolate with peanut praline fillings – “a rich homemade peanut praline mixed with 41% milk chocolate” in a milk or bittersweet shell. The praline filling was slightly crunchy, with a nice saltiness to balance out the chocolate. I could have used even more nuttiness, which I think was tempered by the milk chocolate mixed into the praline. The butterflies were quite rich and had a bit of fattiness feel to the finish. While I usually prefer dark to milk chocolate, the milk chocolate butterfly was better, as its increased sweetness paired better with the salty praline insides.

The hearts were filled with various fruit ganaches, all pleasantly silky smooth on the tongue: raspberry for the gold, passion fruit for the silver, and mojito for the chocolate. The raspberry ganache was quite fruity and bright but lacked the overarching tart and seedy notes that I expected. Passion fruit was quite spendid. Its fruitiness was super, super bright and had a wonderfully tart tang that I adored. And mojito was amazing – tart lime with a bite of fresh, not toothpastey, mint, all with a light rum finish.

I ate the passion fruit and mojito doubles of my box, so those guys get OMGs. The other three were good, made with high quality ingredients and clearly with care, but they didn’t stand out as much so they get OMs. Tune in on Friday to find out how the rest of the box fared!

Yes We Can! Eat Fran’s Salted Caramels

Happy Inauguration Day! Celebrate with President Obama’s favorite sweets (according to, Fran’s Salted Caramels.

If you’re not from Seattle, where Fran’s is headquartered, you can probably find them at your local Whole Foods. That’s where I bought the one I’ve had (it was too tempting to wait to take home for a proper photo; I ate it in the store).

Fran's Salt Caramels

(Gorgeous photo courtesy of Brenda Pederson of Culinary Fool.)

It’s okay that I love Obama more because he has fine taste in chocolates, right?

Note: I wrote this piece weeks ago in mid-December but decided it to postdate it for inauguration day. I ended up getting scooped by the NY Times, which wrote a great piece on salted caramels that also had insightful thoughts on how food trends work. 

Sour Patch Xploderz

I love Sour Patch Kids candies, so when I saw Sour Patch Xploderz, how could I say no? Especially since leaving off the leading “e” and swapping the plural “s” for a “z” makes it inherently oh-so-cool and utterly irresistible. Maybe I can finally be one of the cool kids!

Sour Patch Xploderz bag

Jokes aside, how do Sour Patch Xploderz stack up?

Name and packaging snarking aside (just check out the artwork on the bag), these guys were good! They’re billed as “soft & chewy candy with a splash of sour flavor!” What isn’t inherently clear from the copy (but is from the oozing artwork) is that “splash” is meant to indicate that these guys have a liquid filling. The back of the bag goes into more detail and lists the flavor combinations.

What really makes these guys stand out is the texture. They’re softer than the Starburst GummiBursts I reviewed last week, and the combination of that soft gummi with the inside goo and the grains of lightly sour sugar that they’re covered in makes them quite addictive, even if I didn’t love all of the flavor combinations.

Sour Patch Xploderz

Sour Patch Xploderz Flavors:

Raspberry lemonade rush is the bumpy circle in the bottom right corner. I would’ve preferred more of an oval shape to be more true to real raspberries, but that’s just being picky. This was my favorite flavor of the bunch. The outer red gummy doesn’t taste much like raspberry, but the inside goo definitely tastes of lemonade. Note that I said lemonade, not lemons – the goo isn’t sour, but it’s certainly citrusy.

Grape berry surge is top right and shaped like a cluster of grapes. This one only sort of worked for me. The berry-flavored goo tastes like fruit punch. It’s good, but it completely overwhelms the grape gummy, which wasn’t bad; artificial, yes, but in a popsicle-y way rather than a medicinal cough syrup way.

Sour Patch Xploderz

Cherry berry bash is the top left, round with just the hint of a cherry stem. I appreciate that design detail. The cherry gummy stands up to the berry goo better than the grape did, giving this guy a strong cherry finish. I found it a bit too artificial, but I also tend to think that about cherry/red flavored things.

Finally, apple strawberry burst is the green apple of the bottom left. I thought this shape was the neatest one. I’m on the fence about this flavor combination. The apple gummy is quite strongly flavored of green apple, Jolly Rancher-style, and it really stands up well to the strawberry goo inside.

As I said before, I didn’t adore all of the flavors, but the texture more than made up for any deficiencies there. My bag disappeared frighteningly quickly, considering that there are supposed to be 4.5 servings inside. The back of the bag boasted that these were “Sour. Sweet. Gone.” Yup, pretty much. An OMG.