Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ice Breakers Kiwi Watermelon Ice Cubes

Ice Breakers Cubes

Mmm, artificial flavors. Oh well, it's kind of expected in gum, especially sugarfree gum. Ice Breakers Ice Cubes are an interesting kind of gum where you pay more for novelty than quality. There are only 10 cubes in the box, but for the $1.20 or so price, you could get more gum for the money with other brands.

The cubes themselves are frosty and matte white with dull reddish-pink and green flecks (not as sparkly as portrayed on the box), roughly a cubic centimeter in size. I realize now that I took a picture of the back of the box, but I really wanted to capture that "Whoa!"

On to the flavor. The "Cooling Xylitol" hits you immediately, but it really didn't make me say "Whoa!" It's no different from any other minty gum. The fruit flavor here is decent, but it's pretty much 100% watermelon. Maybe my palate isn't sensitive enough to pick up the kiwi. I suppose it sort of smells like kiwi, but maybe it's just because so much of the kiwi experience is tied up in the texture that they just couldn't emulate that in gum form.

The "Cooling Xylitol" is gone pretty quickly, as are the flavor crystals for which the Ice Breakers brand is known. The watermelon taste does hang around a while, so I'd have to say it's one of the better melon gums I've had. However, I wish there was more gum in the package.

It's a cute idea, but I'll probably stick to Orbit. I have a pack of Maui Melon Mint ready for review, so we'll see how it stacks up.


Ice Breakers Website

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Laffy Taffy

Laffy Taffy

Back when I was younger, I had braces. Taffy tops the list of things you can't eat when you have braces; one of my freinds broke a bracket eating Tangy Taffy once. Whatever happened to Tangy Taffy? Anyhow, there was a time in my life when I couldn't eat taffy, so perhaps that makes me want to eat it more now.

The packaging feels like it's aimed at the 10 year old me, growing up in the 1990s. Bright colors and "cool" fruit. Just check out the sour apple guy in this picture. He looks like a beat poet! The goatee and shades are pretty cool.

Oh, and the jokes. You buy Laffy Taffy for the jokes, right? Most of them are recycled, but then credited to (presumably) a child, as if they thought it up themself. For example: Why can't a nose be 12 inches long? Because then it would be a foot. I don't think Jennifer B. in Ft. Lauderdale, FL really came up with that herself.

I still haven't gotten to the actual Taffy. As far as I know, it tastes the same as it did when I was a kid.

Sour Apple: It's an electric green color (again with the 90s marketing) and starts out tasting almost like apple, but about halfway through, there was a weird, chemical taste that I didn't enjoy. Still, the taffy was pretty juicy.

Strawberry: A bright pink color, I can't really say it tastes like straberry, but it's somewhere in the ballpark. It's a nice, sweet, berry flavor, and they managed to mask the chemical taste much better.

Grape: Considering how most artificially flavored grape candy tastes like cough syrup, these aren't too bad. They are a pale purple, and they remind me of good grape popsicles. The ones that didn't taste like Robutussin.

Banana: I've never been a fan of banana flavored things. I love actual bananas, but banana candy is its own taste. My husband loves it and I just can't stand it. These are the epitome of banana-flavored candy, and I couldn't finish it. It just reminded me of the smell of rotten bananas.

Overall, I think the pieces are too big, and it kind of felt like chewing a balloon at times. All the flavors are artificial, and it shows, but they're all right. I doubt I'd buy them again, but I mostly bought them for nostalgia anyhow.


Wonka Website

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mars Starburst Tropical


I should know by now to be wary of "tropical" versions of things. I learned my lesson many years ago with Tropical Skittles. But I guess I forgot that lesson when I bought this bag of Tropical Starburst. Let me break down each flavor.

Mango Melon: I don't really taste mango, but I can kind of taste the melon (cantaloupe). I don't think either fruit is as sour as this tastes, though.

Royal Berry Punch: Tastes a lot like clear gummy bears, but not good ones. I don't really taste berry at all, actually, although the first bite was almost cranberry, in a bitter sort of way.

Pina Colada: Very plastic-y taste. I think it's from the attempt at tasting like coconut. The pineapple is almost there, but the sugary taste is overpowering.

Strawberry Banana: I liked this best of the bunch. It tastes very artificial, but at least it does hit its target of strawberry banana. Not that it's a very tropical combination.

Starburst is one of those candies that was better as a child. Now they all just taste too sweet. I can still eat the originals, although too many gives me heartburn, as I recently discovered. If I get the urge for Starburst again soon, I won't pick Tropical.


Starburst Website

Stride Sweet Berry Gum


I have a problem with chewing gum. I like it too much. Packs of good gum last me only a couple days because I just chew and chew, which isn't good for the jaw. My favorite is Orbit gum, in pretty much all flavors, and I plan to review some in the future. But today, thanks to a friend, I have Stride Sweet Berry gum.

The website says "Is it strawberry? Is it raspberry? Or maybe it's blueberry? Who knows?" Well, I know. It's Wild Berry Skittles. Imagine putting half a pack in your mouth at once, and that's just gum smells like when you open the box. The actual flavor isn't all that intense, but I suppose it is fairly long lasting. Like a dull roar. It's just not a flavor I enjoy, and I gotta say, I like the Orbit Raspberry Mint better. There's not a hint of mint at all in the Stride, and I suppose that's not a bad thing, but it left my mouth feeling a little murky.

It'll do in a pinch, but I don't think I'd buy it.


Stride Gum Website

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Glico Strawberry Dessert Pocky

Strawberry Dessert Pocky

The full description of this Pocky is "Rich Strawberry Chocolate Shortcake Style" but that was too much to fit in the title. I love fancy, limited edition Pocky, and this one did not disappoint. I think it's the high chocolate to stick ratio that wins me over. I'm not a huge fan of the biscuit stick itself.

These had a layer of white chocolate with a gorgeous strawberry drizzle. Dessert Pocky really is a work of art, and the box is classic and pretty as well. The white chocolate is smooth and soft - a great contrast to the crunchy stick. The strawberry chocolate has a great fruity taste that is definitively strawberry, but still as delicate as the drizzle itself.

This was definitely one of the best kinds of Pocky I've ever tried.


Glico Website (Japanese)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Glico Brazillian Pudding Pocky

Pudding Pocky

I don't really understand why Pocky is so popular. I've been to some anime conventions, and there seems to be a frenzy over Pocky. Although it seems to have subsided a bit recently, it's still way more popular than it deserves to be. I'm pointing my finger at regular Pocky; it's mediocre at best, especially compared to other Japanese snacks (Toppo, KitKat, etc.).

However, limited edition Pocky is a different story. Although I love the mousse and dessert Pockys best, I'll try any candy or snack in a limited edition flavor. This Brazilian Pudding Pocky was given to me by my sister.

Pudding Pocky

The tropical box is cute, and the stripes on the Pocky itself are quite pretty. As far as taste, it has a slight creamy caramel flavor which is pleasant, but not amazing. I'm not really sure what's Brazilian about it, but I suppose Brazilian Pudding sounds better than Exotic Purin. It just tastes like normal flan/purin to me.

Although it wasn't fantastic, it was a good light snack, and better than regular Pocky. The taste was very mild, but I suppose flan is a mild dessert, so it makes sense. This Pocky was also reviewed at Japanese Snack Food Reviews.


Glico Website (Japanese)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ice Breakers Berry Sours

Ice Breakers Sours

Ever since I was little, I've loved sour candy. And it was never sour enough for me. Lemon Warheads were great until the sour powder went away. Okay, so I don't enjoy having my mouth cut up by sour candy anymore, but I really love these Ice Breakers Sours.

I've had a couple different kinds, and this berry pack is by no means my favorite, but it's the one I have now. As far as I can tell, all the kinds I've had are eqyally sour, and I just wanted to note that the package says "Caution: sour level may cause irritation to the mouth." That's how you know it's good.


The package is glittery, which is always appealing. There's the "to share" side with the big opening, and the "not to share" opening, which never really works for me. The flavors are listed on the front, but that doesn't really help. One of my only gripes with Ice Breakers Sours is that it's really hard to tell which one is which flavor, especially since these all look pretty similar. I'm going to guess as best as I can. Honestly, I usually just blindly shovel these things into my mouth.

Raspberry Lemonade: This one is the easiest to identify because of the yellow flecks in it. The raspberry flavor is good and reminds me of blue raspberry Blow Pops, but the lemonade part is a little bit like lemon Pledge, so this is probably my least favorite of the three. I'll still eat it, though. Note that it's represented by a purple lemon on the front of the container. This flavor is the sourest.

Berry Splash: It was hard to tell this one from Strawberry, but if you get very close, you can see it has purple and red flecks, suggesting multiple berries. I still taste strawberry in this one, with maybe a hint of blackberry? It's hard to tell. This one is very good, as there's no cleaning solvent taste. It's not very sour. I'd have to call this one my favorite.

Strawberry: This one seems to only have reddish/magenta flecks. Call me crazy, but it actually does taste like strawberry. Because it's a bit sour, it almost tastes like strawberry lemonade you might get at a place like Red Robin. This one is the sweetest and the least sour, and if it had been just a bit less sweet, it would have been my favorite.

All in all, these are good but not great. The Fruit Sours that come in the bright green container pack much more of a punch. They used to have some fantastic ones with margarita flavors, but unfortunately those seem to be discontinued.


Ice Breakers Website

Calpis Softcandy

Calpis Softcandy

Calpis is one of my favorite Japanese beverages. It's a yogurt flavored, non-carbonated soft drink. You can buy it some places in the United States, but they call it "Calpico Water" over here because Calpis sounds like...something else. Apparently, Calpis is short for karada ni pi-su (peace to [your] body), so I'm not sure where Calpico comes from. Anyhow, there are yogurt flavored versions of Hi-Chew and other candies that taste just like Calpis, but this candy was put out by Calpis itself. I'd also like to point out that the package says "CALPIS" soft candy will always be enjoyed by you.

The package is simplistic, but elegant. I suppose that means they're going after a more mature market than Hi-Chew or Pucho. Unfortunately, this soft candy doesn't have a nice texture like Hi-Chew. It is much chewier and stickier, and after chewing for just a little bit, it gets kind of gritty, and that's not pleasant.

On the bright side, the flavor is great and exactly like the Calpis beverage. However, so do other yogurt flavored candies, so I think I will stick to those.


Calpis Website (Japanese)

Hi-Chew Golden Pineapple

Hi-chew Golden Pineapple

The first time I had Hi-Chew, the texture really surprised me. I think I was expecting something less...elastic? Anyhow, once you know what to expect, these are typically fantastic candies with great flavors. The one flavor I tried and didn't like was Watermelon, because it tasted like cucumber. But that's another story.

The packaging here is quite eye-catching and very psychedelic. I'm not sure why they went with such a groovy theme, as pineapple doesn't really make me think of disco and roller skates, but it's attractive nonetheless.

Morinaga is generally spot on with fruit flavors, and they nailed pineapple. These were incredibly juicy and sweet without being overly so, and thanks to the unique texture of Hi-Chew, they don't get stuck in your teeth. Did I mention the candy also smells great? Pineapple is one of my favorite fruits, so it was nice to have it so well done here.


Morinaga Website (Japanese)

Meiji Matcha Takenoko no Sato


There are lots of Japanese snacks similar to this one, involving some type of cookie dipped in/filled with some type of chocolate, usually in a cute shape. I had never tried Takenoko no Sato before, but I think the Matcha one was a good place to start.


These certainly are cute. The matcha chocolate on the outside had a nice flavor that was just a little bit bitter (a good thing) and just the right thickness to balance with the chocolate cookie. Actually, it seemed like the cookie was just a bit bitter as well, which was nice and not at all too sweet. The matcha white chocolate melted really well with the crunchy cookie, and my husband really liked that texture combination. I think even those who aren't crazy about green tea could enjoy these snacks since it's got something else going on.

They were quite addictive, as my husband and I finished them in one night. I would definitely try these in other flavors!


Meiji Website (Japanese)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Skittles Shakes

Does anyone remember Skittles Shakes? I got them about a four years ago at a foreign goods store in Nagoya, Japan in the Australia section. It's been four years, but I still remember these things as the nastiest candy I've ever had. We get to catch a glimpse of them with the chocolate Skittles that are out now, but for some reason, I remember the Skittles Shakes being worse. I looked up the flavors, so I'll see if I can remember what they tasted like, in order from most to least tolerable.

Lime Spider: This was the only one I could swallow. That's not saying much, because even that was hard.

Strawberry Vanilla: I think the problem here was trying to make the Skittles taste like milk. It just tasted sick and sweet and rotten.

Banana Split: As a general rule, I hate banana flavored candy, and this was no exception. You know how if you mix a bunch of colors together, you get brown? This was the taste equivalent.

Chocolate Honeycomb: This was just like the chocolate Skittles out now - wrong texture, wrong taste, just wrong wrong wrong. And I'm not even sure about the honeycomb part, but maybe they're referring to the waxy aftertaste.

Caramel Cream: I've saved the worst for last. Can you imagine a butter and sour milk flavored Skittle? If so, then you're pretty close. I still remember how disgusting that one was, and I don't think I ate more than one.

Luckily, these are no longer made. To get the idea, try Chocolate Skittles. Or actually, don't, because they're just awful.


Skittles Website

Glico Melonpan Pretz

Melonpan Pretz

Pretz is very hit-or-miss to me. I find that most of the flavors taste strongly of preservative, but some mask it better than others. Amazingly, matcha Pretz was a kind I didn't enjoy (and I like everything matcha). Salad, Tomato, and Pizza are all right, certainly addictive, but this one, this Melonpan Pretz, is fantastic.

Melonpan is a pastry (pan = bread) that is named more for how it looks than how it tastes. Think of a sweet bread topped with a thin sugar cookie coating, scored to look like a fancy melon. I've heard there are some recipes that use actual melon or pineapple extract, but for the most part, it's as described above.

Well, these Pretz DO taste (and smell) like melonpan, and actually a little bit like melon, too. They are less dense than regular Pretz, and a little flatter and wider. The coating is sugary and somehow, the taste is pretty accurate!

Although the preservative taste was there a little bit, it was low for Pretz and ignorable. My husband couldn't taste it at all, so maybe it was just my imagination. Either way, we both really enjoyed this snack! The four loaded bags inside the box were gone in two days, and normally, even the good flavors of Pretz sit in the cupboard until they get stale.


Glico Website (Japanese)

Meiji Blueberry Apollo

It's no secret that I love Meiji chocolate. I even made a Flickr group for it. I have yet to try something I don't like, although I think the 99% cacao bar would do the trick.

The blueberry Apollo were no exception; they were also quite tasty. Apollo has such a fun, fancy (and educational) shape. These were bigger than the usual Apollo, and they were individually wrapped in shiny packages. There was a pleasantly sweet bluberry aroma upon opening a package, which I appreciated. Too often, blueberry candy or chocolate just sort of tastes remotely berry, but you can't pin down with one.

The white chocolate bottom was harder than the usual Meiji fare, but otherwise it might have been mushy. The blueberry top reminded me of yogurt, and it had a definite blueberry taste. Together, they were lovely and did not disappoint. However, it was entirely too easy to eat the whole box at once.

I've also tried their matcha brethren, but it was too long ago for me to write a review.


Meiji Website (Japanese)

Meiji Matcha Meltykiss


As I mentioned in my review of the Meiji Rich Matcha bar, Meiji is the authority on matcha chocolate. Matcha Meltykiss (or Meltyblend, as I think it's now called) is the buttery, sweet epitome of matcha chocolate. It's another candy that seems to only be out in winter, but it's worth the wait.

Each box contains plenty of individually wrapped chocolate cubes. To be more specific, they are matcha white chocolate cubes coated in chocolate with a powdery cocoa finish. Even though they are small, you'll want to savor them, believe me. The inner matcha white chocolate is delightfully smooth, silky, buttery, and rich.

There are other flavors of Meltykiss/blend but the matcha really shines. It's just strong enough to have a true green tea flavor, but not so strong as to scare the hesitant. This is one of my favorite candies of all time, and it makes a great souvenir for family and friends. It's just so hard to give them away....


Meiji Website (Japanese)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Nestle Vanilla Beans KitKat

My memory might not be so fresh on this KatKat, as I had it several months ago, but I will try to post a short review.

The packaging was very pretty and classy, especially the wrapper around the bars (cobalt blue and white). The KitKat itself was a milky white with vanilla bean flecks, and it tasted like a rich vanilla ice cream. Although it seemed a little too sweet, I can't say anything bad about it. I found it to be better than the US white chocolate KitKat (which only seems to come in mini variety packs now) but rather average compared to other KitKats (like Caramel or Cookies and Milk).

In any case, I got a bar for some friends at work who had never tried Japanese KitKats before and they loved it.


KitKat Website (Japanese)

Nestle Caramel KitKat

Last Two Caramel

I tried the Caramel KitKat for the first time last year and didn't really remember it, but recently came across more and had to buy. Upon (re)tasting, I came to a new conclusion: this is one fantastic KitKat.

The chocolate coating couldn't be any richer. It has a caramel colored swirl and although it didn't smack me in the face with caramel flavor, it was buttery and smooth. This may be as close to gourmet as possible for a KitKat. I really was sad to see this one go.

My friends at work also tried this KitKat and agreed that it was delicious.


KitKat Website (Japanese)

Nestle Matcha KitKat

Matcha KitKats

Over the years, Nestle has put out a couple different matcha KitKats in Japan. I had one over a year ago that was matcha and white chocolate swirled on the outside and was not only delicious but very pretty, but it's been too long for me to really review that one accurately. So here is a newer (though not really new) matcha KitKat I got recently.

KitKat Cross Section

You can see on the box that this one had a milk chocolate coating, two wheat wafers, and a matcha cream filling in the middle. What you can't really see is that instead of the usual twin bar that you break apart, these were individually wrapped, wider KitKat bars (more room for filling, I guess).

I was somewhat pleased with this. The chocolate coating was thick and had a good texture, and the matcha cream was soft and smooth, but rather tasteless. I couldn't pick up a matcha taste at all, actually. My husband thought these were barely KitKats because of the reduction in wafers, but we both agreed that they were tasty. Not as good as the Caramel KitKats, but that's another review.


KitKat Website (Japanese)

Strawberry Mentos

When I eat Mentos, I tend to go through the package very quickly. They are so addictive! Hard outer shell, chewy inner mint, what's not to like?

I'm always up for a different flavor, so when I saw Strawberry Mentos, I snatched them up. However, I was disappointed.

The packaging is cute (I like the green foil), but the cute ends there. Oh sure, they're good, but they don't taste or smell anything like strawberry. In fact, they are indistinguishable from the "Fruit" Mentos and I'd say they tasted more citrusy than anything else.

Having said all that, the package is more than half gone and I only bought them yesterday. They're still Mentos after all, but next time, I won't get my hopes up.


Mentos USA

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Meiji Rich Matcha

Meiji Rich Matcha Chocolate

I can't believe I'm 3 reviews in and I haven't reviewed anything matcha yet. Matcha (finely ground Japanese green tea) is my favorite flavor. It's perfect for ice cream, chocolate, bread, cookies, noodles, pretty much anything.

Meiji really has matcha "chocolate" down to an art. The taste is hard to describe if you've never had it before, but imagine smelling a cup of green tea, only with added bitterness and sugar. The Meiji Rich Matcha chocolate bar is matcha at its affordable finest.

The pale green color is perfect, the aroma is strong and sweet, the chocolate is smooth and melty, and the matcha flavor is simply divine. This bar is on the stronger side of matcha, so if you're not a fan of the taste, you might try the Meiji strawberry bar. LOTTE also has a matcha bar, but Meiji's is much better. Definitely go with Meiji.

Unfortunately, matcha is a bit of a seasonal flavor in Japan. Some matcha items are available all the time, but the best time is winter. Everyone rolls out the matcha stuff in winter. I don't know if this candy bar is available all year, but I hope it is. It's paradise.


Meiji Website (Japanese)

Meiji Chocolife

Meiji Chocolife Pumpkin

Who doesn't love a bit of Engrish on their chocolate? Meiji is probably my favorite chocolate company, and although I'm not sure what constitutes a Chocolife, I am tempted to live it. The two flavors I tried were pumpkin with milk and strawberry.

Meiji Chocolife Pumpkin

The packaging and the chocolate itself are both sophisticated and lovely. Although I can't really say it tasted like pumpkin, it did taste delicious. My husband (who ate this with me) said it reminded him of cookie dough, and it had a pleasant grittiness that seems to be a recurring theme in the chocolates I've reviewed today.

Meiji Chocolife

I also tried strawberry Chocolife, and I feel I must again mention grittiness - I'm really starting to appreciate that quality in a chocolate. Thankfully, it came from strawberry pulp and not seeds. This one is intensely fruity and definitively strawberry (unlike the ambiguously pumpkin chocolate above).

Even though the pieces were very small and thin, I think the portion size was just right, as they were easy to savor. I can't pick a favorite between the two flavors, so I'll just have to wait until I try the matcha flavor; I'm sure matcha will be my favorite.

Pumpkin: A-
Strawberry: A

Meiji Website (Japanese)

Vosges Naga Bar

Vosges Naga Bar

This might be the most expensive candy bar I've ever eaten. This little thing was $3.50 at Whole Foods, but I've always wanted to try curry chocolate, so I just couldn't say no. The full size was something like $7.50 so I went with the little one. It was supposed to come with tasting instructions, but I didn't see any.

This was some smooth chocolate. The milk chocolate base was as silky as I've ever tasted, and the coconut added a nice grittiness. The curry was not how I expected, but I was pleased. I suppose I thought it would be more present, but it instead provided a bit of background heat and a nice spiciness. I am a huge fan of spicy foods, and spicy sweet is a fantastic combination.

OK, I lied, I have had this expensive stuff before. A few years back, my husband's parents gave us the Black Pearl (ginger + wasabi + black sesame seeds + dark chocolate) and the Red Fire (Mexican ancho & chipotle chillies + Ceylon cinnamon + dark chocolate) bars in a Christmas gift and they were very similar to this one; really high quality chocolate base and background heat.

The aforementioned Vosges chocolates are definitely something special, and although they aren't five alarm spicy, they definitely aren't for people with low heat tolerance. I can't really say it'd be worth the money for me to buy them often for myself, but as a gift, sure, bring them on!


Vosges Haut-Chocolate

Lotte European Pear Chocolate

Pear Chocolate

It might not be as good as Belgian, but I love Japanese chocolate. Meiji is my favorite brand, but Lotte is pretty good, too. And after trying this particular Lotte bar, I like them even better. And I was wary of this one, because of a previous bad experience with pear-flavored chocolate (the taste lingered for hours and it was not a good one).

First of all, the Lotte packaging is gorgeous, elegant, and eye-catching. The chocolate itself is also lovely, a little bit brighter than the matcha green. There was a definite pear/fruity aroma, but not too powerful. The taste was even milder, only the end notes were pear. I can't say I minded, because stronger might have been gross, in the same way that my Pear Blossom Wallflower air "freshener" smelled rotten after an hour.

My favorite aspect by far was the texture - smooth chocolate with a grittiness that reminded me of pear skin and cookie dough at the same time, if you can imagine. Also, unlike the last pear flavored chocolate I tried, no terrible lingering aftertaste, just satisfaction.


LOTTE Website (Japanese)