Saturday, September 29, 2007
Each day a the All Candy Expo I balanced my sense of discretion with each candy booth’s generosity.
I think the candy companies won.
Each attendee was given a small bag to put their samples in on the floor. The same bag was used each day and it was about the size of a shoe box for some nice women’s dress shoes. Basically, not too big.
Many booths had “eat it here” samples, little cups or sections of their products for sampling. I generally didn’t eat much while on the floor of the show, so I didn’t go for those often. (I couldn’t bring them home, they didn’t have the ingredients and nutrition info on them.)
I was pretty picky about what I picked up, but often when I’d get into conversations with the candy purveyors, they’d offer me full sized samples. A 6 ounce bag of some new gummi spiders, a stack of six 3.5 ounce chocolate bars, a 5 ounce bag of delicious dark chocolate coated toffee almonds or a half a dozen full-sized Ritter Sport bars. It adds up. So somewhere around the middle of the morning my bag would be full and probably weigh about five pounds. I had a benefit over most attendees, somewhere to stash the contents of my bag. I’d go to the press room and empty it out and leave it with my other stuff (my jacket, etc.) and go back out onto the floor.
At the end of the day I’d be hoofing it back to the hotel with 15 or so pounds of candy along with a sampling of press kits which are also heavy in their own right.
So with a little math you can tell where this is going. At the end of the show I had at least 45 pounds of candy, probably closer to 55 pounds (if you include the press kits, which as I said in my defense, are heavy).
I planned well, or at least I thought. I brought one large suitcase to Chicago. I packed my 8 days worth of clothes (I was heading to visit family in the Midwest when I was done) and another smaller, collapsible suitcase in the bottom. I had my laptop messenger bag and a purse. Once back at the hotel I tried to pack all my stuff. It all technically fit, but I was concerned that the large bag was going to be over the weight limit. If figured if I could carry the large suitcase down the three flights of stairs to the lobby, it couldn’t be that heavy. Certainly not over 50 pounds.
I got to the airport dragging things behind me (may I thank the fellow who invented the wheel at this moment?) I found that I was correct ... my luggage weight 101.5 pounds. However, the large bag was 61 pounds and the little one was over 39. (The good news, apparently, is that I can carry 61 pounds down three flights of stairs!)
Luckily the nice agent at American Airlines said I could take a moment and transfer some things around instead of charging me for being overweight (that’d be $50). She even helped me by pointing out the items she thought were heaviest. I stuffed some of the heavier things into my carry on and in the end each of my bags was balanced at 47 pounds each. (Yes, I was now toting an additional seven pounds in my carry ons.) I thanked the ticket agent for her patience and help and gave her a full-sized Hershey’s Cacao Reserve nibby bar. This was when she told me that she only worked part time for American Airlines. Her day job was as a dental hygienist. She said she would have given me a toothbrush if she had one on her!
At my brother’s (where the guest room is sadly on the third floor, but happily he carries my bags up for me) I took all my candy out and organized it and repacked it, using a bathroom scale to make sure that each bag was 45 pounds. I left plenty of chocolate and candy there, too. I gave my mother three full sized dark bars plus a box of Russell Stover Private Reserve chocolates that I just wasn’t going to get to review anytime soon (but I’ll go buy at some point). I left only a few things at my brothers ... sadly I didn’t find his new perfect candy bar for him at the Expo. He was a Snickers Cruncher fan. I’ll have to keep working on it.
It took about three days after I got home for the sore shoulders to go away (carry forty pounds on them regularly takes a while to get over). It’s been 10 days since the Expo ended and I can now say that my feet don’t hurt any longer. Maybe next year I won’t walk that mile to and from the convention center and just splurge on a cab.
In case you’re wondering, this is what 50 pounds of candy looks like, all dumped out on my dining room table (which is 50 inches around, by the way).
In case you’re wondering the result of this trip on my weight ... I’ve lost four pounds. Don’t worry, I have a notion of where to find them.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Chocolate Bytes is also running a drawing for some cute See’s Foil Wrapped Autumn Leaves. Check that out and enter! (Deadline is Sunday.)
X-Entertainment marks the beginning of Candy Season with their first haul of Halloween Candy. If that’s not enough to get you through to the sales that start on the day after, check out their huge archives that go back years and years.
Buzzle has up a list of the 10 Great Moments in the History of Chocolate. Of course any top ten list will generate comments. I’m pretty sure Hershey should be on there, mostly because it was when chocolate became accessible to the masses and large-scale production techniques were applied to what had been a rather upscale artisan product. But there are other things left out of there as well.
Tasty Show (mostly chocolate) attended the Chocolate and Beer pairing sponsored by Cote d’Or at All Candy Expo. (I would have put this in my roundup, but it was posted on the same day and I didn’t see it.)
Jessica posts on Su Good Eats about a new chocolate maker in the US called Askinosie ... definitely on my list now!
I didn’t do a This Week roundup last week, I was traveling and having spent all that time and money to get across the country to see my family, I thought it best to spend time with them! I had a great trip and my mother and I went to visit Daffin’s Candy Factory in Farrell, PA and then to the Daffin’s Candy Store (the World’s Largest, they say). I’ll have a complete write up on that soon and tell you what’s in that box.
I also got to watch my niece and nephew try out a bunch of the All Candy Expo candies. The biggest hit with the two of them seemed to be the Candy Stampers that Concord makes. They’re a compressed dextrose disk that has a little shape on it and lots and lots of food coloring. You wet it on your tongue and then stamp the shape on your skin, or paper, or whatever. They seemed most interested in stamping their tongues.
Here’s what I know my niece doesn’t like: Razzles, Russell Stover’s Mocha Truffle (I don’t know why she wanted to open it), Trolli Gummi Bears or Concord Bananas. She seemed happiest when I opened my bag of Swedish Fish Aqua Life and she picked out all the red fish. They both got a couple of Pez as well, and seemed to like them. My nephew is more mellow about candy and seemed happy with most of the stuff I gave him. He likes sour, but not super sour. Sour Patch Kids are just about his speed.
I’m so happy to be home but haven’t even really looked at all my candy yet, I’ve just been trying to respond to your requests for the new candies revealed at the All Candy Expo.
Monday: Tootsie Rolls & Fruit Rolls (5 out of 10)
Tuesday: Chewy Lemonheads & Atomic Fireballs (7 out of 10 & 8 out of 10)
Wednesday: Skittles Chocolate Mix (5 out of 10)
Thursday: Pop Rocks Milk Chocolate Bar (7 out of 10)
Friday: Junior Mints Deluxe (7 out of 10)
Average rating: 6.27 ... 29% chocolate content.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
I’m keen on the combination of dark chocolate and mint. I’d say that there’s nothing better, but then avid readers will probably find instances where I’ve said the same about the combination of chocolate and peanut butter and probably orange and chocolate and probably pretzels and chocolate.
There have been a few new versions of Junior Mints, including the Inside Out, Junior Mints Pastels and Heart Shaped Junior Mints over the past few years. They didn’t mess with the peppermint flavor or the proportions of the elements. Instead they messed with the chocolate element.
The new Junior Mints Deluxe are jumbo sized. They’re the same size as Cella’s Chocolate Covered Cherries, which are also made by Tootsie. At the top of the chocolate shell are the initials JM.
They’re two bites big (about a half an ounce each) and the soft fondant center flows quickly if you don’t tip it up quickly after biting it open. The chocolate shell is thick and dark but is pretty sweet. It doesn’t have that waxy shellac that Junior Mints usually have.
I really liked the flavor of the huge reservoir of the fondant center. It was intensely minty, so much that it cut through what would ordinarily be very sweet. The large two bite version can be messy and I haven’t quite gotten the hang of it. I suspect popping the whole thing in the mouth at once is the way to go, but I can’t resist looking at the innards.
Again, there is the issue of proportions here, I think this is a little off for my tastes with the gooey center, but if you’re a fan of the gooey center, this may be your new favorite. They should be available in stores after Halloween. This box comes with 12 in it and weighs 6 ounces. There are no dairy or egg products in this (though may be processed on equipment that comes in contact with milk) so it may be suitable for liberal vegans.
I would normally wait until my Holiday Gift Guide to post about this, but I doubt they’ll be any left.
They have two different logo versions (black and white) but the best ones are the large version that feature either the Giraffe from the Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate bar or the Snow Leopard from the Milk Chocolate with Mocha.
You can pre-order now, but they won’t be shipped until October 15th. They’re a little pricey (that’s what happens when you give people a living wage) at $25 for the coin purse, $55 for the purse and $16 for the bracelet.
You can also order your Green Halloween kits at the same time!
If you’re more interested in eating your packaging instead of making it into things, take note that Charles Chocolates is running a web only promotion right now where you can save 25% on Edible Chocolate Boxes.
That means the Fleur de Sel or Marzipan Collections are only $33.75 and the Fall or Tea Collections are $45.00. If you can’t decide you can by the full collection of five boxes for $187.50 (five boxes you say, what’s the fifth? looks like another assorted collection). See them all here. Must ship by October 15, 2007.
See my reviews of the Charles Chocolates line here.
Last year I tried the Limited Edition Chocolate Covered Pop Rocks. They were interesting, not really anything to bring me back to eating Pop Rocks on a regular basis.
But this year Pop Rocks had something completely new and not packaged in a flat envelope. This is the new Milk Chocolate Pop Rocks Bar. The gentleman at their booth at All Candy Expo was careful to tell me that they used premium chocolate for this bar. (I’m not sure I’d call it premium, it does have PGPR in it.)
The bar is petite at only 1.16 ounces and three chunky segments.
The chocolate is soft and rather creamy but sweet. It melts quickly to reveal the chunks of Pop Rocks that, well, pop. It’s like a proactive Nestle’s Crunch Bar (with better chocolate).
The chocolate is light and lacking in the darker chocolate flavors, I got an overwhelming taste of raisins, but I don’t know if that had something to do with some actual flavor to the Pop Rocks.
The bar can be eaten two ways, as far as I’m concerned. The first is to simply let it melt and allow the Pop Rocks to pop. This creates a mild and interesting effect, but not terribly different. The second is to chew up much of the bar and then let it melt, giving it another chew or two as it dissolves completely. This is extremely noisy (at least inside my own head) and by far the most fun.
Popping candy chocolate bars have been around for a few years, most notably a brief appearance in the United States by the Wonka Xploder bar, which I never got to try.
I expect them to be found in the same places I see Pop Rocks (7-11, Target and candy shops), no word on the retail price. This bar was made in Spain.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Kim from ChicagoParent.com has a great write up from a mom’s point of view.
Here’s the official press release from the All Candy Expo where they talked about the different trends (you can see how many of the reporters parroted that in their listings).
Other Coverage by Me
Finally, the National Confectioners Association site also has a nice roundup of coverage including video links!
One of the exciting new products teased at the All Candy Expo is the new Chocolate Mix Skittles. This is a permanent flavor addition to the Skittles line which already includes: Original Fruit, Tropical, Smoothie Mix and Wild Berry.
The Chocolate Mix has five flavors: Vanilla, S’Mores, Chocolate Caramel, Chocolate Pudding and Brownie Batter.
I was pretty skeptical. First, Skittles are known for a lot of flavor being packed into that candy shell. Second, one of the best things about chocolate is the whole experience of both the meltiness (fat) and the cocoa solids (flavor), there’s no way they could get that in here. Third, two of the five flavors in this mix were introduced in the Ice Cream Skittles last year and they were (chocolate and vanilla). I detested the chocolate ones ... and here’s a whole bag designed around that?
S’More (pale caramel colored): slightly tangy candy coating, a good toasted flavor to it ... not a trace of chocolate, but a little graham/cereal taste to it. Pretty good. Very sweet.
Chocolate Caramel (caramel colored): the prettiest color in the bag. A nice sweet chew with a little burnt sugar note to it and maybe a trace of cotton candy, but I wasn’t catching any chocolate at all.
Chocolate Pudding (dark brown, almost purple colored): vaguely chocolatey, mostly sweet, kind of like cocoa towards the end of the chew.
Brownie Batter (darkest brown): fudgy and kind of like a cookie all at once, which I guess is why it’s called brownie batter. It doesn’t have the complete chocolate flavor, more on the cardboard side and not nearly as satisfying as a Tootsie Roll.
I know everyone’s really excited about these, but I don’t like them much. They’re watery, not vibrant or really engaging my tastebuds. I know that the Carnival Skittles were similar in that they diverged from the intense fruit-ness that Skittles are known for, but these just didn’t have that zing that even they were able to muster with their delicateness. Quite a few folks have stopped by my office to try the new stuff I brought back. They try them, but no one’s come back for more.
The good news is that they contain no dairy and no gelatin ... so as long as you’re okay with a dash of hydrogenated oils, these might be the Skittles for you! The package also states that they are “Gluten Free.”
These should be available in stores later this year, post here if you’ve spotted them in the wild!
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
I got word during All Candy Expo that Good ‘n Fruity, the fruity version of Good & Plenty is returning next year.
The original Good ‘n Fruity was a clear sweet jelly center with a variety of fruit flavored candy shells. According to Wikipedia, back in 1988 the centers were changed to improve the flavor and were rather like pieces of fruit licorice with a candy shell.
I have no recollection of ever eating Good ‘n Fruity, I always preferred the licorice parent. But I’ll give it a whirl! If only to find out if they’ve squandered their Dr. Frankenstien powers on this candy instead of reviving the Bar None.
We’ll find out in late February 2008 whether Zombie candies are as good as the original ones.
UPDATE 3/11/2008: I finally got a hold of a box via CandyWarehouse ... here’s the review.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.