Monday, January 31, 2011
Day two consisted of much walking. I have a better sense of the layout of the show at this point and did pretty much walk through about 70% of the aisles on day 1, so day 2 was about diving deeper into those that caught my eye. For most of the day I was in the company of some other Americans who had some different goals. This was fun for me to watch, as they were experiencing some different products and confectionery styles for the first time. I was also smitten with quite a few things which I’ve picked up samples for.
Part of what I enjoyed was finding a brand that I was familiar with and seeing what else they make. In the United States, when something is imported and carried at a store I shop at, it’s usually been carefully curated for a reason. For example, I went to the booth of Amarelli, which makes “Liquirizia di Calabria”. You may have seen their tins before, they’re beautiful and charming (the same basic format as the Altoid tin).
They had some lovely tins, many products which we can’t get in the States. I’ve usually purchased their tiny nibs of licorice coated in a white candy shell with a light mint flavor to them. What interested me though were their other, more exotic, flavor combinations, such as orange and licorice and even violet and licorice. I got a sample of their vanilla rocks, which are large chunks of licorice coated in a vanilla shell that of course look like white pebbles (in the lower right of the photo).
You can follow along as I post some of my photos on Flickr.
Also, after the show I realized that there are some important German brands that are either not exhibiting at the show or not willing to talk to the blogging press, so I hopped on the U-bahn and hit the local stores (Aldi, Rewe & Penny Markt) to pick up some local Haribo, Katjes, Mars and Ritter Sport candies.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
After day one of ISM, the international Sweets and Biscuit Fair in Cologne I have no handy, condensed update.
I am officially overwhelmed, and if you know me and my ability to take in candy, you’ll understand how huge this thing is.
That building up there is filled with candy. There are 10 halls and 6 of them are taken with candy displays. I went through about two halls on the first day and it took me at least 90 minutes to just get my bearings. I don’t speak German, though I understand it pretty well for the basics and at least can read some of it. But I’m never prepared for the overwhelming crush of a big show like this.
I’m on the look out for trends, but it’s hard to spot because it is such an international fair and the companies and products are so specific. If there’s one trend I can spot it’s that every country makes it’s own version of the same thing. You like Chupa Chups? There are 20 other regional versions of them around the world made by other companies. Same goes for Mentos and of course things like Caramel Wafer Bars.
I’ll leave you with a photo, as I prepare for my second day:
Friday, January 28, 2011
It took me three tries to get into this little shop in Amsterdam called Puccini Bomboni. The first time I went to visit was Thursday and I arrived at 10 AM ... to find out that they’re open later in the evening at that location, so they also open later. So later that evening I decided to visit a different location that was closer to my hotel, only to find out that they don’t stay open late on Thursdays. Well, this time I read the hours on the door very carefully and returned on Friday morning at 9 AM and it was well worth the effort. (And I’d say that the several miles I walked just to get it was probably a good idea.)
I’ll have more about the chocolates later, but let me say that they are huge, delicious and I’m so disappointed I don’t have a shop like this near me.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Inside this tiny little box are nine pastilles. They’re called Grether’s Blackcurrant Pastilles and they’re world famous. They’re made in Switzerland, in a process that must be incredibly expensive and labor intensive because this little box cost $2.99. Remember, I said there are nine little lozenges in there. That’s 33 cents each. Per ounce, this is far more than I pay for some really incredible chocolate.
Let me just say, the packaging is lovely. The tin is nicely made, with smooth edges and rounded corners. The printing on it is excellent and the design work fits the candy so well. I love this little tin and considering the fact that I paid $3 for it, I’m definitely going to find a use for it. (I think I’m going to put my earphones for my MP3 player in it.)
The pieces are soft but stiff, the shape fits easily in the mouth. They all bear the GP initials on them but aren’t distinctively attractive really. They’re translucent but quite a deep shade of purple.
They melt slowly, and though I can chew them, mostly I just squish them a bit. The melt or dissolve is smooth and has a dark blackcurrant flavor to it, it’s a mix of blackberry, pomegranate and boiled jam flavors. It’s a little tangy but mostly floral and berry.
They do soothe in a way that hard candies simply can’t, but without being sticky. Blackcurrant isn’t one of my favorite berry flavors, there’s a weird note to it, like the vine called Lantana that’s prevalent here in Southern California. It’s just a little gamey to me. I think the texture is spectacular, but the flavor and price is just too much for me. I wish they did a raspberry, honey or licorice though.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
This is a little milk chocolate truffle from The Peninsula Chocolatier. My husband brought back a lovely box of fine chocolates from Hong Kong for me.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
I reviewed the Hawaiian Host Dark Chocolate Macadamias last week, this week I have one of their more unique items, the Hawaiian Host Caramacs. They also come in a similar single serve package, which contains two pieces. This one has a bit more candy in it, .94 ounces which is more of a preferred portion size than the .74 ounce dark chocolate covered whole nuts.
The package is fun, it reminds me of so many touristy items in Hawaii. But then again, that’s what the sunsets look like there, so why not capitalize on something familiar? The golds and amber of the setting sun do theme well with the caramel theme of the candy.
The little pieces are about an inch and a half across and nearly an inch high in spots.
The milk chocolate smells sweet and has a good dairy component to it. The bite is soft and the chocolate is thick enough that it adheres well to the caramel/nut center. The caramel has an excellent chewy pull to it. It’s a medium sweetness that kind of gets more mellow and malty as the chew goes on. It’s not terribly salty and doesn’t have that butter note to it, just a chewy sugar sort of vibe. The bits of macadamia give it some good texture. It’s kind of like flavorless coconut.
They’re basically macadamia turtles, though turtles usually have whole or large nut pieces. I liked them quite a bit, though I wanted them to have more nuts and maybe be a little less sweet. But if a friend returned from Hawaii and plopped these down next to me while they showed me their photos on a laptop, it’d probably be the perfect accompaniment.
Monday, January 24, 2011
ISM Cologne is the world’s largest confectionery trade fair. For over forty years it’s featured the best in European candy and biscuits (cookies). About 1,500 companies from 70 different countries around the world come to display their wares to buyers, wholesalers and brokers.
I’ll be attending this year, with a full press pass to cover the show. The show lasts four days, starting Sunday, January 30th to Wednesday, February 2nd at the 4th largest convention hall in Europe, Kolnmesse. The exhibits cover more than one million square feet. (I’m bringing good walking shoes.)
I’m really excited to go to Germany, which has such a rich and varied tradition of candy. They have such a wide array of confectionery traditions, from their invention of the Gummi Bear, traditional devotion to dairy milk chocolate and marzipan and globally known brands such as Ritter Sport, Haribo and Kinder (part of Ferrero).
My journey will begin in Amsterdam, where I plan to spend three days checking out the local licorice and chocolate scene. Then I head to Cologne via ICE (high speed train) on Friday. I’m hoping to spend a day before the show starts visiting local German stores to see how and where candy is sold to get a sense of how confections fit into daily life in comparison to North America. Cologne is also home to the Chocolate Museum, so I plan to get a world-class education on chocolate.
Posting may be a little lighter here for the next ten days or so, but after I get home with my lovely samples and photos, I’ll have lots to share.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Newman’s Own Organics has also joined in the all natural licorice arena. The front of the package is simple and classy. It’s a soft creamy color though made of a lightweight mylar and has an old timey font for the logo. It also mentions that the candy is made with organic sugar.
They come in four flavors: Strawberry, Tangerine, Pomegranate and traditional Black. I looked at three different stores for the black but couldn’t find it, so this is a review of the fruity flavors, which are pretty much their own type of product and probably shouldn’t be lumped in with black licorice.
The back of the package has more info as well. They mention that they’re fun to eat, full of flavor and low fat, which is a great thing to mention. These twists are very low in calories, my calculations put them at 88 calories per ounce (because they’re wheat based) or about 25 calories each.
Each twist is only 4 and a half inches long. They’re shiny and quite firm, but not at all sticky or oily. They’re also stiff but pliable enough to bend completely in half without cracking or crumbling. They have a little hole in the center, but it’s rather narrow and sometimes smashed, so I wouldn’t quite call them straws.
Strawberry (left) smells sweet and floral. The texture is really tough though generally smooth after chewing. The strawberry flavor is tangy but a little watered down. They take a lot of chewing, which I guess makes them last a long time but it also makes me dread eating more than one, especially since some of the bits stick in my teeth.
Tangerine (middle) smells fantastic. It’s a realistic zesty citrus smell that got me drooling quickly. This version was just a little softer, but also a bit easier to bite and chew. However, the citrus blast was just too much. The tartness was mild, not even as noticeable as the strawberry, however the zest was too oily and ultimately bitter. The bitterness lingered, a kind of caustic burn on my tongue and gums.
Pomegranate (right) looked pretty much like the strawberry but smelled like raspberry. This stuff was tough, like chewing Kevlar or something. The flavor was a great blend of berries, deep and fruity with a long floral note afterwards that gave my mouth a fresh feeling. There was only a hint of tartness (which is too bad because I like the dry tangy note of real pomegranates). But the texture was just so much work. Sucking on them just gave me a puddle of paste in my mouth. I couldn’t finish them.
Overall, I’m not hopeful about trying the black licorice variety when I find it. The texture is just so far off from what I expected or even find pleasant. I generally find Newman’s Own candies to be hit and miss, they’re often too sweet, lack a strong sense of flavor and are overpriced even for organic products purchased at Whole Foods. They’re made in Mexico and there’s no statement on there about nut status or other allergens (except the obvious ingredients like wheat).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.