Tuesday, January 17, 2012
I’m afraid I find day two of the Winter Fancy Food Show the roughest. I’m usually still tired from day one. (In this case we got up at 5:30 on Sunday to drive from Santa Barbara to San Francisco, dumped my stuff at the hotel and then walked over to the Moscone Center and walked around for five hours to get a good perspective. Then dinner after at a nice place and a write up of that day.) Day two is usually about digging in with longer meetings with exhibitors and taking a chance on the unknown.
So today will be more about photos than tasting notes.
Al La Mere de Famille from Paris had some wonderful confections. They had callisons (marzipan leaves) and these lovely little apples dusted with sparkling sugar. I also tasted a dark chocolate bonbon with praline filling.
Sweet’s Candy of Utah has been around for over 100 years, making taffy and classic jelly candies. They have a new line of jelly slices, sour worms and bears that are all pectin based, so they’re great for vegans and made with no artificial colors or flavors. That purple-ish one in the photo ... pink grapefruit. They’re after my heart.
Hammond’s is best known for their classically pulled and twisted lollipops and candy canes. They’ve always made an assortment of chocolates, but now they’re going big with 10 new chocolate bars. Things like S’mores, a milk chocolate with popping raspberry candies, a PB&J and this dark chocolate with chipotle.
Stevia is getting big. There are a few chocolate bars that are now sweetened with Stevia. I picked up some samples from Coco Polo to see how Stevia and Erythritol do instead of cane sugar.
Truffle Pig, who makes decadent truffle bars has a new line of single origin bars called Wild Boar
More photos to browse here. I’ll have a few more notes tomorrow before I head back to Los Angeles to isolate myself with my samples and take some product shots.
Monday, January 16, 2012
After skipping the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco last year, I’m back again and it feels so much like home since this is my fifth year attending. Though the show is dedicated to gourmet products in all categories, they have over 250 confectionery exhibitors, making it one of the biggest candy shows in the country. (The biggest, naturally, is the Sweets & Snacks expo in Chicago in May.)
I’ll just be posting some tasting notes and observations over the next few days while I’m here.
I’ve tried plenty of New Tree‘s bars over the years. They use Belgian chocolate and create bars with both great taste and texture and usually some functional benefit. Their new chocolate spread is the first that doesn’t contain additional oils. Instead they just blend it with lots of milk and though the package was in French and wee tiny print, it looks like sugar as one of the first ingredients as well. It’s very smooth and not the slightest big grainy. There were three flavors, but I liked the orange dark chocolate best.
I love ginger candy and always swing by the Ginger People stand to see what’s new. In previous years it’s been about drinks and cookies, but they have a completely new candy this year: Ginger Gumdrops. Far spicier than something flavored with ginger, these are made with lots of the fresh stuff and are quite intense without being sweet.
I’ve had a few vegan caramels over the years and they kind of violate the essential definition of caramel in the first place, so it’s hard for me to appreciate them. JJ Raedemaker has created something that gets so close and is such a good product in its own right, I’m definitely going to find these again. His JJ’s Cocomels are made with coconut milk instead of butter and cream. They’re fully emulsified and smooth but with strong caramelized sugar notes. Right now they just come in classic and fleur de sel plus a dark chocolate covered version. Looks like a great option for both vegans and those sensitive to dairy.
Sanders Candy in Michigan has been around since 1875 and are known for their ice cream toppings. They’ve been expanding quite a bit so that now their comfort style of chocolates and candies are found in stores around the country. They had some new products and a new packaging design. Their new bars include combinations like milk chocolate and potato chips. I’m looking forward to trying them.
It’s funny to go to San Francisco to see a local brand. POP Candy makes nutty butter crunch toffees, when they’re based in Santa Monica. But with many small companies, it’s hard to find them in local stores. They sell at farmers markets and artisan shows right now. They have a great take on toffee barks with some sweet and savory flavor mixes and all of my favorite nuts.
My husband is doing all the photography, so if you want to see even more shots of what’s tasty or pretty, check out this photoset.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Candy Corn is a sugar confection made by depositing different colored layers of fondant into the shape of a narrow triangle. The flavor of candy corn is muted but often bears notes of honey, marshmallow and occasionally butter. It’s created with starch molds and the most common color layering puts yellow as the base, orange as the center band and white as the small tip. It’s an American candy, originating in the 1880s with dozens of manufacturers now in North America. The molded fondant confection is generically called Mellocreams and can come in a variety of shapes, often lightly flavored and colored.
The first thing I noticed as a trend was Candy Corn appearing out of season with other names or color variations. As a kid, I remember there were two kinds of Candy Corn. The standard yellow, orange and white and then the Indian Corn variety that was brown (a little cocoa flavor), dark orange and white. But later on came Reindeer Corn which comes in red, green and white. There’s Bunny Corn that comes in pastels and sometimes I see Cupid Corn for Valentines that’s red, pink and white.
More recently Gourmet Candy Corns have come along. They’re not really superior in any way to classic Candy Corn, they’re just different color varieties and flavored like Egg Nog, Candied Apples, Green Apple, Tangerine, Cherry, Pumpkin Spice and Toffee.
Mars makes M&Ms White Chocolate Candy Corn. They’re white chocolate centers with a light, sweet flavor covered in candy shells in three colors: orange, white and yellow.
Level of Candy Corn-ness: 5 out of 10
Jelly Belly introduced Jelly Belly Candy Corn Jelly Beans earlier this year. Too bad they couldn’t get the stripes on them.
Level of Candy Corn-ness: 5 out of 10
Vidal, a maker of fascinating gummis in unusual shapes, created a rather unique take on Candy Corn with their Puffy Candy Corn. It’s a foamy gummi that’s actually more fruity flavored than generic sweet fondant is.
Level of Candy Corn-ness: 8 out of 10
For several years Hershey’s issued Hershey’s Candy Corn Kisses, a butter flavored white confection. The shape was a natural for Candy Corn treatment, too bad they didn’t go with the honey flavors and real cocoa butter.
Level of Candy Corn-ness: 8 out of 10
Last year was the first for Whitman’s introduction of the Candy Corn Marshmallow. It’s a large triangular marshmallow covered with “white confection” in two colors.
Level of Candy Corn-ness: 4 out of 10
Dots, made by Tootsie, have been a bit edgier and hipper lately. Their Halloween offerings are spot on, with Ghost Dots and Blood Orange Bat Dots. Of course their Candy Corn Dots also make this list. They’re just vanilla Dots, but cute as buttons.
Level of Candy Corn-ness: 9 out of 10
The level of Candy Corn-ness is evaluated on the basis of the following attributes: stacked color, colors, flavor, scale, and shape.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Sarotti is a classic German chocolate maker, founded by Hugo Hoffmann in 1868. The company is currently owned by Stollwerck (which started as a cough drop company and expanded into confectionery) which was in turn owned by Bernard Callebaut. Callebaut recently announced that it sold off Stollwerck to Baronie Group, which is based in Belgium.
I picked up this little chocolate gem while in Germany, where the Sarotti brand is quite easy to find and moderately priced.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Papabubble is an artisan candy shop that first opened in Barcelona, Spain in 2004. There are now shops in eleven cities around the world including Tokyo, New York, Hong Kong and Moscow. I visited the one in Amsterdam while I was in Europe earlier this year.
One of the conceits of the shops is that all candy sold there is made there. And all the candy they make is just plain old hard candy ... I say plain because the recipe and basic steps are quite simple. But the technique and craft is extraordinary. The centerpiece of the store is the candy kitchen, where the boiled sugar and glucose mixture is poured out onto heated tables to be flavored, colored and crafted.
The Amsterdam shop is tucked away on a narrow street (aren’t they all?) called Haarlemmerdijk a little to the northwest of Amsterdam’s Centraal Station. I took a tram over there then walked back to the station on my last morning in town.
This video features they New York store, but is still a great representation of how the candy is made at all the shops.
The shop, like many in Amsterdam, was narrow. (At one time property in the city was taxed on its width.) It’s quite deep and I was surprised to see at the back of the store area was a series of steep stairs, about five of them, that led down to the kitchen area. Like the video shown above, the work area for the candy makers is a long table with a clear glass backsplash so that customers can watch them do their work. There’s also the added advantage of looking down into the area from above as well.
The store is well stocked with previously made merchandise. All the items are hard candies, some are single flavors in a package, some are cut rock and others are pillow shaped confections.
When I visited at the end of January, the pair of candy makers was just finishing up their latest batch of heart shaped lollipops. Not much to photograph there, just bagging the glossy candies. They did look great though.
What I really wanted though was to taste the diversity of the candy flavors that they used, and hopefully find an assortment that showcased what was unique about the Amsterdam Papabubble, as each shop does things customized to their own culture. I found a mix called Pillow Fight.
The bags are a tough matte silver back with a clear pocket on the front. They held 160 grams and cost 4.95 Euros - about $7.00 at the time. I thought that was a lot for about 5.6 ounces. But then again, it was made by real people, right there, and probably recently.
Pillow Fight is a mix of classic herbal and spice flavors, all in the pillow shape, which is made by taking a long rope of the hard candy and crimping it to make the mouth-friendly shapes. The other style of candy they make is what most folks know as Cut Rock. This is the same basic rope but usually has a design on the inner core that’s revealed when the rope is cross sectioned (one variety in my mix was this cut rock, as you’ll see below).
The package didn’t look like it was going to do a great job of protecting its valuable contents. The little pillows already looked like they had a light sanding of pulverized brethren on them already. But my concerns were unfounded. The way they mix up the candy, the ends get a little worn and there is a bit of sugary dust at the bottom of the bag. But everything was quite dry (which keeps it from becoming sticky and losing its shine). All I needed to do when I got them home was pour them out on a paper towel and lightly roll around to shine them up.
The other style of packaging they have are little plastic jars. They’re great to look at and of course hold more candy and are probably easier to serve yourself from.
Lavendel (Lavender) - purple stripes - these were by far the prettiest little pillows. The lavender flavor is a lot like rosemary, a strong oily and mentholated flavor.
Anijs (Anise) - black & white stripes - this was a mild and flavorful anise drop. Sweet and with a great crunch ... I like to crunch my candies. The pillows seem to have a lightly aerated center. Basically, the warm candy mixture is pulled on a hook like taffy to add a little air into it which gives it a little bit lighter texture and smooth melt.
Bergamot - light orange with orange stripes - this was similar to the lavender, it’s aromatic and sweet but has a balsam note to it. I didn’t feel like it was quite bergamot, but it still had a citrus zest quality to it.
Beterschap! (Cough Drop) - This was the only cut rock in the bunch - round cream color with red cross in center - the word beterschap means “get well”. It tastes rather like a cough drop - part cola, part cinnamon and part menthol. It was one of the most strongly flavored candies in the bunch.
Cola - yellow & orange stripes - is rather bold. It’s tangy and has a strong lime and nutmeg note to it. I liked it, but that’s likely because I appreciate cola candy because it’s not that common in the States.
Mojito (Lime & Mint) - light green and yellow stripes on a clear background - this one was tangy and minty. Kind of like a cough drop. Mojitos aren’t a favorite drink of mine, but are more successful for me because fresh spearmint tastes so different from spearmint candy. This version had a lot of lime oils in it, which made it much more medicinal for me.
Scherpe Kaneel (Sharp Cinnamon) - magenta and green - the color didn’t say cinnamon, but it was most definitely sizzling cinnamon.
Lemongrass Gember (Lemongrass Ginger) - yellow & green - this was very bold, the ginger notes were strong and a little more on the side of extract than the earthy, fibery root is fresh. The lemongrass did feel authentic though, not too sweet and no hint of tartness.
Eucalyptus (aqua with white stripes) - wasn’t as strong as I’d hoped, but still smooth and soothing with a light freshness. It was so mild, for a while I wasn’t sure what it even was until I looked at the little flavor guide.
I would love to spend more time at the shop and to have seen them making candy from start to finish, unfortunately my schedule didn’t allow it. (They open at 11 AM and my train was departing at 12:20 PM and I just didn’t hit it right when I arrived a little after eleven and they said they wouldn’t be ready for more crafting for another 30 minutes.) Of course my dream would be to learn how to make candy like this from start to finish. It looks like a lot of work and care goes into it, along with a bit of personality - each shop has a slightly different offerings based on the artisans themselves and the culture of the clientele.
The candy is expensive, but it really is to notch, far and away better than the similar Christmas mixes I sometimes pick up at the drug store. Besides, candy that you saw being made always tastes better, just like kettle corn and cotton candy. I plan to visit the New York store for sure next time I’m in the city and if you’re traveling the world, check to see if there will be one near you.
I give the shop a 9 out of 10 and the candy itself an 8 out of 10.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Name: Hershey’s Kisses Air Delight
Name: Bosco Milk Chocolate Bar
Name: Black Cow
Name: DryScream ~ Ice Cream Candy
Name: Pine Bros. Throat Drops
Name: Chocobloc Air
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
There are some trends that I’ve noticed at the confectionery show. One of them is the lack of trends. There is very little trendiness, perhaps I noticed this because I’m from Los Angeles where we’re very trend conscious. But as far as I can tell, confectionery, at the moment, is all about doing what it does well. It’s not retreating, it’s not fighting back, it’s just putting itself out there: proud and sweet.
I feel like confectionery apologizes for itself a lot, at least in the United States At this show, there’s very little talk of 100 calorie treats or obesity crises. The only politic notes are conversations about Egypt and sometimes about Fair Trade and chocolate slavery issues.
Most of the confectioners and representatives I’m meeting are proud to talk about why their product is the best in its class, or at the very least, why they think it’s the best in their market.
I like that. It’s a simple sort of thing and sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. Maybe it’s because I’m approaching these folks as a writer who wants to hear their story, instead of a buyer who wants to make a good deal.
If there’s disappointment from me about the show, it’s that there are a few very big confectionery companies that are not represented: Haribo, Ritter Sport, Mars/Wrigley, Nestle, Kraft and Lindt are the biggest ones. There are other large companies that also have huge booths (honestly, if my house and yard can fit in the space, I can’t call it a booth) with receptionist and appointment books who do not wish to talk to the likes of me. This is fine, I can continue my relationship with these brands like the rest of Candy Blog’s readers, as a buyer and consumer. To that end, since I’ve been in Europe I’ve visited dozens of stores, just so I could see what’s on shelves and buy what everyone else is buying. So don’t think that just because I went to Germany and the trade show didn’t have any Haribo that I didn’t pack up this extra suitcase with some stuff from the grocery store.
The last day of the show is about to begin, and I admit I’m more than a bit weary but also a bit energized because I still have some important meetings. (Really, I dread packing and leaving this lovely city.)
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.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.