Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Baldinger’s is in Zelienople in Butler County north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and billed themselves as having Foods from All Nations. What they were known for though was their incredible candy selection, including their actual penny candy that cost a penny a piece.
Baldinger’s was a family affair, started by Dorothy & Allen Baldinger in 1933. They started as a roadside fruit stand and carried other food items and items like cookie cutters and later found that the candy was a real hit. After the Baldinger’s died, the store passed to Dorothy’s sister, Lois Dodge. Dodge left the day-to-day business of the store to Betty Sabo, who managed the store, she started working there in 1943 as a teenager. But the land under the store was recently closed with the understanding that the store would stay open as long as Betty Sabo continued to manage the store. This was complicated recently when the owner, Lois, passed away. The store is slated to close in June of this year.
While the rest of the world seemed to pass them by, including I-80 and the Turnpike leaching more traffic from route 19, they never even updated the original cash register that never rang more than $9.99. When I was there, my purchases were written up on a slip of paper, added by hand but the cashier.
Baldinger’s boasted an excellent collection of candies. Much of it was bulk items and classic hard-to-find items like anise squares, Nik-l-Nips, wax lips and Mary Janes. They had seasonal candies as well, as that’s half the fun of candy along with candy bars from all over the country, limited editions and not the just the biggies. I also found a great selection of Dutch and other European Licorices and at only $6 a pound (half of what I pay for them at other places in San Francisco).
If you’re in the neighborhood before summer, it’s definitely worth a trip to see them, a little piece of history, before it’s gone. It’s a completely different kind of nostalgia than the manufactured (Dylan’s Candy Bar) and franchised (Powell’s Sweet Shoppe) style that has replaced it. (It’s kind of in the Economy Candy style.)
The penny candy selection is what I’d call “obligatory” since it contains very small pieces of candy, all made in Brazil or Mexico and not any names you’d recognize. But once you get up into the five cent and by the pound stuff, it’s all pretty good. I picked up individually wrapped Goetze’s Caramel Creams, various boxes of Lemonheads & other fruit heads, a full set of Pearson’s, a limited edition Take 5 chocolate cookie, Boyer’s Mallo Cup & Smoothie. I also got a bunch of Peerless candies (but I just ate those, they weren’t for reviewing). All the prices were great when I was there 65 cents for any candy bar (they also had some import consumer bars) and the bulk candy ranged from $2.00 a pound to $4.00 a pound. Mind you this was 2006, but I doubt that much has changed.
22105 Perry Hwy
UPDATE 4/9/2008: It looks like Baldinger’s may get a new location and continue! Check out this story in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. I’ll check up on the new space next time I’m in Pittsburgh.
UPDATE 5/29/2008: The new address is 519 Perry Highway (Rte 19) - they’ll be across the street from the Exxon station. They expect to move into the larger space sometime in July. So if you’re planning on stopping by this summer, just call ahead to see where they’re at.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Simple Hallmark Cards cost $3 these days ... the fancy handspun ones at places like Papyrus can cost $5 or $6 now.
It’s silly. Or at least for me it is. I don’t keep greeting cards, they’re pretty and the sentiment is nice, but I simply don’t live the kind of life where I keep things like that (every once in a while I will, but as a rule after a period of time they get recycled).
So that’s why I advocate fine chocolate bars as a replacement for greeting cards (heck, they don’t even have to be “fine chocolate” as long as you know it’s a welcome bar).
So instead of going to the papergoods aisle at the drug store to find something that says that you were thinking of someone, consider presenting them with a bar of Lindt, Ghirardelli, Guittard, Charles Chocolates, Ritter Sport, Endangered Species, Chuao, Equal Exchange, Cadbury, Elite, Lotte, Marabou, Dove, Michel Cluizel, Hershey’s, Scharffen Berger, Dagoba, Nestle, Theo Chocolates, Green & Black’s, Dolfin, Amano, Askinosie, Villar’s, Feodora, Lake Champlain, KChocolade, Meiji, Morinaga, Russell Stover, El Rey, Santander, Chocolat Bonnat, Choxie, Terra Nostra, Amadei, Felchin, Valrhona, Hachez, Gallery, Cafe Tasse, Vosges, Slitti, Toblerone, Chocovic, Pralus, Domori or Caffarel.
If they need to have a keepsake, there’s always the wrapper.
(Please note that this works with any consumable ... give someone a pretty apple or pomegranate if that’s what moves you or you think that’s what will move them. Wouldn’t you like someone to answer the door and say, “Is that a banana in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” and you can say “Both!”)
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Since this is my third Valentines since starting the Candy Blog, I figured I should point newer readers to some almost-fresh reviews of Valentines products that can be found in stores today. (Lest you think that I haven’t been there, done that.) Just click on the teensy photo to be transported back in time to relive the glory.
Name: Raffaello & Rondnoir
Name: Assorted Chocolates (Heart Box)
Technically I never reviewed the Coconut Heart, but here’s the specs on the Egg version:
Technically I never reviewed the Nestle Cruch Dark Heart but here’s the review from oh-so-long-ago on the Limited Edition Bar:
Monday, January 21, 2008
Here’s the second half of my notes on the Fancy Food Show in San Diego last week.
The cool thing about Malie Kai is that they do more than just plain chocolate, they have some combination bars as well ... and as you might expect they include Hawaiian items like Kona coffee and macadamia nuts as well as citrus and almonds. Lovely two ounce bars and wonderful hospitality at their booth. I’m looking forward to tasting the full bar I picked up.
Jeff Shepherd is always a delight when I visit at his booth displaying his goodies from Lillie Belle Farms. I got to try the Smokey Blue Truffle again ... it’s growing on me. I like the crunchy almonds and the smooth creaminess of the chocolate ganache. The bite of the Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue Cheese is pretty interesting, it creates a little buzz on the tongue. It feels more like food than candy, but that’s not a bad thing either.
The other fascinating item he had that was brand new was a wild chocolate bar ... that is, chocolate made from cocoa beans harvested in the wild, not from plantation-raised trees. I wish I had a photo of it, it’s not on the website yet. As you can imagine, there can’t be a lot of these since wild cacao is exceptionally rare and hard to harvest. Of course it’s also a very limited edition.
Haribo was also there with a their same booth. I don’t really have anything to report on their product line. I know they have their new Root Beer Gummis and as much as I’m a fan of root beer as a flavor, these just don’t do it for me (they might be too citrusy). I did have a few of their spectacular Pink Grapefruit Slices though. You can just enjoy these close ups of their lightbox display:
Jo’s Candies based here on the Los Angeles area will have some new Vanilla Caramels available at all their usual outlets. They were soft and tasty, perhaps a bit more milky than buttery than I’m used to, but super-traditional in plain wax paper and sold in clear bags.
I also enjoy Elegant Gourmet’s booth every year. They have stunning handmade lollipops and hard candies that look like painted ponies on a carousel.
I’ve never pictured their candies as an everyday sort of sweet, but for special occasions like baby showers, weddings and gifts, they’re something to consider.
Acapella Gourmet has an awesome new line of “coffeelatte” called Caffe Acapella ... basically, it’s cocoa butter mixed with coffee solids (coffee beans) instead of cocoa solids. So it’s not coffee flavored, it’s coffee! I have a few samples of those for a full review later.
Vosges made their first appearance at a trade show I’ve attended. They had everything in their repertoir out for tasting. I had a little sip of their white chocolate/vanilla/lavender/lemon myrtle drink (even though I’ve had it before) and had a few tastes of some other their items I haven’t tried. (No, they wouldn’t send me home with any samples for later.)
I tried a few of the caramels, being especially careful to stay away from anything with walnuts and was definitely pleased. It’s a stiff caramel, not too chewy but soft and with good buttery notes. I think the next thing of theirs I’m going to plunk down some money for is their Volcano Island Honey Truffle collection.
The Fancy Food Show always has a good showing of companies with honey and maple syrup. I picked up a few samples from Canadian company, mopure. They’re just little transparent maple leaves made from maple syrup. (I’m sure their maple syrup is awesome too, but I’m not much of a syrup user ... but if they offered me that bottle as a sample, I’d be all over it.)
Other items I picked up samples of:
For the most part I zoomed through the show this year. I usually take all three days and spend a lot of time with each company. This year I had my priority hit list and made it to most of them. A few I didn’t get to I know I can probably visit with at ExpoWest in March down in Anaheim (like Theo’s new Phinney bars). Of course my speed meant a lot fewer take home samples (usually I have conversations to discuss what I might be interested in taking home for a full review) but the money I saved on not having to get a hotel room in San Diego can now go to buying that candy instead.
(All above photos by Emanuel Treeson.)
Monday, January 14, 2008
Yesterday I had the great fortune of attending the Fancy Food Show in San Diego and then sleeping in my own bed.
As with my usual style when attending a trade show with a lot of food, I rarely eat any of it on the floor, I take it home for sampling later. But here are some brief thoughts of what I did see (and wasn’t able to bring home for a full review). I also brought along a photographer! (My husband was so kind to record some important football game and come with me instead of sitting around the house all day.)
K. L. Keller Imports was showing a lot of stuff that I’ve already had before, like lavender honey from Spain and Suprem’ Nougat by G. Savin from France. They also had some new nougats from South Africa from Walters that are a little lighter and fluffier and feature pecans and macadamia nuts instead of the traditional almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios. They also had some great chocolate covered candied nuts called Cude Catanies from Spain. Fantastic. Crunchy, sweet, chocolaty, nutty ... everything you would want from those ingredients.
I spent a few minutes at Coco-Luxe which makes truffles and the candied almonds covered in chocolate and cocoa shown here called Block Party Almonds. Like so many chocolatiers that show off at the Fancy Food Show, Coco-Luxe is based in San Francisco and was founded by Stephanie Marcon.
The bulk of their products are truffles, made in the tile-style. In the case of Marcon’s, they little transfer design on top is usually a good indication of what’s inside. Her flavors are usually based on popular desserts such as Banana Split, Devil’s Food, Gingerbread and Mocha. However, I asked for something that was not out on display that I’d read about, which was their Rose for Valentine’s Day. It has a touch of honey and is made with rose water (instead of rose flavoring). It was fresh and light and not the slightest bit like eating soap. Their other two flavors for the Valentine’s box are Champagne and a plain dark chocolate they call Pure Devotion. Awwwww.
I was happy to see another west coast confectioner there called Cary’s of Oregon. They make excellent toffee and are featured at CocoaBella in San Francisco. I wanted to try more of their items though, so they were on my list as a must-stop.
Most of all I wanted to try their Milk Chocolate with Chai Tea Toffee. It’s a nice fluffy crunch that doesn’t become a tacky lump in your teeth. The flavor is buttery and of course the milk chocolate goes really well with the spice of chai. (They have another with Mango Tea and dark chocolate, but that wasn’t really up my alley)
Sweetfields isn’t quite a candy company, but I thought I should at least put them in my notes. They make candied flowers. They had a beautiful display right on a corner at the show that did stop me dead my tracks. They had piles and piles of sparkly, preserved violas.
They’re stiff but look velvety soft in their “crystal glaze”. They don’t taste like much, a little bit of raspberry essence is thrown in, which is a nice floral flavor. The sugar melts away and of course there’s a teensy bit of the flower petals left. They had larger displays of pansies with their dark throats and primary-bright petals. They’d be wonderful on desserts like petit fours or of course wedding cakes. I could also see them as a lovely garnish for a dessert plate or on top of a truffle.
They also had some lovely little kits for true vanilla obsessionalists that have beans from all over the world so you can do your own taste test. See their site for more.
One of the people at the top of my list (but who wasn’t on the official list of exhibitors) was Larry Slotnick, who was showing off his new stone ground chocolate from his company, Taza Chocolate. Stone ground, you say?
Yes, big plates of stone grind together to create a slurry of ground cocoa beans to make the cocoa liquor that is the basis of this food of the gods. He has an array of three bars so far in his repertoir 60%, 70% and 80% plus the Chocolate Mexicano which is a traditional style Mexican puck. I tasted this and I can say, as you might think, it’s very rustic. It also has a wonderfully different flavor profile and texture. First, it tastes like bananas and caramel, the texture is grainy but still smooth in that it dissolves pretty easily on the tongue (I’m guessing more available cocoa butter to melt and distribute the flavors on the tongue). I’ll have more on this later when I get a hold of an actual full-sized sample.
I had a lovely time visiting with the women at the Belgium’s Best Chocolates booth. First, the packaging and sheer quantity of chocolate bars on display was stunning. Galler has a great package design that always reminds me of art supplies - like they’re boxes of paints or oil pastels. They also carry Dolfin which I’ve reviewed before in their lovely large bars in “tobacco pouches”. The new mini bars I picked up are White Pepper & Cardamom and Lavender & Dark Chocolate. (I also have a super-dark bar sitting around that I need to review as well.)
Poco Dolce knocked my socks off with their Burnt Caramel Bittersweet Tiles. Not quite toffee, there was no butter getting in the way of this intense burnt sugar flavor along with a nice complement of salt and smooth dark chocolate. But the real reason I stopped at their booth was because I saw that Kathy Wiley, the creator of these San Francisco confections, was also introducing a line of nougats. Drat! She didn’t have them with her. Oh well, I get to San Francisco quite often and of course they have a web store.
Whew! I’m only about a third of the way through my notes, so more tomorrow. (You can peek at all the photos here.)
I’ll have more later. Here’s a tease ... stone ground chocolate ... all-American chocolate grown on Oahu ... chai tea toffee ... honey and lemon licorice ... new nougats.
Friday, January 11, 2008
On New Year’s Eve we tried something a little different. For the past few years we’d done grown-up things, like have a nice dinner party where my husband makes an excellent feast of something like homemade pot pies or a roast of some kind.
This year it was bit more low key, but I usually make the dessert so I decided to make it more interactive.
Specifically, after giving my studio a little purge, I gathered up the errant and orphaned candies into a bowl, bought two tubes of Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough and pre-heated the oven.
My neighbor Robin and I just took what was lying around and wrapped it in dough and baked it.
She was very conservative, erring with items that actually sounded good. Things like shaved chocolate with crushed almonds. Orange marmalade. Shaved chocolate with orange marmalade and so on.
I, on the other hand, was curious to see what would happen with things that didn’t necessarily sound good at first. My experiments included:
The process is pretty simple. Just follow the directions on the package of your Pillsbury (or other brand) Crescent Rolls. My biggest suggestion is to use baking parchment on your baking sheet, as it is extremely likely that something will leak and this prevents sticking and makes cleanup a snap. I baked them for the recommended time and found that the centers generally ended up hot and melted but not burned.
In general simpler, consistently textured items work best. While I enjoyed the less-sweet taste of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in a Crescent, it was kind of dry because of the baked peanut butter and smaller proportion of chocolate that seemed to creep into the corners. A similar thing happened with the 3 Musketeers Mini. First, the Mini is too small, I think a Fun Size would work better. Second, the center stays intact but the chocolate goes everywhere. The center also seems to get a bit more grain to it, especially if you left the roll cool completely. The Peppermint Pattie was rather dreadful, as the center became inconsistent ... a little chewy in places and in other places downright chalky. The Pecan Pralines turned out fantastic, just like a Pecan Sticky Bun filling. The M&Ms’ shell seemed to lose its color (that’s the lavender blob in the first picture), which I’ve never had happen before with baking with M&Ms, there must be more moisture in crescent roll dough than cookie dough. The Lemon Jelly was tasty and moist but a little bland. The Java Twix was baffling, we couldn’t figure out what it was, it was just sweet and grainy. A twice baked cookie is probably not a good idea. (Though I’m still curious about what would happen with a KitKat.)
For the record, Robin’s Shaved Dark Chocolate with Blood Orange Marmalade was good, probably the best of the bunch.
After tasting about eight of them, we all felt a little sick and the rest remained untouched, so I can’t say whether they were considered successes or not. They’re definitely better right out of the oven, so if you’re making them for a small group, try baking three or four at a time in succession instead of all at once to pace yourself.
For kids it’s a fun little, “no mess, low stress” thing to do, maybe even for a party. I can also recommend marking them somehow ... we couldn’t figure out what some of them were and it’d only been 20 minutes since we made them! (Okay, it was New Years and we’d already had a bottle of wine.)
This is definitely an experiment I plan to continue. I saw that Pillsbury makes a jumbo roll, which might be better for larger candy bars, like a Snickers Fun Size. I also want to know what happens when you put taffy, hard candies, marshmallows or caramels in there. You can also just use candy-like ingredients like Nutella, Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chips, Sprinkles, Crushed Candies and so on ...
So, have you ever tried something like this and how did it turn out?
I give the results of this project a 6 out of 10.
Friday, January 4, 2008
I think my best score was in the baking aisle at Von’s where they had Smooth & Melty mint chips on sale for $1.24 for 12 ounces. (I also bought two bags of the regular Guittard Chips which were also 66% off, you know, just cuz.)
I have to call ludicrous hooey on this product on the Williams-Sonoma site: Handmade Peppermint Snow (6 ounces). Guess what it is? Yes, you are correct, it’s crushed red and white peppermints. Handmade peppermints. All in this lovely jar and marked down from $10 to $6.99 ... what a deal!
Crate & Barrel has Mini Mighty Marshmallows (4.5 ounces) marked down from $6.95 to $1.75.
Dean and Deluca has one fabulous deal to report, these Karmamel Kickbacks (21 ounces) marked down from $48 to $12. They sound really good, “includes chocolate, chocolate nut, kahlua, mint, nougat caramel and pecan nougat center. Individually wrapped in a gift box and adorned with red ribbon.
Godiva is offering up to 50% off in their post-holiday Chocolate Covered Sale.
Artisan Sweets has a deal on French Candied Chestnuts marked down from $50 to $25.
Lake Champlain has had a few interesting items cycle in and out of their sale bin. Check out the current list here.
Chocosphere always has chocolate on sale in their bargain basement. Right now they have some Domori bars for half off. Always something good to take a chance on in there.
Have you found anything ridiculously cheap lately?
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.