Friday, November 23, 2007
Last week I had the opportunity to share lots of my candy with some wonderful and dedicated writers who spent part of National Novel Writing Month raising money on our behalf. Though I missed my fundraising targets, I’m so happy that everyone else was able to hit theirs. I hope I more than made up for it with a super-duper-deluxe Candy Buffet.
I took about 100 pounds of candy with me (though not all of it was on display) and put it in a variety of vases and glass containers I’ve gathered over the years. The individual candies included: Brach’s Orange Slices, Brach’s Butter Toffee, A&W Root Beer Barrels, Butterscotch Disks, Ice Blue Mints, Cinnamon Disks, Filled Strawberries, Milk Maid Caramels & Milk Maid Royals, Brach’s Salt Water Taffy, Koppers Chocolate Covered Almond Jewels, White Chocolate Pearlescent Almonds, Koppers Milkies and Koppers Mint Lentils and finally some mini Gummi Bears (the most popular of all).
It’s an odd relief to get rid of so much candy all at once. Especially to folks who actually want it.
I’ll have more, probably in the New Year, about what I’ve learned about candy buffets, including how to present them, ideas for packaging and design and how to figure out how much candy you’ll need.
While I’d love to go on about the trip or do a review today, it’s late and I’ve been visiting with family and friends from out of town (and still trying to get back in the game on my novel).
So here’s the week in review, short as it was:
Monday: Brach’s Soda Poppers (6 out of 10)
Tuesday: Ice Cubes (5 out of 10)
Wednesday: Hotel Chocolat Crostini Fruit & Nut Slab (7 out of 10)
Thursday: Licorice Assortment (7 out of 10)
Average for the week: 6 with 25% chocolate content.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
I found this fascinating. First of all, I voted for the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I know it doesn’t seem like a huge portion, but the caloric density of the peanut butter is really satisfying to me.
But I was really surprised at the huge numbers of Jelly Belly fans. I think my second choice would probably be Gummi Bears, just because they take so long to eat.
The big thing, I think, if you’re going to have an indulgence be aware of how many calories it is, if you’re watching them, and then pick something that will satisfy you. Nothing worse than having a “treat” you don’t like.
(I don’t know who these rice cake eaters are!)
Saturday, November 17, 2007
I’m in the Bay Area again. It’s like a second home to me lately. I come here for two reasons, the first is that it’s home to the National Novel Writing Month headquarters. We’re having a big fundraiser tonight called The Night of Writing Dangerously. 200 writers, most from the area but some from as far away as Toronto, will descend upon a ballroom to sit on uncomfortable chairs for six hours to write en masse. My contribution to the evening is a Candy Buffet. I’ve been doing a lot of product photography lately for Candy Warehouse, and one of the side effects of that is leftover candy (I get to keep whatever I shoot). Usually it’s not that much and I can simply hand it off to folks at the office. In this case it was bulk items like Brach’s cinnamon disks, butter toffee, orange slices, mini gummi bears and a huge array of Koppers chocolate goodies ... sooooo much candy.
So I loaded up my car and hit the road with, literally, my weight in candy in the back.
This is a huge load off my mind, of course, because now the candy will go to wonderful writers who really, really want it. (And while I really, really want it too, I can’t possibly eat my weight in candy before it spoils, well, I could but then it’d be half my weight in candy.)
The second reason I like coming to the Bay Area is that it is home to so many candy companies. Some are fine chocolatiers (many of whom I’ve reviewed now: Recchiuti, Charles Chocolates & Joseph Schmidt) as well as factories like Jelly Belly, Scharffen Berger, Sconza, Annabelle’s, Ghirardelli and Guittard.
The cornerstone of my trip was a visit to the Guittard chocolate factory for a personal tour by Gary Guittard. I have been to quite a few factories in my life, but this was the the most immersive I’ve ever had. (No, I don’t mean that I was immersed in chocolate.) Gary was wonderfully open and of course incredibly versed in the intricacies of beans, fermenting, roasting, combining and all the other variables that go into making such painstakingly wonderful chocolate. He was also fantastically patient with me and of course so generous (as are most chocolate people I’ve met). I’ll have more on that as I go through the products that I have for review. It was an incredible experience. If there’s one thing that I came away with was a huge appreciation for the fact that we live in a time with such incredible chocolate. (Something I’ll probably make mention of on Thanksgiving.)
Of course any city that makes so much candy has to have good candy stores. So yesterday, knowing that I’d soon be free of 135 pounds of candy, I went and bought some more.
I’ll have larger write ups about these in the future, but here was my itinerary (fellow writer YumSugar also came along on the last three stops!):
I also popped by Charles Chocolate on Thursday to taste their new winter assortment and catch up with Chuck Siegel since I haven’t talked to him in a year and since that time they’ve opened their new shop & cafe with the factory adjacent. Chuck was gracious and gave me some wonderful items to sample (in addition to the ones eaten on site and on sight) such as their lemon and blood orange marmalade (perhaps something for Thanksgiving will include this?), the new Caramel Almonds Sticks and his new 65% Bittersweet Bar that includes Candied Hazelnut Pieces (which I hope is like this Mallorca bar I had earlier this year)
Monday: Russell Stover Private Reserve Vanilla Bean Brulee (8 out of 10)
Tuesday: Mentos - Pine Fresh (Pineapple) (8 out of 10)
Wednesday: Cadbury Ornament Creme Egg (4 out of 10)
Thursday: Peppermint Peep Stars (6 out of 10)
Friday: Sour Jujyfruits (6 out of 10)
Average for the week 6.4 with a 20% chocolate content.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
(I miss Tom Baker as Dr. Who and his Jelly Babies.)
Saturday, November 10, 2007
I’ve been spending my spare time toiling away on my bad novel. I’m still shy of my fundraising goals for the Write-a-Thon next weekend for National Novel Writing Month. So if you’ve been thinking about donating to the cause (and possibly winning some limited edition candies for your trouble), please, please do it soon.
My donation to the cause will be a candy buffet for the other writers to enjoy. Don’t worry, I’ll have photos and hopefully lots more to say about candy buffets and candy favors for weddings and other parties.
I’ve also been prowling around in the post-Halloween bargain bins. I’ve been horribly disappointed. My best buys were Ghost Peeps for 9 cents a package and some Wonka Donutz that have some sort of red goo at the center for 13 cents each. (I’m not sure if they’re from this year or not.) The better news is that the Christmas candy is out and I’m seeing the Junior Mints Deluxe at RiteAid already.
Here’s the week in review:
Monday: Boston Baked Beans (5 out of 10)
Tuesday: Cowgirl Chocolates Buckin’ Hot Habanero Caramels (6 out of 10)
Wednesday: Melville Honey Spoons (6 out of 10)
Thursday: Sour Patch Extreme (5 out of 10)
Friday: Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Filled with Creamy Peanut Butter (5 out of 10)
Average rating 5.4 for the week with a 20% chocolate content.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
I’m hard at work these days on a novel that you’ll never, ever read. (I do this every year as November is National Novel Writing Month.)
Last year’s novel was about candy, this year’s is about whale watching, or at least so far. So that’s how I’m spending my spare time these days (not that I have a lot of that ... it’s Candy Season!).
I’m also participating in National Blog Posting Month, which is a challenge to post to your blog at least once a day. Most readers know I pretty much post six times a week. So in November you’ll get 7 for the price of 6!
Let’s see what happened this week besides Halloween and the wonderful Post-Halloween Sales!
Monday: Big Mo’ Bars: Peanut Butter & Creamy Caramel (4 out of 10)
Tuesday: Andes Mints & Dessert Indulgence (6 out of 10 & 4 out of 10)
Wednesday: Mentos Xtrm: Mint & Spearmint (6 out of 10)
Thursday: Bratz Candy Cosmetics (5 out of 10, 3 out of 10 & 4 out of 10)
Friday: Kenny’s Licorice Pastels & Root Beer Twists (4 out of 10 & 7 out of 10)
Weekly average: 4.7 with a total chocolate content of 18% ... hmm, the lower the chocolate content, the lower my weekly average. I may be onto something here.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
Here we go, the top search strings that brought new readers to Candy Blog in October.
1. candy corn
See last years list as a comparison. No one even mentioned Halloween in the top twenty! I wonder if those chico sticks are the same as Chick-o-Sticks?
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Oh, man. It’s that time of year. Now that Halloween is in the bag and kids have brought home all this candy I’m getting a lot of queries about how many calories are in that Fun Sized 3 Musketeers or packet of Skittles. About 50% of the search traffic to candy blog includes the phrase “calories in.” (I’m not kidding!)
It’s great to be calorie conscious, especially when you’re being adventurous and trying some new candy from the Trick-or-Treat bag. You don’t want to over do it, and lets face it, some items are surprisingly “affordable” when it comes to calories (like gummis, marshmallows or SweeTarts).
But then there are the articles and pieces on the morning talk shows. “Healthy Choices” in Halloween candy. And they’ve all got it wrong. They keep talking about caloric density as if it’s low calories that makes a piece of candy healthier? I’m sorry, if there’s one thing worse than a chunk of sweetened partially hydrogenated oils it’s a hunk of pure sugar! (One show said that a 3 Musketeers is a healthier choice than a Snickers Bar ... I suppose if the goal is to have as many empty wrappers for the same caloric cost. The Snickers will be more satisfying as it has a blend of sugars, fat and protein. The 3 Musketeers is mostly sugar and as many folks know, that just leads to a later crash.)
So, yes, you can have a pile of SweeTarts, which have zero nutritional value (no vitamins, no minerals, no essential fatty acids) but hey, no fat! The caloric density (which I’ve added to all reviews here whenever possible) of SweeTarts is 98 calories per ounce. But what have you eaten? Absolutely nothing of value.
Then you sit aghast that the little packet of Peanut M&Ms has 80 calories ... that adds up to 142 calories per ounce. Whoa! That’s almost 50% more! But there’s stuff you actually want in Peanut M&Ms ... things like protein, calcium, traces of iron, even some fiber! And fat, yeah, there’s fat in there from the peanuts and the chocolate. Peanuts have omega 3 fatty acids in them. Stearic acid in chocolate has been shown to be cholesterol neutral and may be beneficial to other inflammatory markers. Is it health food? No ... but it’s not the demon that these morning talk show people make it out to be in moderation. And those little packets, they’re great for portion control!
If you’re going to eat something, if you’re going to set aside your calories, please, for the love of all that’s good and tasty, eat something you like.
Let’s drop the pretension that low calorie makes something healthy. Nutrition makes things healthy and your diet should be balanced. There’s nothing wrong with a pile of peanuts, raisins or some crisped rice with some chocolate thrown in. (Honestly, I think a box of Goobers is more nutritious than a cupcake, but I’m not a registered dietitian.) If I had to be stranded on an island with one candy as my only sustenance for the rest of my life it would not be any of the “healthier” choices devoid of nutrition. I’d probably pick chocolate covered almonds.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.