Thursday, October 4, 2007
The National Confectioners Association (the people who run the All Candy Expo) released a list of what they call America’s Top 10 Sweet Spots for Halloween.
Here are their cities with my notes:
1. Hershey, Pa. Yes, they mentioned the Hershey empire with the park and Chocolate World and the Spa at The Hotel Hershey. But what you may not know is that there are lots of other confections within an hour of Hershey. Don’t miss Lititz, PA, home of Wilbur Chocolate and a fantabulous outlet store (with far better prices than you’ll find at the Chocolate World mall). Also in Souderton, PA, Asher’s Chocolate, Wolfgang in York, PA.
2. New York, N.Y.—They mention M&Ms World & Hershey’s in Times Square, Jacques Torres and Dylan’s Candy Bar, but miss many of the other confectionery delights: MarieBelle, Kees, Vosges, Pierre Marcolini, Max Brenner and Economy Candy. (See my New York Guide.)
3. Orlando, Fla.—I’ve never been there. The highlight Disneyworld and other mass-produced candy meccas like Dylan’s Candy Bar & Ghirardelli stores.
4. San Francisco, Calif.—this is a huge confectionery town. Ghirardelli, Scharffen Berger, Jelly Belly (in Fairfield) as well as Joseph Schmidt, CocoaBella, the new Charles Chocolates cafe and factory as well as some really great candy shops and don’t forget the Ferry Terminal (Recchiuti & Miette). I’ll have more in December. (Here’s my current guide for the Bay Area.)
5. Chicago, Ill.—Home of Ethel’s, Blommer, Ferrara Pan, Tootsie and a bunch of other companies that don’t offer tours but you can snuggle down at one of the five Ethel’s Chocolate Lounges. Vosges calls Chicago home, as well.
6. Los Angeles, Calif.—This is where I live and I can tell you that the press release was talking about Anaheim in nearby Orange County. (I did a little bit on Disneyland here). No factory tours for you here, but plenty of chocolatiers like Boule, Compartes, Valerie Confections, Jin Patissiere and Artisan du Chocolat. (Here’s my local shopping guide.) Don’t forget about See’s ... if you don’t live on the West Coast, it’s a must stop that won’t break your budget.
7. Boston, Mass.—the one time I visited Boston, I don’t think I had ANY candy (but made a wonderful trip to Filene’s Basement back when it was actually in the basement.). They highlight Boston’s part in making Halloween the holiday that it has come to be (but I can’t eat history!)
8. New Orleans, La.—again, another one I’ve never visited, but any city that loves coffee, pecans and boiled sugar is going to be a favorite. They suggested Evans Creole CandyFactory, Laura’s Candy Shop and Aunt Sally’s Praline Shop (I got some of their pralines at the All Candy Expo).
9. Las Vegas, Nev.—There’s really nothing unique in Las Vegas, except for the sheer density of it all. There are many large branded stores and fine European chocolatiers that want you to sugar up with them. M&Ms World, Ethel’s Chocolate Lounge, & Vosges.
The Pacific Northwest is conspicuously absent from this list. Portland and Seattle are amazing chocolate, toffee and caramel towns ... not that I’ve toured them with that in mind ... yet. If anything, Los Angeles and Orlando don’t belong on that list.
If you don’t feel like going too far afield, I did a little map last year with the confectioners I’d tried so far ... maybe you can make a little vacation for yourself for the price of a box of chocolates.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Every once in a while I go through the search logs either on this site or the ones that refer people here from the search engines.
Sometimes I know that their questions aren’t actually answered when they arrive, so I’ll take a stab at it here!
Answer: Sour foods are acidic. Many very sour candies contain high levels of acids such as malic acid and citric acid. At higher levels this can irritate the tongue and tender mouth parts. Luckily the irritation is temporary for most people.
Malic acid is naturally occurring and usually found in apples, more highly concentrated in green (unripe) apples.
Citric acid is also occurs naturally and is found in citrus fruits such as lemons and limes and in lower concentrations in oranges.
Question: What flavor is the red Skittle?
Answer: Red Skittles are strawberry flavored when found in the classic Fruits mix.
Question: What’s the difference between Hershey’s Mounds and Almond Joy candy bar?
Answer: I think the jingle for the candy bars answers that best:
Monday, October 1, 2007
Richard H. Lenny, the CEO, President and Chair of The Hershey Company is calling it quits at the end of the year. He took his current position in 2001.
You can read the press release below, which is obviously geared towards investors and not consumers, because not once does it mention anything good that’s happened since Lenny took over ... a period which saw the addition of PGPR to Hershey’s chocolate, the swapping of real milk chocolate in the Fifth Avenue bar to subpar mockolate and of course their support for the Grocery Manufacturers Association proposal to lower the standards of identity for chocolate (a reversal from their earlier position logged in 2000). Oh, yeah, and the closing of the Smith Falls, ONT and Oakdale, CA along with many smaller factories totalling at least 1,500 people directly.
If I were in charge, I’d go private. If I were the Hershey Trust, I’d slowly buy the company back. They have (or at least it looks like they have) the capital to do it. Move away from all for the profit business and move to become and socially and ecologically responsible company both in the United States and abroad. Mars has a huge advantage over Hershey’s in that it is privately owned and can take bigger risks when the consumer confectionery market is in flux as it is now.
Hershey’s should get back to making quality confectionery products at affordable prices, pay people a decent wage and the Hershey Trust will be able to continue the Milton Hershey School without problems. After all, the Trust is there to help mold disadvantaged youth - give them the education and boost that they need. Are they really teaching them anything if they abandon the town, communities and ideals that Hershey built?
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.
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!
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.
Mars has many new products in store for us in the coming months, most in the limited edition realm:
Name: Wildly Cherry M&Ms
Name: Twizzlers Pull n Peel Cinnamon Fire Candy
Name: Batman Reese’s Peanut Butter Bats in Dark Chocolate
Name: Indiana Jones Crispy Mint M&Ms
Name: Snickers Adventure Bar
(All photos courtesy of the respective companies’ press kits.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.