Friday, June 8, 2007
Father’s Day is Sunday, June 17th so I thought I’d throw something out there for the chocolate lovin’ fathers of America.
I had the opportunity this week to try two different personalized chocolate message services. They’re both great, if a little expensive for shipping because of the heat in summer months. But the originality can’t be beat. It’s like an edible greeting card.
First up is Chocotelegram. Based in Toronto, Chocotelegram was actually founded in Europe. You can order from their pre-fab messages or have them typeset your message using their letter picker. You can even decorate the blank spaces with icons (stars, smileys, trees, hearts & clovers).
The chocolate is made by Barry Calebaut. Each little square is about a third of an ounce, making a whole tray of 21 squares about 7 ounces. I only tried the milk and found it very creamy, if a little sweet, but super-smooth and satisfying. The package sent, as shown, is only $17 plus shipping. There are lots of options on their website, including an upgraded box and larger letter arrays. I really liked the molding on the letters, it was crisp, attractive and legible.
The second company that contacted me last week was ABChocolates that makes the Chocolate Dispatch. The Dispatch has a wonderful design flair, from the exterior packaging (wrapped in some corrugated paper with a seal) down to the sassy wooden box with the message printed right on the front in true telegram style. Even when the chocolate is gone, the message lives on.
Under the sliding top the chocolates are held firmly in place with foam underneath and some waxed paper filler on top. Pull that off and you get a personalized chocolate message. Each letter weighs a little less than a third of an ounce giving the box of 32 a net weight of 9.5-10 ounces . The letters are a little more homespun feeling than Chocotelegram’s. They’re a combination of white chocolate letters on a dark or milk chocolate square. The white is, you know, white chocolate. The milk is nice, creamy and not too sweet with a strong milky component. The dark is good, if a little grainy sometimes (but only as a counterpoint to the silkier/stickier milk chocolate).
While Chocolate Dispatch only comes in two sizes, they offer a lot of customized options with different labels on the front (Birthday Dispatch, Get Well Dispatch, Valentine Dispatch, etc.) which would mean that you could send out several of these over the course of the year and the boxes would all be keepsakes.
There’s a breakdown listed below. I liked both of the products a lot, though I don’t know that many people that I’d send something like this to. (Here’s a hint though, if you’re doing a wedding, see if you can do initials. “C & M” in little three character boxes, that’d be so cute!) Chocotelegram had the best tasting chocolate, but I really liked the box and whole top-to-bottom design aesthetic of Chocolate Dispatch. If you’re a mom helping your kid pick out their gift to dad, the letter-picking interface is a fun experience all on its own. (Chocotelegram has one too, but it’s just not quite as enjoyable.)
I give both services a solid 7 out of 10.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Here’s the last of the Gift Guides for 2006! Have a look at last years, this is just a supplement to that ... there are lots of great ideas out there in addition to giving folks actual candy, so keep an eye out for these candy-themed gifts.
After the holidays you might want to do more than send your notes, you might want to scent them too. Try these Scratch & Sniff cards for $8 a pair.
Candy Games and Amusements
Bring the arcade experience into your home and burn some calories by frustrating yourself with the Candy Grabber for $35 (not including candy).
Jelly Belly 24 piece jigsaw puzzle ($4.95) a great stocking stuffer that will be around long after the candy is gone.
Chocolate-Opoly - $24.95
For some more interactive game fun, try the Candy Volcano for $21.99
Stocking Stuffers & Entertaining
Candy Shot Glasses ($4.95 for 6) - I have no idea if they make a sticky mess or if it’d be totally cool to smash them when you’re done.
M&Ms solo teapot in three different colors. Good for tea, or maybe even hot chocolate! ($23) For some bizarre reason you cannot have this shipped to California, so if you live there, try the M&Ms calculators for $10
Tootsie Roll Scarf ($24) - nothing says appreciation for retro candies like a scarf in the Tootsie Roll colors.
If that’s too casual for you, demonstrate your professionalism with a Sugar Daddy Business Card Holder for $29.00.
If you make the $40 minimum purchase, they’ll throw in a Tootsie Roll Car Air Freshener. There are loads of stocking stuffer ideas there at Tootsie.
Hershey Baseballs - they’re real baseballs, not chocolate. At least they won’t melt on the field.
For the gift that keeps on growing, how about a symbolic piece of the candy world. Try OneShare.com for single shares of stock for Wrigley, Tootsie, Hershey’s and more. You can order just the share or get it frame with a special engraving to personalize it. I’m not sure if it means that you get the annual report for the company or not.
Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams by Michael D’Antonio.
Jewelry & Adornment
If you like the idea of a candy charm bracelet, there’s a whole series of items in the Pugster Fun Jewelry line that are pretty inexpensive.
Tootsie Candy up your iPod for $5.95.
Lemonhead or Atomic Fireball mugs for only $6.95. There are plenty of other fun Lemonhead items there too (tees, shirts, and caps).
Candy University Mugs ($18.00)
Max Brenner’s Hug Mug made just for hot chocolate with a special shape to cup between your hands.
Baby Chuck Taylor hi tops in peppermint stripes. $24.99
The strangest entry in the brand tie in merchandise has to be these cute Cow boots from Goetze’s Caramel Creams (makers of Bull’s Eyes and Cow Tales). At only $19.95 I’m kind of wishing it rained more where I live.
They also have hats and an umbrella ... and if you live in an area where it’s hard to find Goetze’s, you can order right there for more than enough to stuff your stocking.
Jelly Belly Embroidered Tee $22.99 is one of the more inventive garments on their site. They also have some luscious looking hoodies, ringer tees and caps. But the thing you really need to click through and see are the pro-styled bib bicycle shorts.
Inventive Individuals on Caf? Press & Zazzle:
Gummi Bear Mob - yes, this gummi bear has a posse.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Sometimes just giving someone a box of candy doesn’t feel special enough. You know, when you give someone a sweater, they wear it over and over again. The cool solution for the consumable nature of this type of gift is to spread it out over a long period of time. Lots of candy companies now offer Candy of the Month clubs, so that loved one gets reminded once a month that you know their passion.
Here’s a roundup of a few options:
Ethel M - Chocolate Club ($99-$299) - 3, 6 & 12 month subscriptions for regular deliveries of chocolates.
Jelly Belly - Bean of the Month Club ($68.99-$249) - Choose 3, 6 or 12 months of Jelly Belly candies delivered 2.2 lbs at a time. Includes dispenser and shipping charges.
Licorice International - Candy of the Month Club ($178) - three different packages for candy lovers, black and red licorice lovers and black licorice purists.
Lake Champlain - ($115-$395) Chocolate of the Month - choose 3, 6 or 9 months of fine, all natural, Kosher chocolate selections.
Dale and Thomas - ($86-$455) Popcorn of the Month - choose from a large variety of clubs that range from 3 months to 12, could be a variety of savory and sweet popcorns as well as other sweet treats.
SeventyPercent - Chocolate Connoisseur’s Club (varies) - based in the UK but ships worldwide. Focuses on high end chocolate bars from all over the world, plus discussions in their forums about the monthly selections.
Recchiuti - Club Recchiuti ($125-$425) - 3, 6, 9 & 12 month memberships with a wide range of products delivered throughout the year.
Flippin’ Fudge - Fudge of the Month Club ($348) - a different flavor of premium fudge every month.
Candy Warehouse - Candy of the Month Club ($99-$139) - various versions, one featuring nostalgic favorites, one for gummi fans and another for chocoholics.
Have you ever been gifted a candy of the month club? Any tips or recommendations?
Saturday, December 9, 2006
I was poking around a couple of weeks ago at my Holiday Gift Guide from 2005 and was (if I may say so) pleased that it’s still a pretty good guide. So instead of just doing the same thing over again, I thought I’d kind of do a summary of where I’ve been this year but also use it as an opportunity to help you Go Regional!
There are a couple of ways to look at this. You can give folks something from their own area, which is a great gift because it means that they can go back there, or you can give them something from your area, as a way of personalizing the item. Or you can give them something from a place they’re planning on visiting, kind of like a proactive welcome wagon.
(you can make fun of my map and the way I divided up and named the regions ... I have no idea what I was thinking)
West Coast (California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho & Nevada)
Recchiuti (San Francisco) - fine chocolates from Michael Recchiuti located in the Ferry Terminal in San Francisco. Lots of herbal combination infusions, uncommon ingredients and savory inclusions. Known also for their sauces. (order online) Expensive
Charles Chocolates (Emeryville) - no company-run store, so you can only order online or find them at other chocolate shops. Many items such as the triple coated nuts and the high-end bars would make excellent stocking stuffers. (order online) Expensive
Cocoa Bon (Los Gatos) - a perfect supplier of stocking stuffers, their cute little chocolate tins are filled with more than chocolate wafers, they also have spiced caramels, toffees and chocolate covered coffee beans. Check out their cocktail-inspired jelly beans, too. (order online) Moderate
Chuao Chocolatier (Encinitas) - Venezuelan inspired chocolatier with tasty truffle combos and some truly strange ones as well. Tasty chocolate bars (I liked the nib one) in other stores. (order online) Expensive
Big Island Candies - why should Hawaiians have all the fun at the beach? Macadamia and Coffee items are to be expected, but don’t forget the traditional truffles and dipped shortbreads. (order online) Moderate
Chocolate Shops to Explore in Person
CocoaBella (San Francisco) - great chocolate shop, especially if you want to combine chocolates from a variety of chocolatiers: Amadei, Christopher Elbow, Charles Chocolates, Knipschildt Chocolatier, Marquise de Sevigne, Michel Cluizel & Pralineur Van Coillie. You can build a custom, mixed maker box or order one of their World’s Best Chocolates boxes. (order online) Expensive
Sahagun (Portland)- no shipping here, just fresh and tasty candies straight from the kitchen to your mouth. Expensive
Mel & Rose Wine & Spirits (Los Angeles) - feature a wide selection of consumer chocolates and candies from around the world that are great as stocking stuffers, but also an excellent variety of couture and high end bars and boxes from MarieBelle, Michel Cluizel, Vosges, Valerie Confections as well as, you know, wine & spirits. (Their website) Inexpensive-Expensive
Mountain & Prairie Region (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota & North Dakota)
Hammond’s Candy (Denver, CO) - beautiful hard candies made by hand. (order online) Inexpensive
Midwest & Ohio River Valley (Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky & West Virigina)
Northeast (Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont & Maine)
Southern Eastern Seaboard (Tennesee, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina & Georgia)
Flippin’ Fudge (Canton, GA) - tasty gourmet fudge in cute individually wrapped pieces and fun flavors (I liked the peanut butter). (order online) Moderate
Gulf Coast & Texas (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Kansas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma & Texas)
Laura’s Candies (New Orleans) - open again after Hurricane Katrina, known for their wide selection of traditional and chewy pecan pralines, modest prices and heritage in the French Quarter. (order online) Moderate
Norman Love - stunningly presented chocolates in inventive and comfort food styles. (order online) Expensive
Susie’s South Forty Confections (Midland, TX) - chewy pralines, extraordinarily dense almond toffee and other gift items. (order online) Moderate
Nothing there to your liking? I’ll have more ideas for candy lovin’ gift givin’ over the next few days!
UPDATE (12/10/06): Looks like I’ve been Farked. Welcome new visitors. Just to clarify if you’re not a regular Candy Blog reader, my recommendations above are for places I have actually TRIED and LIKED. Yes, there are gaps and I appreciate everyone’s suggestions for the new year ... it all sounds very tasty!
Thursday, December 8, 2005
Here it is, your guide for what to get those candy obsessed people on your gift list. Some of this is stuff I’ve bought before, some is stuff I’d like to get and of course some is just something I’ve read about and thought was cool. Feel free to leave comments to expand this list!
Games & Diversions
Do you have a Poker fan in your life? There are lots of poker themed candies out there now. The simplest is instead of chocolate coins, get them chocolate poker chips. They have a huge selection at Candy Warehouse of chocolate novelties including playing cards, racked chips, dice and other gambling themed items. Of course you can also find candy themed playing cards (I have some Hershey’s Kisses ones) but I don’t know how the Poker club would feel about that. Candy Corn shaped playing cards by the dozen, Candy Hearts playing cards ($4.95), or go for a whole Chocolate Casino Kit ($17.99). You can’t eat it, but it’s stilly pretty sweet: Chocolate Monopoly ($21.08) - called Chocolate-opoly.
If you really want to get into candy making, Candy Crafts is a great place to start. They have kits you can use to make your own candy gifts or give to someone else.
Crazy Candy Art kits where you can make sand art with candy powder (or just guzzle the half gallon bottles of the stuff).
Paper Goods & Art
Don’t forget how welcome a candy poster might be for your sweet-toothed recipient. Art.com has a huge selection of candy photography and classic advertising recreations. You can get them framed (starting at $50) or unframed ($6.99+). May I recommend the Andy Warhol version of the Lifesavers ad, “Do Not Lick This Page? (144.99 framed.)
We’ve all seen the bowls of Murano glass candy. Either you hate it or love it, but if you want to give it to someone, here’s a cool site that seems to have excellent prices and a pretty wide selection. Rebecca’s Unique Glass ($6.99-99.99). Don’t forget to pick up a jar or bowl for it!
Keeping Candy in Your Life
Here’s something that I’d be happy to get. It’s actually for spice storage, but I think it’d be super cute to buy this and fill each of the little tins with fun, tasty and colorful candy. Magnetic Spice Storage ($12.99). You can do the same thing with just about any spice rack/storage solution. Filled with pretty pastel Jordan Almonds, Skittles, M&Ms, Kisses (or the new Kissables) or anything your recipient would find tasty is a fantastic and pretty inexpensive gift that keeps on giving.
Purse/Clutch made from candy wrappers ($22-$235) - even if you don’t buy any, they’re just so cute!
Dispensers and Holders (actually designed for that purpose)
Don’t forget the fun with the Candy Poopers. Especially if someone’s a fan of animals and candy (how could you not like both). There’s even a Penguin Pooper now, so go ahead and bundle it with the March of the Penguins DVD. (My original review here.)
Ornaments & Decoration
Whole Body Indulgences
Candy for the Feet
Candy as Protection
Of course you can take candy to the pool or shore with beach towels that look like candy packages: Candy Bar Beach Towels (14.99) - they come in Tootsie Pop, Dots, Charms Blo Pop and Sugar Daddy. You can also order directly from Bazooka for the Bazooka Bath Towel ($17.99 + 25 comics)
If you want more from your beach towel, how about one that doubles as a game board. Catch this one fast, it’s already on clearance at Bed Bath & Beyond: CandyLand Beach Towel Game! ($7.99 clearance).
Edible Gifts (something for everyone)
Sushi lovers might enjoy any of these Koo-ki Sushi ($12-$65). If you were looking for these gummi sushi, that I reviewed before, unfortunately it looks like they’re discontinued. But maybe someone on your giftlist is a Manga/Anime fan? Jbox has a great candy kit ($25.00) that includes a variety of KitKats, Pocky and fruity snacks like Lotte blueberry gum.
Crate & Barrel - Food/Candy (prices are a bit steep but the tins & packaging are pretty cool)
If you didn’t blink with the prices at Zabar’s, well head down to SoHo to Dean & Deluca. Spectacular packaging, great website and I’ve ordered from them before and have to say that the stuff does get there in one piece. The best looking thing they had there was the Joseph Schmidt Chocolate Bowl ($34.00). No, it’s not a bowl for chocolate, it’s a bowl made from chocolate. Shazaam! I can’t link directly to the products there but check out the regular gifts like Chocolate Tower Tiers ($75-$125), Caramel Dominos ($45.00), Chocolate Ornaments ($20), and Pig & Piglets (it’s like a Trojan pig, you crack open the pig and pigs come out! - $34.00). Fear not they have an Under $25 Section. (You can also order the chocolate bowl directly from Joseph Schmidt.)
Lake Champlain Chocolates - check out their amazing online store. I really enjoyed their 5 Star Bar and their medallions but I’m sure everything is great. Check out their sale items too, there’s some great deals in there.
Chocosphere for online ordering of most of the top brands of chocolate - a good place to go if you want to combine different chocolate brands in one candy gift.
Wilbur Chocolate - of course I’ve talked about my favorite chocolate before. What’s cool is that it’s not that expensive, even for their top of the line pacakges. My favorite is the Bud filled Milk Bottle ($16.09) but they also have the following Super Assortment in a box ($49.99), Tier of Treats ($63.79) and the more cost efficient selections like the Crock ‘o Buds ($26.99) and the Cocoa Mug ($10.99). You can’t order online, you have to either fax or call it in (800)2WILBUR. (My reviews here.)
Candy All Year Round
Candy of the Month Club from Candy Warehouse - three levels: Bazooka Joe, Gruffi Gummi Bear and The Thurston Howell Chocolate Package.
Seventy Percent has a chocolate tasting club where they send you a different 70%+ chocolate every month. Chocolate Connoisseur’s Club includes three bars (or more) plus tasting notes for each of the featured items. Based in the UK, they have access to chocolates that I’ve never heard of. Prices start at 13.95 pounds per month plus a 3.95 pound surcharge for non UK addresses. Without making a huge committment you can also pick up one of their “Chocolate Hampers” which feature incredible selections.
For Stockings / Gelt
For more stocking stuffers check out Cost Plus World Market or some similar store in your area. Ours carries not only a huge selection of international foods and candies but also gift kits, baskets for making your own and tins of retro candy, nostalgia items and of course cute stuff. Their prices are far and away more affordable than someplace like Williams Sonoma or Crate & Barrel but probably the same stuff.
Other Gift Guides
UPDATE: Here are a few things I left out!
Plush Puffs (reviewed here) is featuring a great new gift basket that allows you to pick your assortment of three packages of their gourmet marshmallows. $27.99 (but there are gifts for all price ranges).
Yum Boxes ($48 for a set of 8) - I’m not sure if this is a gift idea or an idea for your next party. They’re cool little invitations for parties that include candies and handy mailing boxes. They’re pricey but maybe something you can custom make at home.
Regular reader Desertwind suggests Allentown’s own Josh Early Candies which looks kinda like a Pennsylvania version of See’s with their black and white logo and focus on nuts, chews & toffees.
Last, I completely forgot Scharffen Berger! I went to their factory last week and was enchanted with their stuff in the gift store. How can you resist their chocolate shirts with the messages: (semi) sweet, (bitter) sweet and (extra) bitter ($14.50). Sassy! Oh, and they have chocolate too. Can I recommend their panned chocolates ...ooh, I already did!
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.