Wednesday, August 18, 2010
from Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss (link)
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Sometimes I have stuff that I just do a short review on. In this instance, I just want to tell you about some things that I bought and might have eaten. But I’m not going to review them. You might enjoy the photos and of course feel free to add your review in the comments.
What is it? Haribo Cola Wheels
Why I Bought Them: They were pretty and I love cola as a flavor.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I lost them. I know they’ll turn up, but they were just in a paper bag, so they can’t possibly be fresh now. (But I’ll probably eat them anyway.)
What is it? Bourbon Bit Assortment (Banana)
Why I Bought Them: It’s Japanese. A friend at work gave me a bag of them. In the bag are three varieties, I think Vanilla Creme, Chocolate Creme and Banana Creme. But the wrappers are in Japanese, so I’m only guessing.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I haven’t been able to find them in stores and ended up sharing most of them with co-workers. Still, they’re nice little wafer layers with creme covered in decent chocolate.
What is it? Mehlenbacher’s Taffy Assortment
Why I Bought Them: Back in the spring I went to Paso Robles for the weekend. We stopped at the farmers market in the square and I saw a stand for this taffy. It was so cute and I’d actually read about them online before my trip. So I picked up this big assortment. The pieces are huge, like cigars. The flavors also sounded great, especially Root Beer.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I lost them for a while. I have this horrible habit of tucking candy away in boxes or coolers to keep it fresh, but then forgetting that I had it or where I put it. And now it’s too late to eat them for review.
What is it? Marshmallow Bunny
Why I Bought Them: it was cute and I wanted to take its picture.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: It’s just another pink Easter marshmallow bunny made in China. There’s not much else to say any longer about those.
What is it? Hammond’s Peanut Butter Sticks
Why I Bought Them: I got this as a sample at the Fancy Food Show back in January. I’ve been looking for them in stores and online but haven’t seen them.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: It was dang tasty, but again, it’s hard for me to review stuff that isn’t easily acquired. But I’ll keep my eyes out, if I see them again, I’ll buy them and review them for real.
What is it? Raleigh Bar from Xocolatl
Why I Bought Them: This was a sample from the Fancy Food Show. The bar is “a layer of honey pecan chocolate nougat, topped with our signature salted caramel.” I thought it was nice, but didn’t really get a great feel for it (it’s kind of tiny, like a large bonbon).
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I have this thing about bacon. I know there’s no bacon in this, though there’s a version that has bacon in it. I don’t like bacon. I don’t like pork, I don’t even like meat. I really don’t like it to even be adjacent to my chocolate. It’s my own baggage and it’s not fair, but that’s why I haven’t reviewed a lot of Vosges lately and some other candies that I’m sure are great ... simply their proximity to bacon.
What is it? Boyer Peanut Butter Pretzel - it’s a pretzel dipped in peanut butter and then coated in milk chocolate.
Why I Bought Them: I picked these up as a sample. I photographed them.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I can’t find them for sale anywhere. Or at least that was the problem. I ate them but didn’t make notes well enough for review. Then I saw them for sale while I was in Ohio.
What is it? Madame Chocolat crispy rice squares dipped in chocolate
Why I Bought Them: I went to Beverly Hills late last year to visit Teuscher. Since I’d already paid for parking I took a stroll around for other chocolate opportunities. I went into a little shop called Madame Chocolat and picked up a few items. It was expensive stuff (their fine boxed chocolates) but I also got this crazy little item - it’s not like a marshmallow rice crispy treat. It’s more like sugar sweetened cereal, held together with that crispy syrup coating. Then the bottoms are dipped in very, very good dark chocolate.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I dunno.
What is it? Ethel’s Chocolate Beer Chocolates & Caramels
Why I Bought Them: Last year I also went to Las Vegas to the NACS (National Association of Convenience Stores) Show. Instead of seeing Bill Clinton give his keynote address I went to the Ethel’s Chocolates factory and botanical gardens. I bought a few things there (two different assortments plus some hot chocolate) but never got around to reviewing it.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I thought they were good, and the botanical gardens are charming. But I just couldn’t figure out what else to say about it.
What is it? Xocai Power Squares
Why I Bought Them: I picked up two little squares as a sample last year at the Los Angeles Chocolate Salon (held in Pasadena). I’ve been curious about the chocolate brand for a while now, but they’re like Avon, you have to buy them from someone who sells the stuff and they only seem to sell huge quantities. I just wanted to try it.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I don’t like to review stuff that’s not available for retail. (This is the same reason I don’t cover the Dove Chocolate Discoveries stuff.) I’ve also been turned off by the extreme marketing I’ve seen - especially a lot of email I got early on and comments I considered spam on this site. I took that one bite, but I can’t say that it impressed me enough to eat the rest of it or open the second one. But I couldn’t muster much of a review otherwise.
What is it? North Island Caramels - Strawberry, Guarana & Roast Corn
Why I Bought Them: How could I not buy them? Look at those fabulous packages! I actually ordered them online from AsianFoodGrocer.com
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: Aside from the packaging, I didn’t have much to say about them. They’re milky chews, not quite caramels. The flavors were good, I especially liked the guarana, which tasted like a cross between cola and bubble gum. But I took a lot of pictures of them, so it seems like a waste to not share them.
Friday, August 06, 2010
One of the most exciting parts of my recent trip was a visit to a real, working candy factory. I didn’t get a special tour or anything, but I always like to get close to the source of candy - even if it’s through a wall of glass. The Albanese Candy Factory is easy to get to, at the junction of I65 and RTE30. (Though Google Maps took me on a far more direct but slower route through the neighboring Indiana towns from I80.)
The factory is nicely situated with a large parking lot and a charming “house” entry for the candy store and tour portion of the facility. Entering the space, at first it just looks like a huge candy store - probably about 2,000 square feet of not just Albanese Candy, but oodles of other bulk items in bins, novelties and classic favorites from all sorts of manufacturers. At the back of this space is the tour.
No photos were allowed of their candy factory tour, which amounts to walking along one wall of the factory and peering into the active operation. I was able to see the starch molds stacked up and ready to be fed into the depositor, which squeezes out the gummy goo that becomes the bears. The next steps were a bit hidden, but the next conveyer showed the completed gummi bears on a belt being tossed around and bagged up. (The true intervening step is that the gummy bears cure for a while in their molds, are then cleaned of their corn starch coats & given a little shine in a tumbler called a panning machine.) The bears were then bagged up and robots came in and created huge boxes then pallets that were moved around.
The space is just a wide carpeted ramp with a few videos to demonstrate and explain the processes. It’s wheelchair accessible and easy for folks to spend as much or as little time on as they want.
I was really interested in the candy store and I wasn’t disappointed. First and foremost they sold Albanese Candy. By the door were piles of boxes of “seconds” at reasonable prices - a 5 lb box of Peach Rings was $8. Great for a party.
The perfect candy was sold either in pre-packs or at one of the three bulk candy stations. There were plenty of helpful and knowledgeable staffers there. All of the items that weren’t individually wrapped were packaged up by request by the staff. They stood there with their tongs, scoops, plastic bags and gloved hands at the ready for any request. They had every Albanese gummy candy I could think of. The standard items were all $2.49 a pound - a great price as anyone who has been to Dylan’s Candy Bar or other mall bulk candy shop will recognize. (Those shops sell Albanese Candy for anywhere between $9 and $14 a pound.)
I picked out their new Natural Sour Poppers, Gummi Butterflies (now in small and large sizes) and Gummi Fishes. I’ve actually had the last two items before, but I thought I’d try them again, especially because I wanted a standard flavor to try against the natural ones.
The packaging was nice. Just little stand-up zipper plastic bags. What I appreciated was the each one got its own label that did list the ingredients for the product - a rare service when buying in bulk. These little four ounce bags were just $65 cents, quite a deal for getting exactly what I wanted.
The new Natural Sour Poppers are cute little smiley faced buttons of gummis. I have no idea what the flavors are supposed to be, or even how many are in the assortment. I didn’t try to overthink them, I just ate them.
Though there’s no sour sanding on them they’re still quite tangy right from the start. They’re soft and squishy with good, well rounded flavors but very much on the sour side. I could pick out the cherry, lemon, orange and pineapple ones, there might have been green apple, fruit punch, strawberry and maybe watermelon in there.
I liked that there were no weird aftertastes associated with the coloring, though the flavors were less vibrant than the traditionally produced ones. They recognizable “emoticon” shape will probably be quite fun for kids. I also appreciate that they’re the same price as the unnatural gummi products.
I’ve reviewed the stunning-looking Albanese Gummi Butterflies before. I’m not quite sure why I picked them up again, but I was enchanted by their appearance. The wingspan on the large ones is a full 3 inches. The small ones are less than half that, at about 1.33 inches across and the same thickness.
Combining the two sizes was actually more satisfying for me than one or the other. I liked the look of them together, the small ones gave context for the large sized shape (which often get folded up). The flavors are the same charming Albanese cherry, orange, grape, punch and apple. I especially liked the orange ones, but found the cherry to have the robust woodsy notes and not too much red food coloring flavor.
Albanese’s chocolate products are far less well known. I picked up only one chocolate item to review, their Dark Chocolate Caramel Marshmallow. The prices on the chocolate items varied depending on the product itself. They had a good selection of traditional chocolate treats like toffee, fruit creams, caramels and nuts. They’re packaged just like the gummis, into little zipper bags.
The Caramel Marshmallow is smaller than the See’s Scotchmallow. A nicely domed piece, they were in pristine, unmarred condition when I bought them but got jostled around a bit in transit (drove to Chicago from there, then flew back to Los Angeles four days later).
It has a nice dark cocoa scent, a little sweet but woodsy. The bite is not at all like I expected a marshmallow to be. Instead of a latexy puff, it was more of a light fluffed cream. It still had a little chew to it, but not at all like I was accustomed to with See’s or Russell Stover. The flavor was barely sweet and had a light hint of vanilla to it (they use both real vanilla and vanillin in them). The caramel was soft and chewy but lacking much of a salty or burnt sugar punch. The dark chocolate was decent quality and well tempered though not complex. They’re certainly edible but of course don’t hold a candle to my favorite, the Scotchmallow. Since they’re about the same price at $11.99 a pound, I can’t see myself getting these again - even though I know they’re extremely fresh.
The diversity of candy offerings in the store is amazing. They had a huge selection of nostalgic favorites, such as swirl lollipops, candy buttons, wax lips and theater box favorites. I lucked out and found Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy as well as the more recent Doscher’s French Chew. They also had a great wall of individually wrapped candies which included Mary Jane’s, Anise Squares, Honey Drops and all sorts of items from Atkinson’s like their Peerless line. I picked up Angel Mints and my mother found Sen Sen and got a tin of Anis de Flavigny. Prices for the candy that they don’t make there is a little more than a drug store but less than most other candy stores.
The shop is only about one hour outside of Chicago and a half an hour south of Gary, Indiana. So if you’re in the area, it’s a nice place to stop. (Though it’d be nice if they also had coffee, we really needed some to go with our toffee that we ate in the car.)
Albanese Candy Factory Outlet Store
Friday, July 30, 2010
Every once in a while at Whole Foods they have interesting bulk chocolate, usually by the fine cheeses. One of the items they were actually sampling (this was about two years ago) were Belgian Chocolate Marbles. They were milk, dark and white chocolate swirled pearls. Well, flash forward a few years and I was at the Fancy Food Show where I finally found out who makes them: Callebaut.
Callebaut recently started moving into selling directly to consumers, previously they did most of their products for other confectioners or as ingredients. So maybe these will show up in stores. They’re fun little nuggets, pretty and made from good quality chocolate - real cocoa butter in the white chocolate and a strong dairy flavor.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Jelly Belly Confections makes a classic licorice bridge mix that has jelly beans, buttons, mellocremes and pastels. Personally, the pastels (candy coated licorice nibs) are my favorite. But I found this abridged mix that just has jelly beans, licorice bears and buttons at the Dollar General, certainly cheaper but missing the fun stuff.
Still, I love the look of the buttons.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Melville’s Candy has always made stunning molded lollipops, they even have a new line with all natural ingredients. The flavors are more subtle, but then I feel like it’s more like the classic barley sugar pop than an intensely flavored hard candy pop.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Actually, what kept me from eating these was the fact that they were cherry-flavored.
Great idea for a summer party - it’s a generous straw that can be used to sip lemonade and probably even milkshakes (or a float).
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Following on yesterday’s Lucky Stars, this Super Mario mushroom tin with mushroom shaped candies is also made by Boston America Corp.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.