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Los Angeles

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Candy Source: Chocolates a la Carte

Novelty Molded ChocolatesThough my recent vacation was not as candy-filled as some other trips I’ve taken, I did get to stop at an actual candy factory outlet store. Unlike other “company stores” such as Hershey’s and M&Ms World in Times Square, this store features many factory seconds at hugely discounted prices.

Chocolates a la Carte is located in Valencia, CA in a non-descript industrial park just on the other side of route 126 from Six Flags Magic Mountain and a stone’s throw from I5. The store is only open two days a week and for rather brief hours to boot, but the timing of my trip couldn’t have been more perfect. The company makes a wide variety of chocolate products. Many of them you’d never know were theirs, they make little chocolate pieces that are used as accents on desserts and bakery goods or found served with coffee service at fine hotels and restaurants. Some of their other lines are manufactured for other companies as well as for their own brand called Signature Chocolates by Rena.

Odds and EndsGetting into the store is more like a private shopping appointment. We entered the two story reception area and were greeted by the receptionist who called for the marketing person who operates the store. She unlocked the little room which was the sum total of their outlet store. I’m guessing in cooler months it’s probably open more continuously ... it was 98 degrees at 4:00 when we stopped there last week ... not really chocolate weather

The store however, does not disappoint in both its breadth of inventory nor in savings.

The products I was most interested in were the Truffle Tiles (which are so much like the ones at Choxie it makes me wonder) and Truffle Pops (which I saw at Bristol Farms but somehow couldn’t pony up the $6 for the set of 3). But of course there was plenty to choose from.

The truffle tile selection was a little sparse - so I picked up their classic trio collection for $3.50. I was also pleased to find the truffle pops available individually, though only in the Brut Dark Chocolate variety (which I figured was the best anyway) for only $.50 each. Holy Moly! Those puppies are $2 each in stores! So I bought $2 worth (four of them).

Trio of Truffle TilesTruffle Tiles ($3.50 for a box of 3) - well, I’m never as keen on molded truffles as I am on dipped ones, so there’s a strike there (but hey, I’m the one who bought them so I can hardly hold it against them). The proportion of chocolate to filling in the tiles, as you can see from the photo is heavy on the chocolate coating, light on the filling. This means that either the filling is intense or so washed out that it really only contributes a speck of texture. These were middle of the road for me. Not intense, but certainly fresh and fun.

6 out of 10

Truffle PopsTruffle Pops (50 cents each) -  here’s a home run at 50 cents each. The shell is much thicker on these than a regular truffle, but the filling is definitely intense and creamy (and not even runny given its exposure to 85+ degree heat in the evening in my house). While I’m not usually keen on “painted” chocolates, especially ones that have sparkles or luminous metallic colors (mostly because I have no idea what I’m eating) this looked edibly appealing and smelled pleasantly of woodsy chocolate.

8 out of 10 at this price, they’d make a wonderful wedding or party favor, but probably down to a 6 out of 10 at four times the price.

Brandy Disks Brandy Disks ($2.50 for a bag of 6) - these little dark chocolate disks with white chocolate squiggles were exquisite. If I were to go back there and find a huge bag of them on sale, I’d jump at them. The center is a Florentine-style caramelized cookie thing and then the chocolate coating. The center was crisp and crunchy and a little chewy like toffee can be ... a touch of salt and dark caramelized sugar flavors. The dark chocolate offset it nicely. I ate three in one night after I photographed them.

Seriously addictive ... I give them a 9 out of 10.

Dark Salted Caramel TrufflesSalted Caramel Truffles ($3.00 for a bag of 8 “seconds”) - these little guys may not have been the prettiest thing I purchased, but they were tasty. The center was part truffle cream and part caramel. It was a bit on the custardy side, smooth and creamy but without much flavor but a nice little hint of salt. I wasn’t wild about them, but liked them well enough to eat them after the Brandy Disks were gone.

I give them a 6 out of 10.

As for the prices, they’re sometimes less than half the retail price charged on their own website:

Monet’s Palate(TM) Chocolate Couture $26.95 on website - $12.50 in person
Cigar Box filled with 5 chocolate Cigars $29.95 on website - $24.95 in person
20 Piece Truffle Box $18.95 on website - $13.95 in person

Truffle PopsWhile most of the the prices are great, as an outlet store you never know what you’ll find there. Also, some of the items they sell are retail quality, others are slightly flawed. I was told that the truffle pops weren’t quite up to snuff in their bronzy coating, but they looked fine to me. But the little salted caramel truffles did have some aesthetic and functional problems (some of them had little coverage holes in them), so they’re fine for eating but I don’t know if I’d give them as gifts or use them as a wedding favor or anything.

The chocolate they use for their creations is a combination of Callebaut, Guittard and Valrhona (usually marked as such).

I guess the caveat is if you see something while you’re there, buy it because you don’t know if it’ll be there when you go bag. You could probably buy one and try it right there in order to decide if you want more. (Seeing how the Truffle Pops are only 50 cents, how could that be a bad idea?) I would have bought more of the Brandy Disks if I followed my own advice.

Chocolates ? la Carte
28455 Livingston Ave
Valencia, CA 91355
(map)

(661) 257-3700
Store open Wednesday and Friday afternoons (call to confirm)

As outlet shopping goes, I give this an 8 out of 10, I’ll definitely go back when the opportunity presents itself.

Related Candies

  1. Candy Source: Jelly Bean Factory
  2. 2006 Chocolate Gift Guide
  3. Ethel Holiday Assortment
  4. Cha-Cha-Cha Choxie

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:20 am     CandyChocolatierLos AngelesReviewCaramelChocolateCookie8-TastyUnited StatesShoppingComments (2)

Monday, July 16, 2007

L’Artisan du Chocolat

L'artisan du Chocolat BoxFor quite a while I’ve resisted going to visit L’Artisan du Chocolat, one of the few true chocolatiers here Los Angeles. (Jin Patisserie also falls into that list, but is in Venice so it may as well be in Santa Barbara.)

I can’t really explain my lack of interest, perhaps I doubted that they were any good. Perhaps it’s that I don’t like pretty painted looking chocolates ... there’s something about the idea of things that look like acrylic nail tips that just turns me off. But I’ve eaten and enjoyed such things (Christopher Elbow). Perhaps I resented their high prices. But then I have to look at my own hypocrisy of spending about a hundred bucks in one day walking around to three chocolate shops in New York City. There’s something about believing that something good can’t be just around the corner ... how special could it be if you could go there every day?

I went over to 1st Street, which is about two miles from my house and two miles from my office at lunch on Friday. Parking was super simple, so I don’t have that to whine about. The shop just so happens to be right next to Valerie Confections’ (which precipitated the visit) new shop that opens officially today.

Chocolate CounterThe space is charming. A brick facade outside and bright yellow walls and green accents inside. The display case had a decent, if scant, assortment (the Salon du Chocolat was on Saturday and they were going to be closed, which I’m sure prompted the limited inventory). They were advertising their summer flavors in the window, so I made sure to pick out a few of those.

I got a box of nine chocolates (and gave one to my husband of his choice ... raspberry). I wrote down my selections, but not what they looked like so it was a bit of a struggle to figure some of it out (I took a couple of reference photos but even those weren’t much help when it turned out that they weren’t labeled in the case either). Their website offered no key.

Because the team at L’Artisan du Chocolat sells right out of the candy kitchen, I get the feeling that these were all very fresh (and there was certainly nothing in the flavor when consuming them that dissuaded me). I don’t mind a smaller selection if it means that everything meets a high standard. L’Artisan has been known for the past three years or so for their European style of molding and dipping, high chocolate content & fine ingredients along with a special penchant for interesting flavor combinations. I enjoy this with Chuao as well, and while at Chuao I get a rather masculine vibe from the flavors and the whole aesthetics of it, I get a neutral vibe from L’Artisan (and I get a feminine vibe from Vosges).

Four ChocolatesCucumber & Vodka: Dark chocolate shell with a white chocolate cream center. There’s a light fresh flavor of cucumbers and faint little crunch of them in the background. The vodka adds a light alcoholic touch, it’s not a burning feeling, just a light tingle.

Basil: this one was very interesting in the best way possible. The basil was immediately apparent and reminded me of both licorice and basil and rosemary all at once. Fresh and clean and woodsy.

Fennel: a nice little square with an embossed design on the top. The shell is nice and dark and the center is super creamy. I wasn’t getting much in the way of fennel though. Just some grassy sort of flavors. Both fresh herb shapes were really cute and probably my preference for designs (embossed but not painted).

Classic: this was a perfect little sphere, dusted in cocoa powder. It’s soft and buttery and has a slight salty hint (cooca powder often does that for me). A little woodsy, very smooth and satisfying.

Rose Petal: quite floral but not in a soapy way. fresh and with a slight fruity edge, this was not in the least bit soapy tasting like some rose items can be. The ganache was a little custardy, but smooth and not too sweet.

Tomato: fresh and with a slight fruity edge, I honestly wasn’t sure it was the tomato one at all. The ganache was a little custardy, but smooth and not too sweet

Lemon Mousse: this was one of the few that smelled like the flavor it was supposed to be before I even bit into it. The mousse in the center is chocolate (I didn’t know if it was going to be white). It’s definitely a zesty lemon, with little bits of lemon rind in the ganache. A little on the tangy side and definitely lemony. Very satisfying (especially since it was such a big piece).

Pomegranate: pomegranate is one of those fruity flavors that I think goes very well with chocolate, mostly because it has some dark syrupy and molasses notes to it. This one is bursting with pomegranate flavor ... a little like raspberry and a little like rose and a bit of a lemon tang to it.

The 9 piece box was $22 ... probably more than I want to go for on a regular basis. Their website also mentions that they do boxes by the pound as well, starting with a half a pound (I found this was the most cost effective at Recchiuti in San Francisco as well.)

It took about four pieces to sway me ... I’m still not keen on the design of all the truffles, but it’s something I can overlook when the flavors are solid and authentic like this. They’ll get another visit from me, if only because I missed out on quite a few flavors after checking the website.

Shop Exterior    Shop Interior

Other flavors that I didn’t try that were stocked at the shop were: Kalamata Olive, Ginger, Mild Chili, Pina Colada, Maple Syrup with Cinnamon & Cloves, Vanilla, Kumquat and Chestnut. I’m also interested in Caramelized Banana, Spicy Hot Chili Pepper, Lavender, Rosemary, Candied Citrus & Ginger. They were also out of the dark chocolate Three Teas which I’m sure are great.

What I really wanted was a place to sit down and have a cup of coffee or tea with my purchases. Perhaps 1st Street will become a new artisan confection mecca. As a place that’s convenient for me to go and pick up a small assortment (I’d like to just buy three and not have the whole box/packaging thing) I’m going to explore it further. I still am not convinced that it will surpass Chuao as a favorite local chocolatier (their quality is comparable, but the flavor sets are a little different) ... I think only the Caramelized Banana will be able to tell me.

Name: Chocolate Selection
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: L'Artisan du Chocolat
Place Purchased: L'Artisan du Chocolat (Los Angeles)
Price: $22
Size: unknown (9 pieces)
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, United States, Chocolatier, Los Angeles, Shopping

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:24 am    

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Candy Source: Jelly Bean Factory

Jelly Bean Factory StoreEarlier this week I got an email from someone looking for a local source for the Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. In my brief research (I already knew two places that carried them, but did some more digging to be thorough), I found a local store that sells more than Bertie’s Every Flavor, but it seems every flavor of Jelly Belly too!

They’re called the Jelly Bean Factory and have been selling Jelly Belly since the very early years of the brand (Fosselman’s Ice Cream Store was the first place to sell them, then I’m guessing Jelly Bean Factory was the first actual candy store). In addition, they run a webstore called JellyBeans4U.com.

Jelly Bean CounterThe vast majority of their inventory is Jelly Belly. From the beans sold in prepacks, novelties or assortments to the pick-a-mix beans, they’ve got just about everything. They candy counter is just like an ice cream shop, with tubs of each bean on display and you can even request a taste of any flavor you like!

I picked up a box of the Bertie Bott’s. I’ve resisted them until now. I’ve tried a few of the more normal flavors (Soap,  Grass, Black Bepper - all very good) but have avoided things like Sausage (I don’t eat pork anyway), Pickle, Ear Wax and Earthworm. I’m going to see the movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix tonight, so I figured that was an appropriate item to sneak in.

The other items I’ll be sneaking in are some Rum Cordials and they also had some little “overrun sample packs” of different items for $1 (most are about 2 ounces) so I got some licorice pastilles and gummi grapefruit slices. In general prepackaged bulk candy irritates me, because I’d really like to be able to pick my own portion size, but if you want fresh candy, it’s often better to go for the prepack. I don’t mind buying a half pound of the cordials in this instance. But they do let you pick your portions on the Jelly Belly, so they’ve got their priorities and marketing position straight.

Sport BeansThe staff was helpful and friendly. The only caveat is if you want to pay by credit card they have to run next door to the pet shop to run it. In a way I found that charming (I ended up scraping together the $10 in cash for my purchases) but I can see it being a little irritating if you’re in a hurry. 

All Jelly Belly are $6.79 a pound (they’re $8 a pound at the Jelly Belly site ... I’ve seen them cheaper sometimes at the grocery store, but I’ve also found them stale there).

The Original Jelly Bean Factory
927 N. Hollywood Way
Burbank, California 91505
(818) 848-4806
website

Hours: Monday-Saturday 10:30 am - 6:00 pm

Parking is on the street or your can park in the Rite Aid parking lot on the corner and hope they don’t tow you.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:05 pm     CandyLos AngelesFun StuffShoppingComments (2)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Disneyland for Candy Bloggers

Disney Cotton CandyI went to Disneyland last week with my family. This was my niece and nephew’s first visit there and my third (though I never got to go as a child). They had their priorities (meeting the Princesses and Jedi Academy, respectively) and I had mine.

Before going to the park I did some reading about what’s there. I found out that there is a candy store on Main Street called the Candy Palace that has been there since the park first opened fifty years ago. (There are very few candy stores in southern California that can say the same.) They actually make their own candy on site (fudge, chocolate cups, dipped apples, etc.). Of course I fully expected everything to be expensive and I wasn’t disappointed on that front.

So, what can you expect to find at Disneyland?

Candy PalaceFirst, Candy Palace.

The store is themed like an older arcade. The center section of the store features those machines that you put a penny and two quarters into to make a souvenir and pick a stamp to smash into the penny. There were also some old fashioned fortune telling games and nickelodeons. And of course fudge. Lots and lots of fudge.

There are three counters. The center one by the door sells fudge and salt water taffy. Behind that is a short wall of jelly beans (Jelly Belly, I’ll wager). At $12 a pound, they’re pretty pricey, but you can buy a quarter pound, which I suppose isn’t so bad if you’re getting exactly the flavors you want.

At the side counter, by the candy kitchen that faces the street, they sell peanut brittle and dipped apples (candy, chocolate and caramel) along with some other things.

Candy CounterCandy CounterCandy CounterCandy Counter

Then in the back the store opens up and there’s a large center counter with a refrigerated case that sold all sorts of chocolate treats (most made on site). This ranged from chocolate dipped strawberries to chocolate dipped pretzels, caramel cups, rocky road, a few different varieties of turtles and nut rolls and even some sugar free items.

Candy TinsThe rest of the store is devoted to prepackaged items in different themed “brands”. There were the Goofy items which are all non-chocolate like taffy, red licorice, gummi and compressed dextrose. Most were in character shapes. Goofy also had a Pucker Powder dispenser (one of two in the park that I found).  Other items were tins of chocolates (truffles, nut clusters and chocolate covered pretzels). There were items for Pirates of the Caribbean (swords filled with tart candy “treasure”) and Princess items (pastel tarts and lollipop).

Mickey Chocolate BarsMickey Mouse has his own line of chocolate bars (milk, dark and milk with almonds) and lollipops. Prepackaged can be good if all you want is a little pick-me up. You won’t find any other candy in the park ... no Snickers, no Hershey bars, it’s all Disneyland branded sweets.

Prices were pretty clearly marked on most items, which is always a relief. Some were rather reasonable like the chocolate bars at only $1.25 each. Others seemed absurd, such as $4.00 for a little clear 2” plastic cube with some gummi bears in it for $4.00.

The clerks were super-friendly and patient, as you’d expect at Disney, but it’s worth noting. They were also knowledgeable about the products ... except the woman who ended up ringing me up couldn’t find the little SKU to ring in some of my items from the cooler case ... but we found it! Around the corner in the same building is a little ice cream shop as well, and outside of that a small plaza with tables to consume your sweets. I had a $2.69 bottle of water for the day and snacked on a soft pretzels (shaped like Mickey, natch). Mary Poppins and Bert came by for a while and danced to the ragtime piano music and signed autographs (we suspect that the Mary Poppins was the same cast member we met earlier as Princess Belle).

Other stores ...

Pooh CornerPooh Corner is over in Critter Country tucked away in a corner and themed the Huny Spot. The store was nearly deserted when I went in there the first time, it was after lunch and I guess everyone was back on the rides. They have a smaller candy counter that has the same chocolate dipped goodies as well as a selection of cookies. There was a large display of Goofy Candy, the sour, Pucker Powder dispenser, and of course the lollies.

I liked the Pooh Corner shop a bit better, even though the selection wasn’t as wide. Perhaps it’s because it wasn’t as mobbed, or maybe it’s just because I like Pooh (and the Tao of Pooh).

Disney Lolly StandNow, those are just the two actual candy stores. Don’t get the impression that’s the only place you can find the stuff! Just about every store I went into had some version of the lollipop display. They offered the unicorn style twisted pops, swirly pops with Mickey or the Princesses on them and some large sour pops in the Goofy brand. There were also some Mickey Head shaped pops that came in little bundles that I picked up.

There are also cotton candy vendors everywhere (though none to be found at 9:30 in the morning, I guess Walt Disney doesn’t think it’s appropriate breakfast fare). Cotton Candy is $3 and sold in bags. I never found a cotton candy maker. Though the stuff sold in these little carts was certainly fresh, half the fun is watching them twist it all up and that wonderful burnt sugar smell.

Some tips:

  • If you want some candy, don’t try to buy as you are leaving the park. The lines are just fanatical after 7PM. Of course Disneyland is all about lines, so maybe you don’t mind. If you can carry it around with you, get it early. Or buy it in the afternoon and go back to your car ... of course that takes about a half an hour, so it’s kind of splitting the difference. (I waited in line for about a half an hour as well.)
  • Chocolate Pretzel Ears

  • Look around carefully. There are often several different versions of the same thing, some better deals than others. There were bags of chocolate dipped pretzels that were much less expensive than the box that I ended up purchasing ... however, they were regular pretzels, not the Mickey Head ones.
  •  

  • As with all stores that are heavily trafficked, choose your package carefully, probably from the bottom. The items on the top or in the front are often shopworn and well handled. Candies can be broken or melted.
  • Later, I’ll have a roundup of reviews of some actual candy ... how good is something that costs twice the price of stuff found outside of the park? I spent $35 ... how much do you think I got and how much of it was any good? As for the stores, I give them an 8 out of 10, for the variety, perky sales staff and cleanliness.

    Here’s the list of reviews:

  • Disneyland Candy Case Chocolates: Mickey Mouse Turtles, Mickey Mouse Chocolate Dipped Pretzels & Milk Chocolate Caramel & Marshmallow Bar.
  • Disneyland Candy Novelties: Mickey Mouse & Winnie the Pooh Candy Keepers & Mickey Mouse Lolli-Pop Bundles
  • Disneyland Wrapped Chocolate Candies: Mickey Mouse Chocolate Bars, Coconut Patties, Disney Spots & Pecan Caramel Cluster

  • Related Candies

    1. Universal CityWalk for Candy Lovers
    2. M&Ms Memorable Moments (Disney)
    3. Disney Branded Chocolate Candies
    4. Disneyland Candy Novelties
    5. Disneyland Candy Palace - Candy Case Chocolates

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:03 am     CandyLos Angeles8-TastyShoppingComments (11)

    Friday, April 20, 2007

    Valerie Lemon Hazelnut Nougat

    Valerie Confections has another seasonal nougat. This one is Lemon Hazelnut Nougat Covered in Dark Chocolate.

    image

    It’s heavenly looking stuff, with a good dark glossy sheen and sparlkling little slivers of candies Meyer Lemons from June Taylor. The chocolate is a buttery smooth dark Valrhona and the nougat itself is studded with organic hazelnuts from Trufflebert Farms.

    Sigh.

    I’m in heaven.

    The price is, well, pricey. But Mother’s Day is around the corner, so if your mum is as nuts for nougat as I am, she might think you appreciate her or something if you were to show up for Sunday Brunch with a box of these. And maybe she’ll let you have a piece.

    I think I was a little more fond of the Holiday nougat, which was orange and almond, but the fresh flavor of the lemon is really refreshing. There isn’t a trace of bitterness in the lemon zest, it’s just pure flavor and the chewy texture.

    UPDATE 4/20/2009: I’ve just finished another box of this. I don’t know if it was the seasonal variation in the candied lemons, but this was divine. The bittersweetness of the chocolate and the bittersweetness of the candied peels was just spot on. I’ve bumped this up to a 10. I had a lot of fine candy around the house to eat, but this was what I kept going for. The price has also come down.

    Name: Valerie Lemon Hazelnut Nougat
      RATING:
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 3 UNAPPEALING
    • 2 APPALLING
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Valerie Confections
    Place Purchased: samples from Valerie Confections
    Price: $40 $36 for a box of 14 pieces
    Size: unknown
    Calories per ounce: unknown
    Categories: Chocolate, Nougat, Nuts, United States

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:43 pm     Comments (7)

    Tuesday, April 17, 2007

    Candy Shopping in Los Angeles

    I buy the vast majority of the candy I review here right in Los Angeles. Nearly all of it is from the normal places where most people buy their candy: Drug Stores, Grocery Stores and Convenience Stores and a few other specialty spots.

    I frequent the following in no particular order:

    Walgreen’s: this chain started popping up in Southern California more than six years ago, but didn’t appear in my neighborhood until the Pioneer Market in Echo Park on Sunset Blvd. closed and they took over the spot. They have a nicely organized candy section with a good variety, regular sales and the store is frequented enough that the inventory turns over quickly. I like it after the various candy holidays as their goods go on deeper sale much quicker. (I got Valentine’s candy for 75% off on the 18th and Easter candy the following Saturday.)

    CVS: This chain just bought out our old chain called Sav-On. Sav-Ons were on and off of my poop list. I’ve bought expired candy there (before I learned how to read the expiration codes), even bloomed chocolate that was supposed to still be fresh and have found their selection a little lacking. CVS hasn’t been around long enough for me to develop an opinion of them yet, but I like how they don’t treat you like a criminal when you try to enter or exit the store, so points there. (They used to have these gates you had to go through with turnstiles to get in and the only way to get out of the store if you weren’t buying anything was to scoot past people in the checkout line.)

    Target: there are several in the area now, each with slightly different layouts and selection. Some of the prices are very good, especially when you find it on sale. They carry their own line of Choxie and can have some incredible after holiday clearances. My favorite one to shop at for candy was in Harbor City and torn down to make way for a newer double-decker model later this year. Holiday clearances can be hit or miss because people make this one of their first stops.

    Von’s: this is not my favorite grocery store, but they do have a rather good candy selection, especially when it comes to mid-range candies and gourmet bars (Ritter Sport, for one). The layout of the store that I frequent on Sunset Blvd. in Los Feliz happens to have a season candy display right at the entry of the store, so it’s an easy stop for me to make on my way home from work. They also seem to carry a lot of limited edition candies.

    Trader Joe’s: this store chain has lots of fans for good reason. Good quality food at great prices. They make you work for it though, with narrow, crowded aisles, difficult parking and long lines. They carry house-brand candies as well as great imported and domestic items at unheard of prices.

    Ralph’s: there are a few locations near to me, but I usually go a bit further afield to a location in Glendale (near the Petco and Cost Plus World Market). They usually have a huge selection of holiday candies (and companion clearance) as well as one of the few bulk candy selections I’ve found in SoCal. I don’t use the bulk bins, only the dump feeder bins (that way I know no one else has been putting their greasy paws on the goodies).

    7-11: the largest convenience store chain in the US, they’re known not only for a location for a quick drink fix, but also their inventory of single-serving candies but also as one of the best sources for limited edition candies. When choosing a regular store, I look for one that has a candy aisle that does not face the large plate glass windows, which can cause chocolate candies to bloom. Prices are steep but if the store has good foot-traffic they candy is always fresh.

    Cost Plus World Market: an import market that features furniture, housewares and food. Their candy selection is excellent, though the freshness is sometimes questionable for the niche candies. Prices can range from reasonable to strangely high. At Christmas they have a wide selection of imported sweeties from all over the world and an equally fun post-holiday sale.

    Specialty Stores:

    Munchies: In West Los Angeles in an orthodox Jewish neighborhood, they have an amazing selection of bulk goods but also a lot of Israeli stuff. Pretty low key place with decent prices. Skip the ordinary stuff here and take a risk on the imported goodies.

    Mel & Rose’s Wine & Spirits: If you’re in the mood for seeing a great selection of high-end chocolate bars & boxed chocolates, check out Mel & Rose’s Wine & Spirits on Melrose Blvd. They also have a huge selection of imported consumer candies from Australia and Europe at decent prices. They’re not far from the Beverly Center and Pacific Design Center just on the border of Beverly Hills.

    The Candy Baron: This is a small chain in California, I found them to be pretty good, they carry a lot of regional favorites and of course bulk goods. They’re in Santa Monica. I don’t recommend a special trip for them, but if you’re down by the Promenade/Third Street/The Pier it might be worth it:

    The Grove and the Farmers Market is a great option for “one stop shopping” in LA. The Grove is an upscale mall attached to the original LA Farmers Market.

    In the Farmers Market there’s a stand called Ultimate Nut & Candy. No great shakes (but they do have good toffee popcorn) but an admirable selection of bulk candies behind the counter along with dipped dried fruits and nostaligic fare.

    There’s also a Fudge & Toffee shop called Littlejohns. I’ve had their fudge, which I think is decent, but their pecan pralines & caramel marshmallow kisses are my favorites. (I haven’t tried their toffee yet.)

    Tucked inside the south east corner is a place called Mr. Marcels - it’s the upscale grocer for the market and they carry quite a few imported candies. Prices are a bit inflated for imported mass-produced goodies, but a good selection and they seem to have a good turnover of product to keep it fresh.

    Also in the compound is Cost Plus World Market (see above) Around the corner from that is a place called Duck Soup that carries regional candy bars and retro favorites.

    India Sweets & Spices: this is a small chain of vegetarian India food served cafeteria-style along with a grocery store. I’ve visited the location in Los Feliz and found a decent selection of European (mostly UK) candy bars. For some reason they keep them in the refrigerator case all year round.

    Asian Sweets:

    Little Tokyo is the ultimate location for candy in Los Angeles not just for Japanese goodies (though that’s the best reason to go there).

    Mitsuwa: a grocery chain, found mostly in California but also a New Jersey location. They have all the standard Japanese fare (Pocky, HI-Chew, KitKat, etc.) plus Hawaiian goodies and some Chinese. Excellent prices, especially given that these are imported. (Most times I get regular Pocky for 99 cents a box.) I go to the one on Alameda and 3rd Street.

    Nijiya Market: a small grocer in the Japanese Village Plaza with an excellent selection of take-away meals, snacks and candies. Good prices, fresh inventory and great location in the heart of the pedestrian area.

    Marukai: clean and bright, excellent selection and location in Weller Court. They also carry a large selection of American consumer candies.

    Fugetsu-Do: Los Angeles’ oldest purveyor of fresh-made Wagashi and Mochi. Red bean, white bean, soy and even peanut butter. They also have a moderate selection of Japanese candy standards.

    Chinatown is also an excellent source of sweets, I’ve not fully explored it though I’ve made plenty of visits.

    Okay, if you live in Los Angeles or have visited, where is a good place to get candy? (I’m still looking for a good store to get bulk candies at a decent price.)

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:44 am     CandyLos AngelesShopping7-1199 Cent Only StoreCost PlusDollar TreeRalph'sRite AidSav-On/CVSTargetVon'sWalgreen'sComments (8)

    Monday, March 19, 2007

    Jelly Belly Deluxe Easter Mix

    DSC09436rI found a great new candy store over the weekend. At the suggestion of a reader (thannks Jenny!) I journeyed to City of Commerce to visit Garvey Nut & Candy. It’s a warehouse, mostly wholesale, but they also sell retail. The bulk (and I mean bulk) of their products are sold in full cases, but it’s cash & carry, so no shipping costs incurred.

    They had a small selection of items that were sold from open boxes. Just about all of it was from their Easter inventory. At FANTASTIC prices. One of the finds was the Jelly Belly Deluxe Easter Mix ... at $2.35 for a 9 ounce bag, it’s unheard of. The Jelly Belly online sells the same bag for $4.99 (in a prettier store, I’ll admit). If you’re planning a big party or wedding and live in the LA area, this might be just the place for you. High end chocolates and mints to bulk wrapped candies to nuts and nut mixes. For the Easter goodies they had the large packages of Peeps of all kinds for 99 cents, jelly beans (all sorts of Jelly Belly seasonal products), deluxe chocolate eggs (fudge, peanut butter, vanilla), baskets, tins and foil eggs by the kilo (some by Madelaine, which are quite tasty).

    You may have to ask them for prices on many items and you may need help finding things. (Their website isn’t very good, so don’t bother.) They have funky hours too: 8AM - 4:30PM on weekdays and Saturday 9-2 (until Easter, then they’re closed on Saturdays until August). I’ll probably head back down there for a look at their Halloween goodies in the fall.

    Garvey Nut & Candy
    6416 Flotilla Street,
    Los Angeles, CA 90040
    (323) 890-5890

    Okay, enough of that, you came here for some candy, didn’t you?
    image

    The Deluxe Easter Mix contains assorted pastel Jelly Bellys, bunny corn, mellocremes, gummi eggs and malted chocolate eggs. (It’s also supposed to contain chocolate eggs, but I picked through the bags to find one that had more malted eggs ... which I promptly ate. If you want a full account of them, check out Sera’s review at Candy Addict.)

    image

    The bulk of the mix seemed to be populated by these friendly fellows: Mellocremes. (Click on the photo for the full shape assortment.)

    They’re flavored lightly: grape, lemon, lime, strawberry and vanilla. The flavors are light (especially light for a company that built itself on extra flavor). I didn’t care for lime at all, but the lemon and strawberry were quite nice. I don’t know which color was supposed to be vanilla (maybe there are white ones, I didn’t have any in my mix).

    imageThis is the Bunny Corn, and it’s pretty much the same recipe as the Mellocreme but a different shape. They tend to be a little firmer and as you might guess, they’re just like Candy Corn. They’re not flavored.

    If the Mellocremes in white taste like this, I might be more fond of them. I rather like candy corn, in small doses.

    There are only two colors on these, which seemed a little skimpy. Candy Corn usually has three colors (orange,  yellow and white). But I guess Bunnies travel light.

    imageThe Jelly Belly website calls these Orange Creme Non-Pareil Eggs, which doesn’t really sound like much fun. So I’m going to call them Crunchy Gummi Eggs. They’re super-cute, with pastel colored crunchy spheres (non-pareils) on the outside and a tangy orange gummi on the inside. They’re larger than a jelly bean, about the size of a foil wrapped chocolate egg that you can often find in Easter baskets.

    They’re much like the Crunchy Bears I reviewed a while back, except these only come in orange, which is fine by me. The gummi is super-soft and the crunchy coating gives it some fun ... it’s the crunchiest thing in the bag. Jelly Belly also makes a slightly related product with the Champagne Bubbles and Berries.

    There were also some Jelly Belly scattered in, they came in Berry Blue, Cantaloupe, Cotton Candy, Island Punch, Lemon, Lemon Lime, Pi?a Colada, Pink Grapefruit, and looked oh-so-coordinated with everything else. (I picked out all the pink grapefruit while shooting the photos.)

    Overall the mix was very pretty, and attractiveness is important with holiday candy. But I wasn’t really that keen on some of the elements (the Mellocremes, especially). It was a good introduction to the whole line of Easter treats, so now I know what to buy in a solo bag - the Orange Creme Non-Pareil Eggs. At normal mortal prices of $4.99 a bag, I’m not that wild about the whole shebang (so they get a 6 out of 10) as a sub-$2.50 find, they’re a 7 out of 10.

    Name: Deluxe Easter Mix
      RATING:
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 3 UNAPPEALING
    • 2 APPALLING
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Jelly Belly
    Place Purchased: Garvey Nuts & Candy
    Price: $2.35
    Size: 9 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 107
    Categories: Chocolate, Malt, Gummi, Jelly, United States, Jelly Belly, Easter

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:08 am     Comments (11)

    Sunday, January 7, 2007

    Candy Source: Munchies (Los Angeles)

    I found a new candy store about six months ago but it’s taken me a while to get back there to fully explore it with photos.

    It’s called Munchies and is located in West Los Angeles selling a very wide selection of candies from all over the world, all Kosher.

    The main feature of the store is their extensive collection of Kosher goodies: jellies, halvah, chocolate covered nuts and fruits (lots of Koppers line) as well as a full selection of Paskesz (from Israel) bars and bags. They also have a decent range of European gourmet bars. For the most part though, it’s not a gourmet shop. It’s a store for plain old candy - a great place to go with kids or to tap into the kid inside of you as you gaze at the yards and yards of bulk bins.

    Prices are pretty good. The bulk bins range from $4.00 a pound up to $10. I picked up:

    Candy Blox (like SweeTarts, only shaped like Legos) - very dense and of course sweet.
    Paskesz Klik malt balls - much smaller than typical malt balls (about the size of a pea ranging to garbanzo beans) super crunchy and a good dark malt and corn flake flavor.
    Chocolate Covered Marbled Halvah a gift for my in-laws
    Cool Cola Hubba Bubba - smells great, I haven’t tried it yet
    Pink Grapefruit Mentos (Kosher) - tastes just like the unkosher ones!
    Koppers chocolate covered candied orange rind & Mandarin cordials - a lot of chocolate and not a lot of orange rind, but a really tasty combination. Fresh.
    Sally Willams Macadamia Nougat - nice soft nougat with lots of chopped macadamias. It’s missing the honey notes I like in the French variety, but very tasty.

    I spent $11.04 for everything.

    The best part was my husband was able to amuse himself in the back corner browsing their rather large selection of Kosher wines.

    Munchies
    8859 West Pico Blvd.
    Los Angeles, CA 90035

    Closed Friday evenings and Saturday until sundown

    They have a website, but I wouldn’t judge the store based on it. It’s a clean store in a charming neighborhood. Parking is likely to be difficult on weeknights (they are open late) but pretty easy on a Sunday afternoon. (If you do want to visit in the evening, park in the public lot behind the Walgreen’s on Robertson & Pico and walk the half a block to the store.)

    (The little gallery module above is a thing I’m trying out, let me know if you like it or if you have technical problems with it.)

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:20 pm     CandyLos AngelesShoppingComments (2)

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