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Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Partying with the Sugar Crowd

Last night I went to a party.

It was hosted by Salvatore Ferrara II ... the man behind Ferrara Pan and those fantabulous Lemonheads and the latest generation of the panned candy empire of Chicago.

I wasn’t on the guest list, but I was lucky enough to be invited along by Jon of CandyFavorites.com. The night just got better from there.

The party was lovely, held at Fulton’s on the River. The spread of food looked incredible and I loaded up a plate of shrimp immediately. It was one of those parties with music and nice looking people and some women dancing on top of boxes to the smooth tones of the live band. (The band was actually pretty odd, there was one guy on drums in one room, and another guy with a keyboard in a different room, and in the opposite corner was a saxophonist. It was like they were collaborating via cellphone or something.)

imageAfter a plate of shrimp I hooked up with my sponsors for the party, which is good because no one had on a name tag at the party, so I couldn’t tell who anyone was.

A drink and some chatting and I met one of the big confectionery brokers from Pittsburgh, Keith from J. Carrol & Associates. He was fascinated and perhaps a bit confused by what I do. Frankly, I have a hard time understanding it myself, so communicating it to others can be tough. There were a lot of questions. Part of it is that I don’t have a “business model” or clear goals for what I want to accomplish at All Candy Expo. I just wanted to come here and get a sense of the candy industry. Well, Keith was charmed by the notion that I write about candy every day from the consumer standpoint. He ran off somewhere and returned with three men:

First, it was the host of the party himself, Sal Ferrara. At his side was Mitchell Goetze, who makes Goetze’s Caramel Creams and Cow Tales. (Goete’s has been around for 111 years!)

Mr. Ferrara seemed mystified at what I wanted from the candy industry and sat me down in front of them and had me do my pitch. I had a drink, and though I was feeling very happy, I’m certainly worried that I was making a bad impression and perhaps not portraying this blog properly. Or maybe the concept of Candy Blog actually more elusive than I thought. Ultimately, I don’t know what I want. I didn’t expect to meet Mr. Ferrara on the first night of the Expo.

But I told him what I thought anyway. I told him he should make grapefruit lemonheads. He took my card and said he would.

No really!

Okay, there was lots more conversation than that, and he also took me to get another drink and we ran into Michael Rosenberg of Promotion in Motion, which doesn’t sound like it, but it’s also a candy company. They were pushing the new Creamsicle Orange & Cream candy twists out on the Expo floor, I’ll have to look at those today. 

I held my own, as far as I can tell, I’m not going to become a mouthpiece for the candy industry, I just want to give my objective evaluation of their products and then my opinions on my experiences with them. I wasn’t afraid to tell Mitchell Goetze that I didn’t like the Strawberry Cow Tales. (But I didn’t tell Mr. Ferrara what I thought of Narbles.)

What I am looking for is access. I’m looking for information and perspectives. Yes, money would be nice, but I don’t want to lose my independent voice (and I don’t think you, my readers, want that either). Right now Candy Blog is a labor of passion, there is no profit in it. It’s all love now.

Chime in .... how do you want to see Candy Blog grow? Factory tours, candy history, more high-end chocolatiers, commentary, politics, economics, nostalgia, photography, essays, interviews?

(Note, that’s not one of the cocktails I had last night ... just an illustration of my mood this morning.)

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:58 am     All Candy ExpoNewsComments (18)

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Impressions from the Floor

I’m finally back in my hotel room and I’ve downloaded my photos and dumped out my sample bag for the day.

I’m dazed. Literally ... to the point where I’m slightly dizzy. I’m probably just tired. Probably? Definitely!

The show floor is huge and wonderfully colorful. The booths are in a great linear pattern that makes it relatively easy to navigate, but I got lost and I don’t think I did all the rows completely. But that’s why I’m here for three days.

I picked up a lot of samples but tried to focus on a few things that I’d read about or wanted to try. I tried not to eat too much on the show floor, but I did a terrible job of eating properly.

image

In all fairness, I did try to start the day right (as suggested by desertwind). I met my husband for breakfast (as he is also in town for work) but my eggs arrived at the table so salty that I wanted to spit them out upon the first bite. I sent them back, but there was no way they’d be remade in time, so I just downed a little yogurt smoothie (more sugar than I wanted with my protein) and some toast.

I went to a marvelous session this morning about high end chocolate and the health benefits which I’ll post more about later.

Out on the show floor I did my best to seek out nut products for sampling in the first hour, finding some excellent cashews and then some panned peanuts.

Here are a few things that I tried (and I’ll try to get photos later on):

Golden BonBon Soft Nougat - yes, it’s turrones or French nougat ... whatever country it is that’s making it, I’m in love with it. They had a great selection of flavors and I loved the Orange and Maple. A good honey hit. Not as good as the Nougat de Montelimar, but hey, if I could get this stuff on a regular basis, I’d be a happy candy blogger.

Dreamers - high milk content candy chews that provide 8% of your calcium. Sweet and chewy, they don’t taste at all like a calcium supplement - more like an extra creamy Tootsie Roll.

Hershey’s Peanut Butter Kisses - yes, they’ve been on the market for a while, but I hadn’t tried them. And apparently they’re so successful they’re going to stay. I wasn’t as fond of them as I was of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs (the little football ones) for Easter. The center of these Kisses is more emulsified than a Reese’s cup. Wonderful smooth quality with a satisfying hit of salt ... but lacking in that crumbly thing that I dig.

Bubble Chocolate - I’m going to have lots more to post about these guys, but this looks like it may be a big hit. I’ve written about quite a few aerated chocolates before, but this is by far the highest quality stuff. The cocoa content on the dark chocolate is satisfyingly high and of course the aeration gives it a light texture that allows the flavors to come through. There’s even a coffee version that I think might be my favorite.

Koppers - amazing booth (I hope I can go back and photograph it). I got to try so many different morsels. My favorites at the moment are the “savouries” line that incorporates herbs and florals. The very spicy cayenne that I got in NY is part of this line but they had black pepper (awesome), orange blossom, lavender, rosemary, and salt. I hope I can spend more time there tomorrow with the woman who is the next generation of the company. Fascinating stuff.

Yummy Earth - organic lollipops. Simplicity itself. Really flavorful lollipops. I had an orange one and chatted for quite a while with one of the sales guys and have an array of samples for later tasting. I’m hoping these will be available at Whole Foods soon.

Chocolate Dipped Pirouline - it’s about time! Pirouline has come out with several varieties of their filled wafer sticks dipped in chocolate. They’ll give those Nestle Stixx a run for their money!

I picked up lots of samples, including some other kinds of popping candies, different flavor versions of Mike & Ikes, more Rockaletas (what was I thinking?), the new Snickers Xtreme and some Jelly Belly.

The sad thing is that I tucked some candies into my bag and they’re not well marked and I have no clue where they were from at this point. Maybe reconstructing my path and looking at my photos will help.

(I’ll try to link up some of these items a bit later on when I get home.)

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:00 pm     All Candy ExpoNewsComments (9)

What I Want to See

Now that I’m in the “press lounge” and have some internet access, I thought I’d backtrack for moment about what I’m planning on focusing on today.

Monday was so energizing and exciting but it was also a great way to ease me into things.

I got settled in and was able to go to three sessions and then the general welcome reception.

I ran into some candy buddies (Chris from CandyWarehouse.com, his wife and two partners, Dave and Karl Hoff) and I think I made some new friends.

As part of my press packet, I got an update on the new products being introduced at the Expo. Here are a few things I have my eye on:

Botticelli Belgian Chocolate with Omega3s - called Choco-Omeg, they’re formulas and flavors that have dietary supplements added in without sacrificing taste.

Ghirardelli Intense Dark Gourmet Bars - a 72% cacao bar and three new 60% cacao flavored bars called Citrus Sunset, Toffee Interlude and Espresso Escape.

Jim Beam Chocolate Bourbon Fudge - yep, bourbon and fudge, what more do I need to say?

Snickers and Snickers Almond are being given limited edition runs again in dark chocolate.

Bubble Chocolate - aerated chocolate. It’s about time we had some here in the States!

Au’Some Fruit Juice Sour String - super sour strings fortified with vitamin C and other supplements in an array of flavors and co-branded with “Florida Naturals (the orange juice people).

Tung Toos - yes, you can give your tongue a tasty temporary tattoo.

Candy Logs - compressed dextrose logs that you can build with. Flavors will include banana, strawberry, orange and blue raspberry.

Crunchy Gummies from Albanese Confectioners - you’ve probably seen a version of these if you go to the candy stores in the mall that have the bulk bins. These will be made right here in the US and come in bear and worm shapes.

Choco Rocks Gold Nuggets - candy coated chocolate that looks like rocks from Kimmie Candy.

Hershey’s Sweet & Salty Granola Bars - I’ve been wondering why no one has a more savory snack bar. Hershey’s is introducing a bar with pretzels, peanuts, oats and crisped rice that’s salty and then dipped in chocolate.

Honey Roasted Peanut Roca from the Almond Roca people, Brown & Haley.

Snickers Xtreme Bars - this is a regular Snickers without the nougat, which as already debuted in the miniature variety pack this summer. It’ll come in full size bars as a limited edition product this fall.

Stay tuned ... I’ll pick up samples and have more to report soon!

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:06 am     All Candy ExpoNewsComments (6)

Happy Hippos

Look, they’re little candy bars shaped like hippopotami! How can you not want one?

The first thing I thought of, of course, is the children’s board game, Hungry Hungry Hippos! Except in this case, you eat the hippos instead of the hippos eating marbles.

image

Why are they Happy Hippos?The candy is basically a formed wafer shell filled with a hazelnut cream (think Nutella) and partially covered in a white coating. It comes in two varieties - Biscuit (unwrapped) which is all vanilla and milk and Cacao (wrapped and smashed) which is half hazenut/milk filling and half chocolate paste. Wouldn’t you be happy if you were filled with hazelnut paste?

The Biscuit one reminded me a lot of the Kinder Bueno I tried last year, but not quite as chocolatey. The appeal is certainly the little look of the hippo as you bite off his head.

The Cacao has a much richer flavor set with the addition of the chocolate cream. It’s a little sticky and not quite as tasty (at least in recollection) to the Kinder Bueno. The crunch of the wafer shell is pretty awesome though. If you like KitKat’s little wafers and wish there were more in there, this might be a bar to seek out (or its cousins - Kinder Bueno, Duplo or Tronky).

Here’s a place to get them online. Here are some other Hippo links too: a photo gallery of Happy Hippos and another review (scroll down a little on the page) from Pete Glover.

Name: Happy Hippo
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Ferrero
Place Purchased: gift (thanks Joz!) and Mel & Rose
Price: $.79
Size: unknown (about .5 ounces)
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Nuts, Cookie, Ferrero

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:55 am    

On the Floor!

I’m on the floor of the All Candy Expo!

They have internet kiosks positioned around for folks to check their email or to look at company websites.

I’ve done about 1/3 of the floor, just walking it and glancing at the booths - taking reference photos for later posts. I’ve only talked to four companies ... because they’re so nice and welcoming.

Any nervousness I had about coming here is completely gone and it’s all exceeded my wildest expectations.

I hope to get my internet issues resolve, and as William suggested, if I can’t log on at the hotel, there is a Panera with free wifi about a block from there so I can pop over and post some photos with the posts.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:12 am     All Candy ExpoNewsComments (2)

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