My hit list is history. I plowed through the show floor today with my list of missions. Sadly there are many items that are not checked off, but a good number of them I can take care of through email or perhaps at the Fancy Food Show in January.
Jelly Belly has a couple of new products. The fun new one that you’ll seen in stores starting in the new year is called Bean Boozled. Lots of folks have been playing a game called Jelly Bean Roulette where you mix regular Jelly Belly and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans (you know, those Harry Potter themed beans that come in disgusting and uncommon flavors like sausage, pickle and earwax). The game is to eat a bean without looking at which one you take with the chance, eat it and not spit it out. This new twist in Bean Boozled is that the beans are in pairs that look exactly the same. You might pick a black one, it could be licorice but it could taste like skunk. Some of the pairs are less risky ... you might get berry blue but it might be toothpaste. Others are downright evil like the one that might be peach ... but it might be vomit. Fun times for car trips!
The last day of a trade show, especially All Candy Expo is particularly difficult. Many people leave early and of course the samples are sparse and those who are at their booths are as exhausted as those who have been trudging around for three days. There’s a free-for-all atmosphere that makes it hard to have a real conversation about products, trends, packaging, ingredients and availability because there are so many attendees who are just grabbing things (literally) away from you as you talk. I feel really bad for the candy companies sometimes. It’s this issue that made it hard for me to get the essential information that I needed. But then again, I need to remind myself that it’s really not about the press, it’s about getting their products into stores.
I tasted quite a few things today, some that I was very pleased with:
Aunt Sally’s Original Creamy Pralines are done in the New Orleans’ style. It’s a creamy, kind of fudgy sugar and cream base that melts in the mouth. I tried the Bananas Foster version and have some samples or their traditional.
Emily’s Chocolates - they have cute and spare design on their packaging, which lets me really focus on the chocolate. They make a nice line of panned nuts and dried fruits. Everyone’s doing a dried cranberry these days but I have to say that theirs may have been the best I tasted this week - juicy and bursting with flavor with a nice coating of good dark chocolate.
Michel Cluizel was showing some wonderful dark chocolate, as usual. They’re a bean to bar company that also makes bonbons and other confections. A rarity. I was pleased to taste their 99% cacao truffle. Seriously ... it’s all chocolate in the couveture (no soy lecithin either) and a ganache center has, of course, rich cream in it. I can’t tell you the experience. Unlike eating cacao nibs, which are, you know, 100% cacao, this was smooth, creamy without that dry, acrid feeling on the tongue. Intense! Jacques Dahan, of Cluizel also told me that Cocoa Bella is preparing their new “World’s Best Box” so maybe it will make the grade (if it doesn’t, I really want to see what surpasses that!).
I ate a LOT of licorice today. I’m working on pulling together a big roundup of the licorice scene. I tried Kookabura’s new chocolate dipped as well as Kopper’s ... both are great, but I really loved the darkness of the Koppers. I also stopped by one of the importers, Gerrit J. Verburg Co. Mr. Verburg was wonderfully patient with me as I tried about a dozen different kinds, a few were salmiak but most were traditional. I tried one Italian-style that has bay leaf in it that was indescribable but wholly wonderful (for licorice lovers, that is). I need to do a lot of work on my licorice tasting.
Albanese makes some wonderful Crunchy Bears that I reviewed before but I went for their panned sweets today. I tasted their chocolate covered pretzel poppers. They were little, smaller than a malted milk ball covered in really nice dark and milk chocolate. A winner in my book.
The big business news on the floor was a swirling rumor starting on Sunday night that Brachs (which is owned by Switzerland-based Barry Callebaut and has been “on the market” for a while) was purchased by Farley’s & Sathers. It’s definitely happening. Callebaut was looking to get out of the hard candy (I guess they tried to expand Brachs chocolate line, but didn’t make much of an impact on the crowded American market). I stopped by the Brachs booth, but we didn’t talk about that, I just picked up some of their new Soda Poppers, which are soda flavored hard candies that have real fruit juice in them.
I also ran into Katie Das of Das Caramels when I went to hang out at Chuao for a while (and beg for one their pretty little purse packages for their ChocoPods which were in the press room but disappeared by lunchtime the first day). She was so sweet, as I expected after our wonderful email exchanges, and was happy to tell me that they’ve changed the wrapper on the caramels to a thicker waxed paper that no longer sticks to the caramels (which was one of my, um, sticking points).
Other things I’ll tease you with right now that I picked up (forgive me if I don’t have the proper naming of the products as I’m going from memory):
Niederegger has a new Espresso in a long version instead of a bar. This new format is much like the loaf that they do, which promises a larger proportion of marzipan to chocolate. I’m looking forward to it. I gushed at the booth that Niederegger has changed my mind about marzipan. (I also had a great marzipan ball at Koppers ... I have no idea what I ate as a child that gave me such a bad impression!)
Pop Rocks has introduced a new Pop Rocks Chocolate Bar and I got my hands on one! I only got one, dangit, but I’m excited because they said that it’s premium chocolate ... something to look forward to.
I spent about a half an hour at the Koppers booth. Gorgeous candy, I love the inventiveness and personality of everything they make. The colors created a serious, giddy overload for me. I tried dark chocolate covered ginger, whiskey cordials, licorice pastilles, chocolate covered licorice, matcha dusted almonds, lavender savoury chocolate, rose savoury chocolate, mocha pastilles ... and probably lots of other things I can’t even remember. Leslye Alexander, who is the creator of the riot of confection, showed me some of the other colors that the Milkies come in, creating a beautiful palette with five colors ... four different greens and a brown that just make me want to get married all over again just so I can have a huge vase of those as a centerpiece at each table at the reception. (She also helped me to fill a bag of dextrose goodies at Concord Confections ... I know she thought I was nuts to want the little bones and fish shaped candies after her couture crafted confections, but I’ve been obsessed with actually grabbing a baggie of their stuff since coming to the show last year.)
Melville’s has been expanding their line of Honey Spoons, which I really need to write more about. They still carry the traditional clover and tupelo honey version and are branching out into pomegranate, lavender and then some other fun caramel flavors. Their traditional line of barley sugar pops remains one of my favorites, so I’ll have more on that as we get closer to the winter holidays.
I keep meaning to write about Gimbal’s Lava Balls, which are a hot cinnamon ball, rather like a jelly bean (after all, they make jelly beans). I got a full package of them, so look forward to that and some notes about their Licorice Scotty Dogs.
Bogdon’s, who make the lovely Reception Stick (a crisp peppermint stick dipped in dark chocolate) are now making Chocktail sticks, which are flavored for cocktails like Mojito and Cosmo. They were really nice, though I’m not sure I’d put them in my drink, it’s fun to have a little sassier candy center like a lime/mint or orange/cranberry like that.
Okay, that’s all I can write today! (Isn’t it enough?) I’m hopping on a plan shortly and I’ll have more later this week after I get some sleep and perhaps eat a decent meal. Thanks to everyone who has visited this week, I really wish I was able to write as much as I wanted, I was so torn, but I know that the priority had to be spending as much time at the All Candy Expo because I can always write later.