Tuesday, February 14, 2006
We all have Valentines stories and I’ll wager that a good many of them involve candy of some sort. The holiday is inextricably tied to the motto “sweets for the sweet.”
There are lots of stories about Valentines on the news, whole TV specials on the Food Network and of course blog entries. You don’t need me telling you about the history of the heart-shaped box or give you a profile of a man who collects Victorian Valentines. This is the one day where you can get your sugar fix anywhere and everywhere. And I hope you do, because days like this are pretty few and far between.
In a way, CandyBlog.net isn’t about any of that. I’m about candy every day and everyday candy.
That said, this is a good time to talk about Candy Season.
I know I’ve mentioned Candy Season quite a bit. Basically there are four major Candy Holidays in the United States and it starts with Halloween. Then there’s Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter. Candy Season happens to also coincide with cooler weather, which is good for chocolate treats.
Candy Season is a time of great plenty for candy ... limited editions, special shapes and colors and of course sales. Indulgence in candies is perfectly acceptable and encouraged. But what’s best is the fact that candy is packaged for each holiday and quickly becomes dated. Which is great on November 1st, December 26th and of course, tomorrow, February 15th. Half off days.
The candy is just as good (if not better) when it’s cheap. Maybe you buy something you’d never tried or twice as much. Valentine’s candy is even better because it’s cute and often meant to be shared.
While this is supposed to be a day for Lovers, when I was growing up Valentine’s was celebrated in our household as a purely candy holiday, a holiday of giving, usually smaller gifts like mini-Christmas stockings.
Usually my mother gave each of us children a little box of candy. It was usually a heart shaped box of Russell Stovers from the drug store (and of course I’d promptly trade my chocolate covered cherry for a nut cluster or caramel with my brother or sister). But one year, for some reason, she went above and beyond. She went to real chocolate shop in the city and picked out a custom tin for each of us with a specific mix. Mine was full of caramels, chocolate covered nuts and coconut creams and not a single cherry in the mix. I kept the tin for years, putting my tips in there and usually spending the money on candy (my brother thought all the cash was in my Tootsie Roll bank ... hah!).
I’ve certainly gotten plenty of other candy gifts for Valentines since then. Even a goofy little box of Necco conversations hearts are always welcome. I know it sounds hokey, but it is the thought that counts and when someone thinks of buying me candy and they don’t present me with a box of chocolate covered walnuts, cherries and marzipan ... it’s all good. It’s all love.
And I’m gonna love stopping at the store(s) tomorrow. That’s when you can expect some special things on CandyBlog.net. Only one more Candy Holiday to go after this before the end of the season!
There are a lot of new Hershey’s Kisses out. Some of them are natural progressions of the classic milk chocolate morsel. Dark Chocolate and their sassy purple foils are one of those and of course Hugs with their almond centers. Some of the new Hershey’s Kisses sound like pre-existing products in the Hershey’s repertoire. When I heard about the Caramel Kisses, I thought, “Aren’t those just Rolos?”
Rolos have been around in the United States since 1971 and I think I remember their introduction. I also remember some of the other advertising campaigns, including the Rolo song (You can roll a Rolo to your pal/it’s chocolate covered caramel ... you can roll a Rolo to your friend/it’s chocolate covered caramel from end to end). They’ve never held much interest for me, I enjoy eating them with other things, like pretzels or apples, but not just as a treat by themselves.
The Caramel Kisses are soft, flowing caramel in a molded chocolate shell shaped like a Kiss. Rolo is a soft but chewy caramel in a molded chocolate shell shaped like a tall disk.
The chocolate on the Caramel Kiss is sweet and likable, with a fair amount of grain and that inimitable Hershey’s tang to it . The caramel is flowing and sweet with only a slight toasted sugar note to it. The vanilla is rather chemical in nature. They’re a good size and have a good proportion to the elements.
The Rolo has a very sweet chocolate outside, with a fair amount of grain and a sort of “graham” taste to it. The caramel inside is pleasingly soft but not messy and flowing. It’s chewy without pulling on the teeth. It doesn’t have much flavor to it, not much of a toasted sugar note, but it’s smooth and milky. They smell of sugar and fake vanilla.
Frankly, neither of these candies float my boat. I know that in a Head-to-Head the battle is supposed to be fierce and the winner takes a huge prize, but I’m just not fond of either of these candies enough to purchase them again. Instead it’s one of those board games that you start and it gets so complicated or boring that you just agree to wander away.
Monday, February 13, 2006
Sometimes it’s packaging that keeps me coming back to a product line.
I just love these little cans and medallions of chocolate. I’m not fond of the price, but in this case it was a gift. It’s the last of the flavors from Splendid Specialties that I needed to try. Tea is pretty high up there as a flavor in my Pantheon.
The disks of chocolate are wrapped in orange foil and stamped with a little leaf emblem. The chocolate is sweet and milky and has a strong but still soft orange component. The black tea flavors come from actual black tea leaves in the chocolate. These aren’t terribly distracting from the smooth quality of the chocolate but they do provide a fair amount of grit from time to time.
What I appreciate about this combination is that there’s no clove in there. Most orange/tea combos end up with clove in the mix, which I just don’t like.
The tea flavors linger in the mouth in a good way, but I think I still prefer the Jasmine one I tried first last spring. The packaging makes it ideal for carrying on trips because it can’t get crushed easily. Or perhaps put it in a picnic basket - there are six pieces in each little can and it’s resealable. I wish Splendid Specialties would tackle dark chocolate. I think all their flavors would be equally compelling mixed in some smooth and bitter Belgian chocolate. But let’s face it, this is special occasion chocolate, at $3.00 - $3.50 for ounce and a half, I’d rather get a Dagoba bar.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Everyone’s talking about Valentine’s candy. But I thought I’d give you a taste of a few other seasonal treats instead. Yesterday it was candy to watch whales by. Today it’s Olympic candy. A friend of ours, Matt, was working in Torino for the Winter Olympics on the Canadian Pavilion and just returned. He was thoughtful enough to bring back some candy, and this Caffarel Gianduia is “officially” branded Olympics merchandise (it even has a hologram seal!).
These little cuties are packed in a clear cello bag, each piece wrapped in gold foil, marking the Torino 2006 Olympics. The pieces are shaped like little old lady handbags and are about two bites each (or you can put it all in your mouth, don’t let me stop you).
Caffarel is the chocolate of Torino, so it’s a natural fit. And if I do say so, I think this is a sporty chocolate. What I found particularly fascinating while browsing the Caffarel site was the story of how they invented this gianduia chocolate. Back in the 1860s cocoa was rationed, so Caffarel figured out a way to create a chocolatey confection that didn’t feel skimpy. This gianduia contains 28% hazelnuts! The wondrous thing about combining the chocolate with hazelnuts is the soft feel it creates on the tongue. It’s sweet, without masking the chocolate and nut flavors. But very sticky, consider this the Italian version of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.
I was also happy to try these because the last Caffarel bar I had to try had bloomed and I’d heard that this was an excellent Italian brand. I can see why now. Tasting these little morsels has also made me crave their darker sisters called Gianduiotto Fondente, which is made without milk.
If you’ve ever had Ice Cubes and are looking for a more sophisticated version, especially one without the addition of hydrogenated oils, this might be it. Soft, nutty and sweet with that slight cooling sensation that makes me pop another one in my mouth, just to make sure they all do that. It’ll be a sad day in my house when these are gone, and that’ll probably be soon, I can’t risk them melting in this freaky heat wave we’ve got going on in Los Angeles right now.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:40 pm
Friday, February 10, 2006
When I was in college I would pick up a quarter pound of mixed color Swedish fish at a little coffee shop on campus. They would put them in a crisp white paper bag and I learned that I had some sort of special power that I could pull out any color on demand without looking. It was like I could see colors with my fingers, or maybe my hands had a nose. Anyway, the best part of this trick was that people would like to see me do it, and I would make them provide the bag of fish. I had a rate of about 80% correct guesses.
This new Aqua Life set makes my old trick irrelevant as this mix has a different shape for each color. Unlike other red flavors that I don’t care for (cherry), the red Swedish fish is something else, I’m guessing loganberry. Also, there are two new flavors/colors in the fish family: blue and purple.
Yellow (Lemon): Starfish
All of the candies were soft and chewy and the flavors were solidly good. They’re smooth, sweet and fragrant without much of a tart bite. They tend to stick to your teeth, but not in a tooth-yanking way. The shapes are also fun and easily identifiable, which makes them fun for kids (as if you really need to do anything to make candy fun for kids).
It’s interesting to note that the Swedish confectioner, Malaco, that originally made these invented them for the American market. Which explains why the fish have “Swedish” stamped on their backs (instead of Swedensk or whatever the Swedish word for Swedish is). They’ve only been around since the mid-seventies, but it’s one of those candies that has a timeless feel to it.
The reason I was drawn to them in the first place is because of my whale watching trips. I’ve been taking little candies with me (we’ve had a lot of kids on the boats lately) which help to calm queasy stomachs. I was hoping to find something that fit with the sea adventure theme and these fit the bill (I’ve been carrying individually wrapped lifesavers as well). If I can find them in bulk, I might buy a pound and carry them in a little ziploc bag so the kiddies can pick their favorite shape.
The package states that these candies were made in Canada by Cadbury Adams but licensed from MalacoLeaf, Sweden. So, are they Canadian fish?
I would have given them a 10, but there were some manufacturing defects in my bag, with some overstamps and some little bits that didn’t seem to belong (extra pieces of orange hanging off the seahorse). These may be a good candy for vegetarians (as long as they’re okay with traces of mineral oil) since there’s no gelatin, just corn starch.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.