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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Dylan’s Candy Bar and Candy Bars

One of the most talked-about candy stores in New York City has to be Dylan’s Candy Bar. Unlike Economy Candy, Dylan’s is all about display and experience. Also unlike Economy Candy: you pay a premium.

imageLocated on Third Avenue at 60th Street - it’s a tony address - though not quite Park Avenue it is kitty-corner from Bloomingdale’s. If I could compare the store to something it would be FAO Schwartz. The store is brightly lit and on two levels. The street level boasts a large ice cream bar and featured huge Easter displays when I visited. The ceiling fixtures and shelves are candy themed, with large panels looking like some sort of vine of lollipops growing into the ceiling and large rainbow colored candy canes.

Dylan’s Candy Bar sells a huge range of products, both edible and wearable. The big feature, of course, is candy. The cornerstone is bulk candy and the bins are everywhere. They had a huge selection of all the sugar candy you can think of: gummis, Jelly Belly, Dubble Bubble flavored gumballs and licorice. They have chocolate too, from M&Ms (Colorworks), chocolate covered Oreos and malted milk balls as well as their own line of fine chocolates and flavored Belgian chocolate bars.

imageThere were plenty of folks on hand to help out, none of the lines were very long (I expected the place to be crowded before Easter, but I did make sure to go on a weekday at lunch instead of on the weekend). The salesfolk seemed knowledgeable about the inventory too, which is a pretty big accomplishment with such a wide number of products. The prices for the bulk candies ran about $9.99 and they had some funky stuff, not just in the bulk bins but some fun displays. They had a HUGE selection of PEZ and a great big display of favorite candies chosen by famous people on the lower level. (Frankly, I don’t care much what famous people eat ... I’ll probably care when they ask me to do a custom mix.) There’s lots to look at and do in the store and I saw some children running around having the time of their lives (and their parents looked pretty pleased, too).

Their website features quite a few regional candy bars, so I was hoping to find an Idaho Spud, but it seems that they were fresh out. But I was able to find my Nut Goodie there and I also picked up a few other items that I’ll write about soon. There were also some funky items in the bins, like banana flavored gummi bears and a large selection of candy sticks in a wide variety of flavors and lollipops of all shapes, sizes and colors.

imageAs I mentioned, Dylan’s Candy Bar has their own line of chocolate bars, so I picked up a nice assortment. They come in 10 different flavor combinations, but I picked of the little 1.75” tasting squares as an introduction:

Dark Raspberry - it was a nice dark chocolate bar. Not terribly sweet with a good overtone of raspberry essence to it, but none of the tart bite. The berry flavors mixed well with the earthy and fruity notes of the chocolate itself.

Dark - glossy and dark, there was no indication of the cocoa content here or on the website. It was nice, a little on the smoky side, but very smooth and a tad bit sweet.

Hazelnut - this bar is in the Guanduja-style, the first ingredient is hazelnut paste and the rest of the bar is made up of milk chocolate. It’s soft and creamy and a bit sticky feeling. The overwhelming flavor here is not the hazelnuts but the whole milk powder. The nuts add a level of satisfaction to the bar, but the milkiness just beats the nuttiness out of it to my dismay.

Dark Espresso (unwrapped) - a nice snap but a fair bit of grain in this bar from the ground coffee in it. The coffee flavor itself was good but completely overwhelmed the chocolate flavors and it seemed much sweeter than the Raspberry bar.

Can you tell I’m underwhelmed?

Maybe it started with their frustrating website, maybe I’m spoiled, but I want more info on my purchases. (I had a similar experience in the store.) Maybe I have no idea what a clodhopper is and the clothing ... maybe they could give me info on the fiber content. I want to know how much is in the package, and I want some indication of ingredients. 

Maybe the article I read last year about Dylan Lauren rubbed me the wrong way and that’s colored my evaluation of the store. The NY Times line that got me was this:

Ms. Lauren considers herself the model for the sparkling creature around which her business is coalescing: the Candy Girl, who appears every now and again in conversation. As in: ?The Candy Girl can be sexy and young and thin. Candy?s not about fat people.”

What’s most interesting is that as I was there, I did not see “The Candy Girl” shopping there. I’m not the sexy, young, thin woman she pursues as a demographic (though maybe two out of four counts). As much as she might be positioning herself that way, the store is about kids - the displays obviously acknowledge that as there was quite a bit of the merchandise marketed to the under-four-foot set. While the store makes it socially acceptable for an adult to come in there and make a purchase(s), a destination like this will always be about children.

The other frustration is the price. Candy bars like the Nut Goodie I picked up are $1.49 and the bulk candy, such as Swedish Fish, in a plain plastic bag is $9.99 a pound. The same candy bar at Economy Candy is $.69 and probably about $1.00 at any of the many corner stores in NYC. The same Swedish Fish at Economy Candy were $3.49 a pound. What are you paying for here? Convenience of the address? Packaging? Isn’t that what Ralph Lauren has been selling us for years anyway? Except RL wasn’t taking Levi’s 501s and slapping his own logo on them and selling them for $100 a pair. Is Dylan’s Candy Bar doing that by taking other brands of candy and just dumping them into a clear plastic paint can?

Though I struggle with the the premium I pay at Vosges or Jacques Torres (which is like a fantasy land as well) I can rationalize it because they own their merchandise; they formulated it, they invented it, they make it. When I go into a mega-mart like Target or Toys-r-Us I expect better prices. Dylan’s just throws all of those expectations out the window. Sure, they have their own line of chocolates, but they sell everyone else’s too. They’re just selling you a brand, a bag and a logo. Sure, I have a similar complaint with the candy stores in malls where everything is in bulk bins and they’re selling it all for $8 a pound, whether you’re picking up plain old peppermint hard candies, gummi bears or M&Ms. But when I’m in Santa Rosa, CA, my candy store choices are limited and I accept the premium for variety. Dylan’s is in NYC, one of the most candy cities I’ve ever visited and Economy Candy is a scant four miles away.

I did enjoy browsing the displays, but the frugal part of me couldn’t get over the prices or the sheer gall of selling something that probably cost about $2 a pound wholesale for $10. There were candies there that I haven’t been able to find in other stores, so I appreciate that there were unique items there and there was a wide price range as well so you could get out of there with a bag of candy for under $5 with careful decision making. Part of the attraction of candy for me has always been its affordability and Dylan’s takes that part of the fun away. It’s no longer a simple pleasure, it’s an expensive one.

As the Candy Blogger, I’ll probably return. But as a simple candy consumer, it’s not a place I’d patronize. I found my second home in New York, it’s Economy Candy.

Dylan’s Candy Bar
1011 Third Avenue (between 60th and 61st street)
New York, NY 10021
(646) 735-0078

Name: Dylan's Candy Bars: Dark, Hazelnut, Dark Raspberry, Dark Espresso
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Dylan's Candy Bar
Place Purchased: Dylan's Candy Bar (NYC)
Price: $.50 each
Size: unknown
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Belgium, Coffee

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:10 am     Comments (15)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Necco Smoothies

Oh dreadful day, I’m gonna just relieve you of any curiosity about these. They’re just bad.

image

Necco Smoothies are a new set of flavors of the good old fashioned Necco wafers. Smoothies, I’m guessing, are supposed to be fruit shake flavors. The package says: Blueberry, Banana Caramel, Tropical, Peach and Strawberry Creme.

imageThey smelled really bad. I don’t think they would smell bad individually, but as a group the combination of the sweet, artificial fruit scents was just nauseating. Like a set of cheap candles.

The colors just weren’t doing it for me either. The chalky tablets looked more like antacids or perhaps some barrettes I had when I was in middle school. But I closed my eyes and went for the taste test:

White = Tropical: What does that mean? I think it was supposed to be pina colada or something with coconut in it. It was mild and pleasant. Not overtly flavorful, but simply sweet.

Yellow = Banana Caramel: Hey, this one’s pretty good, it reminds me of the long-lost Wacky Wafers. It’s not all banana, there’s a little hint of the caramelized sugar in there.

Orange = Peach: I know I mention my feelings for cherry flavored things from time to time, and this means that I’ve neglected my detestment for all things peach flavored. Don’t get me wrong, I love peaches. I just don’t like peach flavored things.

Blue = Blueberry: things flavored like blueberries never taste like blueberries. In fact, blueberries have very little flavor to me; they’re all about the texture. Sure, they’re sweet and tangy, but when you close your eyes and forget about what you’re eating, they taste kind of like iced tea. Maybe it’s the antioxidants or polyphenols or whatever in there that tea and blueberries have in common, but I’m happy to eat fresh blueberries but I don’t want blueberry flavored things.

Pink = Strawberry Creme: The strawberry flavor is very strong and has a slight tang to it, like a yogurt. It wasn’t offensive or off balance like the peach, but it wasn’t really that pleasant either. The chalkiness of the candy itself and the attempt at a creme flavor just reek of insincerity.

Now, I might be alone here in my estimation for these. Amy, my neighbor and co-worker seems to think that these are pretty good. She liked the Peach, she liked the Blueberry! Hey, that makes me the best next door neighbor ever ... all the flavors I don’t like, she’ll eat.

What I’ve always liked about the original Neccos is that I will eat all the flavors (except clove). So there’s value there. Same with Lifesavers, SweeTarts, Skittles and Starbursts. Sure, there are flavors I don’t like, but it’s usually one. If I’m not going to eat 3/5 of the flavors in a roll of Smoothies, it’s a total loss as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway, so you can see from the photo what the color/flavor distribution in this roll was. So I’ve eaten all the Banana and the Tropical, and I’m left with this huge pile of Strawberry, Peach and Blueberry. I wonder if they’ll make good sidewalk chalk?

Note: Do take a moment and visit the Necco website. It is a little behind (highlighting Easter candies, but maybe they’re just letting people come look at the stuff because they’re still buying it on sale) but it’s nicely done and provides a lot more information about their history and candies than many other sites run by bigger companies. There’s even a section that shows how Necco Wafers are made.

Name: Smoothies
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Necco
Place Purchased: Economy Candy (NYC)
Price: $.69
Size: 2.02 ounces
Calories per ounce: 105
Categories: Chalk, United States, Necco

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:18 am     Comments (35)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Great Pumpkin!

You know if I’m not eating candy or writing about candy, I’m out on the internet reading about candy and looking at candy photos.

Last week I stumbled across two incredible sets of photos on Flickr, here’s a small sample:

image

Joshua has over 175 photos of individual pieces of Halloween candy, both wrapped and then unwrapped.

I emailed him, and he gave me the story behind it. He collected a barrel of candy (50 gallons!) for Halloween as part of his work as a youth pastor. They did a huge challenge called the Pumpkin Hunt for middle and high school aged kids, kind of like a treasure hunt:

We divide kids up into teams of like 4-6 each and they race through different clues that send ‘em all over the place in our community and the first one to make it to the candy wins. There’s also a combination lock on the candy, and along the way they pick up 3 numbers to the lock and have to get ‘em in order and unlock the padlock to actually win.

Wow, way harder than Trick-or-Treat, but it sounds a lot more fun. I wonder if the winner got the whole 50 gallons?

 

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:43 am     ReviewHalloweenFun StuffNewsPhotographyComments (3)

Fran’s Gray Salt Caramels

imageAbout a month ago a friend went to Seattle. Being a good friend she asked me if I wanted anything (knowing it would be a candy request). I told her that several people recommended Fran’s Chocolates, specifically their salt caramels. I even emailed her the locations of their shops to help her find the place.

Well, as luck would have it, she was up there for a panel discussion and one of the hospitality gifts was this package of Gray Salt Caramels ... so they must be famous!

The side of the package heralds them as “Award Winning! Soft butter caramels sprinkled with flavorful gray sea salt harvested off the Brittany Coast.”

I had to do some digging, I saw on their website that the caramels won the 2003 NASFT Outstanding Confection award, but I had no clue what NASFT was. Turns out it’s the The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, so I guess it’s like the Oscars (tm) for fancy food. (The run the fancy food shows in San Francisco, Chicago and New York ... something for me to put on my list o’ things to do.)

The caramels are covered in dark chocolate which helps to highlight the flavors. The caramel is sweet and the chocolate is smooth and creamy and the salt make it all pop. If anything, the salt makes it all taste creamier and richer. The salt itself had a more musky, deep flavor to it than regular table salt (yes, I tried the salt grains alone).

image

Salted Caramels are all the rage now, I’ve seen quite a few varieties in the past year or so, but I guess Fran’s was one of the first to present them. The large salt grains give a good textural addition besides the obvious salty pop. They’re very satisfying and vibrant on the tongue, but they don’t beg to be eaten over and over again. I had the package for quite a while and didn’t eat them all in one sitting, nor did I want to.

They’re fantastic, but they feel very special. I wouldn’t want a whole box of them, but I’d like a box of Fran’s candy and have a few of these sprinkled in (like this mix).

I’m definitely keen on trying other chocolates in Fran’s line. You can read more about the history of this Seattle Chocolatier on their website.

Kate at Accidental Hedonist also posted about these last week! So at David Lebovitz’s suggestion, I ate the last one upside-down, so that that salt hit my tongue first ... quite intense!

Name: Gray Salt Caramels
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Fran's
Place Purchased: gift
Price: unknown
Size: 2.8 ounces
Calories per ounce: 125
Categories: Chocolate, Caramel, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:55 am     Comments (10)

Candy Drawing Winner!

I was overwhelmed by the number of entries and folks de-lurking on the blog. I can’t tell you how much your praise, appreciation and return visits means to me. It’s good to know that my obsession is not uncommon and certainly not as secret as I thought. It made me smile each and every time someone left an enthusiastic entry or a wonderful compliment.

image

But you’re just here to see about the winner, aren’t you?

First, how I did the drawing: I exported the comment list that includes the name, email address, date & time and IP address of each comment to an excel sheet. Then I sifted through and vetted the obvious, such as if a person commented more than one time, I only used the first comment. This was as good as I could do to keep things on the up-and-up.

Instead writing on slips of paper and picking them out of a hat or something, I went high tech. I sorted the sheet (by one of the fields, I’m not going to tell you which) and then I went to Random.org and used their random number generator to give me a number between 1 and 154. The winner was #13 (hey, I can’t make stuff like this up!).

So, congratulations to Jenna! Her package will go in the post tomorrow. Stay tuned, I’ll be running another giveway (but this time I’m asking something of you!).

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:07 am     Fun StuffNewsComments (1)

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Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.

 

 

 

 

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COUNTDOWN.

Candy Season Ends

-84 days

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Which seasonal candy selection do you prefer?

Choose one or more:

  •   Halloween
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ON DECK

These candies will be reviewed shortly:

• Hachez Braune Blatter (Chocolate Leaves)

• Rogue Chocolatier

• Dandelion Chocolate

• Candy Rant: If your Licorice isn’t black, it isn’t Licorice

• Candy Rant: Stimulants are not Energy

 

 

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