Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Chocolate and American Idol: What's not to love?

So here's today's PSA: Nestle is having a contest to win tickets to the American Idol finale. Winners will find a golden ticket in their Wonka Bars. Check out for more info. I must admit that I love American Idol and I'd be happy to be a Wonka representative at the finale. I could hold up a sign that says "I love Simon almost as much as Wonka Bars."

Viva Las Vegas!

Here's a good reason to go to Las Vegas. (As if the sun, great restaurants and Star Trek Experience weren't enough.)
Apparently this very funky restaurant Vintner Grill ( offers the only chocolate truffle flight in the country, featuring truffles by Vosges. Check out the menu:
  • Olio d’Oliva (olive oil + white chocolate) with potato chips
  • Dulce de Leche (Argentinean caramel + cashew + milk chocolate) on a piece of smoked bacon
  • Naga (sweet Indian curry + coconut + milk chocolate) and corn nuts
  • Absinthe (Chinese star anise + fennel + pastis + dark chocolate) aside Indian fennel seeds.
  • Black Pearl (Japanese wasabi + ginger + black sesame seeds + dark chocolate) atop wasabi peas
  • The Rooster (taleggio cheese + organic walnuts + vanilla bean + bittersweet dark chocolate) amongst cocoa nibs
Now even though my tastes veer toward the more plebian, I have to say that these combos sound intriguing, particularly the Olio d'Oliva and The Rooster. The Dulce de Leche sounds really good, too, although I must admit that the bacon kind of scares me.
And now for a public service announcement from Vosges:

How to Eat a Truffle:

Firstly…read the story. This sets the stage. It allows you to paint the picture through your imagination to conjure up the expectations as to how the chocolate will taste and where you will transcend.

See…there should be a glossy shine to the truffle, this shows a good temper: a tight bond between the cocoa butter and the cacao mass.

Lick…the spice on the top of the truffle; we always like to do this on the spice truffles because it gives a hint of what is to come, a teaser…

Snap… quality chocolate should always be dry to the touch. If the chocolate is stored at idea conditions between 63-65 degrees Fahrenheit when you take a bite you should hear a crisp, snap breaking through the outside to reach the creamy ganache inside.

Taste…we always like to bit the truffle in 2 bites. In the first bite you are just getting to know the truffle and in the second, you delve deeper searching out the flavors and nuances, you become immersed into the experience of the chocolate, you mouth and the sensations. The taste should have a long, lingering, finish that is layered with its perfumed notes.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Miscellaneous Monday stuff

1) I saw edible Easter grass at Target. What a brilliant idea! I didn't have a chance to really check it out because Henri was dangerously close to a meltdown.
2) I tried a dark truffle Hershey kiss at an open house yesterday. It was pretty good.
3) On my rogue mom's website, one woman posted that she bought her daughter a chocolate bunny as a surprise and the little girl said it tasted like "basketball." The mom tried it and agreed. Haha!
4) Fine. I've run out of Sister Secrets and I still haven't shamed my sister into posting on this blog.
5) Sue, the ass-kicking firefighter garden guru that I went to Chocopologie with, sent me her evaluation of the chocolates. She really liked them, but it goes without saying that she has more refined taste than I do. I am but a simple woman with simple tastes. But not so simple that I'd eat Palmer chocolate.

The first of the British haul

The Brits may not be known for their cuisine, but boy, they know how to do candy right. During my first trip overseas when I was 20 years old, I drank too much tap water and ended up having some nasty GI problems. I survived on a big bag of candy bars that I bought at a petrol station, mostly Lion bars. Yum!

So I've started diving into my new stash of candy from the UK store. First up was the Milky Way. I almost didn't buy this, because I thought it would be the same as our Milky Way, but then I saw it was described as having a "white whipped centre." There's no caramel here like in the U.S. version. It was pretty similar to a Three Musketeers, only a little thinner. It was fine, but wouldn't be my first pick.
Next up was the Cadbury Fudge. Oh, those cheeky Brits. The wrapper said, "Fudge covered with milk chocolate," so I assumed it would be chocolate fudge. But it was vanilla, I guess. I was very surprised by this. It was small, which I liked. I wish we had more variety in the size of our candy bars, and by that I mean smaller bars, not the giant King Size ones that can feed a family of four.
After that I moved onto the Original Yorkie. I've had the Yorkie with biscuit pieces and raisins before (it also has a quizzical slogan: "Not for Girls." Huh?), but this one was plain chocolate. At first I was disappointed, but it turned out to be really yummy chocolate. And fine, I'll admit that I dipped a few pieces of it into a jar of peanut butter and it was really, really good.
So no, my diet is not going well, but I don't care. Candy is a part of my life. I just need to accept that and move on.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Jelly Bellies are trying to tell me something

For some reason, Jelly Bellies keep appearing in my life lately. I ordered a bunch of stuff the other day for my new hobby, creating jewelry out of Precious Metal Clay. I got a box filled with clay and cutters and texture sheets and-- a small bag of cherry and pineapple Jelly Bellies. I don't know why but there was a note that said "Enjoy the freebie!" I just found it a bit odd that it was only those two flavors. I almost wonder if the owner of the clay store had bought an assorted mix and didn't like cherry and pineapple, so she saved them for her customers. Eh, I'm okay with that.
When Sue and I were at Chocopologie, she mentioned a store that she liked because they offered Jelly Bellies in the individual flavors and that suddenly sparked a memory I had forgotten. When I worked at the chocolate store during college, there were some regular customers. One teeny-tiny woman bought two pounds of caramel nougats every week. She said she worked out at the gym an hour every day just to be able to eat them.
And then there were the freaky sisters. Every Saturday, these two women would come in and their order would always be the same: a half pound of every flavor Jelly Belly except licorice. First of all, a half pound isn't all that much, and secondly, we had a drawer of every flavor JB already mixed. So a normal person would order a half pound of the mix and call it a day. But no, these two freaky sisters would make us open every drawer of beans and scoop out two or three of every dang flavor. It was so annoying because it would take forever and if you overmeasured, you had to dump it into the premixed batch without them seeing. Eventually we got mean and started to screw around with them, putting a stray licorice bean into their boxes. Finally, one of the girls I worked with told them we had a limit of no more than ten flavors or you'd have to buy the pre-mixed. They stopped coming in.
On really slow days, my friend Kelly and I would devise our own fantasy mixes, like the "Carnival Mix," which consisted of cotton candy, buttered popcorn and bubblegum or the "Fruit Salad Mix" with tangerine, blueberry, watermelon, pineapple and green apple.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The British are Coming! The British are Coming!

I went to visit a friend this morning who lives out in the boonies and on the way home I got an unexpected bonus. I found a store called UK Gourmet. It was a tiny little store, but chock-a-block with lots of yummy British delights. Here's what I got:

Dip Dab: Sherbet dip with strawberry flavour lolly
Dolly Mix: (looks like an assortment of gummi/jelly candies)
Cadbury Fudge: Fudge covered with milk chocolate
Milky Way: (described on the package as "milk chocolate with a light white whipped centre)
Cadbury Dairy Milk Coconut Rough: ("Milk Chocolate with Dessicated Coconut")
Original Yorkie
The Big Green Triangle: (and yes, it's a big green triangle; "milk chocolate with nut praline centre")
And last, but not least, something called "Sherbet fountain: Fizzy sherbet with a liquorice dip."

So get ready for some yum yum fun!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Field Trip!

My ass-kicking, garden guru, firefighter friend Sue called me the other day and asked, "Have you ever heard of Chocopologie?" Um, no, I hadn't, but it sounded like something I needed to know about. Turns out Fritz Knipschildt, who I had interviewed a few years ago about his chocolate business, had opened a retail outlet/chocolate factory/cafe/restaurant about a year ago. I didn't realize how out of the loop I've been. Needless to say, I HAD to go there. So yesterday Sue and I ventured out on a girls' day and went there for lunch.
Now, let me just say that if I was writing a professional review, I'd have to mention the atrocious service. There were two young women running around like chickens with their heads cut off, waiting on the entire restaurant, and one was particularly grumpy. But this is not a professional review, so we'll skip that messy part.
The place is really atmospheric, very Euro-coffeehouse. When you walk in, there are tables (some shared) where you can sit and eat. Then there's a loooong hallway where you can sit at the bar and watch the chocolatiers behind the glass do their thing. Very cool.
We both ordered a cup of "Chocopologie," the signature drink, described as "half deep, rich chocolate and half espresso with lavender foam." Before I describe it, let me just say that I'm getting over a cold, so my nose was totally stuffed up and therefore not at peak performance. But when I took the first sip, I was completely surprised. It didn't taste like chocolate, nor did it taste like espresso. "It tastes like ... sesame?" I said. Sue sipped hers. "Hazelnut?" she asked. I sipped again and concluded that it tasted like mild, liquid peanut butter. I don't know why. There were a few little buds of lavender floating on top. I know that a truly sophisticated person would ooh-and-aahh over this, but frankly, it just didn't do much for me. In fact, one of the buds got stuck in my teeth and it kind of grossed me out.

For lunch I ordered a panini and Sue had a buckwheat crepe, both of which came with really garlicky, yummy salads. The only savory chocolate thing on the menu was escargot in a chocolate beurre sauce. Maybe someday I'll try that, but I've never been much for escargot, either.

The dessert menu looked fabulous. There were all sorts of shiny, decadent-looking cakes, like pistachio chocolate cake and a banana pyramid, but we opted to buy some chocolates instead. I got a raspberry black pepper, orange rum and Turkish coffee. Here's the deal. Again, a person with refined taste would probably go gaagaa over these. But if I'm being totally, drop dead honest, I have to say I just don't dig these "fancy" flavor combinations. The raspberry black pepper was certainly intriguing, but when I have chocolate, I want it to be "CHOCOLATE!" Not butter and tobacco with a touch of heat. The orange rum was really strong, but not in a Christmas rum ball kind of way. More like a RUM! (orange) RUM! (chocolate) kind of way. The Turkish coffee was the best. It was shaped like a beehive and it looked like white chocolate, but it actually had a lemony taste to it. The inside was a very subtle coffee flavor. Surprising, since Turkish coffee is so over-the-top strong. The packaging they use is very nice. My pieces were tucked into a little handmade paper bag secured closed with a tiny piece of carved wood that looked like a toothpick.

What it comes down to, I guess, is that I have simple, basic tastes. I prefer California wine over French. I'd rather eat American or Italian food over French or Spanish. And when it comes to chocolate, I like nuts and caramel and nougat and very defined, distinct tastes. Subtley ain't where it's at for me. Chili pepper, violet, curry powder ... fine for some things, but not in my chocolate. I like Fritz, though, and I like Chocopologie and, of course, I love all chocolate simply for being chocolate. So I'll go back, but next time I'll try the cake.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Not so yummy

When I was at Brook's the other day stocking up on tissues and decongestant, I saw a display of Blow Pop Minis. I knew that Cybele had written an unfavorable review of them on Candy Blog, but since they were only .33, I thought I'd check them out for myself. Let me just say, she was spot-on with her review.
First of all, I know they're called "minis," but I just wasn't prepared for how mini they were-- about the size of a cough drop. The package contained watermelon, blue razz, green apple and cherry. I'm not a big fan of anything watermelon, except Jolly Ranchers. Usually it's too sweet of a flavor for me and that was certainly true here. The blue razz and green apple were the best, but that ain't saying much. Here's the problem: because they're so small, you can eat them quickly. So you eat the first one, sucking the candy away until you're left with a minute piece of flavorless gum that is just big enough to stick to your molars, but not really enough to chew. So you think, I'll have another piece. But now you've got a piece of hard candy on one side of your mouth and gum on the other and when they co-mingle, it's just a mess. It's best to just stick to the original Blow Pop. And that's my public service announcement for the day.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

What I've Been Eating

Pizza and caramels. These two will forever be linked in my mind as foods that the cool kids liked in grammar school, but that I didn't necessarily care for. It was the cheese on pizza that bothered me. I didn't like its slippery chewiness. As for caramels, they just seemed too "sporty" to me. (What caramels and sports have in common, I have no idea, but I guess you just think of these things when you're little.) In any case, my opinions have changed with age.

I like pizza now. It's not my favorite food, but give me a good pepperoni pie and I'm happy. Same thing with caramels. I won't take the caramel over the nut cup in the Whitman Sampler, but if you offer me a really good caramel, then I'm all over it. So when I received a package of Sander's caramels, I wondered how they would be. To start with, they're pretty. They're covered in milk chocolate but have dark chocolate stripes across the top. (Forgive my lame picture; my camera just isn't cut out for details.) And then the taste: YUM. The caramel is buttery and complex and its chewy, but not hard. I think that's the key to a good caramel: the texture. If it's too hard, you lose the taste. These have just enough chew to keep your teeth busy, but not so much that you'll break your jaw.

I also got a box of Sander's Mint Patties. There's something so wonderful about the initial aroma you get when you open the box. I can't quite place why it makes me so happy, it just does. Again, texture is key with peppermint patties. Here, the chocolate has a nice snap to it, while the peppermint cream is soft and flowy, unlike a York pattie which is stiff and crumbly. The only problem with these is that they're addictive. You think you'll just have one, but then you find yourself reaching for another. And another.

Sander's is based in Detroit and you can order their candy from their website.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A big chocolate kiss to you!

It's almost here ... the day when we celebrate all things chocolate and sugary and lovey dovey. I hope everyone has a fabulous Valentine's Day tomorrow and may you get a big heart full of chocolate yumminess from your sweetie. If you need some last minute ideas, check out the National Confectioners Association website. They have recipes, ideas and trivia, such as: Did you know that conversation hearts once came in different shapes like horseshoes, baseballs and watches? Pretty cool.
And speaking of trivia, here's today's Sister Secret: Betsy has always had an amazing sense of willpower. When we were little, I would scarf down any candy I got right away, whereas she would save her candy for the appropriate time. One night we were all having alphabet soup for dinner and my mom said that whoever spelled their name first would win a candy bar. Betsy won and she put her candy bar next to her plate to eat after dinner. It sat there taunting me the whole time. Who would want alphabet soup when there's a Milky Way waiting to devoured?!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Update on the Jar O' Candy and Why My Sister Sucks

My sister Betsy reported back to me on the contents of the Friday candy jars she used to get from our grandparents, but she was too afraid to post on this blog. So you'll have to trust me when I relay her answer. Apparently there were rootbeer barrels and Tootsie Rolls, and she isn't sure, but thinks there might've been Bit O' Honeys and Mary Janes which, she said, she would've passed off to my mother.
She also said that Bazooka is her secret weapon. She chews it before going into meetings.
Now, because she totally sucks and won't post on this blog, I've decided I'm going to slowly give away all her candy secrets until she finally gets the nerve to stop by and say hello. Without further ado, SECRET NUMBER ONE:
She saves her Easter Peeps until they get stale; then she eats them.
Stay tuned for more secrets. Maybe I'll even turn it into a trivia contest!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Your free pass to eat dark chocolate

Feeling a little guilty about eating so much chocolate? You don't have to. Check out this article I wrote for Natural Food Network on the health benefits of dark chocolate and say goodbye to guilt and hello to that big block of dark chocolate yumminess.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Update on all-natural candy canes!

I just got a note from Luna at Pure Fun, the all-natural candy company. They've got a bunch of new products like Jaw Boulders and Barrels of Fun. They also have all-natural candy canes, which I know some readers were looking for this holiday season. The ingredients are natural unrefined sugar, glucose syrup, natural peppermint oil, water and citric acid. The cool thing is, there's no titanium dioxide, which main-stream candy canes use to get their whiteness.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Dig in!

I'm addicted to a website that's supposed to be for moms, but really covers every detail of life known to women, including some that really would be best left private. Anyhow, one poster commented on how she was having a dinner party and her husband offered to pick up dessert. She thought he was going to the bakery, but instead came home with a big bag of candy from the drugstore. She was horrified, but it was too late to do anything else. So she said after dinner, she brought out a basket filled with all sorts of fun-sized candy bars and her guests loved it. They went bonkers and everyone had a great time.
That made me think of the big bowl of candy I had in the kitchen. When Henri was about two weeks old, Brian came home from work and said, "What's with the Hello Kitty on the front of the house?"
I had no idea what he was talking about, so I went outside. Yes, there on the front of the house was a giant Hello Kitty pinata. My friend Susan had originally bought it for my baby shower, but she had decided not to use it because she wanted the party to be a classy affair. (She opted, instead, to use the Precious Moments "It's a Boy!" banner, knowing full well that *that* would make me cringe.) So after Henri was born, she left the pinata hanging on the shutters outside my house.
"You might not want to eat the candy," she warned me. "It's been in there for a while." What a tease! How can you give someone a pinata filled to the brim with candy and then tell them not to eat it?!
I dumped it into a big-- HUGE-- bowl and it looked fine. But it was all caramel-based. Those bulls-eyes, square caramels and all different flavored caramel logs. I don't like caramel on it's own. With chocolate, yes, but on it's own, it holds no temptation.
My in-laws, however, LOVED it. First to go were the bulls eyes. Brian and his mom were digging through the bowl to try to find them. My nieces went for the Tootsie Rolls. Eventually the giant bowl dwindled down to a few rogue pieces. It just goes to show, though, that people love candy, even if they won't admit it. It's a great idea to always have a big basket of candy on hand for guests. Candy= FUN!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Candy jar Fridays

My mother is pretty good at saving stuff, like old book reports, drawings and letters that we created over the years. Every now and then, she'll hand each of us a box stuffed with all sorts of crap that we had no idea still existed. Such was the case last week when my sister and I went to visit my parents for lunch. My mother brought out two long boxes with our names on them. Inside were photographs from our childhood-- all sorts of square, black and white pictures of us posing, with the neighbors, with each other, with stuffed animals, on the first day of school. Of course this got us reminiscing and something triggered a candy memory for my sister.
"I remember going over to Grandma and Pop Pop's every Friday and they'd hand me a TV Guide and a jar of candy." She would then go home and highlight all the shows she wanted to watch during the week, while savoring her little jar of goodies. Later in the week, when the jar was empty, she'd return it for the next Friday's refill. I have no such memory. For a long time it was just my two brothers and two sisters. I came into the picture quite a while later, so many of my memories are not the same as theirs. Like Disney World. They all got to go with my grandparents. I never did. Now this. It sounds so wonderful. A jar of candy every Friday. Who could've imagined such a thing? And what kind of candy was it? I know my grandparents enjoyed the Brach's Pick-a-Mix candy, so maybe that's what it was.

Friday, February 02, 2007

An open letter to the candy bar on my desk

Dear Extreme Chocolate Candy Bar with Cocoa Nibs,
I know what you're trying to do. You're trying to seduce me, but I'm here to tell you I'll have no part of it. Yes, you look beautiful in your shiny fushia wrapper, and I'm sure you're a treasure to behold, but I will not take part in wicked ways. It's only 10:30 in the morning and, while I'm sure you'd taste so good with my cup of coffee, I will not ruin today's diet by relenting to you. Please don't take this personally. It's me, not you.
Love, Patti

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Good reading

My trade article "Sweets to the Sweet" is out in this month's issue of Organic Products Retailer. Unless you own a health food store, it's kind of dry, but I did learn a lot about organic confections. (Especially how yummy they are!)

Happy National Bubble Gum Day!

This morning on the radio the announcer said it's National Bubble Gum Day. Woohoo! So for all you gum chewers out there, have a bubbleriffic day. I'm not so big into gum, but I thought I'd take some time this morning to reflect on gum stories from my past. So without further ado:

The Driveway Incident: I don't remember the actual event, but apparently something big went down in my house because my father still has a note I wrote to him. It reads, "Dear Daddy, I didn't put the gum in the driveway."

Forbidden Gum: In 7th grade science class I was chewing a piece of gum, which was strictly forbidden. The teacher, Mr. Hrbek, could smell it and asked me to open my mouth. I had pushed the gum to the roof of my mouth like a retainer, so he didn't see it. After class, he saw me blow a bubble and I heard him say to Mr. Samosky, the other science teacher, "Wow, she's good." I was proud of myself.

Bubblegum machines: I was always fascinated by the white gumballs in gum machines. For some reason they reminded me of VW Beetles. To this day, whenever I see a Beetle, I think gum.

Bazooka: Bazooka= my sister Betsy.

My favorites: If you asked me as a kid what my favorite gums were, I'd say grape Bubble Yum, Razzles and cherry Bazooka. Freshen Up was good, too. It was the gum that goes "Squirt!"

What are some of your favorite gum memories?