Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Remains of the Day

I had all intentions of photographing these lovely chocolates from the Newtown Chocolatier that Sue, my kick-ass, firefighter, garden guru friend had bought me, but alas, it was not to be. I had a bit too much wine the other night and went bezerk on the chocolates so you'll have to imagine what these delicious tidbits looked like. The one remaining chocolate was a delightful peanut butter cup. It was a layer of chocolate, then PB, then more chocolate. Anyhow, as I sat enjoying my chocolates in my buzzed haze, I wrote about it in my journal. Here, the transcript:

My God, what is happening to me? I'm turning into someone I hardly know, a stranger in my own skin. What's brought this about? The box of candy sitting on my nightstand.

Sue stopped by with a bagful of goodies for me yesterday. A box of dark chocolate sticks-- yum; a cone-shaped bag of Swedish butter candies-- yum; and a box of delicious chocolates from the Newtown Chocolatier. Last night I had the passionfruit jelly. Tonight I almost went for the chocolate truffle, but then I realized that the dark rectangle was a caramel and I had to have it. Yes, this is me talking. I HAD to have the caramel.

Me, who traditionally prefers crunch over chew.

Me, who views caramels as the candy of the popular crowd, the athlete, the girl with the Le Sportsac bag and Tretorns. Certainly not the candy of the quiet, shy, slightly-freaky-but-not-in-a-funky way wild-haired girl. No, she eats almond clusters and mint cremes. Definitely not caramels.

So why then did I relish every bite of the chewy, creamy, buttery-burnt caramel? This is a rhetorical question because I don't have an answer.

So, who knows. Maybe it was the wine. Maybe it was the total shift of hormones after having a baby. Maybe it's because I'm in my 30s. All I know is that it was delicious. The next night I tried a chocolate that was so fantabulous, I wanted to weep when it was gone. It was round and prickly looking and was smooth chocolate and crispy-- what? I have no idea what it was. It was almost like those Piroutte cookies crushed up into spiky splinters. Whatever it was, it was delightful. So now I must make a trek out to this store and get some more. Maybe this time I'll even take a picture before I scarf them down.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Yes, we have no bananas

So I was cruising through the grocery store yesterday trying to get in and get out in record time, when I noticed that the Easter candy had been replaced by the "summer" candy. Of all seasons, summer is just the worst when it comes to candy. It's all gumdrops and Circus Peanuts. But there, in the middle of the aisle, was a display of Necco Wafers Smoothies. Maybe these have been around for a while, but it was my first time seeing them. I stood in front of that stupid display for much longer than I should have, contemplating whether or not to buy a package. (Because at 69 cents, it was a huge investment.)
I'm not a fan of Necco Wafers, but there's something so comforting and quintessentially "candy" about them. And since they're made in New England, I felt like I should do my part to support the company, so I bought a pack. The package says the flavors are blueberry, banana caramel, tropical, peach and strawberry creme. The only one I was really interested in was the banana caramel. Sadly, that was the only flavor that I DIDN'T get in the package. But more about that later.
The first one I tried was peach, and I generally hate all things peach flavored except for real off-the-tree peaches. But I must say, this was pretty pleasant. In fact, after eating one, I found I wanted another. Lucky for me, the second wafer was also peach. But then so was the third, and the fourth. Okay, I thought, maybe they've stacked all the same flavors together. So I tore off the whole wrapper and what did I find? The majority was peach, followed by strawberry, a few tropical, ONE, yes ONE, blueberry and, as I said before, NO banana. What's up with that? Hey Necco, how about some quality control?
The strawberry creme was pretty good, although I'm not a huge strawberry fan. The tropical was pleasant; it tasted like a pina coloda. I was afraid it would be too coconutty/suntan lotion tasting, but it was pretty balanced with a hint of pineapple. The lone blueberry one was tasty, but I wouldn't say it tasted like a blueberry. More like a mixed berry kind of flavor. But alas, I will probably never know what the banana caramel tastes like, unless some kind soul feels like sharing theirs with me.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Blast from the Past

Look at this! I unearthed this gem yesterday while continuing the big pack for our upcoming move. This, my friends, is a page from my scrapbook when I was a kid. It's totally falling apart. Apparently they didn't know about archival quality back then. But preserved here are some candy wrappers from the 70s. (1979-1982 to be exact, at least according to my notes written there on the page.) So what do we have? One package of orange Pop Rocks. I seem to remember buying them at Brook's Drugstore. Oh they were the coolest. Then there's several Big Red wrappers. A vision of things to come? Little did I know that over 20 years later, I'd be flat-out on my parents' couch with a pack of Big Red stuffed up my nose, trying to get rid of morning sickness.
Next, a wrapper from grape-flavored "Chew Laces." I have absolutely no memory of these. I don't remember buying them, eating them or even what they looked like.
Then we have Bottle Caps. I never particularly liked the taste of these. They come in "soda" flavors like orange, grape and rootbeer, but they lacked that certain tangy sourness that one expects from a candy like this.
Last but not least, we have this time capsule gem: a Pecan Chunky wrapper. Yes, once upon a time Chunkys weren't just peanuts and raisins. This one was milk chocolate with little pieces of pecans. Wow, it's been a long time since I've had a Chunky. A very underrated candy bar.
I wish I had saved more wrappers. It would've been fun to see what I actually ate. I've just started saving some of my recent candy wrappings. I'm thinking I might incorporate them into some sort of an art project.

Fight for your Rights!

Who could ever imagine that chocolate would become a hot issue? Well, it is folks. A big kudos to Cybele at Candy Blog for bringing our attention to the FDA's latest plot. To sum it up in the simplest of terms, candy manufacturers don't want the FDA to impose a definition on "chocolate," thereby allowing them to use cheaper ingredients. What does this mean to us? It means-- hold onto your hats-- that we'd likely be seeing more of that cheap, waxy, giant-bag-for-99 cents-"chocolate" being used in our favorite candy bars and less real cocoa butter/chocolate liqueur yumminess that we love. Think about it: you know how Canadian and European candy bars just taste better? It's because they have to keep it real. We should have to do the same. So take a break from your candy worship today and send a note to the FDA, okay? There's a quick way to do it here.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Nursery School Lollipop Incident

This is a picture of the atrocious stained glass I've been working on for the past few weeks. It looks like I cut the glass with my teeth, doesn't it? The reason it's pictured here is because I'd like to draw your attention to the middle triangle and the two bottom rectangles. These were originally supposed to be a different color, but I kept cutting the glass wrong and then I ran out, so I had to borrow some leftovers from the teacher. This amber color was the only one that sort of worked, but now, whenever I look at it, I'll be forever reminded of
Join me as we journey back in time 32 years when I was attending nursery school. It was a special day because the teachers gave us lollipops-- big, round, flat lollipops, but we weren't allowed to eat them until we got home. I got a rootbeer lollipop that was the same color as the aforementioned stained glass. We went out to the courtyard to play and we all brought our lollipops. Merriment ensued and we were preoccupied; lollipops got abandoned amongst the playground equipment. One of the coveted swings was open, so I went over to it and lo and behold, there was my lollipop. Hurrah! Only, as I started to pick it up I knew something was wrong. It wasn't the rootbeer lollipop, it was an orange one. The thing was, they were so close in color, it was an honest mistake. But it was too late. Some little bratty girl saw me pick up the pop and freaked out, telling the teachers I was stealing her lollipop. And this, my friends, was when the lollipop trauma started to sink deep into the nuclei of my cells. The teachers rushed over; I stood in shocked silence. Me? Quiet little innocent ME steal her lollipop? Never. But I was too scared to say anything. I just stood there. I got reprimanded. Somehow it all worked out, but I don't remember the rest. It was just the beginning of misunderstandings and disappointments in my life. Kind of like the stained glass. I had visions of being the next Tiffany but now I know why stained glass is so expensive. It's one great big pain in the butt. So let this be a lesson to you: Never put down your lollipop. And it's worth every penny for stained glass.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Week in review

It's quite a stormy day here in New England. I've been writing an article on morning sickness all day and I'm counting my blessings that those days are OVER! Those nine months were probably the longest I've ever gone without a regular diet of chocolate. Anyhow, I've whittled down my Polish supply. The 3 Bit had a strange, milky-flavored substance between the chocolate and the biscuit which made the whole thing a bit too sweet for me. But the Kinder Bueno, ooohhhh boy, it's true what everyone says. Yummy crispy flaky smooth. The wafer part reminded me of these peanut butter things I used to get in high school. It's like a pillow of crispy wafer, only instead of being filled with peanut butter, it has a smooth, creamy hazelnut filling. Mmmmm, mmmmm. I scarfed that puppy down in no time.
In other news, the after-Easter candy sales were pitiful. It was like the shelves had been ransacked by some crazed, last-minute Easter bunnies. The only thing I got was a bag of Nestle's eggs. I thought they were Nestle Crunch eggs, but because I was in too much of a hurry, I didn't realize that they're actually caramel eggs. They're not very good, so I'm going to make chocolate caramel cookies out of them later this week.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

New inventory!

I've added an international flair to my candy cabinet. I've lived in this town for nine years and it was only last week when I finally ventured into a little Polish store about a mile down the street. It was really cute and I was amazed by the candy selection. I decided to start with the candy that looked most accessible to my American palate. First, there's the Tropic Banana in Chocolate ("+ banana extract").
Well, it's interesting. First of all, the bar is shaped like a banana, which is kind of cute. Biting into it, the texture is very firm, like a jelly spearmint leaf or orange slice. Here's the thing: the banana flavor is pretty darn accurate. It has that same slightly sour twinge of a banana, rather than the usual artificial sweet banana flavor used in other candies. And the texture makes it almost seem like a real banana. The drawback here is the chocolate. It's gritty and cheap. If this filling was coated in real dark chocolate, it would be pretty amazing.

Then there's "3 Bit," which has a sticker in English describing it as "biscuit in cream filling with milk chocolate." I have no idea what the third says but the English description is "milk chocolate bar with creamy filling." And last is the European favorite, Kinder Bueno, which, believe it or not, I've never had. So I have some tasting work ahead of me. I'll report back.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Milk Chocolate with Antioxidant Goodness

The kind folks over at Hershey's sent a package of their latest products for review: All Natural Extra Dark, Natural Flavanol Antioxidant Milk Chocolate and Whole Bean Chocolate. To be absolutely completely honest, I didn't really read the labels closely before opening them. My immediate thought was, "This is Hershey's chocolate with a label that says its good for you" and to be quite frank, that idea turned me off. It seems like most people know that dark chocolate is good for you, so why take the fun out of it? It wasn't until I read the press release that I realized that two of the products were milk chocolate because apparently-- hold onto your hats-- there are some people out there who don't like dark chocolate. How sad for them. But in any case, now they can get their antioxidants from chocolate, too, thanks to these goodies.
I tried the Whole Bean chocolate first. The package says it has 40 percent less sugar than the leading milk chocolate and 7 grams of fiber per serving. (That equates to 1 Weight Watchers point per chocolate. Hooray!) Let me say, I was very pleasantly surprised by these. The aroma is deliciously milky and the taste reminds me of how Kisses used to taste to me, creamy and chocolatey. These are darn good chocolates. The problem is, you want to stuff your face with them rather than daintily eat one or two after dinner.
I'd had the Extra Dark before, and they're good, but the thing with dark chocolate for me is that I either want a basic bar of Special Dark or some really top-quality stuff. These little squares are good, but they don't make me want to pig out on them like the Whole Bean.
Lastly I tried the Antioxidant. They were milky, too, but the texture felt a little grainier than the Whole Bean.
Overall, I'd say I really like these chocolates. My only complaint is that they're taking something totally fun and indulgent and making it just a smidge too nutraceutical-looking. This is chocolate, it's supposed to be yummy and exciting and fun to eat with the added bonus of being good for you. I fear that these will appear in people's kitchens on the same shelf as the vitamins.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Hippity, hoppity, Easter's on its way

I haven't been eating too much Easter candy because frankly, I haven't wanted to buy big bags of stuff. I'd love to have a few malted milk eggs, some jelly beans and maybe a Peep or two, just to be festive. But I don't want mounds of Easter goodies sitting around tempting me. So alas, it's been a spare year. I haven't even made Henri an Easter basket. He can't eat it, of course, so I figure I might as well give myself a break before holiday madness sets in next year.
Betsy bought me a little Easter surprise, though, that I've been loving. She went to Chelsea last weekend to go gallery hopping, only to find that the galleries are closed on Sundays. Instead she spent her day going to the funky shops. Oh, how I miss those days! Anyhow, she found a shop called Three Tarts and bought me this cute little Easter box full of chocolatey almonds. Talk about addictive. The almonds are toasted so they have that nice warm nutty flavor. They are so delish.
She also brought me back one of their little pamphlets and apparently they make all sorts of little sweet yummies. Some things that look especially good to me: Peanut Butter Cookies sprinkled with Sea Salt; Cassata Parfait: chocolate-studded ricotta cream, fresh orange and crunchy biscotti garnished with chopped pistachios (oh YUM!); Lemon Coconut Yumballs: vanilla and lemon cake held together with cream of coconut and rum, rolled in white chocolate and shredded coconut; and marshmallows in the following flavors: chocolate, vanilla bean, rosemary, yuzu, raspberry and seasonal.
This sounds like a funky place. Someday I'll get back to the city...