Tuesday, August 28, 2007

End of summer

I'm leaving to go to Cape Cod tomorrow, which will be my last chance to savor those traditional summery treats like fudge and salt-water taffy. Actually, I don't really like either of them, so chances are I won't have anything to report. But hopefully I'll be able to find some cranberry candy or something equally as interesting to write about. And then when I get back, it'll be time to start planning my Wombat Day party and Halloween!

It's a wrap

It's time to wrap up the great Euro Candy Exposition '07.

  • One of my favorites of the whole lot of goodies was a Ritter Sport Quadrago Erdbeer-Joghurt. (A bite-sized chocolate bar filled with a strawberry yogurt filling.) It was a nice balance of sweet chocolate and tangy/sour strawberry yogurt. MMMM!

  • Perhaps the most disturbing "candy" was the licorice sticks from Holland. These were actual pieces of licorice root--they look like any old twig you'd find on a tree-- except you chew them to get to the licoricey center. They're waaaay strong and it's just a little freaky to be gnawing on a stick.

  • I really, really liked the wee little bar of Hussel Edelbitter. The chocolate was yummy and the bar was the perfect size to satisfy a craving without going overboard. It's the Fun Size for the Euro crowd.

Lastly, I shall leave you with this picture of the Baron enjoying a perfect day reading a book and eating salted licorice fish from a pile on his belly. As the day went on, his shirt crept higher and higher until the Baronness walked over and pulled it back down. When she did, there was a surprise! A lone salted fish was hiding there, waiting to be savored.

Monday, August 27, 2007

New York, New York

New York is truly a culinary wonderland. A couple of years ago I took a "sweets" tour of New York that featured Magnolia's cupcakes, Jacques Torres' chocolates and lots of other goodies. I learned my lesson on that trip; you can actually overdo chocolate in a single day in New York. So when I set out to put together a chocolate tour for the Baron, I kept it small but oh-so-sweet.

We dropped the little von Schokolats off at the American Girl Place and headed down to Union Square. First stop: ABC Carpet & Home.

I kept hearing, "Why are we going to a carpet store?"

First off, it's not really a carpet store. I mean, they do have carpets, but it's so much more. All sorts of funky, groovy stuff for your home, and then all these other little stores within the big store. That's where Chocolat Michel Cluizel is.

It's part chocolate shop, part restaurant. They offer guided tastings, from the Introductory Tasting at $35 per person (features 7 chocolates, including blended and single plantation varieties and a "superlative bonbon") to the Full Spirit Tasting (an emphasis on how chocolates pair with fine spirits ranging from Cognac and Muscat to single malt Scotch and Tequila).

The chocolates were lovely. They weren't too froofy with painted designs or gold leaf, and there weren't any of those "spice cabinet" combinations that I loathe. It was a difficult decision, but I finally got a dark bonbon for each of us, and then the Baron picked out two round, prickly things in pink and orange. I would've never chosen these so I'm glad he did. Turns out they were filled with liqueur-- mine had Grand Marnier-- and they were delicious. (Michel Cluizel is the only chocolate shop in Manhattan that's allowed to sell liquor-infused chocolates, because they have a liquor license.)

I also bought a 20 dram "vial" of cocoa nibs (the container looks like a prescription bottle-- very cute!) and a tasting box of single-origin chocolates (more on these in another post). It was pretty pricey, I must say. The individual chocolates were about $3 a piece, so this isn't chocolate to binge on.

Then it was onto Max Brenner. (I'd put the link to the website here, but every time I go to it, it takes forever and I don't want you to curse me.) I know that Max Brenner has been lambasted by the culinary community for being more of a marketer than a chef, and Brian and the Baron felt like the place was a little too Disney World, but I liked it. We were pretty hungry at this point, so the question was: do we order lunch or do we order something sweet and wonderful from the desserts menu? (They had things like peanut butter and chocolate crepes, chocolate pizza, S'mores and dip-your-own ice cream bar.) The answer: both. The Baron ordered a cup of the Mexican Hot Chocolate which came in one of their signature "hug mugs." It doesn't have a handle so you just hug it to your lips. It was pretty tasty: rich and thick with a good kick of cinnamon and peppery spice at the finish. Brian ordered a chocolate beer, which wasn't really chocolatey. More malty and dark like a Guinness. We decided to split a normal lunch and the Munchies Waffles: two waffles topped with your choice of milk, dark or white chocolate ice cream, served with crunchy chocolate balls and chocolate syrup. I would've gotten the dark chocolate, but the Baron's gentle palate dictated that we have the white. It was fabulous. I mean, what's not to love? The waffles were hot and crisp, the ice cream smooth and milky, and the sauce and crunchies gave it more texture. Deeelish! The chocolate shop had an array of individual chocolates for sale, and then boxes of different goodies and hot chocolate and such.

While we were having our feast, we got to talking to two women at the table next to us. One of them said that her grandmother, who lived to be 100, was addicted to dark chocolate. She said when they cleaned out her room at the nursing home, they found a hidden stash of Hershey's Dark. (See, it is a potent antioxidant!)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

S'more please!

I've discussed marshmallow before. It's a tricky thing. Done just right, it's heavenly. But more often than not, it's too much of something: too sticky, too dry, not bouncy enough. So when the von Schokolats produced this bag of "Soft-Kiss" chocolate-covered marshmallows, I didn't expect much. The Baronness suggested we make S'mores out of them, and I was game.

The only graham crackers I had on hand were the Keebler variety, which pale in comparison to the Honey-Maid ones, so I figured this was going to be a doomed experiment.

Fortunately, I was wrong. A few seconds in the microwave (I know, I know; more on this in a bit) and we had these ooey-gooey marshmallowy, chocolatey snacks. These were darn good. The Baronness attributed the success due to the fact that it had "just the right amount of chocolate." Well, that's debateable of course. Can you ever have too much chocolate? But there was a nice balance of textures and tastes.
Now, I know you can't really make a true S'more in the microwave. That's totally cheating and you won't get the same results as making them over a fire. A true S'more will have a crusty-on-the-outside, golden marshmallow melting between layers of Hershey's chocolate. But hey, in a pinch, the microwave will do.

Friday, August 24, 2007

My new love

We've already determined that I love candy and sandwiches. I'd say the other item in my top trifecta of taste is cookies. Oh, how I love cookies. Chocolate chip, oatmeal, peanut butter, Milanos, sugar wafers, you name it, I love them. When my friend Deb sent me a big package of goodies from Australia, I went gaga over the cookies she sent. They're called Tim Tams and they're chocolate-filled chocolate-covered cookies that are so darn yummy I can't stand it. I ended up ordering a bunch from a place in Texas a while back, but I scarfed them all down so quickly that I knew I couldn't order more. I thought I had found the ultimate cookie. That is, until the von Schokolats arrived with their European bounty and introduced me to the cookie perfection that is the Stroopwafel.

I've seen these before at Starbucks and a few other places, and I remember thinking, "Who would buy one of these? They're flat and boring!" But oh ho, the secret lies in the filling which is imperceptible at first glance. Imagine: two waffley crisp cookies with an oozy, soft, caramel-cinnamon center. They're traditionally placed on top of your coffee so the steam gets them all warm and melty. Ours were a little stale, so the Baroness stuck them in the microwave for a few seconds. These things are fabulous, FABULOUS! Needless to say, they're really reeking havoc on my stupid diet.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Now that's a brown bag lunch!

The other day I was pondering the idea of favorite foods and was trying to determine what mine was. When I was little, it was spaghetti. I could eat pasta from morning til night and never tire of it. I still love pasta, but is it my favorite? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I really love a good sandwich. I'm open to lots of different kinds: tuna on rye, turkey with stuffing and cranberry on a roll, roast beef with horseradish sauce, I could go on and on. So what could be more perfect than a chocolate sandwich?!
Yes, you read that right. Look at this German goodie: it's called Eszet Schnitten and it's thin wafers of either dark or milk chocolate. Apparently the thing to do is to spread some bread with butter and top it with a chocolate wafer, but I went a few steps further. I bought some fresh bread at the bakery and slathered on peanut butter, than the chocolate, and grilled it up in some melted butter. Oh my! I thought that I'd prefer the milk chocolate because I don't usually like dark chocolate with pb, but this was an exception. The dark definitely won my heart. Yes, this is a heart attack on a plate, but for an occasional treat, why not? I can think of some other great combinations, too, like banana, marshmallow, pastrami ... oh wait, no forget that last one. I have two pieces left, so I'm willing to entertain your ideas. What kind of chocolate sandwich should I make?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Two great tastes that don't taste great together

When I was pregnant, the only thing I could keep down was grapefruit. I think I kept the entire Florida citrus council in business that year. So the Baron thought of me when he came across this: Feodora Fio! Grapefruit-Joghurt Chocolade ("Milk and Superior Chocolate with Grapefruit Yogurt Filling.")
It's not everyday when you see a grapefruit-flavored candy, let alone one with chocolate, so it's difficult to know what to expect. Despite the fact that I love grapefruit and I love chocolate, I've decided the two aren't really meant to be put together. The chocolate was creamy and slightly bitter, and the grapefruit filling tasted just like the fruit: sour, bitter and tangy. Not something I'd try again. The Baron also picked up a pear version which we all found to be really gross. I guess there's a reason you don't see some fruits paired up with chocolate.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Halloween is coming!

It's official. The grocery store has loaded up on Halloween (or should I use the more politically correct "fall harvest") candy. I took a quick browse today. Seems like caramel and caramel apple are big flavors this year; I saw candy corn and Sugar Babies in those flavors, and I saw some miniature bags of Jelly Bellys which I've never seen before. I plan on going all out for Halloween this year and I'm going to make sure that Henri is walking by then so he can do the slave labor of trick-or-treating for me.

What's next? Black pepper gummie bears?

These, my friends, are salted licorice fish or, as I suppose the translation would be, "salted herring."
They're gross.
Not as gross as the licorice that Betsy brought me back from Amsterdam, but definitely not my kind of candy.
The Baron liked them, just a few at a time, but he said my Amsterdam licorice offered more of a surprise because the salt was incorporated into the licorice rather than dusted on. In either case, I'm just not digging it. Hats off to people who can eat this stuff. I'll stick with Twizzlers.

Pucker up!

The little von Schokolats couldn't wait for me to try this gum. I guess it's called "Center Shock" and the flavor was "Mystery." They were all giddy waiting to see how I'd react to this supposedly super-sour treat. Being a sour lover, I figured I've tasted worse and thought I'd have to play up my reaction for the kiddos.

Oh my. Was I wrong. This is some seriously sour stuff. It's the kind of sour that makes your tongue fold in half and your eyelids flutter.

"Keep chewing," they said as they cheered me on. It wasn't easy to do. I started to feel a burning sensation in my chest. But after about a minute or two of excruciating (yet strangely satisfying) sour, the gum mellowed out into just a plain old lump of sour gum.

As I've said before, I'm not a gum fan, but this stuff is in a class of its own. I don't know if you can get it in the States, but I'd be willing to buy it if it was available.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Has anyone seen my insulin?

I'm finally starting to come down off the sugar-high I've been experiencing for the past four days. The von Schokolats arrived on Thursday and true to their word, had a gianormous bag full of German candy for me. I mean, the thing must've weighed ten pounds. I've never had that much candy in the house at one time. I have so much to write about (including our grand New York chocolate adventure) but I can't seem to concentrate on anything right now. My blood sugar is dipping and I'm ready to go to bed for the night, even though it's only 6 p.m. But stay tuned for fabulous tales of salted licorice, chocolate sandwiches, the world's most sour gum and more! (And here's a picture of the Baron dipping into a fabulous Haribo mix. Details to come!)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Today's the day!

The von Schokolats are scheduled to arrive some time this afternoon with my big bag o' European goodies. Hooray! The Baron called this morning to make sure that I saved him two PayDays. That's the thing about men ... it's like they don't realize you can just go to this mystical place called "the store" and buy what you want.
Holy cow. As I was just typing that I had a sudden memory. When I was little there was a consignment store in town called "The Store." I HATED that place. My mother would buy my clothes there and it freaked me out to wear someone else's clothes. (Two outfits particularly send shivers down my spine: the grey wool dress that my Sunday school teacher loved and the heinous itchy polyester pink pantsuit that I wore one time before finally declaring that I wouldn't wear anything besides jeans and a blue zippered sweatshirt, which, ironically enough, was used. My mother found it in church when she was cleaning up after Mass and no one claimed it, so it became mine.) But what does this have to with candy? Well, at some point "The Store" decided to expand its inventory and started selling candy, of all things. I remember walking home from school with my friends Melissa and Sean one day and we stopped there. I purchased a giant plastic tooth filled with gum. The irony of it made Melissa hysterical.
So anyhow, I'm looking forward to an evening of exotic candy tasting. And then tomorrow, we'll be venturing into New York City where I have a complete candy agenda set up. I'll report back as soon as I can!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A love that was meant to be

I live with a decidedly non-candy addict. Oh sure, he likes really good dark chocolate, but when it comes to good old check-out counter candy, he's clueless, with the exception of Mounds and Mike & Ike's, which he'll occasionally indulge in. (How's that for candy choices? But I digress.) He's constantly saying to me, "I don't get it. Why the obsession with candy bars when you can have real chocolate?" And my answer is, if you don't get it, I can't explain it. It's about nostalgia and comfort food and fun. So when the bucket of PayDays arrived a couple of weeks ago, his response was, "Yuck. I hate those." Good, I thought, all the more for me, but then I asked him, "Have you ever tried one?"

A ha. He hadn't. Not that he could remember anyway. So after work one day, he acquiesced and decided to try one.

Fast forward to last night. He came home from work and immediately went for the bucket. "PayDays are my new favorite candy bar," he declared. "I like them even more than Mounds." Holy cow! Call the mayor! Ring the church bells! He likes them, he really likes them! And then there was this in my in-box this morning; the subject was simply "PayDays":

I brought one in to eat after lunch, but it keeps calling to me from it's spot beside my monitor. Oh, sweet siren call! I am powerless to resist…
…mmm, peanuts and caramel….

And so there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. I truly believe there is a candy for everyone. Sometimes it just takes some searching.

Monday, August 13, 2007

My favorite things (and a correction)

Believe me when I tell you I was actually salivating on the way home from Trader Joe's today. I had sort of vowed not to buy any more candy from there because the last few have been disappointing (I'm particularly thinking of the chocolate-covered pistachios which are still sitting in my fridge), but when I looked on their new products shelf, I was beside myself. For there was their newest product: Dark Chocolate Almonds-- Made with Belgian chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt and turbinado sugar." Bestill my heart! My three favorite things: almonds, dark chocolate and salt!
I just tried one and, yes, it is delicious. The first whiff is a nice, bittersweet chocolate. The combination of sugar and salt is fantastic. I just wish the almond was a little toastier, but that's okay. I love these. I'm going to parcel out my allotment for dessert each night.

Also, a correction: in a previous entry about the dude who's licensed the Mentos and Diet Coke blaster, I said it was from Alexandra's alumni magazine. Actually, it was from her husband Richard's. He went to the University of Colorado. She, surprisingly, went to the University of Rhode Island. For some reason, I thought she went to Syracuse. Go figure. Anyhow, that's the story.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

My new candy friend

I belong to a very top-secret group of writers. There are nine of us from all over the world (well, okay, the continental U.S., Hawaii and Australia) and we've been corresponding practically every day for three years. We call ourselves the Byline Babes and we totally rock. It's a rare and lovely phenomenon when one of the Babes meets another one. I had that good fortune last week. One of the Babes stopped by on her way through a New England vacation with her husband and 10-year-old son Alexander. I made up a goodie bag of candy from my stockpiles for Alexander which opened up a conversation about candy. I asked him what his favorite candy was and he thought about it for a minute. I was fully expecting to hear something like Reese's or maybe Pop Rocks, but he came up with this fantastic answer: Tootsie Pops. I told him I was surprised by that and I said I liked the orange ones. He replied with an excited, "Me too!" Then I asked him what candy he didn't like. Again, he took the time to think about it and answered, "Banana Laffy Taffy."
I think I'm going to start an informal tally of kids' favorites. What fun!

Friday, August 10, 2007


I'm not a big Altoids fan. Surprising, because I really like mint. One time my boss filled her candy jar with Wint-o-Green LifeSavers and I just about ate the whole darn thing. But Altoids, eh. I don't think there's enough sweet in them for me to consider them candy. So when I got a bunch of tins of VerMints recently, I couldn't help but compare them to Altoids. After all, they come in a similar tin box and have the similar pastille shape. I figured at least they'd be good to have on hand for after my morning, midmorning and afternoon coffees. But then I tried them, and YUM! These go beyond your typical mint experience and border on the realm of tasty candy. It has a lot to do with the flavors. There's traditional peppermint, but there's also WinterMint, CinnaMint, GingerMint and my two top faves, Chai and Cafe Express (made with Green Mountain Coffee). Besides yumminess, these have some other fabulous qualities as well: they're all natural and made largely with organic ingredients and they're made in Vermont, my dream state, the place I hope to retire to some day. And they're only 5 calories each, so they're perfect for my candy diet. I do have to mention something about the name, though. Obviously it's a play on mint/Vermont. But every time I look at the tin, the little voice in my head (one of them, anyway) pronounces it with the stress on the "ver," so it sounds like "vermin," which is a little odd for a food product. When I first opened one of the tins, I almost expected the mints to be shaped like mice, but no, they're round. Look for these goodies at your local natural foods store.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Mentos and Diet Coke: The Next Generation

I don't mean to be all-Mentos-all-the-time, but I'm trying to clear off my desk and I ran across this tidbit that Alexandra sent me about four gagillion months ago. She found this in her alumni magazine. For the life of me I can't remember where she went to school, so I can't give proper credit to the magazine, but apparently some dude named Steve Spangler who graduated in 1989 signed a licensing agreement to "create and sell patented devices that utilize the explosive power of [Mentos and Diet Coke]. Called 'Geyser Tube' toys, they will twist, fly and power other devices. 'This is the vinegar-and-baking soda experiment for a new generation,' Spangler said. Fun! And now my desk is one paper emptier. Five million more to go.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Mentos intern

I'll admit it: I'm a sucker for marketing crap. So check this out: www.mentosintern.com. It's a live webcast of an intern at Mentos and he'll do a task for you if you put it on his schedule. I'm going to ask him to come up with a craft project involving candy for the little von Schokolats when they're here visiting next week.

The little ones

Alas, my plans have gone awry. The poll function isn't working on Blogger, so I'll just have to pick the winning names myself. And the free Nestle Crunch Crisps go to the creative people who submitted:
Skor and Kit!
(Since several people submitted Kit, I'm giving it to the first person who responded.)
Thanks, everyone, for playing. Keep checking for more candy fun!

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Name Game

What a creative bunch ya'll are! You've sent in some great suggestions for Henri's phantom sibling. For girls, some suggestions included:

Mary Jane

Baby Ruth

Cella (cute if we were Italian!)

Jordan (like the almonds; very nice!)


Marzipan (that almost has a Greek goddess ring to it)

and the very popular Kit, after Kit Kat. I love this one!

For boys:

Charlie (after Charleston Chews, although it could also be after Charlie Bucket)
William (after Willy Wonka)
John, Richard or George (after the Cadbury clan; too many Georges in my family though)
Daniel Peter (after the inventor of Swiss chocolate)
Skor (LOVE this!)

The Baron had his own special list that he sent in which included:
Whatchamacallit (so he wouldn't have to remember the kid's name)
100,000 dollar bar (only a portion of what the kid would cost)
Kiss (because she'd be so sweet--- awwww!)
And, if there is no other sibling, he suggested changing Henri's name to "Bar None."

So there you have it. I'm going to pick a few of my top choices and post them in a poll. Remember, the person who suggested the winning name gets a coupon for a free Nestle Crunch Crisp!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Random Candy Memory: It Ain't All Good

My grandmother had a candy dish near the front door and it was always filled with clear aqua blue hard candies. They are incredibly minty, just stopping short of menthol. There's nothing sweet, fun or yummy about these mints. I hate these candies. They make me afraid to get old because I never want to like these candies because they're boring and too strong and I think only old people must like them.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Who needs Made in China crap when you can have gum?

I'm furious about this whole Made in China lead paint toy recall. Why are we even importing stuff from China? I know, because we want inexpensive stuff. But I'm done with that. I'll pay extra for toys that won't harm my child, thank you very much. But in the meantime, Henri went through my purse this morning and found something fabulous: two boxes of Marukawa Bubble Gum from the Japanese restaurant. They're little boxes filled with four gumballs each and they make a delightful sound when you shake them. This kept him entertained for a half hour while I went through his toybox and removed all the toxic Sesame Street toys.