Saturday, October 31, 2009


Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween, Phase II: Downtown Trick-or-Treat

I've forgotten how exhausting trick-or-treating can be. Today was the downtown trick-or-treat where all the local stores and politicians hand out candy to the kids and coupons to the parents. Basically about five million people descend upon the town all at the same time, so there's a crush of crowds and everyone is all hot and sweaty in their costumes and tired kids are screaming and teenagers are pushing their way through ... yeah, good times. Fortunately we got there early enough to do some power trick-or-treating before things got too crazy.
The very first piece of candy the Sugar Baby picked out was a miniature Tootsie Roll. Uh oh. I'd forgotten to have "the talk" with him. You know, the talk where I explain that you always go for the Reese's and Snickers over the Tootsie Rolls and lollipops. He did better on the second try when he got-- of course!-- a bag of Sugar Babies.
He seemed to be attracted to the silvery wrappers of 3 Musketeers, and when the offering was Dum Dums, he poked around until he found the rootbeer ones.
On the way home, he fell asleep in the car, clutching his bag o' goodies. I think it weighed more than he does.
After dinner tonight, I told him he could pick out one piece to eat. What did he pick? Go ahead, take a guess. Swedish Fish? Nope. Milky Way? No. Tootsie Roll? No. Out of all the candy-- sooo much candy-- he chose a peppermint LifeSaver. A single, solitary LifeSaver. I can't even pretend to understand.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wah, Wah, Wah....

Yesterday I promised you the great unveiling of the treats I made for the Sugar Baby's party at school. Fortunately, I made two different things.
First, ghost Jell-O jigglers. Easy, fun, festive.
And then, trying to be all Martha, I decided to make mini caramel apples that I saw in a magazine. Here's what you're supposed to do: use a melon baller to scoop balls of apple. Put a lollipop stick in the apple, then dip in melted butterscotch chips and roll in sprinkles. Voila! A cute mini "caramel" apple.
The Sugar Baby's school is very strict about peanut products. We can't even use ingredients that were made in a peanut facility, so I couldn't use the butterscotch chips. "Well why not caramel then?" I thought. Brach's caramels are nut-free.
I spent all night cutting apple balls, drying them, dipping them, rolling them. They were adorable. I even had little candy corn paper cups to put them in. I put the tray of apples in the fridge and this morning, woke up to find this:Wah, wah, wah. The caramel slipped right off the apples. I guess that's why the recipe said to use butterscotch chips. Bummer. Apple on a stick anyone?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Trader Joe's PB&J Bar: Chocolate + Potato Chips

Knock on wood-- we're doing better here at the House of Yum. Wait until you see what I made for the Sugar Baby's party at school tomorrow. I'm just waiting for it to set up.
In the meantime, let's talk about this here Trader Joe's PB&J candy bar. I've looked at this numerous times, but it never really sounded very good to me. PB&J just says sandwich, not sweet. But then, on a whim, I decided to get one a few weeks ago, and just yesterday got around to trying it.
Sweet Caesar's Ghost! What a fantastic bar. The chocolate is creamy, the peanut butter rich (with crunchies in it) and the jelly firm and fruity. This was a candy bar that made me say "Wow." It shouldn't have come as a surprise, really, since I loved the Trader Joe's Lumpy Bumpy Bar.
It wasn't until after I ate it that I read the box. Here's the description:

"PB&J are sandwiched between milk and dark chocolate then sprinkled with crushed potato chips. Potato chips? Yes, crisp, delicious potato chips. This means you have it all-- sweet and salty, smooth and crunchy. Lucky you!"

Lucky me, indeed. Potato chips! No wonder it tasted so good. The mention of milk and dark chocolate is perplexing, however. It seemed like it was all dark chocolate to me. Maybe if I'd read the box I would've paid closer attention.
At around $2 a bar, this isn't every day eating. And at a whopping 300 calories, it's more like a once a year treat. But this, my friends, just may be a contender against Chocorooms for the candy of the year. We'll have to see.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Halloween Cannot Be Contained

We're in a state of emergency here in the House of Yum. Both the Sugar Baby and I have caught some nasty bug and we're both hacking away. Fortunately, it's not the flu, swine or avian or platypus or any other kind. But THIS IS HALLOWEEN WEEK! We have plans! Starting Wednesday, the craziness begins. Tomorrow will be a day of total rest and fluids. Nothing but chicken soup and Sesame Street all day.
Today, while trying unsuccessfully to nap (isn't it amazing how kids can be dripping with snot and phlegm, yet still have the energy to bounce around screaming, "Froggy's on my head!"), I had a deep existential moment. This is the truth that was revealed to me: No one is in charge of Halloween. Here's what I mean. There are some holidays that are dependent upon the weather. Fourth of July, Memorial Day, summer birthdays. If the weather is bad, the celebrations are either moved indoors or to another day. Some holidays, like Christmas and Easter, are held rain or shine. But Halloween is tricky. If it rains, there is no moving the fun indoors. There is no rain date. If the weather is bad on Halloween, all is lost. There is no King of Halloween to decree that trick-or-treating will be held on the next nice evening. Announcements are not broadcast through the streets explaining a contingency plan. Nope, Halloween is free of government and political bondage. There's no controlling it. It either happens or it doesn't. No make-up dates, no rain checks. And people all over the land will be stuck with the one or two kinds of candy they bought to give out and the bountiful harvest that is brought forth on Halloween is but a sugar famine. With Halloween, it's all the luck of the draw.
Yep, that's what happens when you have too little sleep, a generous spoonful of cough syrup and a crazed toddler.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Countdown to Halloween '09: Father John is on the Scene

Verily, I say unto thee ... who's cooler than Father John? Seriously folks, this is what I'm talking about. As you know from previous years, the Sugar Baby and I have a rigid Halloween schedule. There's the trick-or-treat downtown during the day and then neighborhood trick-or-treating at night. This year there's the library party and the preschool parade, too. (Yes, of course I signed up to bring in the Halloween snack.)
But the holiday just wouldn't be the same without a visit to Father John. (For an update, here's 2008, and 2007 and more 2007.) So as I was planning this year's schedule, it occurred to me: Halloween is on a Saturday night. But Mass is also said on Saturday night. Panic struck! Would Father John be giving out candy this year? If so, would it only be after Mass (too late for us to stop by)? Would we miss our annual visit to Father John and his basket o' full-sized candy bars?
As fate would have it, my mother told me to go to the church's website and read this week's bulletin. Here you go:
"On a completely different note, next Saturday is
the Eve of All Saint's Day, Halloween! Sometimes
you read an article that condemns this holiday as a
glorification of the darker aspects of the pagan realm.
To be honest, I really don't think most people take
that route. From my side of the trick-or-treat door, I
see a lot of fun family activity as Moms and Dads
prowl the nighttime streets with the kids of their
neighborhood in search of that key element of the
Halloween experience: CANDYBARS!
Candybars---full size, top tier---are what will
given out from the rectory door next Saturday. Last
year we broke a record with over 160 kids (....and
one dog.....or someone in a really good dog costume....).
With Halloween falling on a Saturday, I
hope we can smash that record like an old pumpkin!
Let's try for 200! Spread the word, bring your
friends! A giant basket of candy awaits the ghastly
and ghoulish and masked and marvelous!"

Hooray! Halloween is saved! But on a more serious note, I really like what he said. Some religious groups condemn Halloween as an evening of evil, but honestly, look at it for what it is. Just like Father John said, it's a night for parents to be with their kids and bond over a candy-plundering adventure. Halloween should be heralded for bringing families and neighborhoods together. How often during this day and age do you ever ring your neighbor's doorbell to say hi? (Well, in our case, quite often, especially when there are martinis involved.) But otherwise, most of us just stay locked up in our houses and only walk from the front door to the car. For one night a year, we all break that habit and actually get out there and stroll the streets, greeting people we just usually wave to. (I really think Father John should write an op-ed piece on this. It bears much more weight coming from a member of the clergy.)
Anyhow, just to be safe, I e-mailed Father John and asked him when he planned on manning the big basket of candy. He said he was trying to get another priest to fill in for him so he wouldn't miss any trick-or-treaters. (I didn't know priests could switch shifts like that. I suppose it makes sense.) So I am READY for Halloween! Well, almost anyway. My costume isn't quite finished and-- yikes!-- the Sugar Baby appears to be coming down with a cold. He has six days to recover. Cross your fingers and say a prayer because I will not miss out on Halloween.

Yummy Earth: Organic Candy That Tastes Good

One of the moms at the Sugar Baby's new school found out I had a blog. Not only does she have a 3-year-old, but she also just gave birth to a brand new baby just a few weeks ago. I figured if anyone needed a special treat, it was her. So I shared some of the candy love that was sent to me from Yummy Earth. I like this company, because it was created by two dads who wanted their kids to have a natural candy that tasted good. All of their products are USDA and EU Certified Organic and are gluten-free, peanut-free and tree-nut free and don't contain any type of corn syrup. And yet amazingly, their candy still tastes really, really good. Honestly!
While the gummy bears and worms may not be as bright and colorful as traditional brands, they taste really good. The other mom commented on how juicy they were. Yep, they have a nice, fresh fruit flavor with a good sweet/sour balance. What I particularly like is that these have the same dense chew as a regular gummy. Oftentimes, gummy products can be too soft or gumdrop-like. These were definitely chewy.
As for their hard candies, I tried the Roadside Root Beer drops which were just as tasty as an old-fashioned root beer barrel, only drop-shaped, which I like better since it didn't slice up my tongue. I plan on giving out their Organic Lollipops for Halloween, so if you're in the neighborhood, stop by!
I tip my hat to this company because I know a lot of parents out there who are concerned about artificial colors and flavors. These prove that you can make a great tasting candy from nature's own delicious sources.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Revisiting M&M's Premiums

I try not to use the self-checkout at the grocery store because 1) I want to create jobs for people, not reduce them and 2) Something always goes wrong and I have to wait for the wasteoid stoned teenager with the scraggly goatee to come help. I didn't have much choice the other day though when I was buying the incredibly stereotypical milk, eggs and bread. It was either wait in a ridiculously long line for a human check-out person, or do the self-serve. As I was trying to scan my card, I noticed a box top popping out from the other side of the impulse purchase rack. It was a small box of M&M's Premiums in Triple Chocolate.
I've written about the Premiums before. Here I was shocked at the price. In this post, the Baroness bought some mint ones and I decided they tasted like a peppermint patty. Then the Baron shocked us all with his review, and then Liesl set the record straight and said she really liked them.
Frankly, I couldn't remember what I thought of them, so I grabbed a box. (Very impulsive of me.)
Here it is, my final decision: these are wrong.
To be labeled an M&M, in my book anyway, you must have a hard candy shell. I was taken aback by the waxy soft coating on these. It was shocking, kind of like if you guzzle a glass of water only to find out that it was pure vodka, as a certain guitar store owner's three-year-old daughter did recently.
These are fine as stand-alone candies, but as "M&M's," they just don't work. You need that combination of crunchy slick shell with creamy milk chocolate.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What If You Have a Two-Story House With Black Shutters and a Brown Door? Huh? What then?

Every Halloween, my grandparents would buy a mega-sized Hershey bar for each of us kids. We'd go to their house right after school (they lived just around the corner) and collect our prized bars. Then later that evening, all decked out in our costumes, we'd ring their doorbell for the regular booty they were dishing out to the neighborhood kids.
I was sent this big bar because it is a "special Milton Hershey edition." (The only special thing about it is the picture of Milton Hershey on the back.) But apparently Milt and his wife Kitty set up a trust to help children in need and it's still going strong. Every time you buy a Hershey bar, some of the proceeds go toward helping a child break the cycle of poverty. Pretty cool.
I was also sent this info about Halloween:
  • This year, for the first time ever, Hershey Kisses will be available in trick-or-treat sized bags
  • Reese's will have bags of Snack Size Peanut Butter Cup Pumpkins (Cool! I need to find these.)
  • Reese's Fast Break and Cookies 'n Creme will be available in Snack Size packages
They also sent along these little factoid gems:
  • Houses with black shutters are 77 percent more likely to hand out Kit Kat Wafer Bars and trick-or-treaters have a 37 percent greater chance of scaring up a Kit Kat Wafer Bar from a ranch house.
  • Reese's Peanut Butter Cup lovers should forego ranch houses and opt instead to ring the bell of two-story houses where they'll have a 26 percent greater chance of receiving the perfect combination of chocolate and peanut butter.
  • Knock on brown doors if seeking Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bars. Trick-or-treaters have a 32 percent greater chance of receiving a Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bar from homes with brown doors.
  • [All statistics found according to the Opinion Research Corporation Omnibus Survey, December 2008, conducted on behalf of The Hershey Company.]
Come on, now. Really? What do you think? I'm going to do my own research this year and let you know my findings. I'm trying to remember what color shutters I have. I don't think they're black. And my house has three stories and a red door, so I have no idea where that puts me on this survey. What about you? Do you fit the mold?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Stick Up Yer Dukes, Jeffrey Steingarten; Winner Gets a Skybar

For some strange reason, the October issue of Vogue showed up in my mailbox the other day. This is quite a mystery, since I'm so not fashionable. In fact, I'm negative fashion. No doubt if I had a daughter she'd be mortified by some of my choices of dress, most often a sweatshirt and jeans. (As I'm writing this, I decided to check the mailing label. Aha! It would appear that this magazine belongs to No-Nuts. It all makes sense now.)
Well, I thought the arrival of the magazine was some sort of karmic message, because it turns out that this month's food article was called, "Dream Sweets" with the sub-head "With Halloween treats on his mind, Jeffrey Steingarten investigates America's enduring appetite for candy."
Let me begin by saying that I have a love begrudging appreciation/hate relationship with Jeffrey Steingarten. I met him once at a press conference and he was very rude and snide and pompous. (Unlike some of the other more well-known food writers at the table who were friendly and very nice.) However, I do have to say that I appreciate his research skills (although this could arguably be accredited to his assistant) and the information he includes in his articles.
(As an aside, let me comment about the art that goes with the article. There is a photograph of three little girls dressed as witches (quite creepy, actually), eating green Frankenstein cake, with the title "dream sweets" in a thin, sans serif font. What?? The title is much too crafty to be of any use. Obviously it's a play on "sweet dreams," but it just doesn't jive with the photograph. I never would've thought this was an article on candy; I would've assumed it was all about cake.) Anyhow.
So what did I learn from Mr. Steingarten's masterpiece this month?
He points out that the U.S. Census Bureau counts candy as well as people. Huh. I didn't know that. According to the article, the Census Bureau divides non-chocolate confections into six categories: hard candy, chewy candy, soft candy, iced or coated candy, panned candy and licorice. That in itself is an interesting fact and something I'll explore at a later date, when I have more time.
Next in the article he goes on to talk about some of New York's candy shops, beginning with Dylan's Candy Bar. He says, and I quote, "Dylans ... is the most perfect American candy store in existence, all three airy floors designed and decorated in the happiest possible manner, each clever colorful detail conveying the deepest candy love imaginable."
Oh, how I disagree.
Here's my take on it. Dylan's is the Disney World of candy stores. It's all glitz and glitter. It's larger than life. Everything is candy, candy, candy, from the stairs (embedded with gummies) to the music ("sweet" themed songs, like "Sugar, Sugar," played at full volume). It is an atrocity. You could almost imagine a giant talking candy bar welcoming visitors to the store with an enormous fake smile on its face. Or perhaps a snappy, scary old lady saying, "This is candy! You WILL have fun!"
His description of Economy Candy was more on-target. Here he says, "The shop is clean and happy, well organized (but neither modernized nor gentrified), and packed from floor to ceiling with candy."
He then goes on to ask, "Did you know that a cup of candy corn has fewer calories than a cup of raisins?"
No, I didn't. Very interesting, that.
And he continues. "Standing in Economy Candy, I was immersed in the sweets of my boyhood, a thousand madeleines each triggering a five-volume novel giving way to the involuntary memories released by the next candy bar. It was exhausting. There were Skybars; chocolate Ice Cubes; French Chew Taffy in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and banana; Adams Black Jack and Clove chewing gum ..." and so-on and so-forth. Yes, this is exactly what most people seemed to be experiencing when I was at Economy Candy. I stood by the door for a few minutes and listened to the comments from people as they walked in. "It smells so good!" "Remember these?" "I haven't seen these in years!" I watched as a little girl grabbed handfuls of Jelly Bellies while her mother was otherwise entranced by rock candy. I saw a little boy's eyes light up while his mother bought him a swirly lollipop. I listened in as a woman inquired about the different types of licorice behind the counter.
See, that's the thing about candy and the one thing Mr. Steingarten got right in this article: candy involuntarily triggers memories for all of us. That's what makes it so wonderful. You just don't have the same onslaught of nostalgia when you walk into a green grocer or a butcher. There's something particularly wonderful about candy and the way a single wrapper or a whiff of chocolate can bring you back in time to that day on the playground when you fell off the swing and hit your head; or the Christmas Eve you ate so many candy canes that you ended up with a serious tummy ache; or the time you were able to spell your name out from the letters in your vegetable soup and were given a Hershey bar as a prize. That's just the magic of candy.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Great New York Candy Extravaganza, Part III

After leaving Economy Candy with our haul, we decided to check out the neighborhood and the interesting little shops. One place made me stop and look. It was called Mastihashop, and at first glance, it looked like a place that sold fancy little soaps and beauty products. But then something on the sign caught my eye; it said "candy."
Indeed, the shop did sell things like creams and soaps, but they also had a bunch of samples out of their food products, including chocolate and gum.
"Would you like to hear about Chios Mastiha?" the woman behind the counter asked.
Well, yes, I certainly would, because I had no idea what the heck this place was.
Turns out this was the "Official Shop of the Chios Masthia Growers Association," and all of the products contain, you guessed it, Chios Masthia, a "resinous crystal granule from the Pistacia lentiscus tree." It's more widely known as gum mastic.
Talk about a niche market.
The woman at the shop was very nice and offered us all sorts of different samples. I tried the original, straight-from-the-tree granules, which are sold as a natural gum. They tasted like chopped up wax lips.
In the end, I bought a small square of chocolate, a hunk of Turkish Delight and a Honey Pie with Almonds. The nice lady threw in a free box of Fama Fresh gum.
I haven't tried any of it yet, but I will certainly report back. I wouldn't want you to miss out on this most unusual ingredient. It's very strange to have a shop based entirely on one obscure ingredient, although I suppose it's not unlike some small shops in New England that only sell things made with maple syrup. In the meantime, if you want to check it out for yourself, visit
Let me know what you think.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Great New York Candy Extravaganza, Part II: The Haul

It doesn't seem like so much now that it's all laid out, but I was trying to be pretty selective. So, from the back we have:
  • two varieties of Pucca: regular shell with chocolate creme filling and chocolate shell with chocolate creme filling. I bought two boxes because these are made by Meiji, the same company that brought us the fantastic Chocorooms. The first thing I did after leaving the store was bust open the box of original flavor. They are little shapes that look like Goldfish and the ghosts from Pacman (or are they octopi?). I was disappointed. The shell is shinier and less crunchy than the Chocoroom stems, which were like a crunchy cookie. But for $1.79 a box, it seemed like a good deal.
  • A can of Charms Sour Balls: I'm not particularly big on hard candy, and I seem to have quite a large stash of it right now, but these reminded me of my PopPop. He always had a can of these by his easy chair.
  • British Double Decker: I couldn't remember if I had ever tried one of these. I don't think I have. Of course, I threw out the wrapper, so I can't tell you the proper description, but it was nougat and crisped rice in milk chocolate. I wasn't so sure about it at first; the nougat seemed a bit too "fake" to me, but in the end, I decided I really liked it. Here's what the Brits do right: their crisped rice is more sturdy and crunchier than ours.
  • A box of Leone Candy Originals in Orange: I have no idea what these are, and at $2.99 for one ounce they were pricey, but the box is so beautiful. They're from Italy and the box says "Breath of Sicily."
  • Cadbury Picnic: "Packed with Peanuts and Raisins." I haven't tried it yet.
  • Fruitips Fruit Pastilles: These confused me because they have some sort of Asian writing on them. At first I thought they might be a Japanese candy, but I finally saw that it said, "Made in the United Kingdom." The wrapper says 4 times real fruit juices. Four times more than what? Rocks? The first one I sampled was on the Subway when PIC said she was afraid she was going to barf from not eating all day. I gave her one and it seemed to help her, while it did the opposite for me. The two that I've had both had a musky taste to them. Ick.
  • Economy Candy's own brand of chocolate in Belgian Milk Chocolate Smores and Belgian Milk Chocolate with Roasted Almonds: First of all, I should've read the ingredients on the almond bar because it clearly says "roasted almond bits." This is my candy bar pet peeve. When you chop nuts up into miniscule pieces, they have an unappetizing texture and no flavor. These were very disappointing. The chocolate was not very good (on par with a stale Hershey bar) and the mix-ins were meager. I'd never know it was a Smores bar if you didn't tell me. I could find nary a marshmallow.
  • Tropical Razzles: Again, I couldn't remember if I've already tried these so I figured I'd get them just in case. Haven't tried them yet, but the flavors are pineapple, strawberry-banana, tropical punch, tangerine and kiwi-lime.
  • Chick-O-Stick: I bought this thinking it was a Coconut Longboy. Oops. It proudly sports a "Made in the USA" label.
  • Adams Sour Cherry Gum: I remember this from when I was little. So far I've just sniffed it and it has that wonderful cherry Bubble Yum scent to it.
  • Doscher's Famous Banana French Chew Taffy: If I had read the ingredients first, I probably wouldn't have bought this. Check it out: Corn syrup, sugar, partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oils, egg albumen, soy albumen, corn starch, sodium bicarbonate, artificial flavor and artificial color. They should call it French Artery Clogger.
  • And lastly, Ice Cubes, because I need them to do the "I" painting in my ABC series.
Oh, and I bought this tiny little candy dispenser (it was empty; I filled it with Jujyfruits). I figured the Sugar Baby would love it. I was right. It's now become the "special treat." When he does something good, he gets to take the little scoop and get one (yes ONE, Memaw) Jujyfruit.

Next update: candy from a freaky deaky Greeky store.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Great New York Candy Extravaganza, Part I

It's been almost four years since I've been into the city. The last time I went was before I was pregnant with the Sugar Baby. This is sad, considering I only live 1 1/2 hours away. So when my Partner-in-Crime asked me, "Hey, do you want to go to New York for your birthday?" I jumped all over it. YES! YES! YES! I've been dying to go to Economy Candy on the Lower East Side for such a long time now. And so, I present to you: Taa-daa! Economy Candy. (Note the 24 Hour ATM right next door, just in case you start jonesing for some Mallo Cups or Bit O' Honeys.)Here I am. Look at my face. Do you know what I'm thinking? I'll tell you. 1) I'm in New York City with my P.I.C. on a beautiful fall day! 2) I'm standing in front of a candy store that's packed floor to ceiling with all sorts of goodies; 3) I don't have the Sugar Baby clinging to me saying, "Mommymommymommymommymommy." That glow you see is the pure bliss oozing from my pores.
Where do you even begin? It was pretty crowded so there was no way to map out a plan of attack. We had to just go with the flow. (What's up with the tricycle hanging from the ceiling?)
The iconic giant lollipop. Is there anyone out there who's ever actually eaten one of these things? Let me know! I bought the Sugar Baby a miniature version.
After fully perusing the store and making our selections (I maintained some self-control and only spent $30), we headed out in search of lunch. But not before we saw this:
Yeah, thanks for that, New York. We were unfamiliar with this part of town, so we just started wandering, looking for a place to eat. We wandered, and we wandered ... Oh, there were plenty of cute cafes, but for some reason they were all serving brunch. On a Saturday. At 2 p.m. That is just wrong. Eggs are for Sunday. We walked and walked. Seriously, every restaurant, whether it was Mexican, Turkish or American, was serving omelets and pancakes. It's just not what we were in the mood for. After walking for another HOUR, we finally found sustenance at Rolf's, a German restaurant. Below, the first piece of real food we'd had all day.
Stay tuned for Part II, when we get down to business and I reveal my purchases.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dontcha Just Wanna Take Him Home With You?

I was going to wait and make a big announcement, but I've decided to go for the "soft opening" instead. So without further ado, I'd like to introduce my new Etsy shop! Yes, now you can have your very own piece of Candy Yum Yum art. My shop is still under construction (I still have to figure out how to make a banner and I have lots more items to list), but I figured I'd share it with you guys. So check it out and let me know what you think:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Is This Mike On? Can You Hear Me in the Back?

I feel the need to take a moment to talk about the recent hullaballoo concerning the Federal Trade Commission and the new blogging rules.

In a nutshell, here’s the deal, with due credit to The New York Times: “Beginning on Dec. 1, bloggers who review products must disclose any connection with advertisers, including, in most cases, the receipt of free products and whether or not they were paid in any way by advertisers, as occurs frequently.” Punishments will range from written warnings to $11,000 fines.

I have mixed feelings on this.

First of all, I’ve always tried to point out when I’ve been given a product for review, as have many other bloggers that I know. Ethically, it seems the right thing to do. But I take offense that suddenly, as a writer for the Internet, I have to be upheld to “stronger” standards than say, magazines and newspapers. Supposedly “traditional media” has been held to these stiff standards all along, but believe me when I tell you-- every publication, every writer, editor and publisher-- has been offered free products, free trips, dinners, presents, etc., all in the name of marketing. If, for one second, you believe that there’s a separation of church and state (or in this case, editorial and sales) in any magazine, you are sadly mistaken.

So why is the FTC suddenly all over the blogosphere?

I’ll tell you why. Because the minority of less-than-ethical “bloggers” have tainted it for us all. Marketing shills, celebrities that endorse products, and fake testimonials have paved the way for government to stick its nose into what for many has, up until this point, been a hobby or, at times, a small income-generating labor of love.

But, like in all relationships, there are two sides to every story. What about the reader/consumer? Shouldn’t he have a responsibility as well to choose what he reads wisely? Whatever happened to Caveat Emptor? “Let the buyer beware” (or in this case, the reader), has suddenly turned into “Let the writer take all responsibility.”

For example, if I say a particular candy is the most delicious, scrumptious, yummalicious sweet out there, must you believe me? If I say I hate Rainbow Twizzlers to the core of my being, can you not disagree? (It all seems very silly to be talking about it in terms of candy. I'm quite certain that the FTC doesn't have it out for us chocoholics. Yet where does one draw the line? Is there a difference between a review of gummy worms versus a review of flat-screen TVs?)

While I agree that it will be good to rein in all those shifty operations out there, I also feel a bit like a mother bear. Back off of the blogosphere, FTC. Leave us little guys out of it. I can suggest plenty of places where you can focus your attention. Somehow I think your attention might be better focused on things like the relationship between doctors and pharmaceutical companies, rather than mommy bloggers and book reviewers. But that’s just my opinion. And no one’s paid me (in cash or candy) to say it.

More on Lindt and King Leo

Listen up, people. We have got a LOT of ground to cover. Not only are we smack in the middle of the best candy month in the year, but I also have some serious reporting to do of my recent Candy Extravaganza in New York. But first, let's tie up a few loose ends.

More feedback on the Lindt Excellence Touch of Sea Salt bar: Mr. Goodbar said, "That is the best chocolate I've ever had." Go Lindt!

And more on the King Leo's candy: I gave some Soft Peppermint Sticks and Soft Pomegranate Puffs to Sue MKAFFGGF and she wrote me an e-mail stating the following:

King Leo's soft peppermint sticks are my new favorite food! They are so delicious and they have a really awesome texture. They are exactly like larger versions of those soft pastel after-dinner mints that restaurants used to put in bowls to take on your way out ... only no one does that anymore because they discovered how terribly unsanitary it was. So now, even if I see that style of mint, I never take one because all I can think of is everybody's unwashed hands all over them. Anyway, those peppermint sticks are awesome. No one seemed to like the Pomegranate Puffs. They were just strange.... The thing I don't get is that on the package it says something like "King Leo's Pomegranate Puffs are soft, right out of the package." Previously did you have to leave them on the counter, or cook them in the microwave until they reached the desired softness? Why would their soft quality be a good thing?

Exactly what I said, Sue MKAFFGGF. (Apparently she missed that post. We'll forgive her.)

Friday, October 09, 2009

We've Been Booed!

When we arrived back from the Great White Autumnal North last weekend, it was already dark and we went in through the garage door, rather than the front door. Good thing the Necco Door Neighbors sent us a message on Facebook to check the front porch. Surprise! There was a bottle of champagne for my birthday, along with an apropos magnet of a reclining woman saying, "I love not camping." Huzzah!
But in addition, we were "Booed!" Apparently this is a burgeoning tradition that parents of little ones have been fostering over the past few years, although I'd never heard of it until now. Here's what you do: you sneak up to the neighbor's (or friend's) house, decorate it with spooky spider webs and what-have-you, and leave a bag of treats. In this case, the treats were a box of Chewy Lemonhead & Friends, some Hershey Kisses and assorted spiders, stickers and tattoos. And a binder decorated with mushrooms (because, you know, the Sugar Baby is obsessed with mushrooms). This was all done by my Partner in Crime (PIC), who I'm going to New York City with tomorrow for the Great Candy Extravaganza. (I'm so excited I'm jumping out of my skin.)
Anyhow, my PIC said she got the Lemonhead & Friends for 4 cents at CVS. They were 90 percent off.
Believe it or not, I've never had Chewy Lemonheads (nor the Friends). Holy schmoly! I love them. Chewy, sour, similar to Sour Jelly Bellys. (But at 4 cents, a whole heck of a lot cheaper.) Today the Sugar Baby got a hold of the box and started shaking it, thus sending a spray of chewy Lemonheads all over the floor of the bathroom. Sadness ensued. But the pending excitement of New York is enough to keep me going.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Countdown to Halloween

It's official: the Sugar Baby knows that Halloween is coming up soon. Every morning this week he's woken up and said, "I'm going trick-or-treating." It's going to be a long few weeks. In other news, only two more days until I head to New York City with my partner in crime for a birthday candy extravaganza. First stop: Economy Candy on the Lower East Side. Second stop: drinks.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Ode to Russell Stover Orange Marshmallow Pumpkin

Halloween is near
Orange Marshmallow Pumpkin
Once a year delight

Monday, October 05, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

The doorbell rang on Friday and I was psyched to see two boxes on my step. One was really big, like the size of a box of copier paper, and the other was smaller, about 8"x8". What could they be?
I opened the giant box first. Inside was a big styrofoam cooler. Inside that was another box. And then, inside this Russian nesting doll box was: taadaa! A single Lindt chocolate bar with a tiny decorative glass bottle full of salt. Can you say Holy Packaging, Batman? But I was excited to try it. The flavor: Lindt Excellence A Touch of Sea Salt. The aroma is deliciously chocolatey, like walking into a candy store at Easter. I was nervous to sample it, though, because it had the possibility of going terribly wrong. If the salt crystals were too big, or the chocolate too bitter, this could be a bad thing. No worries, though. This is a mighty yummy bar. The salt is strong, but it goes well with the surprisingly creamy dark chocolate. You know what this would be ideal with? A croissant. Get a nice, flaky, buttery croissant, warm it up and melt one of these bad boys in the center-- heaven! With a cup of coffee, oh man. I'm thinking I need to do this a.s.a.p. On its own, a little square with a glass of red wine would be fantastic.
So what was in the second box? A red tin packed to the brim with "Pralines by Leon." Funny, I thought, I wasn't expecting any samples of pralines. Then I saw the gift card from Memaw and Grandpa David. A birthday present! Hooray! The pralines are an assortment of flavors: Bourbon, Jack Daniels, Amaretto and original. These little sweeties are chock full of nuts and are super sweet, not unlike fudge. They taste of cream and butter and sugar ... what could be better?
(Sidenote: the Sugar Baby was thrilled to see the tin of pralines, because they're one of the candies mentioned in the now-famous candy book. Later that afternoon he called me upstairs during his nap to say, "New Orleans-style Pralines are a kind of candy!")

Friday, October 02, 2009

Chocolate For the Cause

I don't usually write about marketing press releases, but this is a different situation because it combines two really good things: Dove chocolate (which I unabashedly love) and breast cancer awareness. According to the press release,

Dove Chocolate is teaming up with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors, to raise breast cancer awareness. The Susan G. Komen partnership also includes M&M’S Brand pink blends.
DOVE Chocolate will be printing messages directly from survivors inside the wrappers of DOVE Promises of Hope so that survivors may share their stories and messages of hope to support others battling breast cancer.

Trident Layers: One Hit, One Miss

Trident has a new gum line, Trident Layers, that come in two flavors: WildStrawberry&TangyCitrus and Greenapple&Goldenpineapple. I mailed some samples to the gum-tasting sector of Candy Yum Yum and here's their report:

The gum-tasting von Schokolats have tasted again. The gum sent to us this time by Madame Yum Yum was Trident Layers Greenapple + Goldenpineapple. I thought this gum wasn't that bad. The gum wasn't really sour but kind of had a boring taste. It had a really strong pineapple taste that overpowered the apple taste. Gretl thought that the gum tasted like a body mist that she uses. The Baron said that he liked this gum and the Baroness said that the gum was sour and yucky but it got better as you chewed it. She also thought that the pineapple taste overpowered the apple. This gum looked very pretty. It was a yellow piece of gum that had a green stripe in between the yellow.
The second gum we tried was Trident Layers Wildstrawberry + Tangycitrus. I thought that this gum was very sour and tough. The taste reminded me of medicine and the second layer tasted gross. Gretl thought that the gum was sour and tasted good. The Baron criticized this gum as just gum and nothing special while the Baroness liked the gum and thought it tasted like strawberries after you had chewed for a while. This gum starts out hard and gets softer as you chew. The gum looks really pretty. It is pink with a red stripe in the middle.
Yours truly,
Liesl von Schokolat

So there's the official review from the gum crew. Now here's my two cents: I really liked the Greenapple&Goldenpineapple. The pineapple taste was prominent (which is why I liked it), and only got the apple taste after chewing for a while. It was fruity, juicy ... a delicious gum!
The Wildstrawberry&Tangycitrus, however, was a different story. The first taste I noticed was musky strawberry, then cool mint, then zippy citrus. I couldn't help but think of the "three-course dinner" gum from Willy Wonka. I would certainly choose this over tomato soup, roast beef and blueberry pie gum, but on its own, it just isn't for me.
So there you have it. Will you like it? You'll have to try it for yourself.