Monday, August 30, 2010

Book Review Monday! "The Candymakers" by Wendy Mass

It's book review time! I received an advanced reading copy of "The Candymakers" by Wendy Mass. What this means is, the book still has some errors that need correcting. Having been a proofreader, I find it jarring to read advance copies because I just want to get out my red pencil and mark it up. In this case, it took me a full five minutes to get past the first page because my eye kept focusing on "Confectionary." Ahhh! It's supposed to be spelled with an "e." Confectionery. It was like I was trapped in some OCD spelling bee. How could they get this word wrong? It kept appearing over and over. Every time it came up, I had to force myself to move on. But that's neither here nor there, really.
The book starts off with a letter to four children who have been accepted to compete in a candy contest. The next page brings us an "article" from a newspaper about some shocking news that a local candy factory will be closing down. This was sounding awfully familiar. Kids, a candy factory, the future ... it was just a wee bit too close to "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" for me. I was starting this book with a bad attitude.
I'm happy to say, however, that things turned around quickly. I feared the worst: that this would be some sort of Willy Wonka wannabe, but in fact, it's quite different. The book deals with some majorly heavy themes: death, guilt, disabilities, all in the context of a candy mystery. It's aimed for ages 8-12, and I think I would have really loved this book at that age. Heck, I enjoyed it now. I liked the characters, the story grabbed me and it was a fun read.
I'd be interested to hear how the author went about her research, because clearly she knows her stuff. She goes into detail about candy-making techniques (panning, enrobing, tempering) and ingredients. The candies have fun names (a la Harry Potter), like High-Jumping Jelly Beans, Oozing Crunchorama and Neon Yellow Lightning Chew. The candy details add a mouth-watering, believable tone to the book, and the rather intense sub-story makes for an edge-of-your-seat mystery.
"The Candymakers" is set to be published in October. Let's just hope they get the spelling of "confectionery" right before then.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Chocolate Fail.

(From left, Basil-Smoked Sea Salt Olive Oil; Ginger Baby; missing from photo: tequila and wine chocolates.)
My P.I.C. came over last week with a surprise for me: a box of truffles from Christopher Norman Chocolates. Her hubby works near there and gets his coffee there everyday, so when she recently when into the city for a visit, she brought me back some goodies. Yay!
There were four chocolates in the box: some sort of red wine/dark chocolate; ginger; tequila; and Basil-Smoked Sea Salt-Olive Oil. Ready? Okay, here we go. First off, she bought the tequila just to torment me. It's the one alcohol I cannot have. I can't smell it, definitely can't drink it, all due to one bad night in college. She insisted, however, that I would be able to handle this. Sadly, I must report that I couldn't. I had Mr. Goodbar take a nibble and then I smelled it. I couldn't do it. He said it was very good, so if you're a tequila aficionado, go for it! If, however, tequila causes you to hallucinate and give you the shakes, I'd say you might want to try something else. Like the wine chocolate. Now that was tasty. Very smooth dark ganache with a nice red wine kick. That was definitely more my speed.
The ginger was very tasty and very pretty.
And now, the last piece. Visually, it was lovely. And I dig basil and olive oil. But with chocolate? I had my doubts, but also tried to keep an open mind.
I bit off half and gave the other half to Mr. Goodbar. Usually I will love something and he'll hate it, and vice versa. This was one of the very few times we actually agreed on something. It was a serious fail.
I hate to say bad stuff about any chocolate, and especially artisan chocolate, because it's the result of someone's passion. But holy cannoli-- basil, olive oil and chocolate do not marry well. To be completely honest, I actually spit it out. Yes, I spit out a piece of chocolate. Why, why, why do confectioners feel the need to push the envelope all the time? This is a serious question. Bacon, chili powder, lavender ... do we really need to add these things to chocolate? Do they really enhance the already perfect taste of chocolate? Why must everything be over the top? I'm ready for the backlash against all this fancy-pants alchemy. Bring back the simple stuff. Pure chocolate. Basic flavorings like vanilla and caramel. Plain nuts, not curry-dusted or Dead Sea-salted. Am I being too naive? Am I showing myself to be a chocolate hillbilly? Perhaps, but I don't care. Save the basil for pesto with pasta. I want my chocolate straight up.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ghirardelli Dark Giveaway!

I promised you I’d have another great giveaway, so here we go! Ghirardelli is having a fun contest where they’re asking chocolate lovers to vote for the next Ghirardelli INTENSE DARK chocolate flavor in the “Bring Your Dark to Light” contest. One flavor—Moonlight Fantasy—has already been voted out. So what will the winner be? Will it be Hazelnut Heaven, Cherry Bliss, Tahitian Treasure or Spicy Pecan?

So here’s what you need to do. First, go to and vote for your favorite flavor. There, you’ll be entered into a drawing for all sorts of chocolate prizes. Then, come back here for a second chance to win. In the comments section, tell us what you voted for. Candy Yum Yum will be giving away four Ghirardelli INTENSE DARK chocolate gift baskets (value $50 each).

I’ll be picking four winners on September 18, 2010. Be sure to leave a way for me to get in touch with you. (U.S. residents only, please.) Good luck!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Talking Vintage Movie Theater Candy With Guest Blogger Alexis Bonari

Today's post is from Yumster Alexis Bonari. She took a look back at candy at the movie theater.
Going to see a movie simply wouldn’t be the same without candy. From Sour Patch Kids to Nonpareils, there are nearly endless options for topping off your movie experience with a sugar-induced coma. While candy has always been standard fare for moviegoers, popular candies have changed over the years. Here are some examples of vintage movie theatre candy:

1940’s -M&M’s Plain Chocolate

M&M’s were first introduced to combat a decline in chocolate sales. After their success, the M&M Mars Corporation shortened their name to M&M’s. Thanks to the breakthrough candy coating, M&M’s were marketed as a “melt-free” chocolate. Movie theatres played a major role in the initial introduction of M&M’s onto the market.

1950’s- Chocolate Cigarettes

Until the late 1960’s, cigarette smoking wasn’t touted as unhealthy. Most children would have grown up with one or both parents lighting up on a regular basis. Kids generally like products that allow them to mimic the adults around them. It’s no surprise then that candy cigarettes were all the rage during the 1940’s and 1950’s. Movie theaters, carnivals, and dime stores all sold chocolate and gum renderings of cigarettes and cigars.

1960’s – Astronaut Ice Cream

The Apollo Project and other space missions were the height of cool in the 1960’s. In response, the producer of freeze dried foods for the space missions capitalized by making Astronaut Ice Cream available to the public. Ice Cream ingredients were freeze dried at -40 degrees F into edible cubes. These marvels of modern science were sold as promotional items during science fiction movies.

1970’s- Fizzies

One of the first true novelty candies, Fizzies were tablets that a child (or adult) could use to create their own soda pop. The directions were simple: combine one Fizzies tablet with a glass of ice water to create a new taste sensation. Flavors included root beer, blue razz, and lemonade.

The theatres that sold Fizzies undoubtedly paid the price in sticky floors after the fact, as the fizzing action could get a little bit out of hand.

Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She often can be found blogging about general education issues as well as information on college scholarships. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Smackdown! Turkish Raisin Sausage vs. Chinese Traditional Food Fruit Candy

On the way home from Tennessee, we realized that our dear friends The Professor and Maryanne The Painter lived just an hour out of our way, so we stopped in to spend the night.
The Professor has always understood me on a very primal level. He gets my passion for all things candy-related, so I was ecstatic when he said he brought me back a little something from his recent trip to Turkey.
I won't keep you in suspense. Here it is, folks. One genuine Raisin Sausage with Walnut.*Now, first off, it looks like a giant turd. There's just no way around it. But I kept an open mind. The ingredients were simple enough: sugar, walnut, wheat starch, grape molasses and citric acid. What's so wrong with that, right?
I'll tell you what's wrong. This stuff was like biting into plastic tubing stuffed with walnuts. The resistance on your teeth made it feel like you were eating something from Home Depot, not the grocery store. It's like you could find it in the aisle between the PVC piping and the bathtub caulk. Truly foul. Had this been from anyone else, I would've thought they were either trying to mock me or challenge my devotion to candy. But I know in The Professor's mind, this was more than just candy; it was an experience. That's why he "gets" me. Fortunately, he made up for his transgressions by allowing me to taste some of the chocolate-covered Seafoam he'd gotten from McDonald's Homemade Candies in Michigan. Now this was some tasty stuff. Little chunks of airy, brown-sugary seafoam with a thick coating of dark chocolate. Mmmmm!It all went to hell, however, once the "Chinese Traditional Food" Fruit Candy was pulled out. I can't even remember what was in it, but it was more disgusting than I thought it would be. Match it up against the Raisin Sausage with Walnut and I don't know who'd win.
He had some other crazy-ass candy from Turkey and it was all right, but the true winner of the visit came from The Professor's daughter, Chocolate E-Clare. She generously gave me one of the Kinder Bueno bars she had hoarded from their trip to England. Isn't that the sweetest thing ever?! She said it was her favorite candy bar, and it's easy to see why. Creamy chocolate, crispy wafers, hazelnut filling ... now that's a candy I can love.
Being a good guest, I brought The Professor my own contribution to this extravaganza of sweetness: half a box of Mint Moon Pie Chocolate Cookie Sandwiches. When I bought them, I thought they were mint-flavored Moon Pies-- the soft cake with marshmallow filling. Only after I opened them did I realize that they were cookies. These were pretty yummy, very similar to Girl Scout Thin Mints, only with a cream filling.We had a lovely visit. We see them far too less than we'd like, but distance and busy lives get in the way. The Raisin Sausage *almost* makes up for the distance. Almost.
*In the upper corner of the sausage package, it says "Aphrodisiac." Believe me, nothing says love like a Raisin Sausage.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Down South Candy Review: Taffy, Lollipops and Caribbean Jerk Chocolate

I'm not a big fan of taffy. It's one of those candies that I can easily resist, along with caramel Bulls-eyes and red licorice. But when we stopped at Smoky Mountain Candy Makers, I felt like it was my duty to at least sample some of their homemade taffy. I bought four pieces: Banana, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Butterscotch and Teaberry.
We cut them up into little pieces for everyone to try, but as is usually the case with the von Schokolats, we'd had a few beverages beforehand and my notes are minimal and cryptic. Someone thought the chocolate peanut butter tasted like a Tootsie Roll. The teaberry was compared to Icebreakers and Pepto Bismol. To me, it was less wintergreeny than Pepto and I found it to be very tasty. I thought the banana had a nice, mellow taste and the butterscotch tasted like caramel. The thing is, I really liked this taffy. It wasn't the usual waxy, overly sweet Salt Water Taffy that we have here in New England. This stuff had much more flavor and a decent chew.
I had also bought a cherry lollipop for the Sugar Baby, but in our drunken state of munchiness state of curiosity, we decided that Shirley needed to take a hammer to that bad boy so we could all taste it. It was very yummy. I have to give props to these Smoky Mountain Candy people. They really did make a homemade candy that tasted good.On the way back from dulcimer-buying and lunch at Grandma's Kitchen (where I had country-fried steak, mashed potatoes and collard greens-- oh yes, I did!), we stopped at the Beef Jerky Outlet because really, you can't not stop there. I bought some kangaroo jerky for The Baron (I seem to remember him inhaling it, but I don't know if he liked it) and some Caribbean Jerk Dark Chocolate made by the Dillsboro Chocolate Factory. Now, of course, I'm not big on the whole "let's be clever and put savory spices in our chocolate" thing, so I went into the tasting with a bad attitude. I also forgot to take a picture before the vultures got to it. The chocolate itself was actually pretty good; smooth and bitter. But the spice thing-- ick. Shirley said, "It tastes like Baker's Chocolate, only not as good," and someone else said that it tasted like Hot Cheetos/chili powder/fish. Or was that our shopping list? I don't remember. In any case, The Baron and Mr. Goodbar devoured the thing in two seconds flat. They liked it. There's a candy out there for everyone. I think there was something crazy in that chocolate, though, because before you knew it, hijinx ensued. It's always a party when there's candy involved.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Candy Shopping, Southern Style

Hallelujah! I'm back. I've been banging my head against the wall all week trying to figure out why my camera wouldn't download, so I haven't had time to post. But fear not, I've discovered the problem and I'm now able to share with you some of the fabulous (and scary) candy I encountered on our recent trip to Tennessee.
It was a family trip, with most of our time spent swimming, fishing and drinking. But one day Mr. Goodbar and I ventured out into the big city (Pigeon Forge) and did the touristy thing. That is, I bought taffy and he bought a mountain dulcimer. Enjoy the pix; details to follow.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Milky Way Simply Caramel Relax and Enjoy Results!

And the lucky recipients of the Milky Way Simply Caramel Relax and Enjoy gifts are...

Susitrvl, who said: "We love caramel at our house because you can use it to liven up chocolate desserts. DS is allergic to nuts so caramel is a great substitute to bring something special to a snack."

EyeBeeLeaveEweHoney, who said, "I love the buttery feeling in my mouth that caramel gives. And when I asked my husband why he loves caramel he said "How could you not?" Good answer!"

Thanks to everyone who left a comment, and if you weren't picked this time, never fear. I have another great giveaway coming up very soon.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Giveaway Time! Simply Caramel Relax and Enjoy!

Nothing says relaxation like a 90 degree summer day with 99% humidity and a sick kid. Hopefully you all are having a better August than I am! But if not, here's something to cheer you up: a giveaway you're going to love. Two Yumsters will be chosen to receive a "Simply Caramel Relax and Enjoy" gift pack from Milky Way that includes:
  • A $75 gift certificate to for a yoga class or massage
  • Enough Simply Caramel Bars to indulge in for a month (5)

(Yes, I know what you're thinking... you could eat 5 candy bars in a day, right?)

As I may have mentioned in the past, I still haven't tried the Milky Way Simply Caramel because No-Nuts made a midnight snack out of the one I had, but it's described as a Milky Way without the nougat. So here's what you have to do: leave a comment here saying why you love caramel. Two lucky caramelophiles will be chosen on Wednesday, August 18 at high noon Eastern time. Be sure to leave a way for me to get in touch with you and U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Assorted Miscellany

Here's a bit of trivia for you: a 4-ounce box of Swedish Fish is enough to fill a small wine glass. I took a trip to the dollar store today and I'm in the process of trying to figure out exactly how much candy I'd need if I wanted to have a truly glorious candy buffet for my birthday. I might have to call in No-Nuts to take on this mathematical challenge. Needless to say, it's going to take a whole lot more than a few boxes of Swedish Fish if I hope to make any sort of visual impact. Maybe I should just stick with little net bags of Jordan almonds.
Another good tip to keep handy: 40 snack-size Butterfingers are enough to make a very large sign that says "40." More on that later.In other news, I haven't been posting as much lately because of the heat and all, but to make up for it, I have two exciting giveaways coming up. You won't want to miss these, so stay tuned.
And last but not least: today the Sugar Baby learned "ROYGBIV" by grouping together Dum Dums. Now who says candy isn't educational?

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Review Re-Do: Nestle Crunch Crisp

I've been inspired by my previous post, wherein I couldn't remember if I had reviewed the Trader Joe's Raisin and Pecan bar before and decided not to check my archives before tasting it again. I thought it would be kind of fun to actually go back and re-sample some candy bars that I know I've reviewed in the past, but can't quite remember what I thought of them.
That brings us to the Nestle Crunch Crisp. A very fresh Nestle Crunch is one of my top favorite candy bars, so I had high hopes for the Crunch Crisp. I bought a pack of snack-sized bars, since they were on sale this week and my house has been stripped clean of all chocolate.
The first thing I noticed was the description on the wrapper: "Baked Wafers, Crisped Rice & Chocolate Creme." (The bold text is theirs, not mine.) Are they hoping we feel like this is a healthy choice because the wafers are baked? As opposed to what? Fried?
Now like I said, I haven't looked back at my original review, but I have to tell you, I found these terribly disappointing. Yes, they were crunchy, but they were overly sweet and had a funky chemical-chocolate taste to them. I wouldn't buy these again.
Now comes the fun part. I just looked back at my original review here. OMG. I loved them! And I even compared them to the now-extinct Bar None. What was I thinking?! This is SO not like a Bar None. I hang my head in shame. Although there are two factors to take into consideration: 1) My first sample was had after several glasses of champagne, which no doubt made my taste buds all wacky and 2) The current samples have been sitting in my refrigerator, so that absolutely does alter the taste a bit.
I'm not sure how I feel about this now. Can I be trusted? Will you ever listen to anything I say ever again? I didn't expect such an existential crisis this evening. I think I need to go cleanse my palate with Saltines now. We'll talk again tomorrow after I sleep on this.