Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween is cancelled?!

What can be more depressing than getting a rock in your trick-or-treat bag? How about this e-mail, sent from my town's superintendent: 

"There are a little more than 1,000 homes in Candyland without power.  While the storm is over, there are still downed trees and live power lines throughout Town.  As such, in light of this evening being Halloween, the Chief of Police and our Emergency Management Team are strongly advising residents not take children out this evening for Trick or Treats.  Accordingly, the Town of Trumbull is determining a make up date for this annual event. 

Once the Town determines that all downed power line and tree limb issues are resolved, a new Halloween date will be scheduled for later in the week.  Residents will be advised of this date as soon as it is determined.

With predicted high winds, tree limbs and downed power lines are still a major issue. In the interest and safety of our children and parents/guardians, we believe the above course of action should be considered."

A make-up date? You can't make-up Halloween! Stay tuned, folks. It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy ... Halloween?

Yep, this is the worst trick of all. You may have heard that New England was walloped with a storm last night. Giant, wet flakes of snow fell from the sky while the winds blew and tree branches snapped off. It was all kind of crazy. The Sugar Baby of course thought this was great, but in the back of my mind all day I just kept thinking, "What about trick-or-treating?" Let me tell you, nothing kills the candy-begging mood like the crunch of wet, cold snow under your feet. Fortunately, it warmed up pretty well today and the streets are pretty clear. School has already been canceled for tomorrow, but as far as I'm concerned, Halloween is ON!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

No costume, no candy

This time of year, lots of candy statistics get tossed around. 35 million pounds of candy corn will be made this year. About one pound will be consumed in my house, one corn per day. The folks at Twix sent along some interesting tidbits to ponder.

According to their research, women prefer chewy treats more than men do (42 percent to 33 percent), while more men than women seek out treats with a crunch (33 percent to 23 percent). I don't know if I agree with that, but I did take a particular interest in the next statistic:

Nearly 7 out of 10 adults (69 percent) ages 18 to 24, and half of adults ages 25 to 34 said they would do it if they could. Trick-or-treating, that is. The only thing holding them back is dirty looks from the neighbors.

As I mentioned on my interview with The Sporkful, I love taking the Sugar Baby trick-or-treating. Heck, yes, I dressed him up when he was just a baby and strolled him around town looking for treats. I'm shameless that way, and so are many other parents. Sue me. 
I did mention, however, that I have a *special* bucket of leftover crap treats that I use for teenagers who call a baseball cap a costume. I freely admit that I've been known to clean out the pantry and collect all the granola bars, oatmeal packets, tea bags and raisin boxes that aren't going to be eaten and dole those out. I always thought that I was against trick-or-treating once you reached a certain age, say 17 or so. But the guys at The Sporkful made me realize that I'm not really an ageist, I'm a costumist. This was pretty revelatory to me. I feel empowered. So if you've got a costume, stop by my house on Halloween, even if you're 45 and don't have a kid in tow. I'll be giving out full-size Twix.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Post-The Sporkful Interview: When things got really scary

Hopefully by now you've listened to The Sporkful podcast I mentioned in my previous post and you've become instant fans of Dan and Mark. (I dare you to listen to the egg sandwich episode and not stop at the deli tomorrow morning.) If you haven't heard it yet, take a 1/2 hour and give it a listen. Then come back and read the rest of this post in which I reveal to you what happened after the taping. I'll wait here.
I went to bed that night full of nervous energy. I’m not a public speaker (if you couldn’t already tell), so I thought my nerves were all jangly over that. But then, suddenly! Terror raced through me! Ohmygosh … I realized that the Sugar Baby had never had a full-sized, four-fingered Kit Kat. I knew the challenge that lay before me.
The next day I went out and bought a Kit Kat. After I fed the Sugar Baby lunch and he was fully ensconced in Phineas & Ferb, I casually pulled it out of the pantry. “Hey,” I said, “check it out.”
His eyes grew when he saw, what very possibly might have been, the first non-Fun Size candy bar he’s ever had. “I can have it?” he asked. “The whole thing?”
“Yes!” I said, excitedly. “Your first big Kit Kat!” And then I got out the camera, as if I wanted to document this huge milestone in his life. Of course, what I was really doing was baiting him. I wanted to see what an unconditioned, un-candy-socialized soul would do with four connected Kit Kat fingers. And this, dear Yumsters, is what he did.

He bit into the whole thing. He grasped all four chocolate fingers at once and bit into them. Oh the humanity! I started laughing, not in a good way, but in an anxiety-ridden, holy crap kind of way. “Let me show you something,” I said, and pulled the bar from his grasp. “Look at these sections. Don’t you think it would be fun to break off each piece?” I asked.
He looked seriously ticked off. “No,” he said, and took the bar back. Eventually it split of its own accord, and that really aggravated him. 
Meanwhile, I was having a moment of my own, being transported back in time to that day at Grand Union when the little boy chomped on the Kit Kat and forever altered my world.
As I mentioned on The Sporkful, my own way of eating a Kit Kat is certainly not for everyone. (I believe Dan referred to it as "corn-cobbing.") It requires a certain level of patience and dexterity that I understand not everyone has. So then I was hit with a second blow. I was mentioning my typical Kit Kat attack plan to my Partner-In-Crime, and she said, “Well, that’s how I eat it, too.” WHAT? Now this was a shocker. I don’t understand how I’ve never seen her eat a Kit Kat and furthermore, I can’t believe she eats it the same way. We could’ve gone to our death beds and not known that we had this brilliant piece of confectionery minutiae in common.
Well, you know where this is all leading. I have to know how you eat a Kit Kat. Are there other four-finger biters out there? Or other deconstructionists? Tell me your technique and I’ll tell you all about yourself. A sort of fortune telling by Kit Kat strategy, if you will.  

The Sporkful talks Halloween candy

Hey Yumsters, I have a particularly sweet treat for you today. I had the honor of being a guest on The Sporkful, which, if you don't already know, is perhaps the most brilliant food podcast in existence. I mean, when you can do a whole show about ice and leave your audience wanting for more, you know you're doing something right.
Listen to it here.  (Episode 94: Halloween 2011).
This time, the hosts Dan Pashman and Mark Garrison dove deep into the multi-faceted world of Halloween candy. Their first guest, Gabe, wrote a manifesto about Halloween candy. I can't say I agree with all his proclamations, but he appears to be a kindred spirit. I talked about the correct way to eat a Kit Kat (or shall I say, the preferred method) and I name the most overrated and underrated Halloween candies. Check it out and then come back here later. I'm going to explain what happened after the show was taped and the incident that filled me with extreme shock and horror. You won't want to miss it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Disappointment at Trader Joe's

Standing in line at Trader Joe's the other day, I nearly dropped to my knees and wept with joy. There, in the checkout line, were bags upon bags of their new Milk Chocolate-Covered Potato Chips. When I worked at the chocolate shop in college, we had chocolate potato chips that were sublime, a perfect balance of sweet chocolate and salty chips. The chips used were Ruffles because, I was told, they didn't get soggy once they were dipped. The result was something akin to a Nestle Crunch, only with a hint of salt. They were $10.95 a pound back then (I'm shivering as I now realize that was 16 years ago), so I can only imagine what they go for now. Seeing them at TJ's for less than $3 a bag made the purchase a no-brainer.
After I distracted the Sugar Baby with a granola bar, I surreptitiously stole a potato chip out of the bag for myself. I bit into it, expecting to hear angels sing. Instead, I got "wah, wah, wahhhhhh." The chip was stale-ish tasting. It didn't mesh well with the chocolate. It was so not good that I still have the entire bag, untouched, in my pantry. Believe me, something's got to be pretty bad to stick around here.

My other purchase from that trip was the Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Caramel with Sea Salt. Again, this seemed like an instant win. The bar is super thin, which made it very difficult to break into sections. In fact, I ended up getting caramel all over the wrapper because it was impossible to get a clean break. As for the taste, well, it was much better than the potato chips, but it's not one of my favorite TJ's chocolates. The problem with this was that the chocolate was too dark (70%) for the rather large salt crystals. To me, it bordered on savory.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Candy Yum Yum in the news!

Here's a fun little piece from the folks over at Women's World magazine. Candy Yum Yum weighed in with Halloween Ghost Dots. I keep reading about Candy Corn-flavored and Pumpkin Spice-flavored M&M's (at Walmart and Target, respectively), but I haven't actually seen them yet. Have you tried them? Send me a note and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Reminder: October 22 is Wombat Day

It's October 12, so you know what that means ... 10 DAYS UNTIL WOMBAT DAY! I almost forgot again, but thankfully Peter at Wombania emailed me a reminder. You can read all about it here, or simply bake a cake, buy a few boxes of wine gums and lots of booze and get ready to party, because Wombat Day only happens once a year.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Free birthday goods

It used to be that Denny's was the place to go for a free birthday meal. Nowadays, things are different and a lot more places offer free goodies. Because I'm cheap New Englandy and frugal, I recently spent my birthday graciously accepting all the gratis goods coming my way. Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts both offer free drinks. (Sign up on their websites and they'll send you a postcard for a free beverage). I took the opportunity to try the Salted Caramel Mocha at Starbucks. I'm not usually much for flavored coffee beverages, but it just sounded yummy, so why not?
No dramatic lead-in here: it was so good. The roasty taste of the espresso was balanced by the sweet buttery deliciousness of the caramel. Since it was my birthday, I opted for the whipped cream, which was topped with sticky caramel drizzle and-- you know it's coming-- a shake of sea salt. "Caffeine and salt?" you cry. "That's a heart attack in a cup!" Well, yes, it may be, but it was also pure yummy decadence. For a once-a-year splurge, it was worth every penny. Or in this case, it was TOTALLY worth the free coupon.
Next on the birthday party free goods roadtrip was a stop at Panera, which yielded a free pastry (in this case, a brownie) which was handed over to the Sugar Baby.

Since I was already at the mall, I headed over to the Godiva store where I cashed in on my monthly free chocolate. I chose a pumpkin cheesecake truffle. Had I been thinking more clearly, I would've chosen the pumpkin spice truffle, which has a chocolate shell, as opposed to the one with the white chocolate (or, in this case, orange-colored chocolate) shell. The filling was half pumpkiny cream and half cream cheesey cream. It was pretty tasty, but also pretty sweet. One was definitely sufficient to meet my daily recommended truffle intake.
I still have yet to cash in on my free bubble bath from Sephora and hibachi dinner at the local Japanese place. And I got a nice e-card from Mini Cooper, but alas, no free car.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Repost from Halloween 2010: Oh the Horror!

Editor's note: In doing some Halloween-based research, I came across this post from last year that I'd forgotten all about. I won't give away the ending, because it's just THAT GOOD. I thought I'd post it again to get everyone in the proper scary mood.

A new Halloween tradition has started around here. It's called, "I can't wait to get the pictures of Alexandra's trick-or-treat haul." As you might remember, last year Alex's son came home with a big bagful of candy and ... a chocolate Easter bunny. I thought she'd get a kick out of our candy cane and nasty expired candy this year, but oh no, she has us beat again. And in a big way. Example Number One: Candy from her older son's bag. Let's see, there's some nice full-size bars there, Oreos, lots of Butterfingers and M&M's. But then, let's take a closer look. To the far left is a holiday foam kit to make a skeleton. Well that's cool. Up top, there's an "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader" toy that appears to be from a Wendy's kids' meal. Okay, a little weird, but within the boundaries of acceptability. There's a Capri Sun. Um, hello? A bag of juice mixed in with all sorts of candy and other wackiness? Seems like a recipe for disaster. Fortunately it didn't explode. And then we have the coupon for one free week of karate (lame) and, in a bold and daring move that makes Charlie Brown's trick-or-treat rocks look almost tempting, we have a postcard from a mortgage broker. It says something about locking in a "Spooktacular" rate on your mortgage. Maybe next year I'll hand out magazine subscription postcards if this is the way things are headed. But wait! Just when you think you've seen it all, let's move over to the younger boy's Halloween haul. He's the same age as the Sugar Baby, which is a terribly cute stage and, according to my research, is likely to get you more candy. So here we have lots of full-sized bars-- nice score! There's a Skippyjon Jones book. Well, nothing wrong with that, I suppose, and a Where's Waldo toy (another kids' meal, perhaps?) There's something to the right that looks like a baby teether and some various other little toys. But, ladies and gentlemen, the piece de resistance, or perhaps more accurately, the coup de grace, the Scooby Doo. Cute, right? A big plastic Scooby Doo toy-- who wouldn't want one? Well, no one would considering it's an EMPTY BUBBLE BATH BOTTLE! Yes, dear Yumsters, you read that right. A used toiletry item.
So let's consider the questions these two candy hauls bring up.
1) Where in the heck is Alexandra trick-or-treating? (I asked her and strangely enough, it was in her parents' neighborhood which is quite lovely and not at all the type of of place you'd expect to find anything worse than a roll of Necco wafers.)
2) Where are people getting this stuff? Do they save all their kids' meal toys and plastic crap all year just to give out at Halloween?
3) Do they think kids are going to be excited to find an empty bubble bath bottle in their bags?
4) How can *I* lock in a Spooktacular rate on my mortgage?
So dear Yumsters, you know I want to hear from you now. What special goodies did your kids get in their bags this year? Don't be shy. We want to know! And if anyone can beat the Scooby Doo bottle, I'll send you a special surprise.

Russell Stover pumpkins: Made in the U.S.A.

I've been sorely lacking in my Halloween coverage this year. It's already the second week of October, for gosh golly sakes. What is wrong with me? At this point in time over the past few years, I'd already planned out my Halloween schedule/trick-or-treating route, jamming in as many candy-filled activities into 24 hours as I possibly could. I should be in training with the Sugar Baby right now, loading him up with carbs and doing practice runs throughout the neighborhood. But a kink has been thrown into the works. See, I've been dealing with a strange bout of vertigo since August. Basically, I feel like I'm standing on a boat, walking on pillows, after drinking a few too many rum punches. Now, if this were truly the case, that would be a good thing. Unfortunately it's just the feeling, minus the boat and the booze. Hence, I'm not sure what Halloween is going to bring this year. But I have hope that all will be okay by the time October 31st rolls around, at which time I will have some serious trick-or-treating to do.
In the meantime, I'm starting to slowly get back into the groove. With that, I present to you this year's initial Halloween offerings: Russell Stover Milk Chocolate Pumpkin and Caramel Mini Pumpkin. 

I bought these both for the Sugar Baby and he gave them both a thumbs up. I was drawn to them because a) they're festive and b) the wrapper specifically points out that the chocolate is Made in America, along with a little American flag. I'm big on supporting American businesses, and even more so when it entails food. I didn't get to try the milk chocolate pumpkin, but the caramel ones came in a bag of six or so and were on sale at Stop & Shop for $1. I have to say, I was mighty impressed with these. I'd go as far to say as these present the perfect caramel consistency. Not too soft, not too hard and chewy. The caramel is just sticky enough to have bite without fear of ripping your fillings out.
 I've been checking out the Halloween candy at different stores and I have to say that this year seems pretty lackluster. There aren't too many new products out there. What do you think? Have you seen anything that demands attention?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Oh the anticipation! New candy bars on tap from Mars

Breaking news from Mars! Check this out candy lovers. There's some good stuff here!
1) 3 Musketeers Coconut will hit the shelves in December. Unlike other coconut bars that I so looked forward to (Twix Coconut, for one), this one scares me a little. I'm not sure it sounds that good, but I'm certainly willing to check it out.
2) M&M's Dark Chocolate Mint. Now these, I'm anxiously anticipating.
3) In May, 2012, look for M&M Snack Mixes. Milk Chocolate Candies Snack Mix features milk chocolate M&M’s, mini chocolate chip cookies, mini pretzel twists and peanuts; Dark Chocolate Candies Snack Mix comprises dark chocolate M&M’s, raisins, almonds and mini pretzel twists; Peanut Chocolate Candies Snack Mix has peanut M&M’s, mini shortbread cookies, almonds and mini pretzel twists. YUM!
4) Snickers 3X Chocolate 2 To Go bars (that's a lot of numbers in a candy bar name) will feature peanuts in chocolate caramel on top of chocolate nougat, covered in milk chocolate.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Good Reads, Good Eats: Candy 1 to 20

Remember waaaay back when (two years ago) when the Sugar Baby was obsessed with a candy cookbook? (Take a walk down Memory Lane here and here.) His obsessions have turned from candy to the Titanic of late, but just the other day, he got off the school bus and said, "Mom! It's Hanukkah!" (They had just learned about Rosh Hashanah in school.) "You know what that means? We have to get out the menorah and the dreidels and say we're sorry for something we did, like the time I peed on the book!"
Wow. Pretty amazing that 1) he remembered that book and 2) made the connection of Rosh Hashanah to Hanukkah, especially considering that we're not Jewish. In any case, I have to wonder how he would've reacted two years ago if this book had shown up in our mailbox back then:

The title got a little chopped off there. It's called "Candy 1 to 20" by Laurie Wolf and Pam Abrams. The cover kind of gives the book away. Each page is dedicated to a number that's illustrated with real candy. Fun! (As an aside, I've always kind of wondered why these types of books have multiple authors. I mean, once you get the idea, it kind of writes itself, doesn't it? Not to knock children's authors. I know what a cut-throat business children's publishing can be.) 
The photos are colorful and crisp. Frankly, I think I liked reading it more than the Sugar Baby did. Now, just because I'm this way, I'm about to give away the ending. Spoiler alert! Stop reading here if you don't want to know how it ends. Here we go ...

How's that for a surprise ending? Such a cliff hanger!