Saturday, June 27, 2009

Shlameel! Shlamazel! Bring on the shugar!

It's been entirely too long. Many weeks have passed since my last post and many significant changes have taken place (not to mention many sweet treats enjoyed). The job interview I mentioned in a previous post? The one I thought I had bombed? Well it turns out that I underestimated how well I did. I got the job and am now living in a Milwaukee suburb. So within the span of a few weeks, I had to sell all of my furniture, pack and ship all of my other possessions, find a new apartment, buy a car, and adjust to a new life in a completely new (and drastically different) setting while working at a new library. Suffice it to say, I've been feeling overwhelmed.

But sugar helps.
Now, I've eaten such a variety of desserts during these last couple of months, that it would be impossible for my to remember and review all of them. But I think it's worth mentioning a couple highlights, and hopefully I'll be able to post on a more regular basis now that I've settled in a bit.

My dear friend Cris bought the Original and Ca$hew Cow varieties as a going-away present (with the understanding that, eventually, I'd write about them). They're made with all-natural, delicious ingredients; the Original contains: honey nougat, peanut butter, caramel, and peanuts drenched in dark chocolate. It's somewhat similar to a Snickers bar--but better. The nougat and caramel are sweeter and the dark chocolate is rich and robust. The Ca$hew bar was delightful as well but simpler in taste, with most of it being comprised of cashews (and cashew butter and cashew brittle). But I appreciated the fact that it's a unique bar with no major-candy brand equivalent (as far as I know, anyway). Now if I can make a trip to Madison, maybe I'll be able to locate Zingerman's What the Fudge? Bar at Fromagination. The name itself is worth the money!

And, just last night, I found heaven at the bottom of a Sil's Mini Donuts bag!

Wonderfully warm, sweet rings of perfectly fried dough covered in powdered sugar and cinnamon. The exterior of a Sil's donut is just the slightest bit firm yet immediately gives way to the incredibly soft, buttery layers of oily goodness found on its inside. The shop itself is an adorable mix of understated retro/modern-cute. And how can one not love an establishment that sells a half dozen piping hot donuts for $1.50? And you don't even have to leave your car! Ah, the wonders of the Midwest drive-thru. Big thanks to Nick for introducing me to Sil's!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Could I Have Sa-more, Please?

I have a selection of sweets to review this week.

First up: Necco's Easter Candy

1. PAAS Decorated Eggs Who doesn't have a positive association with that cute, retro-style PAAS bunny? Fond memories of dyeing Easter eggs and the happy, pastel-colored package art were enough to convince me to buy these little candies. Then I noticed that the hard, crunchy mini-eggs come in an assortment of five "smoothie" flavors: Blueberry, Banana Caramel (a flavor combination I've never actually seen available in smoothie form), Tropical, Peach, and Strawberry Creme. I was immediately intrigued by this exotic mix. I had mistakenly assumed that they would taste exactly like Necco's semi-spicy Sweethearts Valentine's Day candies (which I can take or leave, frankly).

The Strawberry Creme and Peach were my favorites: light 'n sweet. The Banana Caramel was good as well, though the caramel flavor was only slightly distinguishable as an aftertaste. The Tropical was, by far, the least appetizing of the bunch. It was extremely bland, having the flavor of cardboard--until, that is, I bit into it; the aftertaste was very bitter and had an odd, artificial pineapple essence.

Like the Sweethearts, the eggs are stamped (sometimes asymetrically or only faintly)--with the shapes and various lines with which you'd decorate an Easter egg, in this case--hence, the name. Super cute!

2. Mighty Malts Malted Milk Mini Eggs (try saying that five times fast!)
Yet another adorably designed box, perfect for any child's Easter basket. As you might guess, these tasted almost exactly like any other type of malted milk chocolate balls (i.e. Whoppers). The exterior shell, though, differed slightly in that it had more of a white chocolate quality to it: incredibly sweet and smooth in consistency.

With respect to the malted center/chocolate ratio, I think the shell may have also been a bit thicker than that of a Whopper. Plus it was pretty: brightly colored and flecked. The malted interior was small, crunchy, and rough in texture. Satisfying.

Russell Stover Truffle Easter Egg

Oh my goodness. The absolute excellency of this egg can not be entirely articulated by yours truly. To put it bluntly? It blew my mind. Though small, this egg packs a punch. It's incredibly decadent: very dense and rich. The shell is milky smooth, but its creaminess can't even compare to the ganache truffle center! My only regret is that I only bought one when I saw them at my local drug store. I'm not sure I can wait another 10 months to sink my teeth into another one!

Girl Scout Samoa Cookies

I will proudly admit that I am a former Girl Scout. I can't say that my troop really did all that much (beyond giggling and running around the basement of an old Protestant church in my hometown), and I'm not sure I'm a better woman for it. But I had a lot of fun and made some good friends. I dreaded cookie-selling season, though. I was shy with strangers and didn't feel comfortable going door to door. Not surprisingly, I didn't 'move' a lot of boxes. But eating GS cookies? Now that I relished! I loved every single kind (with the exception of Thin Mints--which are oddly GS' most popular). But the Samoa (or Caramel deLite, as I knew it as a child in the Midwest) has always been my favorite. (The Shortbread and Peanut Butter Sandwiches were close seconds). There are currently a few varieties that weren't available in my day, but that I'd kill to get my hands on: namely the Thanks-a-Lot (a shortbread cookie with a layer of fudge on it) and the Dulce de Leche.

But, ah, Samoas: "round doughnut-shaped cookies about two inches in diameter with a hole in the center, covered in caramel and toasted coconut, and then striped with chocolate." What is there not to love? Sadly, I haven't had the opportunity to buy a box of GC cookies since I was a child, so I ecstatically accepted a sweet old patron's offer to nab some Samoas from her granddaughter. They are as good (if not better) than I remember. The crunchy quality of the toasted coconut serves as a nice contrast to the slick, moist chewiness of the chocolate/caramel combo. (The chocolate and the coconut especially, overpower the caramel in flavor, but I suppose this is to be expected.) Though a bit on the greasy side, the entire cookie just melts in your mouth. Fantastic. My friend Holly recently informed me that Edy's makes Samoas Cookie Ice Cream! And get a load of this: the scrumptious Samoas swim in a sea of fudge-swirled caramel ice cream!! I have to get my hands on some. Unfortunately it's only available during the cookie-selling season (January-April) and isn't sold anywhere within 50 miles of me. Argh!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tre-MOO-ndous Milwaukee!

I just returned from a somewhat stressful visit to the Milwaukee area. The purpose of the trip was nerve-wracking in and of itself; I spent a few hundred dollars to fly to WI to interview for a job I probably won't get. Add to that the constant rain, unseasonably cold temperatures, lack of transportation, canceled flight, getting locked out of my hotel room (twice), and being pulled over by a cop on the way back from LaGuardia airport, and, well, you're left with an unhappy traveler who can only seek solace in consuming copious amount of sweets. In this regard, I was in luck.

While mindlessly flipping through channels on my hotel room's TV, I came across and was immediately mesmerized by a commercial for Dairy Queen--or "DQ," as it's often fondly referred to. Though I normally try to avoid chain stores and restaurants (especially when traveling, as I like to experience all the unique "local flavor" I can), I make an exception for businesses that create crazy-awesome desserts like those found at DQ. It's important to note that there are no DQs (to my knowledge) in the NYC area, so I've been in some serious Blizzard withdrawal for over six years.

Speaking of Blizzards...well, my being in Milwaukee in April must have been fate, seeing as that the Blizzard of the Month is the phenomenally fantastic Midnight Truffle Treat! You know how much I love truffles! I savored every single bite of that small-size, 12 ounce (and 765 calorie!) cup. Every single spoonful was chock-full of "rich truffle pieces blended with dark, decadent cocoa fudge and creamy vanilla soft serve." There were at least three sizeable and remarkably soft semi-sweet truffle chunks in every mouthful, in fact. The cocoa fudge (which appeared to be in powder form) wasn't thoroughly blended into the ice cream, yet the virtually untouched granular, gritty quality of the powder served as a dusting of sorts for the truffles. It also created a more interesting texture and greater variety in every bite. Verdict: best Blizzard ever. You might even say that's royally mind-blowing!

I chose Alterra as my go-to anti-chain while in Milwaukee. In addition to making a solid cup of java, they make some excellent baked goods. I chose the ambiguously named "Bountiful Garden" muffin, assuming that it would be similar to the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink Morning Glory Muffin. I was, for the most part, right--though a couple of the key BG ingredients differ. Based soley on my taste buds (which can be frustratingly poor at identifying flavors), I discerned that the muffin was comprised of: shredded carrots and apples, dates, and a walnut topping. There also seemed to be somewhat of a pumpkin essence and a few small bits of a green vegetable or fruit. Any ideas? I don't believe they were crunchy enough to be pistachios. Not surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed this hefty muffin. It was moist and dense--(though on the verge of being just a little too oily). I want the recipe!

Finally: The Original Mini Cow Pie!, a tasty little treat produced by the Baraboo Candy Company in Baraboo, WI that is deserving of its exclamation point. The flavor of crunchy pecans is strong and robust and quickly followed by the super-sweet stickiness of buttery caramel.

I think saying that they're "drenched" in milk chocolate is a bit of an overstatement, though. The chocolate is definitely smooth, creamy, and quite soft--but it's also a relatively thin layer. (But perhaps this is only true with the Mini version.) Overall, a yummy snack-size bite!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sweets Week

Easter is by far my favorite holiday for candy. In fact, some of my most beloved sweets are only available during Lent: Cadbury Creme Eggs and Mini Eggs, for example. Couple this with happy memories of hunting for baskets full of yummy treats and the explosion of bright pastel decorations that coincide with the beginning of spring, and you have one happy consumer--and believe me, I consume!

This year was no different. I horded my Irish Cadbury Eggs like a squirrel gathers nuts and have them safely stored in a jar in my cabinet. They're a valuable commodity and must be rationed out over the next couple months.

I did indulge in a few new sweets this past week, though:

1. Elmer's Heavenly Hash Egg (Yes, I said "hash.")

I came across these at my local Rite Aid and was immediately intrigued by the name. I know Rite Aid sells drugs, but really?! Turns out Mr. Elmer's egg consists of marshmallow and almonds coated with milk chocolate. I like marshmallows (especially in freshly made campfire s'mores), but I do not normally buy 'em because I like to avoid gelatin when possible. But this little egg convinced me I should give these treats a try more often.

The egg's 'mallow was soft, moist, and uniformly dense. It wasn't overly spongy (which I appreciated) but rather gooey--and sweet. The milk chocolate shell was thin and had a wonderful bittersweet, natural cocoa flavor. Very good. My only complaint is that there were only two roasted almonds embedded in the marshmallow filling.

(And look! The company has its very own mascot: Elmer Wabbit! How cute is that?)

2. White Chocolate Sucker

...courtesy of one of my co-workers, Ms. Conte. This lady's got talent, let me tell you. I've heard she makes a mean eggplant parmesan; however, I've only had the pleasure of sampling her desserts so far. She made chocolate suckers using Easter-themed molds this past weekend, and I was lucky enough to be at work on Saturday when she brought a handful into our branch. My first thought was: what does Yoda have to do with Easter?

Upon closer inspection, I noticed the sucker was actually modeled after a lamb's face. I've always been slighly apprehensive when biting into candy that resembles cute baby animals, but don't worry, I get over it pretty quickly. As I've mentioned in previous posts, white is my least favorite among the trio of chocolates (dark being my favorite). Don't get me wrong--I still enjoy it, but I find it tickles my throat in a somewhat unsettling way. Conte's sucker was great, though--just the right amount of white. The chocolate was creamy and broke apart easily in my mouth (no actual sucking involved).

Because I find the holiday's sweets so delectable, don't be surprised if you see me resurrect (bah-doom-ching!) the Easter candy reviews even after April is over.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

This Economy Makes Me Happy

What to do in an economic crisis? Well, if you're a sugar fiend like me, you head to Rivington Street's Economy Candy! Or, as I like to call it, heaven. Rows and rows (and rows) of candy: handmade, well-known (Jelly Bellys, Jujubes, Swedish Fish), imported (Cadbury Crunchies, Nestle Yorkies, Kinder Buenos), and deliciously obscure "old time favorites."

The experience was overwhelming! I found myself walking through every aisle a few times, simply marveling at the store's selection. I somehow managed to restrain myself and bought only five items in the end: a bag of cinnamon bears (my favorite type of cinnamon candy); cinnamon Glee Gum (What can I say? I'm a big fan of cinnamon.); a Necco Sky Bar, a Joyva Joys bar, and two Wazoo bars (my most prized purchase--see 3/25 blog).

My selection criteria: the candies have to be difficult to find elsewhere and never before enjoyed by yours truly. Oh, and cheap. We are in a recession, after all. (I realize the bears are a fairly common bulk candy. But I couldn't resist.)

My plan is to pace myself and eat a bar only every week or so (let's see how that goes). First one up: the Blue Razz Wazoo, a colorfully chewy, fruit-flavored candy covered with what are simply referred to as "crunchies." As it turns out, the crunchies taste like Nerds and fall off the bar very easily. (Most were at the bottom of the wrapper before I even opened it.)

The verdict: the Wazoo was wonderful. The exterior coating was subtle in fruit flavor, while the two inside layers had the powerfully tangy taste of a Laffy Taffy and the consistency of nougat. The sensation of sinking my teeth into the bar was extremely satisfying. Soft and smooth at first (the coating is similar in texture to that found on a Snickers bar) and chewy in the middle--but without the annoying stickiness of taffy.

Wahoo! I can't wait to try the other Wazoo bar!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Cookies, Cats, and Candy: Oh Yum! (Minus the cats.)

I have a habit of looking over a restaurant's dishes via Menupages before actually going to the restaurant. (Cris and I generally choose where we want to dine days in advance.) Doing this raises my levels of anticipation and excitement in much the same way watching movie previews or listening to a band's music before their concert would. So I already knew that I would be ordering either the chocolate souffle or the Little Devin sandwich cookie for dessert before walking through Westville's door. Thankfully, I didn't have to choose.

Cris ordered the souffle ala mode, and it was scrumptious--though just a bit soggy for my taste. (Can you tell I'm a fan of alliteration yet?) I love contrasts in texture and temperature, but in the case of ice cream and cake (or any other type of porous dessert), I like 'em separate. Westville places the scoop of ice cream directly on top of the souffle, the heat of which quickly melts the ice cream, which then permeates the already moist chocolate cake. As a result, the consistency of the cake becomes that of thick brownie batter. (Still tasty, of course, but not what you expect or necessarily want of a souffle.) The biggest negative, however, is that the coldness of the ice cream nearly froze the creamy smooth chocolatey goodness that is supposed to ooze out of the center of souffle. (And really, isn't that the best part?)

I loved my Little Devin: two buttery thin and chewy granola, cranberry, and walnut cookies attached by an equally thin layer of cream cheese frosting. Though the walnuts appeared to be absent, the combination of the remaining ingredients was fantastic--simultaneously hearty (like a classic oatmeal raisin cookie) and light. I could have eaten about half a dozen more.

After dinner and dessert, we stopped by Fat Cat to play an hour of table tennis, listen to some live jazz, and have a couple pints of beer. It was a good time! It had been awhile since I'd pinged or ponged, so it took awhile to warm up. But I definitely worked up a thirst for that delicious glass of Ithaca Apricot Wheat. In fact, it's my new favorite beer!

And finally: today. I ripped open my mini bag o' the new Twizzlers Tweeterz: "candy coated Twizzlers Strawberry Bits."

Like Nibs, they are tiny and extremely chewy--like rubber. But don't let the description put you off--they were actually quite good. (The blue was the best, and I'm not just saying that for alliteration purposes.) They are perfect for an Easter basket. Easter is, after all, the absolute best holiday for candy. (Cadbury Creme Eggs, anyone?)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Leave No Scone Unturned

Or uneaten!

I can't believe I've yet to mention The Corner Scone. It's my very favorite coffee shop and, as luck would have it, it's literally just around the corner from my apartment. It's the only place of business where I'm actually on a first name basis with one of the owners. They're such a nice bunch of people there that, after expressing my love of morning glory muffins, I walked into the cafe a few days later to discover a freshly baked batch on the countertop.

As you might guess, their scones are exceptional (as is everything else I've had there, especially their egg dishes). I bought a blueberry one today, along with a large, hot cup of my favorite decaf coffee, courtesy of Irving Farm, a micro-roaster based in the Hudson Valley region that makes a smooth French Roast. A CS scone is light and buttery but not greasy. Its exterior is firm and its interior, soft and dense. The flavor is subtly sweet with just a hint of lemon zest. The Irish know how to make a good scone, and my neighborhood is full of small bakeries that offer their own tasty takes on this classic baked good. But those that are made by the friendly folks at CS taste just a little sweeter.

I can't wait to check out the cafe's monthly open mic night! Maybe I'll compose a poem on scones in preparation.