Peeps swag – WANT

I’ve never been big on eating Peeps. I rarely buy them, even on sale after the holidays, and whenever I do eat one, it’s like, “eh, still tastes just like sugar, just like last time.”

I do, however, love their look and their decorating possibilities. And as I learned last week, I love me some Peeps merchandise. Check out what they were showing at the Expo.

Plush peeps. So cute! So huggable!

And a Peeps car. So cute! So impractical!

Apparently the plush Peeps are available in their retail stores. As for the car, your guess is as good as mine as to how you can actually buy one. So I’ll settle for just the plush, if you’ve got a spare.

SSE House of Blues Party

While I’m still out of reviewing shape thanks to my cold (I blame air travel), I thought I’d fill in some more details about the Sweets and Snacks Expo.

On Tuesday night, Emma and I got to go to the House of Blues industry party. The party itself was sponsored by Hershey’s, Wonderful Pistachios, and Just Born. We got in free, courtesy of Just Born, who used the evening to further promote their Mike & Ike split and debut Mike’s music video:

In addition to an open bar, there were pistachios and Mike & Ikes and Ice Breakers scattered all over the place. In case you didn’t get enough sweets at the Expo. The second and third floors were off limits to us plebians, so I can’t report on what was up there, but really, we had the best seats – floor seats! – for the awesome band that was playing.

I am now a newly minted fan of Here Come the Mummies. They’re a Southern-style jazz/funk band that performs as mummies. And man, can they perform! They just exude energy and charisma through their bandages.

Warning: If you watch the above video, the tune will get stuck in your head. Here Come the Mummies was the highlight of my Chicago visit, and I’m happy that I got a chance to see them. As an added bonus, I got a chance to see candy people dancing as well. Good times!

SSE Photos and Spreadsheet

I managed to catch a nasty cold on my way back from Chicago, so I’ve been lying around the apartment for days. Fortunately, there was a silver lining to my achy, feverish misery: time off work meant extra time for obsessively cataloging my Sweets and Snacks Expo haul!

Packaging photos are up in the ZOMG, Candy! Flickr, and I also listed everything in a spreadsheet. Sorting candy hit the intellectual demand sweet spot – enough work to keep me from being bored to tears, but not so much that my fever addled brain couldn’t handle it.

Guest Post: Katja Choco Beertjes

Unfortunately, I came down with a nasty cold/fever right after I got back from Sweets and Snacks, so I’m in no shape to delve into my new candy stash. Fortunately, Neil had written up the below guest post, so you still get a candy review today! ~Rosa

Katja Choco Beertjes came into my life as a free inclusion with my occasional grocery delivery, which as some of you surely know, is a real blessing of a service for those of us who would otherwise carry a dozen paper towel rolls on a bike or a bus!

The name means chocolate little bears, and the description says that they’re “soft marshmallows with real chocolate.” It turns out that the photos on the package are idealized versions of the real deal. The lil fellas inside could pass for pigs or gremlins just as easily as they could for bear cubs.

The chocolate coating was tolerable. It broke more easily than I thought it would and tasted slightly like peanut butter. I was pleased to discover that the bear innards were indeed a very soft, chewy marshmallow.

But these didn’t wow me like I wanted them to. Sure, I like chocolate, and I like marshmallow. Marshmallows in hot chocolate are awesome. Chocolate marshmallow ice cream is even better. S’mores make my heart and mouth sing sappy lovesongs.  But the only other candy form of the combination that I’m familiar with is the classic Mallo Cup.

If I recall correctly, I only ever have eaten Mallo Cups after receiving them trick-or-treating. The Choco Beertjes remind me of those: they’re alright and a fun thing to snack on for a bit, but they’re a bit boring. There’s no need to go out of my way for them unless I get them for free.

Am I missing out on something totally awesome in the chocolate-marshmallow candy world? These deserve an O and will get foisted upon my coworkers.

Sweets and Snacks Days 2 and 3

Day 2 at the Sweets and Snacks Expo was much more restrained, and I came home with a much smaller stash. Emma and I parted ways in the afternoon, so the below is just what I took as samples. Also remember that Day 1’s mountain of things included two giant swag bags provided to us by the NCA.

Things of note on day 2:

1. I got a bunch of samples of Niederegger marzipans in an assortment of flavors. Super excited to try those, as they’re pricey in stores, so I’ve never had them before.

2. Gamer Grub turned out to be much less weird than expected. The PB&J mix was like trail mix – peanuts, peanut butter chips, dried fruits, etc – and the pizza flavor was really tasty.

3. Dorval was super nice. I grabbed a Sortz for re-reviewing and another box of their new chocolate crispy thins.  They would’ve sent me home with one of everything if I’d asked, but I was starting to worry about transporting everything back to NC.

4. Hammond’s PB&J bar won an innovator award. Definitely excited to try this one from their relatively new line of chocolate bars.

5. Nutella & Go also won an innovator award. It’s a little plastic tub with a dipping well of Nutella and a bunch of breadstick shaped cookies for dipping. In other words, it’s a total knock-off of Yan-Yan that somehow won for being innovative. The Meiji guy and I commiserated about it.

Day 3 was quiet on the floor with flashes of craziness. Some booths were giving away handfuls and even cases of their product so they wouldn’t have to leave with it. People were genuinely surprised when I only wanted small samples of things. Another modest take.

I’m excited to share the dried corn snacks from Sensible Snacks with my corn loving boyfriend (he puts it on pizza and in chili). Can’t wait to see them in stores.

Also, worth noting that the Pop Chips booth was super generous with their samples. I think I visited with them at least once each day. And they staffed their booth with flirty young men to help sell the brand.

Well, that or my sheer animal magnetism.

Wish I had time to write more, but I’ve got a flight to catch! Let’s hope TSA doesn’t open my carry-on. It’s kind of embarrassing. I’ve got a rolly bag that’s half chocolate and half chips.

Sweets and Snacks Expo Day 1

Whew! What a day! Many thanks to Emma for playing Twitter master and wearing out the #SSE12 tag. Here’s me after we sorted through our haul. Most of the full-sized salty snacks came in our swag bags. Super nice of them to give them to us, but probably too difficult to fly home.

After Emma and I split the goods and leave more with our Chicago host, we’ll be taking the extras back to the Expo and donating them to be sent to troops overseas. So nice that the Expo is providing that service!

Here are some candy interactions that really stood out today:

1. The Perugina booth, where a wonderful Italian man gave me one of every single chocolate bar in their line. Here’s how it went down:

Me: I’m a candy blogger. Could I get a bar to take home for reviewing?

Awesome Italian man: Sure. Which do you want? All of them?

Me: Okay!

As he started grabbing bar after bar, he seemed to realize that “all of them” was a lot of chocolate to hand to one person, but he was too nice to rescind his offer. So now I am the Perugina queen.

Perugina is probably best known for their Baci. Their new thing this year was a white chocolate Baci, identical to the original except for a white chocolate coating.

2. Ritter Sport was represented by a US importer call Euro-American Brands. I chatted up their Gourmet Grande Dame/Goddess of Swagger, who gave me a limited summer 2011 edition Amerena cherry, a rum raisin flavor, and a limited edition dark chocolate with peppermint.

After I dropped hints about how yogurt Ritter Sport was my favorite and gosh, just so hard to find in stores, she gave me one those too. Thanks, GGD!

Ritter Sport’s new thing for the states is individually wrapped small squares in a holiday-esque gift box, similar to these little guys, but in four flavors.

3. Jelina Chocolatier is a Canadian chocolate company in search of a US distributor. I hope they find one, as they have an extensive line of Fair Trade bars in all sorts of flavors. I left with the two most intriguing (to me, at least), a honey nougat and a maple crunch. And some truffles. I can’t wait to break into these.

4. Nashville Toffee is a small, family run operation that makes a delicious chocolate covered almond toffee. When I asked owner and lone booth-manner George if I could have a small bag for a sample to review later, he said no, as he had just the one box of bags, and he needed them to show off and try to sell.

I could, however, take a whole half pound box. In fact, I could have two boxes, one milk and one dark. Thanks, George and Nashville Toffee!

5. Coco Keeno had a great display in Innovation Alley of different types of superfruits and superfoods covered in dark chocolate. I got a sample of chocolate covered golden berries, which were super noms. Formal review to come.

6. Chatting with export manager Manolo at the Fini booth was a pleasure. He was super nice and probably would’ve slowly given me one of each of their hundreds of products if paying customers hadn’t pulled him away.

To answer all the commenters’ questions, yes they are available in the U.S., but alas, he couldn’t tell you where. He sells to an importer and they sell to a distributor, so good luck to Fini hunters. Please report your Fini sightings in the comments for my original review.

7. Meeting fellow candy bloggers! I got a chance to chat with The Candy Fan and Joe of Eat More Chocolate. Note to self: update blogroll!

8. Emma and I hugged a giant Peep. And then she tried to take a bite out of it. Life is awesome.

Media Preview at Sweets and Snacks Expo

I’m writing this from the media preview room at Sweets and Snacks. They kept their presentation short and sweet, so we’re just hanging out until the full expo opens, totally surrounded by treats of all kinds:


We also get giant swag bags full of treats representing some of the 4600 new products debuting at this year’s expo. Hooray swag!


More to come later. In the meantime, check out our Twitter feed @zomgcandy

Expo Time!

Right around the time that this posts, I’ll be picking up my press credentials for the Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago. I’m excited to attend for the first time!

I’ll try to update here with some daily recaps, posting time to be determined by how good the wifi is in the press room. My friend Emma will be playing Twitter master. We’ll be tweeting as @zomgcandy from the expo floor, so check that for status updates.

Candy candy candy time!

Dorval Sour Power Straws – Pink Lemonade

These Dorval Sour Power Straws were a free sample of a new flavor: Pink Lemonade. The rest of their line-up includes blue raspberry, watermelon, strawberry, and green apple, which I’d tried before under their Sortz name.

I really enjoyed these Pink Lemonade straws. They didn’t have any of the stiff plastic taste or over-wheaty flavor that put me off the Sortz and that you get in Sour Punch Straws.

Instead, they were soft and pliable tubes, about 6-7 inches long, with an easy chew. They were much softer, and thus much more texturally pleasant, than Twizzlers. Also unlike Twizzlers, they didn’t get stuck in the cracks of my teeth.

The sour sugar sand on the surface of the straws was mostly sweet with a little tartness. The pink lemonade flavor of the actual straws was sweet with a light, mild citrus note.

There was no lemon zestiness, but a definite lemonade/lemon drop flavor persisted throughout the chew. The sour came through in the middle when the sour sand started melting on my tongue, and the final finish was just the sweet fruitiness of the straw.

I thought these were quite well done for a relatively simple treat. The texture was spot on, while the taste was sweet and sour – but not too sour – without any off notes. An OM.

Dorval will be at the Sweets and Snacks Expo. I plan to revisit the Sortz to see if my original batch was past its prime (though I did taste it before its best-by date).

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Bar – Toffee with Walnuts and Pecans

Today I’m reviewing a second Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Bar on the heels of Wednesday’s review (that I briefly accidentally posted on Tuesday; oops!). This time, it’s toffee with walnuts and pecans. Here’s its epic description from the back of the box:

“The beauty of caramelized sugar reveals itself in flying colors when mixed with butter and artisinal sea salt to create rich toffee. Add walnuts and pecans to that toffee, then pair it all with our sophisticated deep, dark chocolate…”

This solid bar was scored into 8 rectangles. Mine had slightly bloomed, but I didn’t notice any detriment to its flavor or texture.

It had a sharp snap that revealed bits of toffee and nuts along the break. The roasted nuts and cleanly cleaving toffee added a pleasant, dry crunch that made me want to chomp this bar rather than let it melt.

The nuttiness of this bar was immediately noticeable. Walnut’s mild, acrid nuttiness and pecan’s darker nutty tinge were both present, and the whole thing finished on a strongly salty note.

The toffee added a light sweetness. Though I didn’t get any caramel complexity, the sweetness played off the salty and nutty quite well. It would’ve been nice to get more scorchiness, but it served its role just fine as is.

I’ll call this bar a win for Trader Joe’s. Though I thought it was a tad too salty at the finish, I enjoyed the toffee and loved the strength of flavor of the nuts. An OM.