Friday, September 25, 2015

Religion is more fun with a sugar high

Thanks for coming back for my final report on Israel!  In this post I'll cover Jerusalem but if you want to catch up on Tel Aviv (and why wouldn't you?) you can read all about it here.

So, Jerusalem.  Obviously you are there to see the Old City and all of it's religious history.  Within the walls of the Old City there are four quarters (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Armenian) with a maze of vendors selling various items in and around them.  The shops in the Muslim quarter reminded me of the souks in the Medina in Marrakech.  These little shops and stands are inside of the old city walls, tourists walk up and down the alleyways browsing the various items while shop owners try to talk them into their stores to haggle and purchase.  It's crowded, fragrant, busy and mesmerizing.  It was also the last place I expected to find candy.

After walking around two quarters trying to remember my Bible stories, I started to feel tired, hungry and like everything looked the same very interested in religious history.  I also started to wonder if there was some kind of "hummus of the Old City" tour I could join next.  Then, out of nowhere, I spotted a candy vendor...then another, and another, and another.

Look at all of that colorful candy right out in full view!  This was a welcome sight, appearing at just the right time.  The only problem with this little oasis was that I'm a germophobe.  I try to act cool and pretend that I'm not, but I totally am.  And I just couldn't get over the open air, dust-friendly set up of these candy shops.
Can I get a sneeze guard?
So no lids.  That's how we're doing this?
 I was so tempted to buy everything here but the Howard Hughes in me took over and I ended up only sampling two pieces (from the waaaay back and like bottom of the bin) of some new candies.  I had to try SOMETHING.  Here's what I got:
white chocolate covered dried pears 
white chocolate covered hazelnuts with coconut flakes
white chocolate covered dried lemon
The dried pears were gross, way too sweet and the pear tasted fake.  The hazelnuts with coconut flakes were delicious, nice and crunchy with a sweet little coating of white chocolate and a hint of coconut.  The surprising favorite though, were the white chocolate covered lemon pieces.  These were tiny bits of dried lemon covered in white chocolate which made for a nice balance of tart and sweet (and chocolate).

I also caved and dug deeeep into the bottom of the bin for one of my favorite gummy candies: strawberry and cream licorice.  I cannot resist these (cylinders? ropes? straws? sticks?) whatever they're called, in any form.
I see you, baby 
post-bite closeup
See my post here about finding a smaller, sour version of these in Italy.  (I'm planning a future post about my favorite iteration on them that I found in Spain...but that's for later.)  In Jerusalem, I only saw this thicker "rope" version which I had to try.  Sadly, they proved too sweet for me.  I think it had something to do with the heat because the ropes were kind of sweating which made the outer strawberry casing sticky and hard/stale.  There was also so much cream in the center that it made each bite too sweet.  It was worth the taste but I had to throw the stick away after a few bites.  Spain's version still wins.

Pleasantly surprised, newly interested, and happily invigorated, I left the Old City to tour around the streets and shops of the "New City" in Jerusalem.   And that's where I found it, THE spot for candy in Jerusalem:

Yahtzeeeeee!  This store had everything: bulk candy, gummies, bulk chocolates, wrapped candies, chocolate bars, packaged hard candies-you name it.  It was a veritable candy-smorgasbord.

A lot of these candies I had seen or tasted before so there wasn't an immediate need to buy anything.  And again, with the open air style here I just couldn't bring myself to scoop up candy that had been sitting out in the low bins. They did have wrapped chocolate bars from around the world though.  Some familiar like Toffifay, Baci, Cadbury, Milka, and Lindt and some not like the Israeli chocolate bars I wrote about in my Tel Aviv post.  So where do you find this glorious Wonka-store in Jerusalem?  The store is called Ami Haim Candies and the address is Agripas 46.  You're welcome.

In sum, if you are heading to Jerusalem for a religious pilgrimage, don't fear, they also have candy.   Keep this in mind as you wander around the Old City taking in the sights but don't be tempted into buying candy in the Old City, try to hold out for Ami Haim and you'll be glad you did.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Getting a chocolate fix in Tel Aviv

Welcome back for the second installment of my Labor Day vaca to Italy and Israel.  If you missed my last post about Italy don't feel bad.  I just re-read it and my apres-vacation depression is all over it.  It was seriously hard to get back into the swing of things after this trip.  Once I got home and unpacked I ate a chocolate bar and stared at my pile of dirty laundry worked out and that still didn't help.  It took me awhile to muster up the energy to finally start writing again.  I'll have to create my own Sasha fierce persona to use the next time any depression like that ever sets in again so that I can get back to candy blogging.  Anyway, after a few days at work and seeing old friends I'm feeling better.  And I still have half of a two chocolate bars left from my trip to enjoy!

Ok so Tel Aviv.  While I did strike out a couple of times, I also discovered a few new things.  Before I left for the trip I googled best candy shops in Tel Aviv (naturally) and found a few listings.  The first was a store called "Coffee and a Candy" that was described as a shop with every kind of chocolate imaginable.  I took that as an invitation to eat chocolate with my morning latte but unfortunately that wasn't the deal.  This store had only packaged coffee, not a coffee bar, and the chocolate was not "every kind imaginable" but rather a lot of chocolate bars from various places around the world but nothing that you haven't seen before.  Not very compelling, strike 1.

The next place was a store called "I Love It" which was supposed to resemble a pharmacy that "prescribes" candy.  You go in, tell them what ails you, get a prescription, and then get whatever medicine (candy) that's prescribed for that ailment along with instructions for taking your medicine.  Hello!  Sounds super fun!  The problem was that when we finally got to I Love It the store was under construction and looked out of business.  Strike 2.

Not to worry, when this kind of thing happens you should always check out the local grocery store.  Even if you don't love candy (what's wrong with you?) this is a good idea because you're bound to find something new and interesting to eat.  Chips?  Cheese?  Chocolate?  Whatever your vice you'll find it in a foreign grocery store and you'll most likely find a fun, new, international twist on it too.  Ok so here's what I bought:


These things (whatever they're called, I can't read Hebrew) came in a variety of flavors (milk, white, dark) and either had cereal or didn't.  I got the milk chocolate with cereal version.  In Israel there is this chocolate cereal with a hazelnut filling inside that's very good.  Covered in chocolate it was even better.  I recommend this candy as a nice little chocolate-carb snack.

Next were some chocolate bars.  In keeping with the chocolate-of-Israel vibe I opted for one of these (again, whatever they're called).   I saw them all over the city in a bunch of varieties but decided to taste the classic chocolate version.
thank god for the wrapper pictures
classic milk chocolate...I assume
Sadly, they were not very good.  Sorry Israeli's but this chocolate was really chalky.  If you've ever eaten hot cocoa powder with a spoon without adding any milk/water (hey it happens), that's what this chocolate bar tasted like.  I don't recommend it, especially when there are other options.  Like Oreo bars.  I really love Oreos.  I'm talking can't-have-them-in-my-apartment kind of love so I was pumped to try these:

Considering that Cadbury Dairy Milk is my favorite non-expensive milk chocolate bar I was thinking that the Cadbury bar would be my fav, hands down.  Surprisingly it wasn't.  The filling was a little too sparse to feel like an Oreo but it was enough that it masked the Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate flavor.  Sort of a half taste of each.  Like my experience with the chocolate covered twinkie, this bar was made up of two amazing things that should have been even more amazing together but sadly were not.  Here's a closeup: 
inside of the Cadbury Oreo bar
Meanwhile Milka has never been on my chocolate radar...until now.  Their version had a nice thick Oreo and cream center and really milky chocolate.  The winner:

inside of the Milka Oreo bar
The best news is that when I got home, I saw this Milka Oreo bar in the international candy section of my grocery store (Fairway) so if you have a store near you that sells international candy then this Milka bar might be in it, waiting for you.  And if you don't, then you can order both of these Oreo bars on Amazon.

Continuing with the chocolate bar finds, I uncovered this beauty and audibly gasped:

Hazelnut filled Cadbury bars?!  What!  I bought two.  However, similar to their Oreo bar, I found that the filling was too sparse.  It was organized into little "puddles" which upon bite, didn't contain enough filling.
see the puddles?

needs more filling!
The filling that was there was more syrupy than thick.  Anytime something says "hazelnut filling" I'm going to assume it tastes like Nutella.  I know that's my own fault and that I should really manage my own hazelnut-expectations but still, I was a little let down.  That said I still ate them both (c'mon!) it's still a good chocolate bar and you should definitely try one if you two cross paths, just don't expect a Cadbury/Nutella mashup.

So my aim was to tell you about Jerusalem next but this post is getting pretty long.  I think I'll leave the holy city for next time and wrap up by saying that even though I initially struck out with the candy quest in Tel Aviv, the old reliable grocery store came through (as it always does).  If you're looking for a new favorite abroad always check out the local grocery store.  Once you do find a winner (like my Milka Oreo bar upset) be sure to scan Amazon when you get home to see if you can order more while finally doing that post-vacation laundry.  

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Learning lessons in Tuscany and Palermo

***Disclaimer: there is something weird going on with the font in this post.  I have tried about 1,000 times to fix it but nothing is working.  I have a life to get back to so I'm just going to let it be.  Hopefully it doesn't bother your reading enjoyment too much. ***

Welcome back!  How was your Labor Day?  Mine was spent abroad at a wedding in Tuscany, then visiting family in Sicily, and finally exploring Israel.  It was a long and awesome vacation and while it's tough to get back to the real world, I'm excited to report back to you about my trip.  I'll cover Tuscany and Palermo in this post and Israel in the next.  

Out of the gate I must warn you that candy questing in Italy proved hard to do because of the wedding and family commitments.  I didn't have a whole lot of free time to wander around and check out candy stores.  That said, candy always has a way of finding me and I always find a way to eat it so I do have some candy AND some travel lessons to share with you from my time in Italy.

First up was Tuscany.  As mentioned, I was there for a wedding which was stunningly beautiful.  The couple arranged the entire weekend including transportation to and from our villa to all events.  Since I didn't have any free time to sniff out candy on my own, I was surprised (and psyched) to see that the welcome bags had a fun new find inside: Nutella B-ready bars.

I am a huge fan of Nutella (along with everyone else in the free world) so I was really excited to discover another way to inhale enjoy my favorite Euro import.  As soon as I opened the welcome bag I got to work tasting this new bar only to be extremely disappointed :(.  That tan, papery, outside shell of the bar that you see was REALLY dry.  The kind of thing that you bite into and it crumbles in your hand and flakes get stuck on your lower lip.  As soon as I bit into it I was totally confused and surprised to find it so dry and tasteless.  I sat there, head cocked to the side like a dog, with flakes of papery crumb on my lip wondering why on earth Ferrero decided to house their amazing Nutella in such a crappy, thin, cardboardy package?  It made no sense.  It wasn't until we left Tuscany and drove to the airport that I noticed ads for B-ready.  The ads showed a hand dipping the bar into coffee like a biscotti...ah-ha!  Now it all made sense!  That papery stuff was supposed to melt and cling to the little chunks of Nutella inside to protect them in hot coffee so that you can have little bites of Nutella with your cappuccino.  Genius!  Unfortunately I was unimaginative and short-sighted and left the B-ready bar behind after just one bite, I never even got to the dipping part.  So lesson learned: don't judge your old favorite by its new cover.  Have a little faith.  And if I ever come across these B-ready bars again I'm going to buy twenty one, grab a coffee, and clear my schedule.

Next was Sicily.  First stop was Palermo before heading to a small town in Sicily to see my family.  In Palermo I had a hard time finding any candy stores.  The Sicilians take great pride in and love their gelato so I guess they don't have time for much else in the sugar department.  And I can't say that I blame them, the gelato in Sicily is fantastic (gelato originated in Sicily).  I had all but given up the candy quest in Palermo when I randomly stumbled upon a candy store.  Finally!  Way more excited than I should have been in public, I got to the door and realized that it was Sunday...the store was closed.  Nooo!  Why does Europe always have to follow the closed-on-Sunday's rule???
and that dancing donkey looks so fun too!
inside the store
I pressed my face against the glass to get these photos for you.  So bummed that after finally finding a candy store in Palermo I didn't get to go inside but at least I found one!  I did get the address: Via Maqueda 335 and they are on Facebook if you're ever in Palermo and want to check them out.  But lesson learned: make sure you don't leave it for a Sunday.

Not to be discouraged, I scanned the local corner stores and found some new Haribo to try:

I love me some Haribo and I always have fun finding new flavors to try abroad.  This company seems to crank out country-specific candy based on local taste buds so they never let me down when I'm candy questing in another country.  These Jamaica "frizzi" candies (why Jamaica? who knows!) were small, sour, strawberry cream gummies.  Haribo makes a similar product that I've seen in Spain but this version was thinner with less cream in the middle and the sour wasn't too strong, way less than a sour patch kid for example.
You can see how small the cream part is in the above picture.  I have to say that I prefer the thicker version of this candy with more cream inside, similar to what they sell in Spain and Israel, but the weaker sour flavor was a nice change.  If you like sour patch kids then you will probably dig these Jamaica frizzi's but fans of Swedish fish will prefer the bigger, non-sour version of these strawberry creams.  So lesson learned: when all else fails head to the local corner store and buy some Haribo.

One thing that I saw everywhere in Sicily was "frutta Martorana" or Sicilian marzipan.   This stuff is really sweet, made entirely out of almond paste, but it's gorgeous and looks unbelievably realistic:

"fruit" made out of almond paste
I regret to say that I didn't buy any to taste for myself.  I read in several places that it's sickeningly sweet so I blindly took everyone's word for it and didn't buy any.  Again, a short-sighted decision (hello! you have a CANDY blog!)  If you're only visiting a place for a short time you should always have a bite of their local specialities, just one bite.  Even if it's not good you can at least say you tried it and form an opinion for yourself.   Rookie mistake but lesson learned (again): always taste the local candy specialties for yourself.

In sum, given the lack free time I had in Italy I was worried that I wouldn't be able to hunt around for candy and wouldn't be able to share anything new with you.  I'm proud to say that candy had a way of finding me and also teaching me some lessons.  Lessons like only eat Nutella B-ready bars with coffee, don't leave any shopping (candy or otherwise) for a Sunday in Europe, when all else fails hit the local corner store, and always bite into the local specialties for yourself.  I hope these lessons come in handy for you and your sweet tooth the next time you two find yourselves exploring a new city.