Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween at Hershey Park

Happy Halloween!  For the last two years, my friends and I have been going to Hershey Park for a little girl time, roller coasters, and chocolate.  It's been so fun that we've continued the tradition, making this trip our 3rd annual.  This year, we ended up pushing the trip into late October which meant that we were there during one of their "Hershey Park in the Dark" weekends.  Way better timing.  Lines were shorter, the air was chilly, the leaves changed colors, kids (and some parents) were dressed up, and shopping at Hershey's Chocolate World (ChoWo to the locals) had more of a purpose since Halloween is this weekend.  Candy is in season!  So in celebration of Halloween, the holiday of candy, here's a tour of the "sweetest place on earth."

Our first stop was the amusement park (Hershey Park) and second was the chocolate factory store (Hershey's Chocolate World).  ChoWo is where you're invited to stuff your face with candy, buy up all the chocolate you can carry, take a factory tour, sample chocolates, and even create your own candy bar.

Here's the entrance to the amusement park, get excited try to contain your excitement:
It was the perfect fall day to walk around and ride some rides.  The leaves where changing which made every spot in the park picture worthy.  Here's a pic of us bailing on a ride and walking out of the line...
...and a pic of someone's pumpkin carving talents...
But on to what you've been waiting for... a building full of chocolate!
Behold!  The entrance to ChoWo!  Upon entering, they have signs for chocolate tasting, sign-ups for the factory tour (which is kind of like an amusement park ride where you glide past their recreations of the factory in a little car), and ticket sales for the create-your-own candy bar experience.  This I highly recommend.  You walk back into a little "factory" and use a computer to design your bar choosing your chocolate, your mix-in ingredients, and designing your wrapper.  You get to watch your bar go down the line and come to life.  It's a fun experience and the chocolate tastes fresher and creamier than a regular Hershey's bar.  But, since we had done all this before, we navigated past the entrance to get to the real goods...discounted, fresh, Hershey's chocolate and candy.  The initial view is pretty exciting:
Move, kid 
This store is a labyrinth of candy (minus David Bowie) and sectioned off by brands so Twizzlers are all together, Reese's, Kit-Kat's, Hershey's Kisses, etc., it's all here.  They even have a fill-your-own bag station with different flavors of kisses and chocolates to choose from:
For a first-timer, the store is a little overwhelming (slash exhilarating) but as a veteran, I only stopped to snap the new and noteworthy finds for you.  Like this oversized "World's Largest Hershey's bar": 
And these "Extra Long" Twizzlers (why doesn't the usual length work?  What are you doing that you need an even longer Twizzler?)  But whatever, in case you do, here they are:
I was excited to stumble upon a seasonal item...pumpkin spice kisses!  These taste just like pumpkin and white chocolate and exceeded expectations:
pumpkin and white chocolate, keep 'em coming
And they had some caramel apple Twizzlers that I was sure I would hate but ended up loving.  They were really soft and chewy because they were fresh out of the factory.  What a difference!  The apple flavor in these by itself would have been too green apple-y and fake but combined with the caramel center it tasted just like fall. 
In fact, I regret not buying more from the Twizzler's section since the softness and chewy texture of the fresh-from-the-factory bags made a huge difference in taste.  They had every flavor imaginable, I only snapped a portion of what was there.
Ok, but the real reason to come here, the freshest tasting option at ChoWo, are the Reese's cups.  The peanut butter here is still kinda creamy which make Reese's cups taste so much better.  
light snack anyone?
I always stock up on Reese's cups and bring some back for friends when I go since the taste difference is so noticeable.  I think the Hershey's chocolate bars pretty much taste the same but the Reese's cups from the factory store taste much fresher. 

Ok, moving on to some new candy.  First are these little to-go bags of different "snack" mixes.  There were a few versions including this pretzel/chocolate/almond bag, a Reese's bag, and "snack bites" which were little bites of chocolate/almond clusters.

These are nice, portable options that give off the trail mix-y vibe so that you can pretend you're eating healthy.  But really at that point, why bother?  If you want chocolate or candy just go full hog and eat what you're really craving.  Otherwise you're just going to delay the inevitable and then you've eaten trail mix AND candy.

Next, Hershey's recently unveiled new kisses which are larger and contain "crisps" and an entire roasted hazelnut.  Sort of Hershey's answer to the Baci kisses from Europe:
crisps and a roasted hazelnut in the center
These were good but not very chocolatey.  If you're really craving chocolate then you're better off just eating a regular kiss.  The hazelnut in the center kinda takes over because there's not enough chocolate in the middle to offset it.  Still good though and worth trying.

For the last photo, I'll leave you with this shot of the glorious Hershey's Chocolate World cafe where all of your chocolate concoction ideas can come true:
that guy on the left is like "Hmph!  Where is my chocolate?"
So that's it.  The 3rd annual trip to Hershey Park and ChoWo was another smashing success.  I hope you make the trip sometime with your friends and family and that you go in the fall.  It's the perfect day to spend catching up, enjoying the beautiful fall foliage, and eating your favorite chocolate.  

If you try Hershey's new hazelnut kisses, comment on this post or tag me on Instagram @thecandyquestbog and tell me what you think.  Happy questing! 

Friday, October 23, 2015

The best pumpkin spice latte you haven't tried

You knew this was coming...a pumpkin spice latte post!  So I know pumpkin spice lattes aren't technically a candy but you need this information.  PSL's are ubiquitous this fall, they're everywhere, and people either love them or hate them.  They're a very polarizing beverage.  For the people who love them, I feel compelled to pass on my knowledge.  Like a PSL PSA.

First, let me start by telling you that I have loved pumpkin flavored everything long before it was trendy.  Long before there was a "PSL" I was consuming pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin creamer, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin candy, anything that had a pumpkin flavor.  Because, if you recall, there once was a time when pumpkin flavored everything was uncommon and scarce.  Now that the rest of America is on board with the pumpkin obsession, I am delighted to try even MORE pumpkin themed consumables.  You thought I would get burnt out on pumpkin, huh?  Not even close, I even sprinkle pumpkin pie spice in my morning coffee this time of year.  I mean, I take it too far, not far enough!

So, now that I've established my pumpkin street cred, please listen (well, read) when I tell you that the best pumpkin spice latte out there is at 7-11.  Yes, you read that right, 7-11.  I'll let that sink in a minute...and give you these visuals:

Just step right up and press the button!  This PSL is way better than anything you've tried at another coffee house.  Including the one at Starbucks, even the newly updated Starbucks version that has actual pumpkin in it.  Why you ask?  What's in the 7-11 version?  Who knows!  But it is DELICIOUS.  It tastes sweet and milky and pumpkin pie-y with the perfect balance of spices.  It's like a slice of pumpkin pie (with whipped cream!) has been blended right into your coffee.  You gotta go out and try one.  Everyone who has taken this advice has ended up a believer (although, admittedly, they were all incredulous and a little scared at first).
mmm, liquid pumpkin pie
Look, worst case scenario you don't agree with me and then you're only out like, a buck.  But, best case scenario/more likely scenario, you try it and love it AND it was only a buck!  You're welcome.

Please go out and try one and tell me what you think in the comments below or tag me on Instagram @thecandyquestblog. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Shopping in Seattle, with a sugar rush

Thanks for coming back for my second post about Seattle!  In this post I'll tell you about my new favorite candy store along with some unique finds inside of it.  Read my previous post listing essential candy to buy while you're in Seattle (or buy online if you're not taking a trip) here.

During my time in Seattle I wanted to explore a new area and while I was at it, check out a popular candy store.  If you're in town, you must check out University Village.  It's a lovely, serene, outdoor shopping mall with a huge, food-serving, tea-tasting Teavana store among other clothing/beauty/home stores.  It also holds my new favorite candy spot in Seattle: The Confectionery.  Here's the entrance and some interior shots:

perfectly organized tables by theme!
This store has everything, lots of old favorites as well as new and hard-to-find candies.  The OCD in me loved that they had little tables set up by theme, and the germophobe in me loved that all of the candy was either pre-packaged or packaged-to-order by the adorable girls behind the counter.  These coed's could not have been sweeter and they let you taste anything you want in the store.  The Confectionery is unique in that the candy is bulk candy but not accessible without some help from the staff.  The candies are pre-bagged or the staffer will weigh and bag a custom portion for you.  This really appealed to my inner Howard Hughes as it keeps the general public from scooping (and contaminating) the candy jars themselves.

Here's a rundown of my experience in the store.  First, I am a crazy lover of all things pumpkin and was initially side tracked by this fantastic fall spread.  They had one of my seasonal favorites, pumpkin spice caramels (see the tall orange jar below) which got me reeeeally excited to stuff my face with all things pumpkin for the changing weather:
fun fall candies, including pumpkin spice caramels

then, I passed by the chocolate counter and stared at their chocolate covered candy for awhile...

...and these halloween chocolates...

...and these adorable wedding mints!

But thankfully, I had come with a plan in mind so I was able to control myself (just barely!) and continue down the counter to find what I was looking for: their unique and hard-to-find collection of malt balls and caramels including my new favorite, birthday cake caramels.  Yaaaay!  Birthdays for everyone!
huge selection of flavored caramels
uniquely flavored malt balls
Overwhelmed with excitement, I asked the very patient coed behind the counter if I could try her favorite caramel (chocolate peanut butter) along with a red apple caramel, a cookies and cream caramel, and a bag of birthday cake caramels which are my new favorite and hard to find so a stockpile was mandatory.  (I should mention too that I LOVE pumpkin spice caramels but have tasted them several times before so I didn't buy them at The Confectionery.  Make it known though, pumpkin spice caramels are a great iteration on the pumpkin theme and a solid choice.  Buy them!)  From the malt ball section I tasted the pumpkin spice and the gingerbread.  Here are my tasting notes (my totes?) on the malt balls and caramels:
gingerbread malt ball
pumpkin spice malt ball
I found the gingerbread malt ball to be a little ho-hum but the pumpkin spice one had a nice layer of pumpkin, chocolate and malt ball flavoring.  Def worth a taste if you like malt balls and pumpkin flavors.

Next was the chocolate peanut butter caramel, a staff favorite for good reason.  It was a great blend of three flavors involving an outer coating of milk chocolate, followed by a layer of peanut butter and then a chewy, caramel center which sort of glues all three flavors in your mouth for awhile while you chew it down.  It was so good that I went back inside (shame-be-damned!) to buy a bag of them.
chocolate peanut butter caramel
chocolate peanut butter caramel interior
yah, I went back for more
The cookies and cream caramel was good but tasted a little chalky/fake.  Not as oreo-y as I would have liked.  The red apple caramel kinda tasted like a red apple but the red flavoring was a little too strong and had that fake apple flavor to it.  In theory, a red apple caramel is a winning combination but in reality it tried too hard.

What DIDN'T disappoint were the birthday cake caramels...just as dreamy and amazing as the first time I encountered them:
ethereal bday cake caramels
 When I saw that they had birthday cake caramels I got a little more excited than someone should.  I think I even did a little dance while she scooped and weighed them for me.   Never thought I would see them again, dreams really do come true.

So overall the Seattle trip was a real winner in the candy department.  From the moment you touch down in Seattle, head straight to the stores in the airport to pick up my Seattle candy essentials.  Then be sure to check out University Village and visit the cheerful, adorable staff at The Confectionery.  Taste their hard-to-find, unique caramels and malt balls and show me your favorites by tagging me on Instagram @thecandyquestblog.  Happy Questing!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Seattle candy essentials

Welcome back for the second stop on my trip out west.  If you would like to read about the first stop in San Francisco (and you should, there's some good stuff in there!) catch up here

Seattle is a cool city and I'm there fairly often for work.  It's got a great restaurant/food scene along with active, outdoorsy, nerds (jk jk jk) and surprisingly good candy options.  There's a lot of candy in Seattle that I need to tell you about (yes need) so I'll cover the essentials in this post and a favorite new Seattle candy store in the next.

So essential candy to buy in Seattle.  The following items are deemed essential because every single time I go to Seattle they must be in my luggage back.  MUST.  They're also sold in the airport which tells me that other people find them essential too.  Based on no scientific evidence whatsoever, if it's sold in the airport then that means it's essential.  These are things that you need for the flight or want to take home as a souvenir or didn't have enough time to buy in the city and would make you sad to take off without.  Or things that are so necessary that you've actually gotten up even EARLIER for your 7am flight to allow enough time to browse and buy them (just me?)  Ok, so here they are:

Every time I touch down in Seattle the first stop I make is to a Hudson News store in the airport to buy a bag of Chukar's chocolate covered cherries, specifically their "cherry bings".  Normally I'm not a fan of chocolate covered cherries but Chukar's are outstanding and unique.  Their chocolate covered cherries come in a variety of flavors in milk or dark chocolate and they use real, meaty (didn't expect that adjective did you?), chewy, not-too-sweet cherries.  I've tried almost all of their variations (dark, amaretto, milk,  cabernet, black forest) but my favorites are the cherry bings because they add a little "cherry essence" to the milk chocolate which makes the whole thing taste better.  Like one cohesive chocolate-cherry bite rather than just a dried cherry covered in chocolate.  You can even see the red tint in the cherry bing below versus their milk chocolate cherry:
see the red "cherry essence?"
chocolate cherry bing bite
No matter how many times I try a new Chukar cherry flavor (the truffle, pinot noir and tangerine are next on my hit list) I still come back to the cherry bing.  Excited yet?  Just me again?  Where can you buy these?  Well if you're not headed to Seattle, don't worry.  You can buy them from the Chukar website.  Here's what you're looking for:

Next up are my favorite Seattle chocolate bars.  There's always room for more chocolate (bars) and we don't even have to leave the airport!  These "truffle" bars from Seattle Chocolates are also available at all of the Hudson News stores in the airport.  You can also find them (and Chukar cherries) at the Made in Washington store in the main terminal.

Seattle Chocolates makes so many great truffle bar flavors (peanut butter! s'mores! I didn't even get to try the seasonal pumpkin spice or devil's delight!) but I'll sum up 3 of my favorites here:

San Juan Sea Salt is a fav because it's a smooth, soft, truffled, milk chocolate with toffee and sea salt.  A perfect trifecta.  I feel like at this point sea salt is essential to toffee.  Once sea salt+toffee became a thing there was no going back.  Thankfully this bar gets that, the flavors are perfectly balanced, and I never, ever leave Seattle without one.

Next up is Rainier Cherry because it offers a quintessential Seattle combo: dried cherries, pecans, and dark chocolate.  This bar is kind of healthyyyy... (ish?) and so good because they incorporate praline pecans, Washington Rainier cherries and dark chocolate (to keep it from being too sweet).   When you bite into it, you first taste the slightly bitter dark chocolate but then you get the chewy, sweet cherries and crunchy, sugary, praline pecans and the whole thing evens out in your mouth while you chew and just works.  Healthy and hiking!

Saving my newest favorite for last is the Birthday Cake bar.  This thing is ADDICTIVE.  I mentioned my obsession with all things bday cake flavored in last week's post so it should come as no surprise that this bday cake bar is a new favorite.  The bday cake flavored obsession is a double edged sword because bday cake flavored things can be on point or go horribly, way-too-sweet wrong.  Luckily, Seattle Chocolates nailed it.  This bar has the best consistency (best!) and a great bday cake flavor.  It's milk chocolate on the outside with a smooth, truffled but textured bday cake center inside.  How do they make it both smooth and textured?  I have no idea but it is.  It perfectly mimics buttercream frosting and it even has bits of sprinkles.  See for yourself:
creamy but textured inside
Yum!  I could not stop eating this bar after buying it and finished it standing outside of the store slowly, like a lady, throughout my afternoon.  Here's some more good news for you: I've seen Seattle Chocolates truffle bars at my Bed, Bath, and Beyond in the food section (I guess qualifying as the "beyond" merchandise?) so if you're too impatient to order these online, check your local BB&B.

So those are my Emerald City essentials, I hope they've been helpful.  If you're flying to Seattle, head straight to the stores in the airport to discover your favorite Chukar chocolate cherry and Seattle Chocolates truffle bar.   If you're not flying to Seattle then order them online and share your favorites on Instagram.  Tag me @thecandyquestblog so I can see what you're loving.   

Friday, October 2, 2015

Sugar! The other San Francisco treat

Hi!  I'm back!  And settled from a week out west for work and for pleasure.  First stop was San Francisco to visit family and friends which was a much needed and perfect break and then it was off to Seattle to eat candy...just kidding, to attend work meetings.  I WISH it was my job to travel and eat candy.

In San Fran I didn't really anticipate doing any candy questing as the trip was more about hanging with family and friends.  However, eventually the conversation turned to candy (this happens weirdly often in my life, I swear it's not me) and my Aunt mentioned that I should check out Sugarfina for the blog.  Ok, twist my arm...

There are actually several Sugarfina stores on the west coast, two of which are in San Fran.  I was already familiar with the brand as they did a tiny pop up stand in NYC one December, but after checking out their pop up in NY I dismissed Sugarfina as being too expensive and never really researched the company beyond that.  My bad.  When I opened the door to an actual store I was blown away.  I completely missed the concept the first time I encountered Sugarfina and totally got it the second time around.  Here's the entrance:

So calm, neat and pleasant!  This store was beautiful and their candy is made for gift giving.  Fun, stylish, classy, candy gift giving.  AND they have some unique candies that are hard to find too.  In the immortal words of a drunk friend "just leave me here".

First the gift boxes.  If you know a candy lover or someone with a sweet tooth then these little "Bento Box" gift boxes are perfect.  Sugarfina picks a theme and fills the box with samples of different candies that fit that theme.  Some of their "Bento Box" gift boxes include:
"my sweetheart"
"tall, dark and rich"
"cocktail hour"
How great is cocktail hour?!  It's such a fun gift idea for a hostess or a drinker with a sense of humor (actually what drinker doesn't have a sense of humor?)  These are just a few of the gift boxes they had in their store.  Their website lists many more including a custom make-your-own option.

Next it was on to tasting the unique, hard-to-find candies.  This was really hard as there were so many new ones to try (seriously, click around their site to see for yourself) and the store wasn't set up bulk candy style so I couldn't just grab a bag and pull my usual move of getting two pieces of everything new to try.  The store had everything laid out in pretty little pre-filled boxes or tasting bags so you kind of have to commit to a flavor and buy the package and at $2.50-$3 per tasting bag or $7-20 per box it can add up.
still regret not trying this one...
one of Sugarfina's signatures
I settled on the champagne bears that they are known for along with birthday cake caramels because I can never say no to birthday cake flavored anything...or actual birthday cake...or frosting.  I'm that person at the office bday party who smiles and nods while you're talking but I'm actually wondering if anyone will notice if I get a third second slice of cake.

So the champagne bears.  I don't know that I tasted the brut and rose that these bears are intended to taste like, but I do know that they were fruity, juicy and delicious.  I realize "juicy" is a ridiculous way to describe a gummy bear but they seriously were, somehow the champagne infusion works.   These bears are perfect for a bridal shower, baby shower, or any girly get together, really.
"brut and rose" champagne bears
Next were the birthday cake caramels.  I prepared my mouth for these by eating dinner first and saving the caramels for dessert.  After dinner is when you're good and ready for a sugary treat.  That was the move to make because these freaking caramels were delicious.  They tasted just like bites of vanilla frosting and birthday cake.  They were a bday cake flavored lovers' DREAM.
birthday cake caramels

miss you, boo
In a small effort not to oversell these caramels, I will remind you that I enjoyed them after dinner which is the optimal time for candy eating.  I can't vouch that these would taste AS amazing, say, first thing the morning...but I kinda bet they would.   (By the way, I can vouch for having vanilla birthday cake with buttercream frosting first thing in the's HEAVEN).  

Alright so you get the picture.  The birthday cake caramels were unreal and are available on the Sugarfina site here.  Let me tease my next post by saying that I did find them at a candy store in Seattle so if you have a fancyish bulk candy store near you, then they may carry bday cake caramels too.  If not, you can order them from Sugarfina but they will be a tad more expensive.

So in sum, my newly revised take on Sugarfina is that it's a great store for candy gift giving and discovering new favorites.  I would not recommend this store to someone who just wants to eat any old candy that you can find in a drug store or someone looking for a bulk candy bargain.  Sugarfina sells unique candies that are tastefully packaged so if you do find yourself in one of their stores or shopping on their site, keep that in mind and purchase accordingly.