Monday, December 14, 2015

Thanksgiving in Amsterdam

This post is loooong overdue but here goes...happy belated Thanksgiving!  How was yours?  Hopefully relaxing and filled with all of your favorite T-day food pies.  Mine was spent abroad in Amsterdam with some friends, we had a fantastic time!  Amsterdam is an enchanting city filled with beautiful, friendly people.  Seriously, everyone there was tall, stylish and hot.  I kinda felt like a homeless troll everywhere we went and I STILL had a great time.  Also, Amsterdam is completely underrated.  It has everything, including my new favorite candy store!  But before we get into that, a few things...  

First, the Nordic and Dutch people love their licorice, especially black licorice.  I had some Danish and Swedish friends who obsessed over salted black licorice and bought it in bulk to bring back to NYC and ration out.  While I salute their commitment to candy, I've tried it, it's definitely not what you're used to, and it tastes exactly as it sounds.   If you go abroad, you will find it all over Amsterdam.

Next, chocolate (always need chocolate!)  One day during the trip, we popped into a grocery store for some water and my friend randomly grabbed a Tony's Chocolonely bar and gave me a taste.  Thank god for her.  That bar was so good that I went back into the store to scope out their flavor lineup and buy my own.  I got the salted caramel milk chocolate bar and the hazelnut milk chocolate bar, both exceeded expectations so I had to investigate further.  Tony is a real overachiever.  Not only do his chocolate bars taste great but he's a chocolate do-gooder too.  I found that Tony's Chocolonely is a local chocolate company based in Amsterdam that makes ethical (100% slave free) chocolate bars in all kinds of flavors.  And, MORE good news, Tony's Chocolonely just launched their first U.S. presence in Portland, Oregon.  This is great as hopefully now that they're in the states, it will only be a matter of time until they sell these bars online and ship them across the U.S. so we can all enjoy them.
Tony's Chocolonely bars
chocolate lemon cheesecake bars
milk chocolate with hazelnuts
milk chocolate with salted caramel
Ok so on to the main event.  If you are in Amsterdam then you MUST check out my new favorite candy store, Candy Freaks.   Why do I love this store so much?  Because it is truly unique.  This store sells regular aka "classic" bulk candy, natural bulk candy, and organic bulk candy, including gelatin free gummies!  I've never seen a candy store that sells organic, natural, and gelatin free candy by the pound (or kilo).  Revolutionary.  Check it out:
Candy Freaks store front
their wall of bulk candy
"classic" aka regular bulk candy
natural bulk candy
organic bulk candy 
Talk about an awesome, unique find!  First off, when we walked into the store a man very generously offered us tastes of his favorite candies, just grabbing pieces of candy and offering them up, including their DOUBLE salt black licorice.  He then asked my friend if she wanted to spit it out after seeing her face.  I mean, you gotta love that he encouraged a taste fully knowing that we are Americans who are not used to salty licorice.  He still tried!  I'm a sucker for perseverance, especially when it comes to sugar.

the double salt black licorice... like a little double black diamond for your mouth
This encouraged sampling struck me because most candy store staffers will tell you that you can taste anything in their store ("just ask") but I've never actually been in a store where the person is delighted to share their favorites with you, picking them out, placing them in your palm, and encouraging you to taste them for yourself.  His enthusiasm was fun and contagious which is exactly how a candy store should feel.  Candy is fun!  It's meant to be enjoyed!  Turned out, this man was married to the store owner so we got to meet the cheerful couple behind Candy Freaks.  They were a delight and I'm happy to be giving them some good PR.

As you can see in the earlier photos, they had a wall of candy divided into classic, natural, and organic candies with chocolate, licorice, and gummy options in each section.  Here are some of my favorites, bearing in mind that there were so many unique candies to taste that I didn't get to them all (I know, I know, I thought I was a pro too):

organic gummy berries...see the berry seeds inside?
organic ginger gummies 
organic cherry and peach hearts
gelatin free strawberry licorice, my #1 pick!

They also had their own chocolate which the owner imports from Belgium and then adds different mix-ins to.  I had the milk chocolate with salted caramel which was heaven but the white chocolate with strawberries looked fantastic too:

So that's a look around my new favorite candy store.  I miss Candy Freaks already and will be sending every Amsterdam-bound person I know to it.

It's fitting that we found excellent candy in Amsterdam as it was an awesome city filled with cool, gorgeous, friendly people...of course they have excellent candy!  If you're headed to Amsterdam, pick up some (or like, 20) Tony's Chocolonely bars and step into the truly unique Candy Freaks store to sample the natural, organic, and double salt black licorice for yourself.

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